We visited the women's shelter today. The volunteers sensed an overwhelming air of tension and anxiety in the place.
This year, the centre was over-represented by women from Myanmar who came to Malaysia with false promises of good work and fair pay. Others were fleeing the hostile political climate from Myanmar and found themselves in Malaysia undocumented and vulnerable to abuse. The vast majority of the women were sexually exploited, forced to service over 10 men per day.
The process to return home is long, as it is a legal requirement for trafficking victims to participate in the prosecution and trial of their perpetrators. "I didn't do anything wrong and I'm sick. I can't eat or sleep. Why do I have to stay here for another 3 months?" asked T. who has already stayed at the centre for the last 21 days for her initial hearing.
Our presence, though short, brought a little playful distraction from their fear, frustration, and longing to return home to their families.