For the second year, The Body Shop partners organizations to petition against trafficking of young persons. Here’s what you can do.
Contributed By Theresa Tan
Leila (not her real name) was nine when her mother handed her over to an “aunty” who promised to bring her from Nepal into India to get a job. But she found herself sold into a brothel, where she was gang-raped and beaten, and eventually forced to have sex with men every day and night.
Leila’s story is no horror movie. Across the world, an estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked for sex. Some of them get pregnant and die from complications at birth. Others contract sexually-transmitted diseases, or if they survive, end up trafficking other children.
Traffickers commonly source for children from Third World countries around Singapore: Indonesia, India, China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. Children in Singapore, on the other hand, have a right to education, live in a low-crime environment, and most learn theoretically about sex from sexuality education classes in school—not in practice, on the street. Singapore is what non-profit groups like ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for sexual purposes) and HOME (Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics) refer to as a “destination” country: every weekend, an estimated 400 men take a ferry to Batam to engage prostitutes, many of whom are under the age of 16, though few will admit it.
In June, Singapore was “upgraded” to a Tier 2 ranking in the United States’ Trafficking In Persons report, which means that while Singapore does not fully meet standards of human trafficking, it is making efforts to do so. This report may have ruffled feathers, but it is still encouraging that Singapore is off the human trafficking watchlist. As Pia Bruce, the executive director of the National Committee for UN Women Singapore, noted, “[this] reflects that Singapore is quite fast going forward to tackle this issue.”
Trafficking—a US$36.2 billion business—is a deeply complicated industry: some governments own the brothels that buy these children; and many of those who seek help from the authorities end up in jail for being in a country illegally.
The fight is a long one, but one that is being picked up by more parties. HOME, which aids mistreated migrant workers in Singapore, including the occasional young girl smuggled into Singapore to sexually service foreign workers, has been active in rescuing a number of trafficked persons. Its founder, Bridget Tan was named a 2011 TIP Hero by Hillary Clinton for her exemplary work in this field.
The Body Shop has had a long tradition in fighting human trafficking. Its founder, the late Anita Roddick, championed the cause before her death in 2007. The Body Shop Singapore has entered into its second year of its “Stop Sex Trafficking Of Children And Young People” campaign. At a press conference on Aug. 23, general manager Josephine Chow revealed that 114,886 signatures have so far been collected by The Body Shop in Singapore. This petition is part of a 6.9 million-strong global petition signed in more than 65 countries to eradicate sex trafficking.
“The sheer number of signatures clearly demonstrates that people in this country really care,” she said, while Bruce added that a task force now exists in Singapore, made up of representatives from the Singapore Police Force and the Immigrations & Checkpoints Authority and co-chaired by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Manpower.
Eradicating trafficking isn’t going to happen overnight, and it is not the duty of one group but the responsibility of every global citizen. Awareness is the first step in the right direction. You can do your part by heading to any Body Shop in Singapore and signing the petition to stop sex trafficking of children and young persons. The Body Shop, together with HOME and the National Committee for UN Women Singapore, will be presenting the signatures to the United Nations on Sep. 29. Let your signature be counted.
You can sign the Stop Trafficking petition at all Body Shop outlets before Sep. 29.