Prostitution and sex-trafficking are intrinsically linked; you have one because of the other. Our deep connection is through the demand for our bodies because we are bought, used, exploited, humiliated and raped by the same offenders and that cruel bond can never be broken by anyone, at any time, in any county. Though some policy makers, governments and radical academics will do their best to try to disconnect us but their denial of the truth is both futile and illogical, it is an analytic truth and for it is only the fool that does not acknowledge that.
For nearly eighteen months I stood alongside a trafficked woman, we became extremely close although we met in secret, as she was always under the watchful eye of her master. I have never met a woman so broken down and as much as I loved and cared for her, I could not break the unhealthy attachment or twisted sense of loyalty she had for her controller. She would defend him if he beat her, she was at times desperate to please him and yet something inside her longed to be free but freedom was a concept she had lost all sense of.
I tried to help her escape and took her to my home and that first night I will never forget, I said I would run her a bath as she looked exhausted. I ran the bath, left out a towel and called her in. I left her to relax and went in the other room, I was closing the window, when she called me, I turned around and what I saw shocked me to the core, for there in front of me my friend stood naked, but she had the body of a child, her rips stuck out, there were no breasts, it was covered in old bruises, new bruises, scratches, she looked like someone who’d just been released from a concentration camp, my eyes welled up but I did not want her to see me cry, so I brought her into the bathroom again, she had called me to wash her hair for her as her arms were sore, I washed her hair, took her out of the bath, and she sat in between my legs on the floor as I brushed and blow-dried her hair, she was humming just like a child, I put her to bed and sat beside her until she fell asleep. And then I cried and cried for the lost child I had just put to bed, I’ll never forget the image I saw but this was nott a concentration camp, in Poland in 1945, this was my apartment, Dublin, 2010, there is no war but there is no law to protect either.
My lost friend returned to her master, she had only tasted freedom for five days and could not understand it, she could no longer think for herself. The one and only thing that removed my friend’s freedom was prostitution, we can blame the traffickers and pimps but they only exist because of the offenders, men who believe they have a right to buy other human beings.
Some months ago I went on an outing to Dublin Zoo with the survivors of prostitution and sex-trafficking and their children. We had stopped to see the giraffe’s, they have a new enclosure since I’d last been there and a new baby giraffe. I picked my friends little girl up to show her, they’re giraffes I said and they come all the way from Africa, she was not that bothered, she like all toddlers was more concerned with trying to climb the fence.
But I looked back around at the giraffe’s, beautiful, graceful creatures from Africa, and then it occurred to me, we bring these animals to our country so that children get to see them. We treat them so well, give them the appropriate shelter, food and settings so they can grow, be healthy and happy, and rightly so. But they are not the only thing that we now import to Ireland, for we now import women and children from Africa to satisfy the needs of a certain type of man and it is not to be admired and treated with respect like the giraffe’s, oh no it is for very different reasons and none of them have anything to do with admiration and respect. I picked up that little girl again, I hugged her and kissed her cheek and I apologized to her on behalf of my country, I apologized for what has happened to her beautiful mother but I told her things were about to change. I felt such shame but it was not the toxic shame, we as prostituted women live with, no this was different, this was shame for my homeland.
Silence is golden, they say, no it is not, peace and serenity is golden, silence can be deadly. Why has Ireland stayed silent for so long regarding the purchase of human beings for sex because it places a different value on women like me and a different value on the women that are trafficked into this country. It is something most people would not admit to, placing the value of one woman over another, sometimes they don’t even see it. But I only have to think what would be happening if the women were being trafficked in from America or Germany, do you think we would tolerated it then, I think not, so if I was a woman born to a “respectable” family from Manhattan, I would be rescued, supported and returned home safely, for America is of great value to us, but if I am born into poverty, uneducated and tricked into coming here from a Eastern European country, I am not entitled to the same treatment because that country is of no value to us, how do we decide this, what right do we have to decide which human being is more valuable than the other.
Human trafficking is the modern day slavery and sexual slavery is the most appalling of crimes, for it removes human beings of all their human rights and dignity. To do nothing is to play an active role in it happening. The world over is waking up to this, my country has no choice but to stand up to it. For freedom is something Ireland had to fight for itself, so we should have no struggle with fighting to protect the freedom of others, no matter what country they come from.
Prostitution is, was and always will be an absolute affront to human dignity and I know that because I have lived it. Just two and a half years ago I stood on a lonely street having been stripped of every piece of dignity I ever owned and everything I thought I once was had turned on me, despite me.
Sweden did the right thing in the name of freedom, justice and equality, Norway and Iceland followed and now it is Irelands turn and we must not let an opportunity to evoke a social change for the greater good pass us by, for my government does not have the right to continue to let tragic lives become absurd.
In finish, one’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life’s of others, that is my wish for my country, that it attributes value to the lives of the trafficked, the coerced, the displaced, the isolated, the damaged, the addicted, in essence the haunted majority of which I was once one.
Mia de Faoite