By Jennifer Rivera-Sespene
TWO women who survived sexual slavery in Bahrain shared their stories of redemption and justice that happened in a time of COVID-19 pandemic.
Faith was 28-year-old at the time she left Baguio City to the United Arab Emirates in 2018 to work as a beautician. Hope was 36 years old when she departed from her hometown in Laguna for the in 2017 for the United Arab Emirates.
They were both working at a salon in Dubai when they were approached by a Filipina recruiter named Maricel Quiambao in October 2018. They were offered a “better-paying” job in Bahrain. They agreed, and in December 2018, they flew out of the U.A.E. using a tourist visa.
Upon arrival, Quiambao and a certain Filipino Engineer Rolando Ramos brought them along to an apartment in Manama.
Alas and alack, what they thought was an opportunity for a better life turned out to be bogus. They were locked in a room, their passports confiscated, and were forced to have sex with so many men in one day.
Faith said she was forced to have sex with at least 10 men in a day.
“Sampung lakaki na hindi ko ginusto, sampung lalaki na pakiramdam ko sa sarili ko ang dumi dumi ko (Ten men I didn’t like, I felt so dirty),” Faith said in a media interview in February 2020.
“Hindi naming alam na ganoon. Tiniis lang namin, kasi pag tumatanggi kami, lalo kung may regla kami, pinipilit pa rin nila kami (We had no idea it would happen to us. We tried to endure it, if we rejected them, they would harm us),” Hope said in the same interview.
They were forced to stay at the apartment as sex workers for two months until one day they managed to escape.
Both women hid from their traffickers, and eventually got contact with the staff of the Philippine Embassy in Bahrain.
They returned to the country in February 2019, and both were eventually assisted by the IACAT OFW Task Force through the the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Justice, Overseas Worker Welfare Administration, National Bureau of Investigation, and the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute.
From their arrival up until the filing of their cases, the two women received psychosocial support and counseling.
In one of these sessions, the women divulged vital information on the location and modus operandi of the traffickers.
On October 17, 2019, the OFW Task Force agreed that the DFA will coordinate with the government of Bahrain, specifically through the country’s National Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons (NCCTIP), led by its chairman and renowned anti-trafficking hero Hon. Ausamah bin Abdullah Al Absi, to explore the possibility of arresting and prosecuting the Filipino traffickers.
The information from Faith and Hope was vital in the work of the IACAT OFW Task Force and the Bahraini government. This led to the arrest of the six of the eight traffickers.
On April 29, 2020, the Bahraini High Court convicted all eight persons–seven Filipinos and one Bahraini police officer.
Those found guilty were sentenced to seven years in prison and meted a fine of PhP 264,717, and deportation after the completion of sentence.
Five Filipinos have been incarcerated in Bahrain while two are still in hiding in the Philippines. The Labor Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) of Bahrain also granted US$3,000 to each victim-survivor.
Faith is now living a quiet life with her family, having decided to stay in the country for good.
Hope is now an entrepreneur, selling hot buns and dumplings, having received livelihood training from the Ople Center in partnership with Negoeskwela in December 2020, through the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery.
Through her earnings, Hope’s managed to help a child of her nephew seek medical treatment. She said wanted to give back to others because others had also helped her. “Binigay ko yung tubo mula sa negosyo package ko na siomai siopao sa akin pamangkin para makatulong sa kanila,” she happily said. END