Ways to Help Stop Survival Sex Work

I admit it: I get angry when I see the media refer to ‘prostitutes’ or ‘sex workers,’ which implies a girl has a choice between selling herself or doing something else.  For rescued girls and women, there is no choice.

On my last trip to India in Dec ’12/Jan ’13, I taught self defense to girls between the ages of 15 and 18 at a government shelter home who had been rescued from brothels.  Many of the girls had been kidnapped and sold as young as 10.  Even before being kidnapped, most of the girls had probably not attended school because, in India, boys are favored over girls, and girls’ only long term value is seen as being household help, which does not require education.  Speaking with some of the shelter staff, I learned that, without education or vocational skills, as much as 70 percent of the young women I taught would have to revert to the only thing they knew could earn money: sex.  Put yourself in their shoes:  Faced with the choice of starving to death or selling yourself, what would you do?  Is that a choice, or just basic survival?

How can we help stop this from happening?  By buying stuff, but not just any stuff:  Stuff made by survivors.  The demand for survivor goods is a powerful tool to break an economic cycle that might otherwise trap a girl in survival sex work.  There is a multitude of organizations that employ survivors to make handicrafts.  Buying beautiful scarves, or jewelry, or kitchenware, drives demand and keeps these survivors employed.  Pinterest, a popular pinboard-style photo-sharing website, features several online shops and artisan cooperatives that offer lovely handicrafts.  Check these out, and be prepared to find something you just can’t live without!:


True care bears - made by Heartworks, an organization of women artisans in Africa – many genocide survivors and all supporting their families with this work.


iSanctuary -- one-of-a-kind jewelry made by survivors of human trafficking





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