How a 14-year-old girl was trafficked to Singapore and locked up

How a 14-year-old girl was trafficked to Singapore and locked up
PHOTO: The New Paper

It is something that people wouldn't normally think could happen in Singapore.

Unfortunately, human trafficking does happen in this city-state.

A recent report and video by Our Better World, the storytelling initiative of the Singapore International Foundation, tells the story of how 14-year-old Lilis was trafficked to Singapore to work in a brothel.

Lilis was deceived into thinking she would leave her home country of Indonesia to work as a "babysitter or at cafes".

In the video interview, Lilis said she was invited by two friends to come over to Singapore for work. Her mother had just died and she wanted to help ease the family's financial burden.

Lilis' identity was concealed in the video for her safety.

Before arriving to Singapore, Lilis made a stop in Batam and was informed of what her real job entailed.

She was being trafficked into sex work. The young girl was sent to a brothel to solicit men, whom she was asked to serve and visit hotels with.

"I was told (by my agent) that I had to wear revealing clothes," Lilis said.

"I told them I couldn't - I couldn't do that. But they forced me to do it."

Fear, sadness and anger - these emotions are what Lilis felt all at the same time.

Prior to her tell-all interview with Our Better World, Lilis admitted that she had never spoken to anyone about her predicament. Not even about her own feelings.

She used to share a room with four other women who shared the same 'job' as her. However, she couldn't go anywhere else and stayed locked up in the room without a key of her own.

A man asked for Lilis one day and her agent pushed for her to go along with him.

When she was finally alone with the man, who reportedly hailed from Malaysia, Lilis broke down and said she "couldn't do this".

It was then that he realised that Lilis was there against her own will, according to Our Better World.

"He asked me to run, to escape and stop doing this," Lilis shared.

Lilis saw her chance and ran away first thing the next morning.

She hailed a cab and as luck would have it, her driver could converse in Malay and she told him everything that had happened to her.

The cabbie immediately offered to bring her to a police station, said Lilis. And he did not charge a fee for the ride.

After her agent's subsequent arrest, Lilis received help from Hagar, a charitable organisation that seeks to help women and children in need.

Volunteer social worker from Hagar Singapore, Ms Wei Ng, told Our Better World: "These girls from countries in Asia who are in Singapore could have been trafficked ... The trauma they have been through will stay on forever and scar their lives if they're not helped or rescued from this trade."

When Lilis first met Ms Ng, she revealed that her life had changed for the worst when her mother died and her family members "did not think she was of any worth".

Ms Ng added: "It's so important for us to help them regain trust in others again so that they can be helped further."

And Lilis appreciates the support she's been receiving.

"I am happy and grateful that there are people willing to help," she said.

Hagar Singapore helped Lilis return home with the support of a local partner, according to Our Better World.

She trained to be a beautician and is now an apprentice at a beauty salon.

And just like anyone of us, Lilis has aspirations as well. She now dreams of doing hair and makeup for the stars.

ssandrea@sph.com.sg

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