MANJULI* was 19 when she fell victim to human traffickers two years ago. Her female acquaintance of four years tricked her into leaving her hometown in Perak to look for part-time jobs elsewhere, and she agreed without hesitation.

“She asked if I wanted to work with her at a fast food restaurant during the holidays and as it was a long holiday, I agreed to follow her,” explained Manjuli, 21.

She had just completed her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia then and was waiting for an acceptance letter from a local college.

Manjuli was taken to Malacca but unfortunately, the “job” she was offered wasn’t what her friend had promised earlier.

After checking into a hotel, she was stripped off her belongings and was forced into prostitution.

She was forced into sex slavery with no income and had to serve about 10 men a day; and on some days, she slept with up to 25 men.

“My body would really hurt and I even bled, but they would still force me to go on,” she said.

One month later, a client came into the room and spotted the wounds on her body and took pity on her and reported her case to the authorities who rescued her and arrested the perpetrators.

Upon her rescue, Manjuli has been receiving care and counselling at a protection shelter dedicated to human trafficking victims for over a year now. She is slowly recovering from the trauma of abuse.

Manjuli is lucky as she managed to get out of the human trafficking ring early, but unfortunately for some victims, there’s no escape forever.

According to statistics by United Nations, the majority of victims are aged 18 to 24 years old, and 43 per cent of victims are used for forced commercial sexual exploitation, of whom 98 per cent are women and girls.

According to the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007, human trafficking is defined as “all actions involved in acquiring or maintaining the labour or services through coercion and arranging a person’s unlawful entry into or exit from any country”.

In Malaysia, majority of human trafficking cases are recorded under sex exploitation, and forced labour exploitation comes second.

Country (Malaysia) manager of Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia (CAMSA) and lawyer Daniel Lo said that “it’s all about the money.”

“The key to human trafficking is the desire for perpetrators to exploit their victims for profit. The perpetrators would find victims who are easily exploited and youth fall in that category,” explained Lo.

CAMSA country manager says that young people are easy targets of human trafficking.

CAMSA country manager says that young people are easy targets of human trafficking.

He said that in the case of sex exploitation, the victims are usually tricked with fantastic stories about work opportunities, but when they travel or go with their “employers”, the traffickers will use any means to ensure that the victim is powerless to escape.

ASP Gulam Rashed Khan from the Anti-Human Trafficking Criminal Investigation (D7) Unit said that the authorities rely on the community to detect human trafficking activities.

“This is why people need to be aware of this issue, and know that human trafficking is happening around them. They need to be sharp, to know how to spot a potential activity or victim.”

Gulam said that common signs of human trafficking victims are people who are locked away in places, whose personal belongings are confiscated (especially identity card, passport, and money), seem to be guarded and escorted wherever they go or whatever they do.

“People need not confirm such activity or have full information, but can report with any information of suspicious activity, and we will do the investigation. The more information, the more action. The less information, the less action we can take.”

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