|Sex Slave Wins Settlement
The Sex eZine - Slavery & Prostitution
Former Sex Slave Wins Settlement
May 29th 2007.
AUSTRALIA: A former child sex slave has become the first person in Australia to be compensated as a victim of sex trafficking.
Thai woman Jetsadophorn Chaladone, known as "Ning", yesterday told The Age of the success of her compensation claim for the sexual abuse she suffered at a Sydney brothel in 1995, aged 13. Ning, now 25, said she hoped her story would raise awareness about sex slavery.
She was trafficked to Australia with the consent of her father, expecting to work as a nanny. She was instead put to work in a brothel. She said she was told she owed a "debt" to her traffickers of about $35,000, which she would pay off by having sex with 650 men.
She was not allowed to leave the "safe house" where she and other prostitutes slept, and had no money and no contacts in Australia.
Ning said she had sex with as many as 100 men in 10 days, before immigration officials found her during a routine compliance raid.
She also made mention in her compensation claim of a "beating room" where unco-operative workers were taken.
The owners of this Surry Hills brothel and their trafficking accomplices were never investigated for their crimes against Ning. This was despite pressure on NSW police by Sydney immigration officials, as shown through records of correspondence in 1995, obtained through freedom of information.
"It still hurts to talk about it," Ning said through a translator of her experience. "I have been depressed … sometimes I feel like I don't have any reason to go on."
The compensation was awarded last month but Ning is only making her case public now as she previously felt too uncomfortable to discuss the details.
Her psychological scars have been heavy and enduring. The NSW Victims Compensation Tribunal stated in its reason for award that Ning "suffered from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder and moderate to severe depressive disorder" as a consequence of the abuse in Sydney.
Melbourne filmmaker Luigi Acquisto helped Ning lodge her claim by arranging a psychiatric examination in Thailand, engaging the help of Melbourne human rights lawyer Fiona McLeod, SC, and arranging for her to travel to Australia.
He said he first heard about Ning's case back in 1995 when he was researching a documentary about sex trafficking, and was appalled that nothing had been done.
"If the brothel had been prosecuted, the Attorney-General of NSW could now claim the money paid to Ning back from them," Mr Acquisto said.
"But this compensation is vitally important. Relevant compensation can pull victims out the cycle of poverty … give them some status within their community so they can lead a normal life."
Ning has not disclosed the sum she was awarded, although it is modest in Australian terms. She said she would use the money to educate herself and her five-year-old son, to renovate her two-bedroom house and set up a business in her home in Kalasin province in north-east Thailand.
Ms McLeod, who helped Ning to lodge a claim, said she was heartened by the precedent the case had set. "I am hopeful that the success of the compensation claim will at least educate other trafficking victims about the possibility of making claims," she said.
There has been no statistical research on the number of sex slaves in Australia. Federal Government figures suggest that the number of women trafficked to Australia each year is well below 100, while Project Respect, a sex industry lobby, has conducted surveys to suggest the number is at least 300.
There have been only two successful prosecutions for sex slavery since the introduction of anti-slavery laws in 1999.
Brunswick brothel owner Wei Tang was sentenced to a minimum of six years' jail last June for keeping five Thai women as sex slaves.
Last July, Sydney brothel owners Somsri Yotchomchin and Johan Sieders were each found guilty of engaging in sexual servitude.
Ms McLeod said the failure of several other prosecutions related to the Australian visa system for sex slaves and a lack of education about the nuances of the crime.
She said it was important to emphasise that the issue was one of slavery, in which women, men and children suffer.
"The fact that Ning was a child when this happened makes it more devastating, but there are many adults who don't have a like choice because of poverty … whether you're a child or an adult you don't have a voice," she said.
"And it's up to the rest of us to protect them."
Ms McLeod met Ning for the first time last week, when Ning visited her city chambers to thank her for her work.
"I'd like to thank you for everything you have done for me," Ning said.
Ms McLeod responded tearfully: "This case has already given me tremendous satisfaction … I would not want my daughter to go through what you went through."
Asia's sex trade is 'slavery'
A United Nations official has described the trafficking of women and children across Asia as "the largest slave trade in history".
The transfers are made using "even more cruel and devious means than the original slave trade," Unicef's Kul Gautum told an International Symposium on Trafficking of Children, being held in Tokyo.
He said in Asia and the Pacific alone, more than 30 million children have been traded over the last three decades.
A combination of poverty, globalisation, organised crime and discrimination against women encouraged the trade.
The victims are usually teenage girls who end up working in sweat shops or brothels, he said.
But ending the trade in humans is virtually impossible given the level of corruption among government officials, Mr Gautum said.
"In some countries, police, who are supposed to stop these crimes, are involved in crimes by offering protection to criminals. Pimps and middlemen get protection from the police."
Mr Gautum said officials needed to be trained and made more accountable.
Japanese parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs Shinako Tsuchiya urged more co-operation between non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in the field.
"There are many NGOs in the nations that ship our children, in places that are used as transfer points... but the truth is these NGOs' efforts lack co-ordination."
Educating women and children who run a high risk of being trafficked was also cited as crucial in preventing the trade.
In Bangladesh, Unicef is training 600,000 people to teach their peers about child trafficking.
More than 100 delegates attended the conference sponsored by Unicef and the Japanese foreign ministry.