Meet Jenny. She’s a 25 year old nurse, living with her son and husband in Hong Kong.
Jenny was born in China and grew up in a 20m2 apartment with her younger brother and mother. Her mother worked as an industrial sewing machinist, often working 15 hours a day with little to no income, and would still come home and cook for her two children with whatever little food they had. Jenny’s father had abandoned her family when she was only 10. Jenny was determined to live a life where she didn’t have to worry about money, so she studied hard to get into university. However, Jenny could not get a scholarship and could not afford tuition so started working at a factory packing goods.
One day when walking home she saw Serena, an old high school friend, who had beautiful makeup on, nice clothes and jewellery. They spoke on the street for a few minutes before Serena told Jenny she could get a job earning more money than any other job she could hope for. It was either that or a rich husband, she was laughingly told.
Jenny’s friend set her up with her manager, who explained she had the potential to earn a lot of money. The job was easy – to sell sex. “It’s easy! You don’t have to do much and you’ll become rich”. Jenny was convinced that selling her body was the best way out of a poor life. She still had aspirations to get a college education, and by earning money she could pay for her tuition.
A year passed and Jenny wasn’t earning as much as she expected. She put her money into a bank account and didn’t spend it, so her mother wouldn’t suspect she had left the factory.
One day, Jenny was offered a job in Australia as a legal prostitute by an ‘agent’ that another sex worker introduced her to. Apparently Australian men loved Asian women; they were exotic to them. She was promised she would earn a lot of money and would have the opportunity to have a university education in Australia, having enough money to send to her family. The agent told her he would pay for her airfares and her visa! This was a dream to Jenny. She could create a new life for herself!
When Jenny arrived in Australia, she was told she would have to pay back $30 000 for the airfares and visa, and could not start university until she had. She lived in an apartment on the second floor of the brothel, with six other sex workers, and wasn’t allowed to leave unsupervised not even for fresh air! Little did Jenny know, the brothel didn’t obtain a working visa for Jenny, and therefore she was working illegally. She received no income and no support, and had little English. She worked 14 hours a day, 6 days a week and was told to perform sexual acts on clients that she didn’t want to do, including having unprotected sex. If she refused, she was threatened with physical abuse and told she would be deported to China.
Jenny’s story is common to many sex slaves brought from Asia.
Six months after her arrival, during an investigation and subsequent raid, police discovered the illegal sex workers at the brothel where Jenny was working. She was one of eight girls who had been recruited from China and in a debt bondage. The brothel manager was sentenced to 14 years in prison and Jenny was deported to China.
Sex slavery (also known as sexual servitude) is widespread around the globe, and is a crime in Australia. Over the last two years, active investigations into human trafficking, including sex slavery, has doubled, with 300 illegal brothels estimated in Melbourne alone. Fear of being deported, and even physical and emotional abuse from their captors, prevents many sex slaves from speaking out and testifying in court.
Increased awareness of the sex slavery issue, further research, and the development of adequate policies and legislation is required to end sex slavery.
You can help the cause to ending sex slavery by donating to, or volunteering your skills for, an organisation committed to ending sex slavery, or even just by educating your friends and family on the issue.
If you suspect you are, or know someone who is, a sex slave please contact Anti-Slavery Australia on (02) 9514 9662 or email email@example.com
If you require interpreting services, you can call the Telephone Interpreting Service (TIS) and ask them to call Anti-Slavery Australia. You can choose to keep you name confidential.
In an emergency situation please call police or ambulance on 000 (within Australia) or your own National Emergency Services.
Written by Fatma Ipek
Notes & References:
‘Human Trafficking and Slavery – edited by Justin Healey’, Issues in Society, Volume 347, 2011.
‘Anti-slavery Laws Australia’, Australian Legal Framework, Sourced from (21 February 2015) http://www.antislavery.org.au/resources/international-laws.html
‘Sex Trafficking, slavery, and forced marriage on the rise in Australia, say police’ by Nick McKenzie, Richard Baker and Nino Bucci, The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 October 2014. Sourced from: http://www.smh.com.au/national/sex-trafficking-slavery-and-forced-marriage-on-the-rise-in-australia-say-police-20141030-11e62z.html
Jenny is a fictional character based on the many stories of women forced into sexual servitude.
This article is not sponsored.
Image courtesy of Luigi Diamanti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net