By Ruth Limkin
Warning: the following is hard to read. Don’t plunge into this post without first readying yourself to do so….
Her name is Srey Pov. When she was 6 years old, she was sold to a brothel. The brothel owners spread her legs apart, tied her naked to a bed, and sold her virginity to a Western man.
Recalling her rape that night, Srey Pov said, “I was so scared. I was crying and asking, ‘Why are you doing this to me?’ ”
The article in the New York Times, by Nicholas Kristof, is a harrowing, yet hopeful read. It details more of her horrific experiences, including the fact that being raped by 20 clients a night was common. Some of what you read in the article may make you cry. Yet even after discovering the happier details of how she escaped captivity, Srey Pov’s question remains.
“Why are you doing this me?”
It’s a troubling question.
Why do we live in a world where men buy young girls? Why do we live in a world where grotesque inhumanity is visited by one person upon another? Why, with all of our awareness about this, does Kristoff calculate that at least 10 times as many girls being trafficked annually into brothels than African slaves were transported to the New World in the peak years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Kristof points out, somewhat understatedly but certainly precisely, that ‘customers are, of course, the reason trafficking continues’.
He’s right. Uncomfortably right.
The cold economic facts are that demand creates supply.
In the western world, by and large, we are very happy to dwell with or defend the idea that sexual gratification is an entitlement. Whether it’s ‘adult clubs’ or prostitution; whether its in advertising or entertainment; or whether, and sometimes particularly, if its pornography; we defend our nondiscriminatory consumption and promotion of sexual indulgence.
It’s in the little things. The pushing of previously drawn social and moral boundaries. (Think new and varied types of sexual expression now being championed).
The normalisation of sexual objectification of women and now children. (Seen any surf t-shirts or even kids pencil cases from City Beach, lately?)
The reframing of exploitation as female empowerment. (But if it’s on television it must be true.)
Piece by piece, justification by justification, we’ve adopted a mindset that we’re entitled to sexual gratification, whenever and however we want it.
We recoil at the thought that our licence might contribute to the enslavement of another. We sincerely and roundly condemn trafficking. Yet it’s hard to escape the feeling that when we champion sexual entitlement, it somehow contributes to the very world we wince at.
After all, we’re cultivating an increase in demand.
And customers are, of course, the reason trafficking continues.
The She Rescue Home provides a secure haven for young Cambodian girls who are at risk, or who have been rescued from being trafficked. You can find their donation page here.