In the Philippines, women and children are subjected to sexual exploitation in brothels, bars, and massage parlours, online, as well as in the production of pornography. The Philippines is an international hub for prostitution and commercial sex tourism – a highly profitable businesses for organised criminal syndicates. The demand for sex with children among both local and foreign men has continued to fuel child sex tourism. Rising internet usage rates, the availability of mobile phones and poverty has fostered online child sexual exploitation.
Belen was sold into sexual slavery by her mother when she was eight, and although rescued at the age of nine, she ran away from the centre where she lived, run by an NGO, when she was 14. She was recruited back into prostitution.
I am Belen. I grew up in the northern part of Cebu with my father and mother, together with my other siblings, two boys and two girls. I was the third-born child.
My father was a construction worker. I cannot remember well about my mother’s work; however, I remember that she gambled and most of the time she was out of the house. I think she used to bake also. I observed that my parents always quarrelled but I did not know the reasons for their quarrels.
When I was young I used to help my aunty in her sari-sari store [a small convenience outlet] as well as cleaning our house and looking after my little brothers and sister.
At age eight, my mother took me to another island far from our home. This was after a big fight with my father. All I remember from that time is that my mother sold me to a bar owner in that place.
At the age of nine, I was rescued from that bar by some government workers. I stayed at the government centre for young girls for a year. After the incident when I was eight, I never saw my parents again. I only saw my older sister, who was also prostituted. She was tough and has left prostitution.
At 10, I was transferred to a non-government organisation located in Cebu City. While at the centre I finished grade three and went on to take a government examination. I was accelerated to grade six but I did not enrol for a higher level because I ran away from the centre. I was 14 at that time. I was staying in one of the main streets in the city when someone recruited me to go to the red light district.
Until now I am still very angry at my mother for what she did to me. I remember I told her when she left me at the bar that it would have been better for me if she had killed me when I was young. I did not have a good childhood experience; I just grew up without knowing it.
If I could rewrite my story, I just wish that my mother would say sorry for what she did to me when I was young and then I would also ask her to forgive me.
As told to Our Community