About Servaas Hofmeyr

For life through Truth.

STOP visits Kenya

Dear Beloveds,

How does one describe in mere words the journey  God our heavenly Father and our Bridegroom  the Lord Jesus Christ accompanied by His Spirit, took us on into Kenya?
We went right through check in and customs  – at one stage 14 kg overweight ( all the material – yes thanks to Dawid, Carin and Almarie for the intense labour the last two days before lift off) From the word go we moved in the favour of God accompanied by Angels. Once in the plane with ” The life of Pi” on the screen above catching my eye every now and then, I got involved in a conversation with a gentleman who is the east African contracts and Finance manager for HRAA ( Hr – East ,
central and Southern Africa health community). Well needless to say as Pi was taming the tiger, human trafficking awareness was moving slowly but surely into many countries in the southern Hemisphere.WE presented him a kit and have since corresponded. As we arrived in Nairobi, the soft warm rains welcoming us, Bishop Simon Kamau  our handsome slim ( was expecting a short round bellied old man with a dog colour and crucifix around his neck) host was waiting  with a smile that reminds me of rising sun over Africa. Our two and half hour drive on horrendous roads up to the foot hills of Mt Kenya proved to be most enlightening. Sipping away at a carton of milk chewing macadamias which he issued us, Almarie and I sat back and with a little prod here and there heard the amazing history  of the life of Bishop Simon Kamau which has led up to where he stands known as the Moses of Africa and the founder of a huge ministry with many churches in Kenya and associates over Eastern Africa ( Christian Foundation Fellowship). Amongst other stories he related a most profound incident where he as a young preacher ( like Philip in the word) was transported  18 kilometres in 5 minutes one night after ministering in a village that far from his home. The following Sunday we would witness the same testimony before a crowd of 500 church members on the spot it actually happened in a remote village where we had a huge rally afterwards. The guard in front of whom he landed in his home village – white headed old man – was there to relate the incident.

501px-Flag-map_of_Kenya.svgOn our arrival in Bishops village the first evening, his precious wife and ” Mama Africa” ( Joan Bosman, missionary and evangelist) welcomed us and fed us with a hearty meal. Joan Bosman is an elderly lady from Queenstown Eastern Cape has been  preaching and evangelising in Africa for decades, moving with churches into the deepest bush and she  would be our keynote speaker at this All Africa Conference. She was the lady who invited Almarie ( and consequently me) to this conference as her guests ( she heard Almarie sharing on human trafficking in East London in December 2012).

WE were treated as queens and I  had this amazing sense of a  red carpet being rolled out for us where ever we went with an inner knowledge that we were the best men presenting the King of Kings. Our suitcases and handbags ( I’m sure if they could us too) were carried all over for us. Even our shoes were polished and clothes ironed ( you had to put outside your door at bedtime). The shoe polisher, after my last information session on what the different forms of human trafficking are, came and shared with me that he now actually realised what had  happened to him as young boy.. the story goes…. Orphaned after after his parents death, his uncle sold him to a farmer as little boy where he worked as a child slave for years. No education, money …barely food .. in rags. One night he decided to commit suicide and there the Lord appeared to him and spoke to him telling him that He was his Father and loved him and had plan for his life. He gave his life to Lord then and there. The following morning a local pastor came to him telling  him that the Lord had woken and told to take him into his house and be father to him. To day he is dignified clothes merchant, husband and father.. but o what humble servant of the most High God.

As Almarie and I presented and shared around Human trafficking, various people came to us.. some saying that God has been speaking to them for some time now ( tears flowing) about starting a safe House, others in government positions working with orphans want to get the material into the schools. Another lady high up in Dept of health and social services took the TIP bill to show to her colleagues working with trafficking. And so we could see and feel the fruit of our coming and was becoming evident as we went on and that our visit was God ordained.One thing Almarie mentioned when she was speaking, which really hit home in the hearts of the people was: she said: Should our safe Houses in SA harbour a Kenyan girl that was trafficked, we would want to have the liberty to phone Bishop Kamau  saying that after say three months we are sending  this girl home…would you please meet her at the airport and care for her. And this sort of net working should eventually take place throughout Africa.

A profound gentleman Rev Stephan Owino ( coordinator of the East African Christian Leadership network) became a good friend and networker ..( was also Almaries and my interpreter) He kept introducing us to strategic people in positions of influence and the word has gone out… Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda have asked us to come..He is also going to open doors all over Africa for student mission teams to come in and do the trafficking programs in schools and churches, but also bring hope and salvation to many young people. He is also the contact person to engage with NFN ( national freedom network)  I have already  given him some info (Sowinom@yahoo.com). Herkie ( my hubby) is involved with refresher courses in obstetrics emergency intervention ( esmoe ) . Dr. Samuel and his wife  – missionaries  and conference speakers from India, showed great interest in this course as their daughter is a doctor  ( gynae) in the north of India. Correspondence has already begun… India here we come. Jaques du Preez our doctor partner in NFN  – we plan to take you with us to India … there are 7 hospitals asking for awareness and identification training for trafficked victims!!! So please get the training manual and forms ready!!!

Have you ever had the privilege of sitting on your seat for 6 hours non stop? well we actually made it and enjoyed a lovely meal afterwards!!! The food in Kenya is delicious – locally grown rice and vegetables with meat.. tea from the local produce and much more… When bishop told us their part of the country is ever green, I wondered how this could be possible, until I hit the tropical highlands with gusts of tropical rain daily, much mud but ever ever green. The people live off and cultivate their own little bits of land.. not a hungry soul in rural Kenya. Our camp sight( police training campsite)was situated at the foot of Mt Kenya and every morning as we woke up we could just stand in awe and stare and stare and this snow capped wonder with virtually every river in Kenya having its origin from.

On Sunday morning we were all dispersed with interpreters to the village churches. After my sermon some one came up and told me her neighbours daughter had been trafficked. .. A pastor came and offered to take her to Saudi Arabia for a good job. After a tie she came back with a baby and totally mentally deranged. She had been used by the Muslim lady by day as a domestic slave being treated brutally and at night she had to be at the mercy of the house lord for his pleasure. We exchanged advice and ideas on how to minister to her and be of assistance.We suggested that they investigate the where abouts of the “pastor” that took her.

The revival meeting on Sunday afternoon where ” mama Africa” ministered to the 500, was one of the high lights of the week. Many precious people were saved , delivered and healed . It was like a re-enactment of the book of Acts.

Monday was re creation day and the contingent  – a lovely school bus full, pastors and guests left for the equator, the rift valley and the biggest waterfall in `Kenya. The local pastors of that region slaughtered a goat and prepared it for us at a nearby restaurant and what a happy celebration. Almarie was the choice favourite to be photographed with and found herself even being chosen by the bus driver to be photographed at the water fall. All the little children flocked around her comparing their dark skins to her lily white hands. And hugs and kisses were exchanged every where. The day ended with goodbye and thank you speeches exchanging of email addresses. By 2am the following morning we were all up ready to jump the buss to the airport. And with red knees ( from the seat backs in front)we arrived safely at 7 in the morning  at Nairobi airport accompanied by Bishop Kamau, his wife and all the pastors and elders of his church. The Word God gave gave me for them as we said goodbyes…

WELL DONE GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANTS .. YOU HAVE DONE WELL WITH WHAT I HAVE ENTRUSTED YOU WITH .. NOW I WILL GIVE YOU GREATER RESPONSIBILITY  AND SET SET YOU OVER MUCH MORE.

Kenya will probably remain in our hearts and minds as long as we live and Almarie and I thank and honour Bishop Kamau and our Kenyan hosts for their love and constant care for us , but also the opportunity they gave us to present human trafficking to the people and give them tools to combat this terrible crime.  We also thank STOP  for making this amazing opportunity possible. Thanks to Carin, Philip , Lilias , Truska, Teresa and Servaas who gave the thumbs up for us to go and for those of you who laboured to get all the resource material ready ( 50 packs).

THE DAUGHTERS AND CHILDREN OF AFRICA ARE NOT FOR SALE.  BY THE GRACE OF GOD SOUTH AFRICA IS GOING TO AID AFRICA IN GETTING THIS TERRIBLE ROUTE OF SLAVERY DOWN THROUGH AFRICA STOPPED FOREVER.

 

Blessings,

 

Corinnie Sandenbergh

STOP Director Continue reading

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Ruth Jacobs interviews STOP’s web content manager on his heart for the enslaved

Original interview on Ruth Jacob’s blog

Ruth Jacobs interviewed STOP’s web and social media manager, Servaas Hofmeyr, on what drives him to speak out on behalf of the voiceless.

How did you become involved in the movement against human trafficking? 

While busy studying in 2008, I browsed around the web (as one does) and came across an article discussing the effects criminalisation and, alternatively, legalisation of prostitution has had in various countries. I was quite shocked to learn what conditions most of the prostituted women found themselves in – varying from being drug addicts, to suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder, to being victims of regular abuse by both their pimps and clients.

Prostitution, of course, is only one channel through which trafficking occurs but as I browsed further I came across a short video clip produced by the A21 Campaign, in which the organisation’s founder, Christine Caine, explained how she first came to the knowledge of this worldwide injustice of slavery. What she was saying in that video touched something inside of me and led me to educate myself further on the issue of trafficking itself and also on various other issues creating a culture in which a demand for slaves exist…

…for the rest of this interview continue reading it on Ruth’s blog

 

SA Government to toughen up against Human Trafficking

Original post: SABC.co.za, Monday 3 December 2012 07:54

Human trafficking has become prevalent in South Africa and the Department of Justice is looking at putting in place legislation that will tackle the rising trend in the country.

The Justice department looks into passing legislation addressing Human Trafficking

The Department of Justice’s Kamogelo Makubu-Wildred says the absence of such a legislation has made it possible for this kind of activity to manifest and thrive in most parts of the country, namely Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng with Free State having a highest number of prosecuted cases of human trafficking.

Makubu-Wildred says she does not know when the Bill will eventually be passed, but is hopeful that Law makers and Parliamentarians are working very hard on the matter.  Edited By Molebogeng Sebidi

Click here for Makubu-Wildred’s interview (Human trafficking) on Morning Live

 
 
Original article

Do Not Use the Slave Word…when referring to prostitution?

On today, 18 October 2012, it is Anti-Slavery Day in the UK and Anti-Trafficking Day in the EU yet prostitutes are often still not regarded as slaves and thus not supported in the same way governments support those ‘worthy’ to be called slaves.

Rebecca, a former slave from the UK shares her thoughts…

Today it has been decided it the Day of the Slave.

Only unless it is framed as violent external sadistic trafficking can the prostituted class be named as slaves, and even then it made that it cannot be real slavery to be inside the sex trade.

My heart is broken at this dismissal, and the choice that so many with power and privilege make to say prostitution cannot be slavery.

Even when looked at with a clear all forms of prostitution are in the conditions of slavery.

The conditions of slavery is be made nothing but goods that is used and tossed away.

All prostitutes are in that condition. All prostitutes are not viewed as humans or women/girls – they are sex goods.

To be a sex good, is to know you are nothing but holes for men to f-ck, nothing but a mouth to be stuffed or speak words for his ego, nothing but an image his has remembered from porn and now can screw into silence.

That is the condition of the slave.

Only, there are voices of denial.

Prostitutes can never be slaves – they are paid or receive gifts. It is just a business exchange of equal partners.

I feel my heart exploding with rage.

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original image

Yes, prostitutes are paid – many who do indoors prostitution are paid a lot of money and given loads of valuable stuff.

But does that mean the prostitute has the basic human right to be free from violence, to have the basic human right to have freedom of movement, to have the basic human right to her own sexuality, the basic human right to freedom of expression without control or threat/reality of violence?

Slavery has always manipulated the slave-class by having many layers of what a slave – say to be closed to power or working in the cells below the power.

The mental violence of slavery is how the slave-owners use this divide and rule to control those with no power and no voices.

The divisions made between trafficking and “freely chosen” prostitution, between under-aged prostitutes and the prostitutes who is a woman, between street-based prostitutes and escorts – and the endless other divisions placed onto the prostituted class are designed to silence the prostituted.

It is used every day, to prevent a prostitute from naming that she is being raped, she is being sexually tortured, and that she is constant fear of her life.

When it is framed as her choice, as work she is doing, that she is lucky not to be doing worse aspects of prostitution – how is it possible for a prostitute to find a voice for her grief, her fear and her utter confusion.

In prostitution, the slave-owners are winning by brainwashing so many prostitutes that they are the Happy Hooker – hell, they are empowered, they choose the whore lifestyle, they are better than other women.

This mind-set is so ingrained, especially with women doing indoors prostitution – that to survive the normal violence, hate and degradation that is prostitution, it becomes important to block out reality and live in a fantasy.

This is the condition of the slave who has no access to hope, or belief that anyone cares whether she is alive or dead.

I was sexually tortured as my norm – but I made my mind block the fear, block the pain, and to block that I hated it.

No, I lived in the world of fiction. A world where I could only hear words where punters/profiteers pretended to see me as a human, only feel it was “normal” sex and forget how near I was to death, only came to believe I must want this pain why else was I there.

A slave cannot see clearly the power dynamics controlling her, when she is just keeping her head above the water.

The horror of trauma after prostitution is knowing how all prostitutes have no power or human rights – and totally controlled by punters and sex profiteers.

Trauma is impounded when seeing and knowing that to be a prostitute is be a slave – to  be goods, to be voiceless, to have no past or future just the role given to you, to be throwaway trash.

If that is not slavery, then I do not understand what slavery is?

Original articel by Rebecca  Do Not Use the Slave Word

Also in the news: Anti-Slavery Day: One victim of child sex trafficking is one too many via The Independent

Words from someone who’s been there…

It is not too often we come across joyful or inspiring stories when reading about and researching on human trafficking and therefore it is a pleasure to share one of them with you as encouragement via National Freedom Network

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Morning Friends

This piece was written by a surviving victim of trafficking. To see the heart she now has for those who trafficked and used her is incredibly beautiful and redemptive… can we have the same heart, hard as it is? I found this encouraging and hope that you do too.

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…”
~ Matthew 5:44

The life of a Human Trafficker Recruiter:

It has always been said that money buys everything and anything, and with that being true, money can buy humans as well! The harsh reality is that once you are bought for a price, a Dollar (or Rand) sign is all you are meant to be. You do not count for anything else, nobody will see in your eyes that you could be a Wife or a Mother one day. Once the clock strikes for operation you are there for one thing only… money!

Money buys food, houses, cars, and even fame……! The Recruiter also needs all these things, and once they taste that it comes easy, they want more!!! Most of them also have wives and children that have needs, and THEY must supply.

So what encourages a person to sell other humans for an income?
I always wondered if they ever felt any emotions towards the girls, but I guess they were also like sheep standing and waiting to be auctioned. They had bills to pay, food to set on the table, school fees to pay… money was and is the goal. The Operation needs to grow and entertainment is what keeps your stress levels down, right?? They are very good at picking out the best for the highest bid; they know WHAT the clients want!

They are very good at seeing a pretty face with potential. They know that you will be the best once they break you in! They have excellent taste, they have all that money can buy, but it is never enough…. they always want MORE!
They know how to change you. They know the new trend in styles and fashion! They make sure that you become someone else. But they also know when you don’t profit them anymore….

They don’t ask questions like: Where do you come from? Where are your families? The only thing that matters is that the money comes in! They don’t care when you cry, when you get beaten up, when you get raped over and over again, when a ‘client’ wants more than you can give! You are alone… you cry by yourself… you suffer in silence. When your body is in pain, and you can’t take one more client… they don’t care… you have to do it!

To this day I remember one evening clearly. I was tired and was used by one client after another and I could not face another. I remember taking a knife to the cubicle; for some reason I decided to end my life that night. I was forced to do things I was tired of; every muscle in my tiny body was aching; I felt dirty and he was doing things to me you can’t imagine. That’s when I pulled the knife on him. He started to hit me, and call me names… he dragged me by my hair to reception and demanded his money back! The owner was forced to pay him back every cent. I was badly beaten up by the owner and called a ‘devil’! Yes, I was called the devil! How do you justify that?

The truth though, is that they are also just humans… they are blind guides. They know what they are doing but they live in the dark. And the truth is… that Jesus loves them as well!

Would it make me feel any better if I could put my arms around them and tell them that I forgive them? Yes… yes it would!!
I say they live in dark, and they do. They are taken over by the force of money… but deep down inside of each one of them is a soft side… a human side that needs to be touched by the Great “I AM”….!!!

We are all fighting against the darkness of Human Trafficking, and with each tear a victim sheds, God’s tears multiply. But God’s tears multiply because He wants to touch the hearts of the ones causing it! I believe if we deeply start to pray for the Recruiters, God’s love and power will break the chains.

If I can stand in the middle of a thousand Recruiters today, I wouldn’t be afraid, because I live in the Light and they are in the Dark… and I know that God’s light will embrace them…

-Anonymous

Your Justifications are Killing Us

Legalisation of prostitution is not a mere structural decision, to be made as we play our political games; valuable lives are at stake – whenever the South African government gets confronted with that policy serious consideration ought to be made about the consequences of their decision.

In her words, Rebecca puts forward a plea on behalf of the prostituted:

I would consider myself as left-wing – but the Left try to make it impossible to an abolitionist and fit in.

Too much of the Left is made of male-thought, and in this thinking it not surprising that the Left has always justify the sex trade, and ignore the reality of life for the prostituted.

I am tired of everyone letting the left off the hook – I tired of waiting for the Left to get on board with abolition – I tired of men who Leftist making their porn stash and their consumption of the prostituted is somehow better than right-wing men who do exactly the same.

In this post, I will speak of the many leftist cliches that have said to me, or I have read, or had fed to me by the media.

Much of the poison-speech by the Left is the language of pimps and punters – men who are not pimps and punters parrots their words without questioning.

2010 World Cup - Prostitution

I was consumed by many Leftist punters who justify all their tortures – I had profiteers selling me who imagine they were on the Left, hell they were sexual outlaws, they were empowering women, they were model-day freedom fighters.

I write to the Left, for my heart is exploring with pain and grief – silence round the Left betraying the prostituted class is killing the prostituted every day.

We must look into the language of the Left and say why it controlled by men who want the status quo of the sex trade, we mustn’t turn away because they may be our allies in other areas.

Maybe if i go into some of the common myths that the Left spread.

The major one is that if you unionise the sex trade, then it will be fine and dandy.

I agree with unions for workers – but there we the major flaw – being embedded in the sex trade is not work, the prostituted class are not workers. They are in the conditions of slavery, of having their human rights stripped from them – they are not workers.

To frame it as work, where all that need to be done putting in basic health and safety regulations, all that need to be done is to get a shop steward who go to the sex trade profiteer and speak of working rights for the prostituted.

Think a little, and you will see this is nonsense.

When there are unions for the prostituted – they always are dominated by the profiteers, punters and those who support painting the myth that the sex trade is safe.

Unions that exist do not include the prostitute who is trapped in a brothel, do not include women in the porn that is daily torture, do not include the under-aged prostitute trapped in a room with lines of men consuming her.

No, unions are not for the ordinary and average woman or girl – for those unions have no intention to stop the routine rapes, the routine beating ups, the routine throwing away of the prostituted.

No, the purpose of these unions is to whitewash away all the normal male hate and violence that underpins all aspects of the sex trade.

These so-called unions are all about protecting punter’s “rights” – so rape is made invisible or the fault of the individual prostituted woman or girl, violence is disappeared into the language of S/M and it said she must have consented, and the ordinary murders of the prostituted are not mentioned without saying maybe she was too weak to read the body language of the murderer and run away.

Do not back any sex trade union – they do not give a damn about the prostituted, they care about pimps and punters.

It is a union run and controlled by managers, but more by managers who view the prostituted as goods and never as humans.

Your belief in unions is killing the prostituted every day.

I will speak and remember how Leftist punters spoke to me, how they justified turning me into their f*ck-toy, whilst pretending they were better than those nasty right-wing punters.

I was consumed by punters who claimed to be into human rights, punters who were vegan and said they would no living creature, those who deeply cared about politics and freedom for the oppressed.

These punters would sexually, mentally and physically torturing me, and also preach all this sh*t to me.

I would see punters who had brutalise me and other prostitutes on marches, in meetings or part of liberal religions – fighting with all the might for rights and dignity of all humans.

That when I learnt the lesson I have never lost – these men did not fight for the dignity and rights of the prostituted foe we were not and cannot be classed as humans – we were just goods for them to use to consume and throw away.

We were not given access to human rights, we were not expected to want human dignity, we were never considered worthy of the good fight for freedom.

I am crying too much – so end here.

Please question your Leftist views if they discard the prostituted class.

Original article: Your Justifications are Killing Us

Another Side of Life – documentary by Shane Vermooten

original article posted in the stir

I was privileged to attend the premiere showing of Shane Vermooten’s documentary ‘Another Side of Life’ this past weekend. Privileged in the sense that I’ve been exposed to another aspect of reality. It was not an all out feel-good watch however, as the reality which was shared is that of the human trafficking industry, specifically along the slave trade routes running between Nigeria and Europe via Spain and Italy.

I can say with certainty though that it is a story with an definite element of hope attached to it – the degree to which that hope will realise is largely up to us, in the hands of the ‘free men’.

Africa is often considered as a single entity, a type of package deal, we hear people say “In Africa people often…”, and I guess us Africans often treat ‘Europe’ in a similar way. Reality is though that Africa is a continent consisting of well over 50 countries, each different in culture, language and practise (to varying degrees of course).

As a South African, I learnt that Nigerians make up 25% of the African population with the emphasis on the fact that ‘25% of the African population does not live inside Nigeria’. No, as is the case with many other nations, there is a very active Nigerian diaspora. It is therefore that speakers at the premiere event frequently brought up the saying: “What happens in Nigeria affects all of Africa”.

Another Side of Life is said to be ‘a film about a film’ as it largely draws attention to another film called ‘Europe in my Heart‘ and the work of Anne Abok. Now Anne Abok was one of the ‘definite elements of hope’ I mentioned above and one of the speakers on the night. A woman who radiates passion, purpose and an undying will to fight the injustice of slavery – all with a broad smile on her face even though she is no way ignorant of the reality she is opposing. She is the co-founder of Media Village in Nigeria (founded 2005) and also a member of the College of Communication International Committee, a film producer, screen writer and editor.

Europe in my Heart tells the story of Charity, an African girl willing to do whatever it takes to make a life in Europe, and is a high quality educational tool used to inform the world, and especially potential victims of trafficking, of how women and children are lured by traffickers and what happens in ‘Europe’. I say ‘Europe’ seeing that the destination is often a neighbouring African state or where ever a willing slave buyer may be found – it is projected that only 5-10% of slaves ever make it to Europe. Abok have noticed that the showing of this film has typically resulted in a drop of 85-45% of people watching it still wanting to go to Europe once they become aware of the possible dangers. That once again highlights to what extent properly and consistently communicated awareness campaigns can help in preventing people from becoming victims of human trafficking. Education is key!

Vermooten himself further investigates the situation in Nigeria itself and the challenges Abok and her peers face in fighting this particular manifestation of evil. He takes the viewer to a place called Benin City, the centre of Nigeria’s rubber industry, major producer of palm oil and, of course, arguably Africa’s major producer of, or port from which, humans are to be shipped as slaves, mainly for the sex industry. Benin City has a legacy as a ‘slave city’ as it was part of the ‘Slave Coast’ where many West Africans were sold to slave traders during the 16th and 17th centuries. From the film and first hand accounts of these film makers we learn that today still, almost every person they came across while filming ‘had an affair, one way or the other, with human trafficking’, whether they talked to people along the road, their taxi driver or whoever, they were likely to have been a former victim themselves or currently have a family member or acquaintance ‘in Europe’. Conservative figures suggest 1 in 10 families have a member overseas (mostly in prostitution) but from Vermooten and the team’s personal experience it is much rather around 8 out of every 10 families.

But why is this? Why is Benin City what it is and how can things be different?

Abok mentions of how she received government opposition due to their fear that ‘foreign journalists might create a negative image of Nigeria’ (as a side note: coming from South Africa, we have a very negative image of Nigeria already, due to the prevalance of illegal activities conducted over here by many of their expats – my recent exposure to Abok and another speaker at the premiere changed my whole perspective however, which is the reason I would encourage Nigeria’s government to rather assist people doing the work she does).

Secondly, poverty is a major underlying problem as is the case all over the world where trafficking occurs. Surrounding villages even rejected the film crew due to the fact that human trafficking is one of their major sources of income. Victims of trafficking would even go to jail as illegal immigrants in other nations rather than return home, as prisons provide food for them. In Benin City human trafficking is an open secret and has literally become part of everyday life.

Thirdly, there is another sinister force at play which the broader Western culture does not understand or are simply ignorant of: African trafficking, for one, involves a very deliberate spiritual aspect. Animistic rituals and witchcraft (Juju-based practises) plays a critical role in African trafficking. This includes blood oaths, commitments and covenants which when not honoured leads to death, menstrual bleeding or other conditions. Rituals include hot concoctions containing body parts (nail clippings, pubic hair, etc.) and blood from trafficked victims which trafficker/’sponsor’ drink together with the victim to seal the oath or otherwise intercourse(rape) for the same purpose. The result is that women who are found and offered the opportunity to come home from Europe or other places reject the offer due to their fear of the curse that the breaking of an oath might bring over them or their families. Whether Westerners choose to believe the reality these people know very well, the fear is very real in these societies where the spiritual is held in high regard.

The big question asked next was ‘where is the church generally in all of this?’ seeing that the church has been known to have the tools which brings freedom from this fear and the reversal of curses. The sad reality is that large parts of the church form part of ‘prosperity’ movements and ‘fake pastors’ would start churches as profit generating organisations. This results in the fact that although churches make out a large part of the Nigerian population, very few of them are interested in getting their hands dirty in the areas where their help is desperately needed.

The challenge is massive but people like Anne Abok is making a difference and are bringing change – and I may highlight again, are the type of people Nigeria and other African nations ought to embrace if they truly care about their countries and their people.

The problem is not a simple one-dimensional one and neither is the solution. People often ask, and did so again at the film premiere, how they can play a role in fighting this issue seeing that not all of us have Liam Neeson’s skill set, necessary to take out whole trafficking syndicates. Because it is so multi-dimensional, it is good for people to realise that it is not simply about stopping traffickers themselves or going into brothels and rescuing slaves. As mentioned, preventative education can have a massive effect, taking on the demand side of the industry (issues such as pornography, issues surrounding the legalisation of prostitution, the sexualised themes in our media communication playing a role in the shaping of our society) is very important and the one thing I took from this film as well: job creation.

Poverty stands out as a major reason why people are lured into slavery and why they many times approach it in an irrational manner: they are discontent and desperate. For instance, I am currently reading a book titled Why Africa is Poor from which I learnt that approximately 10% of African wages go to women, although they work 10-15 hours more per week than men and that women own 1% of the overall African economy. So, if you’re a business owner in Nigeria for instance and can find ways to create local jobs, for women especially (considering possible cultural barriers in doing so of course), and pay a decent salary, you would be fighting human trafficking.

I would encourage every one who reads this to get hold of both these films, I couldn’t share every detail in here, especially the testimonies of victims and how they managed to re-enter society after being rescued from slavery was both heartbreaking and encouraging:

Another Side of Life, to expose yourself and others to this reality for starters, and Europe in my Heart to educate the vulnerable with.

Watch: Another Side of Life trailer

Another way of contributing to the cause is to host a film screening yourself in your town, at your school, university, church or wherever you are able to get a few people together. Both Shane Vermooten and Anne Abok are available to attend these screenings in person (around South Africa in particular) if arranged in advance, Shane could be contacted for this purpose at shanevermooten@gmail.com

Anne does travel around Europe at times speaking to parliaments and at seminars educating local groups on how these African women could be assisted out of slavery, considering the unique challenges mentioned above – Shane could also be contacted with regards to her whereabouts and availability.

A ‘behind the scenes’ photo journey through Benin City by Sergio Ramazzotti.

Servaas Hofmeyr, STOP web and social media manager

WORST OF BOTH WORLDS – Human Trafficking stage play in the Baxter

Witty slice of the human meat market

July 31 2012 at 09:32am
By Helen Herimbi


TO WOW1

Worst Of Both Worlds

DIRECTOR: Bulelani Mabutyana

CAST: Thando Suselo and Lubabalo Nontwana

VENUE: Golden Arrow Studio inside the Baxter Theatre

UNTIL: August 4

RATING: ****

When the grass on the other side is just about as brown as the side you’re on. Written and directed by Bulelani Mabutyana, this play was named the Best of Zabalaza at this year’s annual Baxter Theatre festival. And it’s clear to see why. Bringing the worldwide issue of human trafficking a lot closer to home, Worst of Both Worlds uses a story that is so relatable it could be anyone’s really.

In the beginning, Pinkie Stofile is a child from Khayelitsha who has a sweet tooth and a soft spot for a song her mother taught her. By the end, Pinkie is a woman whose taste of life abroad brought an even bigger urge to hold on to something more than a song that reminds her of her mother.

When she’s just a little girl, Pinkie is lured into a car by her school principal, an authority figure with a pocket full of lekkers, more formally known as sweets.

She becomes a victim of child trafficking and becomes a tiny drop in an ocean of prostitution that makes supply and demand its ebb and flow.

There is never a shortage of demand, so the supply keeps coming. From all over the world, there are girls and women who are never to be seen again by their loved ones. As Papa Joe – the modern day slave master and pimp – practically spits at Pinkie, “your mother is in Africa, you will never see her again”.

But Pinkie does get to go back to the Motherland, even though she doesn’t find what she’d been looking for. After growing up on the streets of New York and getting her education through the hard-knock school of the sex industry, she decides she is fed up with “cold people and cold conversations”.

Her confidant and fellow slave, Ada, is tired of being offered crack as payment for her services when what she really wants is money or freedom, whichever comes first.

The friends hatch a plan to free themselves of Papa Joe and this makeshift family and Pinkie winds up back in Khayelitsha. But, naturally, she doesn’t have much luck with finding a legitimate job and is hoodwinked and abducted once more. Now a sex slave in her own country, Pinkie realises she may have thought life abroad was worse, but it’s the same as being at home.

Interestingly, Pinkie is not played by a woman. In fact, all the characters are acted by two spell-binding young men. Performing in English and Xhosa, Suselo and Nontwana take turns playing Pinkie, prostitutes, policemen and pamphlet slingers with panache.

They use an almost bare set to its maximum potential and in many ways, it lends itself to the metaphor of being stripped of your home, past and identity and having to make do with the little you have that runs through the story. How arm wrestling becomes symbolic of rape and physical violence is very clever and arrests the emotions.

The rectangular table in the middle of the stage and the black chair towards the edge take turns becoming a car, a news anchor’s desk, an interrogation space and a window.

The actors use their bodies in swift, seamless moves to interact with these make-believe objects and each other. It’s so fluid that it’s a pleasure to be transported wholly into New York City and Khayelitsha, respectively.

Through deliberate lighting, red is the primary colour that is used to signify danger, a memory (picture the red in a photographic dark-room) and a change of scenery. Suselo and Nontwana even wear red pants and red T-shirts through-out the play.

I enjoyed that there were no blurred lines or grey areas here and with their backs to the audience, we followed the actors into unknown territory with their towering shadows on the wall in front of them telling the story.

Human trafficking is handled in an edu-tainment sense that is laid out in simple, visual terms. The audience left questioning how they themselves can be more vigilant and help end this sadistic trade.

While the play was great, it wasn’t perfect. Perhaps, owing to the fact that it wasn’t a full house, the actors sometimes hammed up some of the camp characters to get bigger laughs.

Also, the 55-minute-long play feels uneven towards the end because there is what feels like a premature conclusion of events before Pinkie’s great escape home.

These, however, are problems that could be solved with time.

Original article on iol.co.za

Why Abolitionists should talk about Pornography

This is a post by Saskia Wishart, who has spent three years of her life fighting human trafficking in Cape Town, South Africa. She wrote this post as a contribution to the Pornography: Poison and Prey blog series by Gemma Wilson.

Saskia is the European Coordinator for the Not For Sale Campaign and lives in Amsterdam; where she is assisting in the creation of a social enterprise that provides job skill training and opportunities to survivors of sex trafficking. She has been working with individuals exploited through human trafficking since 2008 and tweets @saskiacw.

For many years I never thought much about pornography – to be honest, beyond a quick glance of a photograph ripped from a magazine by some curious boys at a school, I had never really seen pornography. Not until I began dealing with the issue of human trafficking. My exposure to the sex industry has been to combat the mess of exploitation that rips apart lives and families.

In Tel Aviv 5 years ago, my friends and I were walking along the beach in the evening, we passed an older man beside some bathrooms, with him was two young girls, maybe 14 years-old. He was photographing them in sexual poses. And we kept walking. One guy in our group of friends became angry, he wanted to go back and check on those girls, he wanted to interfere, to put a stop to something that looked very wrong. But we talked him out of it, I am ashamed to say, we walked on.

I remember when a child pornography case was busted open while I was working in Cape Town. The police told me of how the young girls exploited in this case were targeted by a business man in the community, a man who offered to assist families in financial need, a man who paid the school fees of young girls age 13 – 14 and in exchange lured them into a living hell, where he photographed and sexually exploited them. The police told me of the trauma the girls faced, girls who were so damaged from the experience, one continually tried to take her life. The 73 year-old man in this case pleaded guilty to 95 child porn charges last month, but his pleading guilty will not heal the emotional wounds that have been inflicted on his victims. The case was uncovered when neighbours began to question why this man was often being seen at the house he used as a ‘gym’ with underage girls. The choice of the neighbours to ask questions and call the police led to the arrest of this pedophile.

When I moved to Amsterdam and began working in providing nutrition to women in prostitution, I began seeing pornography weekly, it plays in the brothels and is advertised on the outside of sex shows. Last year I wrote apost exploring the angry emotions I had to face when seeing the lives of women and men destroyed by pornography. Triggered by a sign in a shop window advertising ‘rape-sex’ DVD’s, I started to research the links between pornography and human trafficking, pornography and child exploitation, as well as pornography, sexual addiction, and the abuse of women in prostitution.

As abolitionists we have a role in addressing the demand of sexual services; from protecting those who are underage to giving dignity to women who are vulnerable to exploitation.

Pornography and sexual addiction have become normalised in our culture, and many of us choose to ignore it, often by our own naivety of how serious the issue really is. Just like that day in Tel Aviv when we saw something that looked wrong, but choose to keep on walking, something is going wrong with the porn industry, and blinded by its allure and promise of satisfaction, we can choose to keep on walking, or we can stop and draw attention to some of its dangerous and exploitative aspects.

Some will say that not all pornography is linked to abuse, and this is probably true, but from where I stand the lines are too often blurred to justify what has happened around the world through the mass distribution of pornography.

One of the girls who is getting training in our project is a survivor of sex trafficking and has endured horrific abuse; one of the first things she did when she came into our building was point at the projector on the ceiling, and full of fear, she asked if the projector was a camera. For her, the reality of exploitation and slavery was intrinsically linked to being filmed while forced to perform sexual acts. Filmed for the purpose of making pornography that thousands of members of the general population consume over the internet.

Let us take a stand for freedom, even when it is uncomfortable. Let us not walk by a situation that isn’t right, but instead explore the complexities that allow the exploitation of others to go unnoticed.

 

The original post on gemmaruthwilson{dot}com

Confessions of a Retoucher

Objectification of women through the media plays a major role in how they are viewed by men and also how women view and value themselves. One such retoucher shares some of the ins and outs of the media industry’s representation of people and the effect it has on women in particular.

via gemmaruthwilson{dot}com

                                                                                     Photo credit: BeautyRedefined.net

This week, I tweeted a link to The Photoshop Hall of Shame which caused some interesting discussion amongst my friendship group about how important it is that people know images are retouched, how our minds can process them knowing this, how to NOT buy into the media machine that tells us we aren’t good enough. I then came across something shocking: a “photographer’s best friend” (a digital retoucher) who decided less than 2 months ago to quit his job and call for reform in the industry. Here is a video of him explaining what happened, and an accompanying letter. WOW.

My name is Roy A. Cui and I live and work in Los Angeles, California. You may be familiar with my work. I have worked on many clothing and beauty advertising campaigns. I’ve worked on covers and editorial spreads for popular magazines that you see in the grocery store. You’ve probably even seen my handiwork on the billboards or bus stops you pass by on your way to work. You may have even seen my work in well-known art galleries in Los Angeles, New York, and Europe.

If you’re thinking that I’m a photographer, I’m not. I’m a photographer’s best friend. My pseudonym isEyeConArtist: I con the eye, and my tagline is “making the unreal appear real.” My chosen profession is being a digital retoucher. I’m a part of the media machine that has suckered you into thinking that you need to look like this flawless person who does not exist anywhere in the world. You then feel unhappy with how you really look, so you buy the products that the person of perfection is using in the image that I retouched.

I didn’t enter this profession with the intention of deceiving people. My first passion was photography and I worked as an assistant to many Los Angeles based photographers in the early 90’s. Then I was introduced to the “magic” of Photoshop and I was in awe of the endless possibilities that Photoshop offered.

When I started out as a retoucher, photographers made every effort to make sure they had near flawless sets, models, apparel, makeup, and products. They shot their images with film, which were scanned and then retouched. If the images needed digital retouching, it was extremely expensive and only large companies could afford to have it done. If small commercial companies needed retouching back then, it was minimal.

Today, with photographic technology where it is, it’s not just the major campaigns that have retouching done. It’s every image produced for public consumption that is retouched, whether it’s a model, a bar of soap or even a dog. EVERY image used in advertising is retouched.

It’s standard for me to thin and elongate legs, thin down the waist and arms, remove any bulging flesh, remove wrinkles, bags under the eyes, blemishes, freckles, tattoos, fix a lazy eye, remove or minimize creases where there should be creases, like the underarm or the neck. As more and more has been asked of me technology made it easier to do more in less time, I never questioned the ethics of what I was being asked to manipulate.

It never occurred to me that what I was doing was causing anyone any harm. Everyone knows everything is retouched right? If they don’t, it’s not that big of a deal. We take everything we see with a grain of salt, right? It didn’t cross my mind until about ten years ago when I was out with a friend at a popular apparel store. The store had several images of their product all over the store that I had worked on. I mentioned this to the young woman that was helping us and she looked at me in disbelief and wanted to know what was done on the images. I pointed at one image and explained that I had cleaned up every square inch of that model’s skin, brought in the bulges from where the bra and panties were tight on her hips, torso and shoulders, thinned down the sides of her body to give her a smooth hourglass look, and even changed the color of some of the garments. She was horrified. She told me that she had no idea and that she came to work everyday thinking that something was wrong with her because she didn’t look like the girls modeling the clothes in the pictures. I told her that everything that she sees in print media has been retouched, especially women in ANY ad, and reassured her that she looked fine…the MODELS don’t even look like that.

She was only one person. How many other women feel that way when they look at the images I’ve had a hand at retouching? Maybe those thoughts filled my head that day, but I had more important things to focus on like making living with what I know how to do, retouching… What was pressing me to keep going: Feeding and clothing my two sons and daughter.

My daughter is 11 now. She’s old enough to internalize what she sees. I think she’s beautiful inside and out and I’d hate to think I had anything to do with making her dislike herself. So, I tell her about how retouching is used in every printed image she sees and even show her before and after’s of files I’ve worked on, because I’m on the inside. But what about all those other girls, young women and ladies that have no clue as to how the images they see affect them? I’ve felt, for years, that I should do something about it.

These thoughts of needing to spread the truth have haunted me and grown greater with every passing year. It all came boiling to the surface after seeing the screening of Miss Representation at the California Endowment on May 17, 2012. Periodically during the movie there were images flashing on the screen that were taken from print ads to show examples of how women are being negatively portrayed in media. Then one of the covers that I retouched popped up in the movie and a lightning bolt of anxiety shot through me.

During the Q&A after the screening I mustered up the courage to go up and ask the director, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, how I could help turn things around, stop being a part of how the media portrays women, and maybe still be able to make a living. She was so impressed by me coming forward to start being part of the change that I decided to get my story out, risking career suicide, just to try and do my part to change the culture.

Which leads me to here, my first video blog. Now that I’ve decided to make this change, I don’t know what happens next. I’m scared, but I know it’s the right thing to do. I don’t know where, when, or how, but I need to find a way to use my talents in a positive and constructive way.

Hopefully my story can help women understand how they are being manipulated and maybe even get magazines, photographers, art directors, ad agencies AND their clients to realize what they are doing to the women of the world.

So, please help me support MissRepresentation.org to get magazines to have ONE UNretouched image of a model printed per publication for this summer.

Thanks for listening to my story and stay tuned to see how this turns out for me.

®y