An embodiment of inspiration…Sex-trafficking survivor campaigns for global awareness
Srey Neth cuts a formidable figure as a sex trafficking survivor. When other girls around the world are discovering what it is like to be a woman, experiencing school yard crushes, socialising with friends and relishing life, Neth, at just fourteen years of age was held captive in a Cambodian brothel; sold by her mother into the local sex trade for a mere AU$300. Disturbingly, a staggering fifty to ninety percent of girls and women enslaved in South East Asian brothels are infected with the deadly HIV virus and Neth was no exception.
In Australia to promote ‘Child Wise’ and The Body Shop – ‘Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People’ petition launched this week, Neth encapsulated the true survivor fortitude of a victim forced nauseatingly to grow up all too soon. The embodiment of inspiration, Neth, now a qualified yoga instructor is fighting to return some sense of normality to the lives of sex-trafficked victims in Cambodia, by working tirelessly and selflessly in the very slum area from which she was sold. Hoping her story of pain and healing will help others, Neth fervently assists children there to find a voice and avoid the same victimization she suffered.
With her virginity traded off for the same price the brothel owner originally purchased her for, Neth was forced to service ten to twenty men a night – refusal resulted in painful electrocutions or beatings. Rather than being deterred by her experiences, Neth aims to share her story, believing that education will assist in breaking the sex-trade cycle. Learning English and travelling the world to spread the word of the plight of those caught up in the sex-trade, Neth says “I want to help people, I want to restore the lives of trafficking victims in Cambodia”, and is conscientiously encouraging others to petition against such evil activity.
Human trafficking has reached endemic proportions over the past two decades, with no country quarantined against such lucrative schemes. United Nations agencies estimate the global sex-trade to generate a staggering US$7-10 billion annually for ring leaders.
UN statistics tell a confronting story; Neth is just one of almost two million children annually enslaved in the global sex trade. While countless victims are forcibly removed from loved ones, or sold off for financial gain by poverty-stricken families, many are lured by the deceit of traffickers and the promise of a better life. A Cambodian study commissioned by the anti child sex tourism campaigner ‘Mind the Gaps’ found that eighty-five percent of victims were trafficked from within their own families, a close friend, neighbour or even a boyfriend.
Australian child protection agency ‘Child Wise’ suggests almost one-third of the world’s trafficking occurs in Asia. With the preponderance of victims being young females aged between twelve and eighteen, this appalling operation is recognized as the one of the most widespread forms of trafficking, second only to the international drug trade.
Globalisation, domestic servitude, cheap labour, marriage, adoption, prostitution, child pornography and, more recently, the practice of live internet child abuse and child sex tourism are just some of the many reasons cited by ‘Child Wise’ for the dramatic increase in trafficking of women and children under eighteen. Ineffectual domestic law enforcement, inconsistent International legislative frameworks and the enticement of easy money has seen the industry boom. Human trafficking is not limited to children and teenagers or indeed just a few countries – adults, too are acutely susceptible also to being trafficked across local, regional and international borders.
A 2010 study, ‘Community attitudes on sex trafficking of children and young people Survey Report’ conducted by Monash University concerning public perceptions surrounding the international sex-trade has highlighted some shocking statistics. Of the eighteen thousand survey participants, ninety-three percent indicated significant concerns about sex trafficking. Almost seventy percent admit to being unaware of how to report suspicions of human trafficking or what to do should they became aware of a child being sexually exploited overseas. Most alarmingly, the survey’s report made known the fact that Australian sex offenders are active in over twenty-five foreign countries.
Bernadette McMenamin, CEO of ‘Child Wise’, says that through the national Child Wise-Body Shop petition initiative, “the creation of an education campaign to demonstrate how Australians can report suspicions of child sex offenders who travel overseas is vital, as well as focusing on prevention and protection of children against sexual exploitation.”
To sign the ‘Child Wise’ and The Body Shop ‘Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People’ petition log on to http://www.childwise.net/ for more information.
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