The faces in the photographs on the front page of the newspaper
startled me. They were laid out in rows. The first photo in the series was
invariably of a young girl, maybe with a mischievous smile or a rebellious
glare, but with a decided look of innocence. By the end of the series, that
same face was battered, bloated and bruised.
The International Labor Organization estimates that 12.3 million people worldwide are in forced labor, bonded labor or sexual servitude. Approximately 800,000 people are trafficked across national borders each year. Up to half of trafficking victims are minors, and 80 percent are female. A majority are women and girls trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation.
I arrived at the Bangkok airport at midnight, made my way through customs, and was greeted by an airport information agent who helped me arrange transportation to my hotel. I was astonished when he asked me if I'd be interested in “the company of some ladies” during my stay. I was groggy from traveling and unsure of what I’d heard, so I asked him to repeat himself. Yes, I'd heard him right the first time—he was offering to arrange “something nice” for me.
Most prostitutes do not make a conscious choice to go into that way of life. Many are led into it by a childhood experience of sexual abuse. Others turn to it as the only way to earn a living. Especially in the developing world, prostitution is often a means of survival. “I would rather die of HIV/AIDS” than starve, a 17-year-old girl in Uganda said.
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