|Beware the Castor Bean|
Burnt Thicket Theatre in conjuction with Raise Their Voice is on the road this summer, travelling the Fringe circuit and stopping over at other venues where possible to present a message through Kooman's play: "The trafficking of women and children for purposes of sexual exploitation is a multi-billion dollar business worldwide."
The play was read by the actors at Ebenezer Baptist on Monday night; it was a one-performance stop so a full staging was likely impossible. Even so, a superb cast told the story of Number 18 and the aid workers who try to save her with such passion that it hardly mattered.
A business? Really? Doesn't a business imply entrepreneurs? shareholders? managers? capital? consumer/customers? Well, actually, the play presents a set of characters who are most of the above except—and I wondered about this—the North American or European customer who will pay big money to rape a child, double if he's the first. There's the pimp who is Number 18's ruthless owner; the Madam who is the perverted foreman, and hovering just offstage are the police who are silent-partner shareholders, their silence their investment, the pay-offs their dividend cheques.
As I understand it, the business plan goes something like this: find a destitute widow with children but no means to support them, entice her to sell one of them for an amount that would be a pittance to many but seems like salvation to her, take the child to Bangkok or Phnom Penh and offer her for rent to the tourists crowding the street in the brothel areas. Chances are the price will cover both her purchase and transportation, and renting her out thereafter will be clear profit.
Director Stephen Waldschmidt writes in the program: “[I want] my two little boys to grow up in a world where men are not conditioned to demand access to the bodies of women and children, [and] for the name, Number 18 . . . to resound in the ears of every girl on earth.”
At the very root of the sex-slave horror is the little boy in the first world who may become an enabling customer when he grows up . . . with the means to purchase whatever he desires. Waldschmidt's emphasis is correct; the means to the end he seeks, though, remains as elusive as it ever was.
There are a number of NGOs working on the rescue or recovery of these exploited women and children. Raise Their Voice (raisetheirvoice.com) and A Better World (www.a-better-world.ca) are partners in these efforts, and Ratanak Internationl (www.ratanak.org) is “a registered Canadian charity working on the front lines in Cambodia to rescue and rehabilitate children sold into slavery.”
Maybe you and I can begin to help by checking out their websites and giving their work a boost. If you know of other ways to help in combating the atrocities of sex slavery, let me know and I'll post your information. Send a note to email@example.com.
She has a Name is at the Calgary Fringe August 3 – 11, in Victoria August 24 to September 3, in Kelowna from September 18 – 21, in Edmonton from September 25 – 30 and in Red Deer from October 2 – 6. Unfortunately for those of you in Manitoba and east, that part of their tour is done.