CEBU, THE PHILIPPINES – Late last week, local police led an anti-trafficking operation on a bar where IJM discovered girls were being sold for sex. One of the trafficking survivors is a 16-year-old girl, and several of the women are young mothers who told IJM they were desperate to get out of the abusive bar.
"I don't want to do this anymore," said one woman in her early twenties, a mother of three children. She continued, "I'm a mother and I'm tired of this."
Police led the rescue team into the bar, and IJM social social workers were on the scene to explain to the young women that they were there to help them.
The Philippines' anti-trafficking laws include protections for both minors and adults. Under Philippines law, any underage girl being sold for sex is considered a victim of trafficking and entitled to legal protection. In addition, women of any age who are deceived or forced into sex work are likewise considered victims of trafficking.
One teenage girl and seven other women gave statements to the police and social workers that articulated the abuse they endured in the bar. It was clear that they wanted out. They listened intently as social workers explained possibilities available to them.
The road ahead will not be without obstacles, as many of the women have impoverished families to support. But IJM will continue to walk with the survivors and connect them with job training and other opportunities, as well as help them process the trauma they have experienced.
On the night of the operation, one of the bar's managers was arrested and will face trafficking charges. The owner of the bar is now on the run, but IJM will help local authorities locate him as soon as an arrest warrant is issued.