Friday, 31 July 2009

Sex slave tells story to stop trafficking

Woman on campaign to end global child prostitution

31st July 2009

TORONTO -- In the years after Somaly Mam was stolen from the streets of Cambodia and sold into the sex trade, she ran to several people for help but got none.

More than two decades later, she hopes that by sharing her tale around the globe, others will be moved to give the countless faces of the flesh trade the help she so desperately needed.

Mam doesn't know her birth name -- she was orphaned as a young child.

She doesn't know her exact age, but figures she is about 39 and was "12 or 13" when she was sold by a man posing as her grandfather into years of slavery.

During an interview yesterday in front of Metropolitan United Church, where she, The Body Shop and Beyond Borders launched a campaign to stop sex trafficking, Mam said she didn't know what a brothel was either -- before she was forced to work in one.

Mam, who has rescued thousands of children from the sex trade in Cambodia, is travelling the globe with The Body Shop, which promises to donate a chunk of money from every bottle of Soft Hands Kind Heart cream sold in Canada to the Somaly Mam Foundation and Beyond Borders, the Canadian affiliate of ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes).

"We are also human beings, even if we are victims," Mam said. "Who wants to be a victim? Who wants to be sold in a brothel? Who wants to have all the clients rape you every night? Who wants it? No one wants it."

Beyond Borders president Rosalind Prober said she hopes the Stop Sex Trafficking campaign will spread "the message of hope" for the countless victims within our borders.

"We have always said that we were a country of freedom, a country of growth and prosperity, but you can't have that when our most vulnerable group, our children, are being exploited and that's being accepted," said Winnipeg MP Joy Smith, who is pushing the federal government to create a national strategy to combat human trafficking and pass a bill that will mean minimum five-year sentences for child traffickers.

"We don't want to launch a campaign that upsets people so much that they just switch it off," The Body Shop spokesman Shelley Simmons said. "We want them to know that with Somaly's organization and ECPAT, there are solutions."


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