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Sunday, March 16, 2014

WHEN my niece was 16, I sort of forcibly sat her down to watch “Taken.”

This 2008 blockbuster movie stars Liam Neeson as the retired CIA agent who travels across Europe to rescue his 17-year old daughter abducted by an Albanian gang of human traffickers.

I wanted to drill into my niece’s stubborn head how vulnerable teen-aged women are when they are unchaperoned by adults especially in a foreign country. I wanted her to realize that young, unsuspecting women, no matter how confident or capable, are really easy prey for organized crime groups intent on human trafficking.


The movie progressed into this scene where men were queuing up outside a makeshift brothel to have sex with the abducted women. The young women were obviously drugged. Some were barely conscious. They were clearly not there on their own free will. Yet, the defenseless state of these women did not stop the throng.

My niece turned to me and softly said, “What kind of men are they?
Her question stopped me in my tracks. I had seen so many films about human trafficking for commercial sex purposes. And I have been moved to tears by every one of them. Women were routinely raped, tortured and beaten up. Yet it never occurred to me to ask this question.

I realized it was because I had always viewed these scenes as nothing out of the ordinary. And I realized how tragic it was that I had grown up in a society that accepted the bestiality of men without question. Even I had lost my humanity.

Indeed, what kind of men would pay to have sex with women who were obviously prisoners of their captors and pimps? Had these men no decency? No sense of compassion? No sense of humanity? How could they treat another human being with so much barbarity?

Nations around the world are in consonance with one another to put a stop to human trafficking for commercial sex purposes. But the world tends to look for solutions based on the supply side. The focus, almost always, is on how to make women less vulnerable to human trafficking.

And so we institute programs to raise women’s levels of education, awareness and income to protect them from the perils of prostitution. The reality, however, is that for so long as the demand for commercial sex exists, every woman without regard for her demographics, is vulnerable to human trafficking.

Perhaps the world should also take a look at the demand side of the equation. Human trafficking for commercial sex purposes would die a natural death if men stopped patronizing commercial sex. So why don’t we find out why men pay for sex? Why don’t we find out how we can make them stop paying for sex?

Instead of focusing only on decreasing the supply by means of education, awareness and economic independence for women, why not look into decreasing the demand for commercial sex by education and reorientation for men as well?

Let’s empower women so they become less vulnerable to men intent on making them commodities but let’s also educate men so they realize that patronizing commercial sex is unacceptable, inhumane and unconscionable.

For so long as men believe women are for the taking, women will continue to be taken.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 16, 2014.


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