Victims of sexual trafficking

Post Date: Jun 12th, 2011 | Categories: Advocacy | COMMENT

My name is Dorothy and I’m from Uganda. I would like to tell you about black young girls on Hong Kong streets caught in the criminal web of sexual trafficking. Most of these girls are from East Africa, i.e. Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. I have become friends with many who consider me their mother as I was a social worker and I understand their plight. Now I want to help them break away from the slavery of prostitution. When you look at the streets 70% of the black girls are from this region as visas are granted upon arrival in HK. It’s so sad when you see them working the streets, desperately trying to find men so as to be able to earn money for the African pimps who control them. These girls dress seductively and very provocatively in order to capture people’s attention. In fact, they are so convincing  that you are tempted to talk to them and see what they are trying to sell to you. Most of these girls are brought to Asia by very greedy and manipulative ‘businessmen’, who are actually conmen in suits, who disguise their human trafficking agenda until they reach HK. These tricksters promise beautiful, young girls in Africa that in Hong Kong they will obtain working visas for employment in supermarkets, hairdressers, trading companies and the like. They prey on the naïve and as long as work remains scarce in this countries, they will always find new victims to fool with a convincing employment lie. The job offers come with high salaries, benefits and a promise that life will be so much better than what their ‘targets’ have known back home. Little do these hopeful girls know their dreams will all come crashing down!

CIA World Factbook – Uganda:

Caught in the web of sexual trafficking
Victims of sexual trafficking

Unfortunately on arrival to the promised land these girls are shocked by the sudden twist of events. All they receive is one night’s accommodation in a Chung King Mansions guesthouse … and a pack of condoms! Imagine their shock. Instead of legitimate work contracts, they are immediately sent onto the streets as sex slaves. Each worker is introduced to a veteran mentor, a senior girl who knows the system, the area and the client base. Within hours from leaving the airport, the girls are forced to start their new life as prostitutes. Any protest is met with a brutal beating to ensure the rules are quickly understood and accepted. Without friends or family, thousands of miles from home in  land they don’t know, the new arrivals comply for fear of death. The pimps will charge them between 5,000 and 7,000 USD (yes, United States Dollars, not HKD) for three months commission, which needs to be paid in time, or harassment never ends. It’s three months because tourist visas might be extended this long with day-trips to China, after which the victims are released from bondage to find their way home. If they can. Meantime, the pimps make sure the return tickets (if indeed there was one) are retained so there is no escape. Some girls even dash to the airport only to find out the hard way that they have no chance of escape the clutches of these monsters. As for the passports, these are kept by the mentor girls as a guarantee the commission will be paid.

Over the months, the girls live a life of misery and, eventually, most of them end up pregnant and risk catching STDs and AIDS. Needless to say that some clients refuse to use protection, so the work is hazardous in many different ways. Pushed by their seniors and abused by the pimps, these poor girls have no choice but to work as hard as the night is long. There is a network of security and control throughout the night, with members patrolling the area and supervisors ensuring there are no disruptions to this lucrative trade, in TST, Jordan, Wanchai and, more recently, also in Central clubs. Moreover,  due to the risks of the trade most of these girls end up in prison and are immediately abandoned by their bosses who will cancel the outstanding debt rather than help with bail and court. As a matter of fact, sentences for ‘soliciting for immoral purposes’ are relatively brief: it’s a standard 42 days with an EDD (early date of discharge) of 28 days. As the sentence is not heavy, some might choose it as an option to offload the debt and start again a decent life free of the pimps and the horror they suffered.

Stepping out of the prison doors, a new life and new choices await these women. Because they have typically borrowed money back home and haven’t paid their pimps, they are too scared to return to Africa. While they might be safe in Hong Kong, they would become targets again if located in their hometown where they were first targeted. Shame also prevents them from returning. They know some very evil people will find them to extort anything they have left, so seeking asylum under the Convention Against Torture comes naturally. They hear about the CAT protection from other girls or even prison guards and Immigration staff, therefore, too scared to return to Africa, they opt for this protection. When I sit down with these girls and listen to their tragic stories, I’m deeply saddened by their suffering because, truthfully, they were tricked into a situation they never suspected. The criminals who cheat them are well prepared fraudsters. These young girls had modest dreams and no chance of ever realizing them. While a first reaction might be to judge them for being stupid and naïve, a more compassionate attitude takes into account the girls’ desperate background and their natural desire to improve their life despite their country’s difficulties. Through the lens of hardship it’s easy for my to understand how young girls from Africa end up as prostitutes across Asia. The system  is professional, the promise is alluring, so girls are deceived every day across Africa. They fall victims to a professional criminal network that only sees dollars in sexual trafficking and prostitution – even when the commodity they trade is the youth of their own country. I hope that with the help of Vision First and the Hong Kong community I will be able to rescue more girls from this tragic fate. If you can help me, please contact me through this website. Thank you and God bless – Dorothy.