Few days ago, I had the opportunity to take part in the third edition of the Oslo Freedom Forum and I also had the chance to meet some of the most brilliant human rights defenders in the world. Somaly Mam is one of these heroes. Indeed I had the opportunity to both read her book and listen to her speech during the forum. I will never forget her smiling face and the sweet words she told me when she greeted me.
Somaly Mam is a Cambodian human rights activist and an author. She used to be one of the victims of sexual slavery in her country. But she succeeded in getting out of it and is now fighting to rescue others.
In her book " the road of lost innoncence", Somaly recalls her own life. A life full of suffering and pain. Her parents abandoned her in her earliest years. She does not even know her real name: " My name is Somaly. At least, that's the name I have now. Like everyone in Cambodia, I've had several. Names are the result of temporary choices. You change them the way you 'de change lives" she starts her book. She had lived in the forest until the day she was sold to a man who abused her before selling her to the owner of a brothel. A long life of fears and pains started for her. Despite all the threats and the dangers she faced, Somaly managed to escape the prostitution life and to start a new life that she dis dedicating to the victims of human sex trafficking.
By telling her story, Somaly shed lights on the on sexual slavery. She tells the story of the suffering of millions of innocent girls sold cheaply to be sexually abused, raped and sometimes killed by heartless traffickers and meebons. She gives a voice to millions of forgotten girls...
The story is a strong and moving one. Somaly ends the book by listing the reasons that drove her to write it and by expressing her own feelings ; a very strong passage that will be carved in my memory forever is the following : " The memories that torment me the most are those of rape and the stink of sperm. In brothels they don't change the sheets very often. The smell of sperm is everywhere. It's insufferable. Even today I have the sense that I'm breathing in the smell of whorehouses. The customers were dirty. they never showered. I remember one man, who has the most hideous breath. We had no toothpaste but we would brush our teeth with ash or sand . Some of the clients never bothered at all; their teeth were yellow and rotting. I lived amidst this stench for so long that I can't bear it now. Even fifteen years later I feel dirtied by it. The smell is still in my nostrils. So I wash myself like a madwoman and cover myself in eau de toilette in order to mask the sperm stench that pursues me. At home I have a cupboard full of perfume. I spend money to lot out a smell which probably only exists in my fevered imagination. I chase it away with the contents of my bottles. "