Sex trafficking – such a small phrase with so much behind it. It’s easy to dismiss it as something unrelated to us, when we are cocooned in our small, safe world. But it’s a reality for many young girls and women who are forced into prostitution of their own free will. It’s hard to say how many people exactly have been affected this way, but according to Equality Now, more than 20.9 million people worldwide are victims of trafficking, with 54% of them being exploited for sex. This is more than just discomforting, when we think of slavery as a thing of the past – but the truth is that victims of sex trafficking are victims of slavery.
Image: Guardian Liberty Voice
So why is this still happening around the world today? Although trafficking of all kinds has been criminalised in 158 countries, it continues to be a prevailing issue, especially in developing countries where young girls are easily coerced into the trade, with false promises of a brighter future. Sometimes it is not the young children who are lured into prostitution, but their own families who sell them into the sex trade, seeing no other alternative for financial support. But how can we help? We may know all the statistics behind this horrifying truth, but what is knowledge without action? Thankfully, the answer to this question is not as hard as we may think. Shannon Keith, founder of Sudara, has created a clothing brand which supports women who have been sexually exploited, teaching them skills which enable them to support themselves and move away from the sex industry.
Keith recounts her visit to India in 2005 which propelled her into establishing Sudara; she had heard story upon story about women being coerced into the sex trade, through no fault of their own. Many girls came from rural areas, and only had knowledge in the agricultural field. However, as a result of natural disasters, this future no longer became an option for them, and their lack of education and skills in other areas set them up at high risk to be picked up by local pimps or even to enter the industry themselves as they saw no other choice.
Keith decided to set out to partner with sewing centres in India, which could provide victims with the basic skills a seamstress needed, as well as a safe environment where they could earn a stable income for themselves and their families. That was how the Punjammies® line was born. The classic yet cute loungewear has all been lovingly sewn by victimised women, and since its beginnings more than ten years ago, Sudara has been empowering women to live a life free from sexual exploitation. Women are able to gain back their confidence and self-esteem, and some have even moved on to start their own business with the skills they have learnt, or have found meaningful jobs where they can re-build their lives.
By purchasing from Sudara, we can also help battle against sex trafficking and support the livelihood of these victimised individuals. If you would like to go one step further, donations are welcome when checking out on the website. All donations go towards the Sudara Freedom Fund, a not-for-profit branch which creates a pathway for the women and girls to get back into school or a training program that can equip them for the future. The fund also goes into providing education for the children of the women, as well as safe housing for those escaping abuse, and services for the mental and physical wellbeing of the women.
Sex trafficking is still a massive issue and may at times seem overwhelming, but by taking small steps even in the way we purchase, we can battle it together and bring awareness to the cause. And maybe, even one day, it will end. For good.
Written by: Tiffany Ko