On my recent trip to Australia for a holiday, i had the good fortune to watch a very good documentary on the trafficking of women from South East Asia to Australia. Women are regularly smuggled from Thailand, Burma and Cambodia into the heart of Sydney's metropolitan cities for the purpose of prostitution -- while its not a problem that has received as much coverage in Australia, its certainly a serious issue.
The documentary interviewed several women who had gone through the ordeal and lived to tell the tale (many don't). A common occurrence in each story was how the woman, as young as 13-14 sometimes, are "sold" by their families for a few hundred dollars to the traffickers with the promise that they would lead a good life as a nanny or maid in Australia. From northern Thailand, Burma or Cambodia, they cross the border into Malaysia, brought to safe houses in Kuala Lumpur and systematically raped and abused until their will and spirit is broken, taught the "tricks" of the trade by pimps and mama-sans. Its a despicable, horrible thing -- young girls, barely teenagers, subjected to mind-numbing, body-breaking, terror. According to the interviewees, these syndicates operate out of Malaysia, this is where they receive the first taste of the horror-life they will lead in the coming months and years; after "breaking" the girls, these syndicates then re-sell them to brothels in Australia, and smuggle them out of the country with fake passports made from "professional looking" printing presses.
What irks me so much is that these things are happening right now within our very borders, perhaps no further than a stone's throw from where i work. Its an issue of terrifying proportions yet i had to travel to a foreign country to learn and listen from a frank discussion of the problem. Why don't we hear about these things in our local news? Why isn't there a larger uproar from the NGOs, the Government, and from investigative media?
Has our society degenerated so far that the only thing we're interested in now is what the 2007 Budget means to us and what Siti Nurhaliza is doing for her honeymoon? Is that the extent of our media appetite?
Or worse, are stories like the trafficking of women via Malaysian borders, intentionally suppressed, for the sake of some notion of the "greater national good"?