Hello, my name is Marikit and I used live on an Island in South East Asia. I am now 18 years old but my story started when I was just 14. My mum and my dad were always shouting at each other. This was because my father owed a lot of money to the local loan shark and this man was threatening them. I didn’t know that I was to be the solution to their money problems!
One day a man came to take me away. My mum was crying and my dad was nowhere to be seen. I was taken on a big ferry-boat to a large city many kilometres from my home town. I was thrown into a dark room and left there for a while. Why did my mother and father do that to me? Surely I was worth more than the equivalent of $100 that they were paid for me. How could I ever trust my own mum and dad again? How could I ever trust anybody ever again?
I was told that I would have to earn money to pay off my fathers debt. It soon became clear just how I was to “earn” that money. A drunken man came to my room and I was told to be “nice” to him and do whatever he wanted me to do. I refused. I fought and screamed, but I was beaten up by my new “owners”. This happened a few times until I accepted the fact that I had no choice but to do as they said. I then had to “entertain” about 10 different men every day.
I began to think of ideas of escaping. I was told that if I ever tried to leave, they would hunt me down and hurt me. I was very afraid. After about a year, my chance came. I found my room unlocked and I tiptoed down the stairs. The big man who was usually guarding the front entrance was taking a break. I stepped out into the street and smelled the fresh air for the first time in ages.
When I reached a corner I turned into another road and started to run. I almost ran into the police officer and my hopes were raised that I had found someone to help me. The officer asked me where I lived and I tried to explain that I was being held as a prisoner. Instead of helping me, he grasped me firmly and marched me back to where I had come from. I found out later that the policeman was paid well for returning me to my place of torment.
I do not wish to tell you what those men then did to me to “teach me a lesson”. It hurts still to remember and I cannot find words to describe the pain and the desperation.
I was treated like dirt and constantly told that I was worthless. I felt dirty and became convinced that it was all my fault! One day I felt bold enough to ask if I had earned enough to return to my home. My “owner” struck me and told me that my pitiful earnings did not even cover my food and “lodgings” and that It would be many years before the customers paid enough because I was worthless and not good enough.
One day, I heard a lot of shouting downstairs and the man who was with me quickly grabbed his clothes and ran off. Soon a policewoman came into the room and spoke kindly to me. I was afraid to speak because I remembered my last brush with the law. But she told me that my torment was over and that I was now free. I could not really believe it and decided to say nothing and not trust anybody.
There was some sort of social worker with the policewoman and she gave me some clothes to put on and shoes for my feet. I was taken to the police station, but not held in a cell, but fed the best food I had eaten for years. I felt sure that I would be found guilty of some crime because there were may questions asked, and forms were filled in. Eventually I was shown a document that declared I was free, and that my former “owners” were not allowed to come near me.
What could I do now? How could I get a job? I had not been to school after I had been sold. As a young girl, I had dreamed of one day meeting a handsome man and getting married. But now, I did not wish to have anything to do with men, ever again. In any case who would ever want to marry me? I was dirty and worthless. It felt good to be free, but the future looked bleak.
The social worker that I met in my “room” told me that her church ran a special programme for people like me. They would provide a home for me and help me to face the future. I was suspicious but as I had no other place to go, I agreed to go with her.
There were a few other girls in the house who had obviously suffered in the same way. One girl named Chesa took special care of me. She had been “rescued” a year back but instead of despair her face shone and her life was full of hope.
Gradually my despair turned to a tentative hope. The girls liked to sing, and they sang about a man called Jesus who loved even me. The word “love” to me was a tainted word. How could it ever be true that someone could love me without hurting me? I was taught that what had happened to me was not my fault, but that God really did love me and even loved the evil men who had abused me.
My friend told me that my healing would depend on me forgiving the men who had used me. That was hard, but as I began to feel the love and forgiveness of God, I began to stop hating and slowly learned to forgive too.
Where am I now? I am beginning to experience joy in my life, but there are also days when I remember what happened and I have to fight off despair. My new-found faith helps me to face the future and to hope again. The programme I am in has paid for the education I missed, and I am now training to help people just like me who are still held as slaves in the sex industry.
Justice and reconciliation
What of the men who sold me and the brothel owners? There is a legal case going on and though I am not seeking revenge it is important that they are prosecuted as a deterrent to others.
What about my mother and father? For years I have felt rejected by them and felt I could never trust them again. But I have come to realise that they are victims too. They are victims of poverty and debt. Anyway I am going to see them next month. I am scared, but my church has promised to pray for me, and for them, that we may be reconciled.
This story is just that, a story. The photograph is not of her, but a stock photo. But this story is an example of what goes on so many times around the world. I was brought up to believe that all prostitutes were evil. But now I understand that millions simply have no other choice. They are held by chains; the physical chains of slavery and the chains of fear and domination.
Who is to blame for Marikit’s story? The slave owners, the courts, the corrupt law enforcement agencies or the politicians who look the other way. In the end we are all guilty if we tolerate a society where slavery flourishes. Will you join with me in saying, “Enough is enough” and fighting for a more just world.