Sunday, April 25, 2010

Question for Men

I had a few encounters with men at my day-job that has made me question how do men see women... I am a bank customer service representative by day, a modern day abolitionist by night. Just merely asking psychologically perverted men for personal information to allow me to help them makes them say "You need to change your attitude." Writing this right now just boiled my blood again.

Let's get this straight... I am Asian. I am from the Philippines and proud of it. I look very young. I could pass for a high school kid if I tried. I'm 29 now. Thanks to my parents for good genes I guess! I did not arrive in the United States as a sex slave and for that, I am so grateful. I've arrived in America legally. My father who became a naturalized US citizen in December 2000 has petitioned my permanent residency. We even went through an immigration lawyer in New York City. My dad spent three thousand bucks. Three thousand well spent...

But as I look at how these American men (both black and white) see me as one, I feel so disgusted. Just merely knowing that these men see me as a prostitute or former prostitute makes me sick though I am not one and not even thinking about becoming one. I am not a woman who is or will never be promiscuous. If I become enslaved in sexual slavery, I would end up killing myself, if not physically, psychologically. I pray that will never happen to me or my future daughters, nor to my sister, cousins & nieces.

I have been molested as a young girl by men, who were not my father or primary caretakers, whom I thought I could trust. Boy! Was that hard to admit... And from those experiences alone, I already feel dirty & ashamed and I haven't even been raped yet (and thank God). Now that I am an adult, I saw that these three men (yes, three adult men) were sick in the head. They saw me as a sexual plaything which was actually immoral. No human female, young or old, is a sexual toy. Human females are people too. And it makes me realize that if men like them found out that their own mothers, sisters, wives & female kin, they would kill the people who molested & raped them unless they're really immoral people...

And if men in general could not let their women kin be molested or raped, how much more rage will they have if they found out that their female relations are being exploited, abused & raped by sex traffickers? (Maybe this is the question we should ask today's men...)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Some Useful Websites

Polaris Project
The leading non-profit organization in the anti-human trafficking crusade. Great resource for a lot of information on human trafficking, modern slavery and other resources & organizations against human trafficking. It also operates the US Human Trafficking Hotline which is 1-888-373-7888

End Slavery Now
End Slavery Now is a site filled with great links to organizations and resources in combatting human trafficking. It's almost a one-stop shop info center on modern-day slavery on the Internet. They list great anti human trafficking organizations. Under the headings in red, Learn, Tell, Report and Act: the site provides great links to fight this great plague.

My favorite anti-sexual trafficking organization. There is a heart-wrenching story behind their name. Their main goal is to rehabilitate and reintroduce victims of sexual exploitation especially young children back into society.

Shoe Revolt
Shoe Revolt is an organization based in Newport News, VA which collects shoes and restyle them. It is a collaboration of female shoe designers. Their main goal is to use the profits of the Shoe Revolt to fund the fight against human trafficking. Ateba Crocker, the Founder, has an amazing story behind her passion for victims of sexual exploitation. The famous Hollywood personality, Perez Hilton, has just recently featured Shoe Revolt on his blog.

International Justice Mission
The main Christian organization that has led the US fight against modern slavery since its founding in 1997. Based in Washington DC, it has been the leading adversary of human trafficking on Capitol Hill.

Beauty From Ashes
Based in Fort Myers, FL, it provides shelter and rehabilitation of sex trafficking victims in Florida. This is a great organization that gets people involved in combatting sexual slavery.

Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking
Based in Los Angeles, CA where most Asians and Latin Americans are smuggled in for unpaid domestic and farm work. Remember the Chinese railroad workers of the early 20th century. Well, that kind of slavery still exists in the farms and vineyards of the great state of California. CAST has recently joined forces with the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles to help eradicate human trafficking in and through Mexico. Love the work they do in Los Angeles where there are many hidden slaves.
Part of the larger organization, it provides the latest news on human trafficking and modern slavery. You can also organize an online petition for social change through this Web site.

DNA Foundation
Founded by the famous celebrity couple Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, they provide the glitz and glamour of Hollywood in the fight against sex slavery. Demi Moore was just interviewed by Anderson Cooper of the CNN show AC360 about her recent trip to Haiti. She discussed the horrible restavek system that enslaves children to housework, beatings, humiliation and even sexual exploitations.

21st Century Slaves

Hidden, they are not seen
Muted, they are not heard
Chained, they are enslaved
Fearful, they are motionless
With nothing but total obedience
To live on
They live in bondage
With masters with no compassion
For their pain and heartaches
They are caged in cages
Much smaller than animal cages
Beaten, overworked
They get no rest from the torments
Of heartless men and women
Who care more for their wallets
And their pets who do nothing
But frolic in their midst
Treated as multi-purpose machines
They are not just thrown away
When they refuse to work
They are beaten, rape, starved

Monday, April 12, 2010

Creating Human Trafficking Awareness

Living in Washington DC, I am bombarded with ads about defense & technology companies, movements towards vegetarianism and animal rights but nothing about human trafficking. Nothing! There is now currently an ad on Metro trains about the "Great Ape Protection Act." It portrays a picture of a sad female gorilla. The print talks about her losing her baby to some inhumane act. I was aghast... I mean this is for an ape, an animal we barely understand. But what about a human mother... Is it too close for comfort to show a mother mourning for her lost child? How can animal rights organizations have more funding than human rights agencies? Our priorities are skewed... In New York City, I remember seeing a large billboard or two about ten years ago advertising Amnesty International driving out of the MidTown Tunnel towards Queens. Now, all I see in the Big Apple are billboards for fashion labels, TV shows & movies. I know we are just coming out of a recession but why is the nation's advertising dollars spent not spent on bettering the human condition. Are we all that self-indulgent? I know most people would rather turn a blind eye and a deaf ear towards the ills of the world but modern slavery has been such a major problem for eons. From prehistoric times up to now... Slavery is barbarism. It is inhumane. And as a free citizen of the world, how can you just live your life taking your freedom for granted when your neighbor is working hard night and day without pay or even a decent place to sleep in and most times, are given the worst food to eat or end up being the food of farm animals themselves? I can't... Compassion isn't compassion if you don't do anything about your brother's or sister's oppression. Refugees are important and so are slaves. Refugees are often slaves themselves. In Haiti, child slavery (restaveks "stay withs") is a major problem. But the world does not know about it... After the major quake that collapsed Port-Au-Prince into ruins, all we heard about is the need for food, clean water & medicine. We barely saw that the real problem was the lack of infrastructure. Still is! And with the earthquake, I am sure the restavek system has gotten far worst. More parents are willing to give up their children to strangers thinking the children will get a good education. But unfortunately, most children end up slaving away 24/7, end up being beaten up and RAPED. This is hard to stomach.

We as a movement against human trafficking must act on getting the world's priorities straight... WE MUST LOBBY HARD, WE MUST ADVERTISE BIG. Look at the tobacco companies!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Domestic Servitude in the Philippines

I grew up in the Philippines but I was fortunate to be one of the privileged ones. I had more than food & shelter. I had a good education. I was even able to travel here to the United States and back without much hindrance. Not many Filipinos can say they graduated from an American university. I can... And now I live and work in Washington DC living a very happy peaceful life compared to most people of the world, even than a majority of Washingtonians. I am so grateful to God for that. In the Philippines, if you could afford it, you would have household servants. Ever heard the Filipino word "yaya"? It means someone who takes care of a child. I had yayas until I went to live with my dad for six months in New York when I was 10. That was the only time when I hadn't had a yaya tending to me. Then when I went back to the Philippines, I shared one with my brother until I was 13 or 14. Teen years is when you want your independence. Right? Maybe it's my experience living in America that I find it atrocious that yayas are slaving away making sure your child doesn't get hurt or dirty at a children's party while you are chit-chatting away with other mothers on the other side of the room. I am not yet a mother but I don't know if I was one living in the Philippines if I could let a yaya stand by my child throughout the whole party while I gossiped with the other mothers. Right now, I do my own cooking and chores because I am in the United States. But if I was in the Philippines, I might have ended up still being a spoiled brat having a chaffeur, a maid, a cook, a washer woman, a gardener maybe and I was just one single woman living in a big house for a family of four or six. I'm okay with having household help now and then but it makes well-to-do Filipinos, especially the women, lazy. My mother never taught me how to cook but I learned anyway... Through trial and effort, I am making progress. I don't cook all the time but I actually enjoy it. Filipinos shouldn't rely on them too much. They need to live their own lives too. I've heard of some maids being abused by their employers. Gosh! There's Filipino movies & TV shows filled with both household servants and farm workers being abused by their employers. It is a huge part of modern Filipino culture etched long before the Spaniards came to rule us for their king and queen for 333 years. But the way we treat these people doesn't put the individual into account as a human being just like us... It's a sad situation...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Invisible Slaves

In our midst in every major city in the world and even in small towns are women & children (and sometimes men) who are being abused & exploited in ways no average person can imagine or comprehend. These are the victims of human trafficking. And there are supposedly 27 million of them and I am afraid even more...

Most victims, especially ones who are used as sex slaves in Europe, are lured by a promise of a good paying job. In most cases, human traffickers put up a front of being legitimate businesses to pull in young women desperately in need of a job to support their families. But in the end, most are beaten & raped by the human traffickers themselves before they are even exploited for the traffickers to make profit out of them.

Southeast Asia has been a haven of the sex tourism trade. From Thailand to the Philippines, young girls are forcefully coerced into doing sexual favors for men from the United States, Australia, Europe and even Japan. But today, Greece has become the hub of sexual slavery for women from eastern Europe especially former Soviet Union states. Greece is the geographical gateway of poor eastern Europe to the rich western European Union member nations. From here, women are smuggled to as far away as London and Amsterdam.

Unfortunately, even the United States is not immune to the horror of human trafficking. Young American girls are abducted and forced into sexual slavery by the so-called "pimps." I live in Washington, DC the capital of the most powerful nation of the 21st century but even here, it is rampant. Fortunately, there are many organizations who are helping these girls escape and recover from the trauma of the abuse & exploitation of sexual slavery. But we just don't want safe houses for these women, we want human trafficking abolished...

Human trafficking does not only include sexual slavery.... Human trafficking is basically the exploitation of cheap or free labor. Human traffickers are modern day slave traders. Young children are forced to work in harsh conditions a sane adult would not want to even be in to gather cocoa beans, yes the ones that make our chocolate bars... And you thought children armies were bad.

Human trafficking is one of the major problems facing our world today but it is ignored. Why? Because we want to believe that slavery has been abolished here in the United States centuries ago... It hasn't. It has just taken different forms, far more virulent than the ones during colonial times. Sexual slavery (or should I just call it what it is, prostitution) has helped spread AIDS and STDs to where they are now. Child labor has taken the rights of children not just for a free education but more importantly, to a happy childhood. And there are many forms of modern slavery other than these...

Human trafficking must be put in the forefront of the world media along with AIDS and fighting poverty. They go hand in hand. The spread of AIDS would be diminished by a large measure if we made it harder for pimps to do business. Poverty creates desperation and that desperation leads to harsh consequences that most victims cannot come out of. We must take a stand against human trafficking. If PETA can create headline news about animal cruelty, can't we create bigger headline news against human cruelty? Aren't people more important than animals?