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A New Campaign by Equality Now Highlights Survivors Voices, Vital to Anti-Trafficking Efforts
Equality Now, in collaboration with NGOs from around the world working to end sex trafficking, is launching a year-long series of personal stories shared by survivors of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. The series begins in the Philippines with Alma, who was forced into prostitution in Olongapo City, home to a thriving US military base in the 1980s.
“One day, a serviceman offered the manager a “bar-fine” for me. The manager told me that if I didn’t go, I would lose my job… Society’s understanding of human trafficking and prostitution needs to change. In my country, people believe that prostitutes are criminals and buyers are the victims. This is wrong. …The sex industry is a huge machine, and it’s not easy to stop.”
Each month, a new story will be published at www.equalitynow.org/survivorstories amplifying survivor’s voices to expose coercion, trafficking and sexual abuse in Cambodia, Brazil, Germany, Iceland, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa, Uganda, the US, and the UK. The series highlights the work of anti-trafficking advocates around the world and offers online actions readers can take to support global efforts against the multi-billion-dollar trafficking industry.
Launch of the new series coincides with the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women—the principal global policy-making body dedicated to gender equality and advancement of women—taking place at the United Nations, March 4-15.
“By sharing their experiences and perspectives these brave women are exposing the realities of sexual exploitation, helping shape more effective anti-trafficking policy and influencing passage of legislation that will better protect women and girls around the world,” says Lauren Hersh, director of Equality Now’s sex trafficking program.
As awareness of trafficking grows, the participation of survivors in the anti-trafficking movement is critical.
“For a survivor, her past is associated with a lack of power. Others wielded immeasurable authority over her, whether it was the grandmother who sold her to the pimp or the policeman who rescued her from the brothel. At what point can the survivor be empowered?” says Sao Chhoeurth, executive director of AFESIP, an NGO in Phnom Penh that supports trafficked and sexually exploited women and a partner in the series. “We must allow survivors a platform to be influencers alongside policy makers and law enforcement. To exclude them from the solution further perpetuates their disenfranchisement.”
The Survivor Stories series aims to firmly establish the link between trafficking and how it fuels the large and diverse commercial sex industry. Equality Now and its partners are committed to reducing the demand for commercial sex by advancing policies that criminalize buyers of sex while decriminalizing those who are sold for sex and providing them with support services. This approach, the Nordic Model, has been proven effective in curbing sex trafficking and is gaining policy consideration by governments around the world.