Truths, Vulnerable Children and Sex Trafficking

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(DGIwire) — While planning overseas vacations, many adventurous Americans are drawn to Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. In addition to boasting beautiful scenery and rich history, these countries are less expensive than your typical Western European vacation, as reported on PriceofTravel.com. This makes them attractive destinations, especially for students and young people—or anyone on a budget. According to travel website Uncornered Market, mainland Southeast Asia offers some of the friendliest semi-exotic travel around for people of all budgets and ages.

However, a few miles from the main tourist attractions and exotic seascapes, there is immense poverty, which fuels the region’s not-so-secret world of prostitution. Southeast Asia is a global hub for child and teenage prostitutes, with sex tourism so widespread in many Philippine cities that it has become one of the most lucrative income sources of organized criminal groups, according to Deutche Welle (DW), an international German news source.

UNICEF estimates on its website that while around 800,000 people total in the Philippines are involved in prostitution, about 100,000 of them are children. These children are often from poor families living in the country’s poverty-stricken slums and rural areas, from which they are trapped, kidnapped and exploited by pimps.

Women and girls are especially vulnerable to the sex trade following big disasters, such Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. There are credible reports that traffickers look to trap new girls from the affected areas either by kidnapping orphans or by luring young women with the promise of jobs, according to PREDA (People’s Recovery Empowerment Development Assistance), an organization that assists exploited women and children.

“Whether children find themselves homeless due to natural disasters, disease, death or kidnapping, more needs to be done to rescue them from traffickers and predators,” says Stephanie Fast, author and orphan advocate. “Children across the world have a right to their childhood, and we should be doing everything in our power to stop the dangerous and horrific sex trade cycle.”

Ms. Fast knows all too well the dangers that can befall a young orphan. After being deserted by her mother when she was just four or five years old, she was left helpless and vulnerable, nearly succumbing to a premature death in war-torn Korea. Even when she did find shelter, she was at the mercy of abusive strangers. She chronicles her harrowing story, and her incredible tale of survival and strength, in her memoir She Is Mine and on her website, StephanieFast.org.

“With everyone’s help, we may be able to save these children from the horrors of human sex trafficking,” Fast adds.

 

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