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April 29, 2005

Let's Do Our Part to Make a Better, More Humane World

Judith Dempewolff

      "I was at home when my friend Tara asked me to go with her to a movie. We were both 12 and went to school together. There were 2 men with her. They asked us to go with them to Kathmandu to visit the pashupati temple. After the movie we got on a bus to Kathmandu. Tara said she knew the 2 guys. I trusted my friend. I didn't know any better. They drugged us with something you take with bread…the brothel owner said that since I'd been sold, I'd have to do sex work. Then a girl struck me and they sent in an old man. When I refused to have sex with him, they beat me for days. They threatened to bury me alive. …every time I had a customer I was forced to drink alcohol. That is how they forced me to have sex …no matter how much you shouted or cried no one came to your rescue…" Anita.

      Victims of trafficking are subject to gross human rights violations including rape, torture, forced abortions, starvation, and threats of torturing or murdering family members. Sex trafficking is a $7 billion a year business, and one million new children will be forced into prostitution this year.

      I was awakened to the scope of this problem by watching a film on PBS, The Day My God Died. It is now on reserve in the Media Center. Thanks to several organizations, www.friendsofmaitinepal.org and www.emancipationnetwork.org, support for rescued girls and women is growing. Brigitte Cazalis-Collins and Joseph Collins, founders of Friends of Maiti Nepal, work closely with a woman named Anurahda Koirala in Kathmandu to rescue and protect these girls and women when they return to Nepal. Many are HIV positive, making it even more difficult for them to return to their family and village. Anurahda has developed a hospice and a school to care for survivors, to educate and empower them to earn a livelihood and, in some cases, to return to Bombay and rescue other girls. Gary Haugen, President of the International Justice Mission, says "the brothel keepers wake up every single day committed to their work. They wake up focused on what they are doing and they are there all day, every day. Somebody has to have the same sort of commitment to fighting the problem."

      Sarah Symons, founder of the Emancipation Network, has a plan. She just returned from a trip to Maiti Nepal and other anti-trafficking groups in Cambodia and Thailand, to purchase handicraft items made by the rescued survivors. If you check her website, she has a way for individuals to throw house parties and invite friends, serve great Indian and Nepalese food, and order gifts. In addition, several of my students and I will be selling some of the smaller items, bracelets and such, next Thursday April 28th in McElroy. Having traveled to Nepal and Tibet last year, I realize how we as a culture are so spoiled with material goods. We take bathrooms, supermarkets, and pharmacies for granted. In Nepal, a promise of a better life could be all it takes for a girl or her family to fall prey to these pimps. Let's do our part to make a better, more humane world.

      Judith Dempewolff is a Faculty member in the Psychology Department, who has for the last 10 years taught Abnormal Psychology and the Psychology of Gender. She is also a practicing clinical psychologist.

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