Crime against chil­dren

Hol­ly­wood ac­tress mira Sorvino teams up with the cNN Free­dom Project in a doc­u­men­tary that ex­poses the hor­rors of the child sex traf­fick­ing trade in cambodia.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TV - By S. INDRAMALAR en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

IN Svay Pak, a small pover­ty­wracked town just out­side of the Cam­bo­dian cap­i­tal of Ph­nom Penh, girls as young as six (some even younger) are sold into prostitution by their par­ents as a means of sur­vival.

In run-down broth­els or brand new karaoke clubs that are fronts for broth­els, young girls are pimped to men – lo­cal and for­eign – who are will­ing to pay top dol­lar for young, vir­ginal girls. This is the face of mod­ern-day slav­ery: the world of child sex traf­fick­ing where hun­dreds of chil­dren – mostly girls – are bought, sold or kid­napped and forced to have sex with men.

This gritty re­al­ity can be seen in a pow­er­ful CNN Free­dom Project doc­u­men­tary ti­tled Ev­ery­day In Cambodia. Academy award-win­ning ac­tress Mira Sorvino joins Amer­i­can ac­tivist Don Brew­ster, who has ded­i­cated his life to sav­ing Cam­bo­dian chil­dren from be­ing sold into prostitution, in this eye-open­ing doc­u­men­tary.

In it, Sorvino, who is the United Na­tions Of­fice on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Good­will Am­bas­sador to Com­bat Hu­man Traf­fick­ing, walks through the town of Svay Pak, talk­ing to vic­tims and sur­vivors of the child sex traf­fick­ing trade as well as law en­force­ment of­fi­cers, urg­ing them to pros­e­cute traf­fick­ers and stop the out­rage from hap­pen­ing.

“It was a very pow­er­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. It was very har­row­ing be­cause the tes­ti­monies I heard from the girls were very bleak and up­set­ting. We were talk­ing to very young girls about how their vir­gin­ity was sold by their own moth­ers … it was just so bru­tal. And hear­ing how th­ese men were so happy to buy that vir­gin­ity ... very happy to rape th­ese girls, it was just sick­en­ing,” says Sorvino in a 25-minute in­ter­view from Canada with Star2.

Ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics from in­ter­na­tional non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion, End Child Prostitution, Abuse and Traf­fick­ing (ECPAT), a third of all sex work­ers in Cambodia are chil­dren.

“It is the most ex­treme form of abuse you can imag­ine. It is hard to imag­ine how one hu­man could do that to another. My job is to just be a vic­tim’s ad­vo­cate and to un­der­score the fact that lit­tle chil­dren are be­ing raped ev­ery­day in th­ese ho­tel rooms through­out the coun­try by men who find it re­cre­ational to sleep with a child as young as six.

“Gen­er­ally, they are older but on this trip, we met three girls who were six years old. I mean, come on. This has to be ad­dressed in a more ro­bust way,” says the im­pas­sioned Sorvino who starred in movies like Romy And Michelle’s High School Re­union, Mighty Aphrodite and At First Sight.

Ac­cord­ing to CNN In­ter­na­tional ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Tony Mad­dox, Ev­ery­day In Cambodia was one of the most re­mark­able and dif­fi­cult doc­u­men­taries CNN has pro­duced un­der The Free­dom Project, a hu­man­i­tar­ian news me­dia cam­paign that pro­duces re­ports, ar­ti­cles and doc­u­men­taries on all forms of hu­man traf­fick­ing.

“This is tena­cious and fear­less jour­nal­ism and we are im­mensely proud to be able to high­light this cru­cial story and help act as a cham­pion for change,” he said in a re­lease about the doc­u­men­tary.

Sorvino, who has worked on sev­eral oc­ca­sions with The Free­dom Project, was keen to be a part of the doc­u­men­tary right from the start.

“I wanted to go out on the field and I told pro­ducer Lisa Co­hen that a while ago. I’ve had some ex­pe­ri­ence over the years … I’ve in­ter­viewed scores of sur­vivors and law en­force­ment of­fi­cers and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and even a child sex traf­ficker and it has be­come sort of my field of ex­per­tise.

“Lisa said that they’d been told that the sit­u­a­tion in Cambodia was get­ting bet­ter but the re­al­ity was that it wasn’t get­ting any bet­ter … the trade had just gone un­der­ground and the CNN team wanted to go there and find out why and what can be done about it,” ex­plains Sorvino, adding that her in­volve­ment was in a per­sonal ca­pac­ity and not part of her role as a UNODC good­will am­bas­sador.

The doc­u­men­tary, Sorvino hopes, will show peo­ple the dark re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion in Cambodia and hope­fully move more peo­ple into ac­tion.

“I hope it will mo­bilise pub­lic ac­tion and that there will be a pub­lic outcry.

“When peo­ple see th­ese lit­tle girls, I mean, it could be our sis­ters or their daugh­ters, what on earth are we do­ing al­low­ing this to hap- pen? I hope there will be moral re­vul­sion when peo­ple see this and that prompts change.

“I want the Gov­ern­ment to en­force com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion in­stead of just al­low­ing th­ese kids to be out there, un­doc­u­mented, il­lit­er­ate and vul­ner­a­ble to be­ing sold. I want lo­cal groups to act as watch­dogs to make sure that this doesn’t hap­pen on their watch. And there has to be dis­cus­sion.

“Si­lence on this mat­ter only helps the per­pe­tra­tors, never the vic­tims. There needs to be dis­cus­sion which will lead to im­me­di­ate ac­tion. And th­ese men, they need to be pun­ished and also reed­u­cated.

“There has to be pre­ven­ta­tive ed­u­ca­tion too, to shift the way men per­ceive women,” says Sorvino who spent 10 days in Cambodia work­ing on the doc­u­men­tary.

For the 46-year-old ac­tress, ad­vo­cat­ing for the vic­tims on what she dubs “mod­ern day slav­ery” has be­come part of her day-to-day life.

“I spend a lot of time on this whether do­mes­ti­cally or abroad. This has be­come my part-time ca­reer. This has be­come deeply im­por­tant to me.

“As a mother of four, I can­not just stand by and do noth­ing now that I know the re­al­i­ties of the sit­u­a­tion and I am very grate­ful for the op­por­tu­ni­ties to serve.”

Ev­ery­day In Cambodia airs tomorrow at 5pm and Sun­day at 10am and 7pm on CNN In­ter­na­tional (Astro Ch 511).

An­gel in dis­guise: Girls as young as six are sold as sex slaves in cambodia. mira Sorvino spent 10 days in the coun­try work­ing on ev­ery­day­in­cam­bo­dia, a doc­u­men­tary which ex­poses the twisted trade of child sex traf­fick­ing.

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