Editorial: Beyond rescue

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Monday, February 10, 2014


THE news in Sun.Star Cebu on Monday (February 10, 2014) was disturbing: it was about a woman pimp who at 14 was a victim of human trafficking herself.

The news, Former ‘sex victim’ arrested in human trafficking operation by Davinci Maru, said that Stephanie Reynes, now 24, was arrested in a shopping mall last Saturday in an operation against the flesh trade.

“While still a freshman in high school, she was prostituted by a woman who sold her to an old American inside a hotel in an upscale district of Cebu City,” the report read.

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Reynes blames poverty. But we know it goes deeper than that. There are others just as poor or worse off who did not take the prostituted path.

“Na-expose naman sila gud. Naa na sila’y idea unsaon (Their exposure gives them an idea how it works),” said Insp. Sheryl Bautista, deputy chief of the Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RAHTTF) of the Central Visayas Police Regional Office (PRO).

Without proper guidance and strong support, Bautista said, these young survivors could fall into the same trap, what with the lure of easy money.

In Davao City, we are just fortunate that there is a group of dedicated people who have struggled long and hard to not just rescue prostituted women and children through conventional means -- having them rounded up by the police with just the concession that they can cover their faces when reporters arrive. Rather, there is actually a small group of people who have been working with the prostituted, not forcing them out, but constantly reminding them of the other prospects outside the flesh trade, as well as working on the self-esteem of each and every prostituted soul to empower them to make choices for the better.

They’re the women of Talikala Inc., which has since spawned and consistently supported the activities and endeavors of Lawig Bubai, an organization of the prostituted in the city. Talikala has been working with the prostituted since 1987 -- a full generation ago.

Through their work and continuous activities to empower the exploited, they have managed to bring out women and children from the depths of sexual hell.

It’s not easy to speak of dignity and self-esteem to women who have been forced to use their very bodies to earn. Moreso, because most of the time, they are led into this because someone else have already violated them and imprinted in them that they are no longer of value. What with our self-righteous tendency to associate value with virginity.

But it’s more difficult these days because the prostituted are getting younger and coming in droves. While indeed, Talikala Inc. has been doing a lot in empowering the prostituted, there is only so much a non-government organization can do. Government has to step in, somehow, and go beyond merely rescuing the women and children, but walking with them through the long and tedious journey out of the world that has made them sex objects. How? Talikala has a generation of experience to share, government can learn from that. But only if there is the political will to embark on this for the long haul. Bringing them back from the dark path demands more than just police action because we are talking of broken souls here and not mere hymens, we are talking about humans made to suffer the worst indignity, and not just bodies sold to perform.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 11, 2014.

Opinion

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