Did you know human trafficking exists in Singapore?
“Huh?” Many people say when asked this question. But it does, and on a scale far larger than what you would expect. More women are enslaved in Asia than anywhere else today, and Singapore – contrary to popular belief – is one of the biggest destinations for trafficking victims today. It’s precisely because of our booming economy and international reputation as a clean and safe place that makes trafficking victims particularly susceptible to falling prey in sunny Singapore.
But how can I help? Come down to the RI TSD on the 17th or 18th of April, or the library@esplanade on 3rd May to find out more about the issue. FOR SALE: One Chair Plays will tell you the personal stories of human trafficking victims in Singapore, in sex work, domestic labour, and hard labour. It is easy to forget that this group of people exist, both those that are largely invisible where transactions take place under closed doors in Geylang, or the more visible construction workers working on their sites under the hot sun. Yet they are a prevalent group, and more importantly, are not just victims but people – people with anguishes, desires, inhibitions and families – people who have been reduced to nothing but expendable commodities in this merciless industry worth US$32 billion a year globally. Through our play, you will laugh, cry, and fear with them, and hopefully turn your attention from their individual tragedy to the global system that allows this to take place today.
Singapore’s legislation is unequipped to combat these crimes, and many victims of trafficking are labeled as illegal immigrants or sex workers (both of which our society stigmatizes), making it extremely difficult for them to seek help. Many trafficked sex workers come to Singapore under a 30-day social visit pass, and are only told of the nature of their work after arriving in Geylang. Even those foreign workers who come here legally are largely excluded from Singapore’s Employment Act, making it especially easy for them to be exploited. In addition, their financial vulnerability and debt bondage to their employers means it is practically impossible for them to bargain their way out of their positions. The problem is evidently much bigger than we think.
Indeed, trafficking is everywhere – in the clothes you wear, the food you eat, the smartphones we use. Uzbekistan’s cotton industry is almost completely dependent on hundreds of thousands of enslaved children to pick cotton during the short three-month harvest season. They are given daily quotas to meet, failing which are often denied food, or physically beaten, which often leads to them being malnourished and exhausted. Young boys in the Ivory Coast, which produces up to 40% of the world’s cocoa for chocolate, our comfort food, are forced to work long hours and carry heavy loads instead of going to school. Chocolate doesn’t seem quite so comforting now, does it?
If you’d like to find out more about the issue, come down for our play on any of the three days. In addition, should you see any possible cases of trafficking, you could help by trying to find out more about the situation and potentially reporting it to the authorities – many cases have been discovered this way. More importantly, spread the message! We may not be able to do much as individuals to solve such a huge problem, but one person helped is one more that would otherwise have been exploited and dehumanized.
FOR SALE: One Chair Plays is a production by The Humanities Initiative, in conjunction with EmancipAsia. We aim to raise awareness about human trafficking in Singapore by telling the stories of these victims. Come down for any of our three shows on the 17th and 18th April in the RI TSD, or the library@esplanade on 3rd May. All shows are free of charge, but do indicate your interest at tinyurl.com/onechaironly for the school plays, or tinyurl.com/onechairplays for the esplanade show. Seats are limited, so act fast!