Bodies for Sale: Globalised Trafficking for the Sex Trade An Interview with Helen Sworn founder of Chab Dai, Cambodia

Author: Carol Kingston-Smith, Associate Lecturer in Mission, Redcliffe College (ed.)


When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. (Acts 16:19)
Trafficking of women and children, a leading wedge in the broader patterns of human exploitation, is a cause that unites people across steep divides in the political spectrum and religious beliefs…these are ancient abuses, but in our “modern” world, exploitation is happening on a far larger scale as barriers of distance and community restraints crumble. (Katherine Marshall, 2009)[1]
Making a viable response to the horrific realities which daily unfold in our market-driven, globalised world today, is one which demands increasing insight and coordination. Helen Sworn is the founder of one such response, Chab Dai. Chab Dai is an international coalition of partners responding to the problems of human trafficking for the sex trade. The aim of Chab Dai, which means “joining hands” in Khmer, is „to bring an end to trafficking and sexual exploitation through coalition building, community prevention, advocacy and research‟ (Chab Dai Website). (ed.)

CKS: Helen, having left a successful career in business administration and communications, you and Trevor went to Bible College in the UK before heading out to work in Cambodia in 1999, with your two young children. What were the factors/circumstances which led you to engage with work against human trafficking for the sex trade?

HS: When we left the UK for Cambodia, we had planned to work with orphans and street- children as we were unaware of the issue of trafficking at that time. Within a few months of arriving in Cambodia, I was asked by the team to carry out some research in the remote border area of Cambodia and Thailand on the new issue of human trafficking. It was my experience through this horrific first-hand exposure that brought me to the realisation of the issue and that I wanted to dedicate my life to addressing it.

CKS: Looking back, what did you feel prepared you (if anything) for this type of work as a Christian? And what do you recommend to people who are considering engaging with justice-related work such as yours?

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