AFESIP- Vientiane, Laos (Mar 13)

by tkos on March 26, 2013

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The sexual exploitation, trafficking and sale of women, aged as young as 12, in Laos and it’s neighbor, Thailand. Sentenced to a locked room and forced to have sex with up to 20 ‘clients’ per day. If they are lucky, they do not get badly beaten too often.

We all know that it happens because we hear about it through charity marketing campaigns, television news and the occasional political agenda. And we all breathe a deep sigh and have a quick think about how bad it is for these poor women before we quickly think of something else less disturbing. After all, it’s such a complex problem, what can we do about it? It’s so far away and behind closed doors…

Well, firstly, let’s recognize what we are talking about. Most people reading this post have been a first hand witness to these crimes whether they were recognized at the time or not. If you have ever been to Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Koh Samui or any other famous ‘red light’ areas in South East Asia, there is no doubt that you would have seen the parade of young smiling ladies under the shadow of bright pink neon. Perhaps you looked over curiously, nervously embarrassed by the ‘in your face’ showmanship of sex, rarely seen in such a way in the West.

If you’re a woman, perhaps you looked over in disgust as to the little to no self respect these women have, to subject their bodies to such objectification. Maybe you thought she wanted to be there. Maybe you didn’t realize she might be a prisoner.

If you’re a man, perhaps you looked over in excitement. The excitement of attention that she is giving you. Maybe it made you feel special. Perhaps you thought that she actually liked you more than the other hundred men she was forced to have sex with that week. Maybe you thought she wanted to be there. Maybe you didn’t realize she might be a prisoner.

To get there, sometimes these women (or children) have been sold by members of their own family, sometimes they have been tricked into believing they will have a better life with opportunity, sometimes they believe they have no choice.

This is where AFESIP come in.

The ONLY NGO in Laos dedicated to the repatriation of trafficked sex workers, AFESIP have a huge task on their hands. Their objective is to provide holistic care and recovery for rescued women and to offer vocational training to support sustainable community reintegration.

What this means is that the locally employed AFESIP staff (sometimes of which are survivors of trafficking) visit the bars and brothels under the guise of a ‘health and education’ based NGO, armed with condoms and paraphernalia regarding the importance of safe sex. When the time is right the AFESIP staff present the girls with a choice. A choice of a new life. A choice of an AFESIP supported rescue centre with accommodation, food, medical attention, vocational training and most importantly, a secret location so that they cannot be found.
It is not an easy feat, and often takes months of visits to gain the trust of the young women. It is fear and debt with bar owners that keeps the women locked in the brothel more than anything else and to convince the women that there are options is a huge task, and one that has been performed exceptionally well by AFESIP since 2006, proven by an 88% success rate.
In addition to two rescue centre, which can accommodate up to 60 girls between them, AFESIP also offer three ‘beauty salons’ as part of their Social Enterprise program. In the rescue centres, where the women remain between six to twelve months after rescue, they are trained in either cooking, beauty and/or sewing. Once they leave, they can either work in one of the beauty salons in Vientiane or Savanakhet (which I had the pleasure of visiting) or they are given the tools to begin their own business.
The cost of the materials for a woman to start her own Beauty Salon is US$500.

The Kindness of Strangers are proud to financially support two of these kits with a US$1000 donation.

 

We just wish it could be more.

If you would like to learn more, get involved and donate directly to AFESIP, click here.

 

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