Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Unimaginable suffering

Book Review:
The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam

Last week Somaly Mam, the Cambodian activist who rescues girls from sexual slavery, was honoured as the winner of the World's Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child. Somaly Mam is president of AFESIP, the French acronym for Acting for Women in Distressing Situations, which builds safe houses to provide refuge, food, health care and schooling for girls saved from slavery. She has rescued over 4,000 girls in Cambodia and neighboring countries. She has won many awards for her incredible work.

Last night I finished reading her autobiography. I am exhausted. It's a book that was difficult, very difficult, to read. Somaly Mam's life story begins when she was sold into sexual slavery as a child by her family. She was repeatedly beaten, raped, starved and mutilated by the men she serviced. Its a story of unimaginable suffering, degradation and lack of self-worth. Its her story and that of thousands of others in Cambodia. Written without flowery prose or sensationalism, its matter of fact style makes it all the more powerful and uncomfortable reading. Very uncomfortable reading. Everyone should make themselves read it - so they are aware of exactly what takes place in the brothels and alleyways of countries like Cambodia. There is no place in this world for sexual abuse and slavery.

Inspirational, courageous, miraculous - such words are barely adequate to describe Somaly Mam and how she has recovered from her own living hell. I am surprised she is still alive. She has made many powerful enemies in her fight to protect and save the innocent. Her own daughter was kidnapped and her life threatened time after time. Today she is feted across the globe but lives in danger in her own country. Some people make a real difference in their lifetime. Somaly Mam has survived her own personal hell to do exactly that.
Links: afesip, virago.


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