Things That Matter

She Spent 37 Years As A Sex Slave And Is Now Fighting To Free All People From That Life

This past week was the week that the world brought attention to an issue that affects an estimated 40.3 million people around the globe, human trafficking. For Uruguayan Sandra Ferrini, 58, it was exposing a past that had followed her for most of her entire life. Ferrini was “sold” by her mother as a teenager into the world of street prostitution and after 37 years on the city streets of Chile, Paraguay, Argentina and in Europe, her story is now ready to be told. 

According to a report from the International Labour Organization, there are around 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 people in the world, with 1 in 4 victims being children. 

Credit: @imrebeccabender / Twitter

On Tuesday, Uruguay participated in its first anti-human trafficking march, with Ferrini joining countless of others who like her had to endure sex trafficking for years. Campaigners took to the streets of Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, where in the country of 3.5 million people, the most common form of human trafficking involves women and girls where they are forced into sex work.

For Ferrnini, the march was something that was on her mind all the years she had no voice on the issue and couldn’t speak up about the horrendous conditions she was placed in. She says many people choose to ignore the issue or just not address it all together.

“It’s a march that I thought about when I was held captive,” Ferrini told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Human trafficking happens every day, but people don’t want to see it. We are seen as numbers. We want to be seen as people. We will march as people.”

The details of Ferrnini past experience is just one example of the countless lives that face these situations on a daily basis. She says that she was sexually exploited for 37 years and was even forced to have sex with up to 30 men a day.

“I am a survivor of trafficking. It was my mother who sold me at the beginning,” Ferrini told Subrayado. “I was able to get rid at 45 because I had a traffic accident in which I was paralyzed. They were going to kill me, they threw me in a field, and a person rescued me.”

Human trafficking remains a global issue and the United Nations has set out to bring awareness and combat this growing issue. 

Credit: @peacerec1 / Twitter

Uruguay is one of the biggest epicenters when it comes to human trafficking. According to the U.S. State Department’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons report, Uruguay was placed in its Tier 2 Watch List, which is the second-lowest ranking. This was done as the country has not meet many of the minimum standards when it comes to efforts in eliminating human trafficking.

“Most detected victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation; victims are also trafficked for forced labor, recruitment as child soldiers and other forms of exploitation and abuse,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told the United Nations on World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. “Thousands of people have died at sea, in deserts and in detention centres, at the hands of traffickers and migrant smugglers plying their monstrous, merciless trades.”

For Uruguay, this is hopefully just the start of acknowledging and bringing to light the global issue of human trafficking. 

Credit: @sabre_comp / Twitter

There has been some progress in recent years when it comes to decreasing the number of sex trafficking victims. In 2017, Uruguay’s National Institute for Women assisted 172 women trafficking victims which was an increase from the previous year at 131, the U.S. State Department said.

There has also been legislative work put in place as last year Uruguay updated its anti-human trafficking law and action plan. The country also just recently created a new national committee to help combat it’s anti-trafficking efforts. 

Ferrini now also heads “Yes to Life, No to Trafficking,” a survivors support group. It’s these types of groups and organizations that play a big role in getting women off the streets and rebuilding their lives and most importantly, rebuilding their broken self-esteem. 

“I naturalized this as a child – for me it was something that I thought I had to live,” Ferrini said. “There’s a lot of work to do in education, training and prevention.”

READ: A City Is On Edge After One Of The World’s Most Wanted Men Escapes From A Prison In Central Uruguay

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