Joanna, 15, sat in the dim restaurant weeping and crying, her shoulders shook, she dabbed her eyes to wipe away the flowing tears with tissues. Were they tears of joy at being rescued from her cruel and vicious captors or was it emotional release of pent up fear and stress that she endured in the dark room at the back of a sex bar in Angeles City, Philippines. She sobbed out her story, it was her time and place, late at night and no one there.

They took me from my home in Samar, gave a down payment to my mother and promised me a good job. I was never paid as a hotel cleaner and when I went to the manager he raped me. She cried all the louder at the terrifying memory as she tried to fight him off but was overpowered. Then she was thrown out to work in the sex bar, forced into cubicles to do sexual acts on obese foreign sex tourists that queued up to get the sexual gratification by a child young enough to be their grand daughter. That lasted until we had a tip off and went to the rescue and paid her bar fine, the price of freedom to get her out to safety.

Joanna is now a college graduate and working as a social worker. She recovered but only barely and could have died of sickness and disease.

The recruitment and selling of human persons into slave like conditions has become the third biggest illegal trade in the world after drugs and illegal arms sales. According to the Council of Europe, it has an annual market of $43 billion of women and children and most of the young women are forced into prostitution, over a million, it is estimated, are children.

In my experience I found the younger to be 9 year old. Human trafficking of children is a crime against humanity as a form of enslavement. According to the Rome statute of International Criminal Court which celebrates its 15th anniversary this May. Article 7(2) (c) of the statute recognizes that children as a special group are in grave danger of this horrific crime of trafficking because it involves the domination and the power of ownership over the child. Millions of children have been victims of unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity, the statue declares. The purveyors of genocide and ethnic cleansing and other unspeakable crimes must be made understand that as surely as the sun rises, they will be called to account – and that impunity will not stand.” Carol Bellamy, of Unicef said making it clear the purpose of the International Criminal Court And yet thousands of young women and children are sold into slavery every month all over the world.

The rich development nations are the source of demand and pay the higher prices for the trafficked persons. In the UK there are as many as 5000 trafficked women in the sex slave trade today. Private charities put the figure much higher. Police say they are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Earlier this month in Southampton, the Guild Hall was filled with an audience wanting to know more as they watched the Preda Akbay youth theatre group from the Philippines present their musical drama “Once there was a dream” telling the awful truth of the pain and exploitation of trafficked children.

The production that played to full houses was supported by the Medaille Trust, a catholic charity funded by religious and other church groups fighting to end trafficking in the UK and help the victims. What is so appalling is the impunity that goes with these crimes. In Asian countries, like the Philippines, local politicians, and foreigner criminals run the sex industry. They are above the law and the corruption reaches to the highest level of political and economic power. That is why the government has only been able to get ten convictions in the last several years. These traffickers at the highest level must be held accountable and made to pay the price for destroying the lives for countless women and children. They ought to be brought to justice at the International Criminal Court.

Contact Fr. Shay Cullen at the Preda Center, Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, Philippines. e-mail: PREDA Information Office PREDA Foundation, Inc.

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