Human Trafficking

The Trafficking in Persons Act of 2000 defines labor trafficking as the "recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery" (United States...Health).

Forced labor is more widespread than sex exploitation due to the simple fact that the worldwide market for labor is far greater than that for sex (Feingold). The numbers for sex trafficking often gets exaggerated and misleads people to believe that it is the most popular form of exploitation. This misconception is understandable since even the trafficking statistics gathered in Thailand exclude men (Feingold). According to its national law, men cannot qualify as trafficking victims. However, the 2005 International Labor Organization (ILO) Report found that of the estimated 9.5 million victims of forced labor in Asia, less than 10% are trafficked for commercial sex exploitation (Feingold). The same report found that worldwide less than half of all trafficking victims are part of the sex trade, thus indicating the greater height of labor exploitation. 

Victims can be found in domestic situations such as maids or nannies, sweatshop factories, janitorial jobs, construction sites, farm work, restaurants, and panhandling. Some examples of force labor are..."East African girls are trafficked to the Middle East and found that most were bound for oppressive domestic work and often raped and beaten along the way. Boys from Cambodia and Burma are frequently trafficked onto deep-sea commercial fishing boats, some of which stay at sea for up to two years. 10% of these young crews never return and boys that become ill are frequently thrown overboard" (Feingold).

Survivor Story

Beatrice Fernando, author of  In Contempt of Fate, is a survivor of forced labor as an enslaved nanny/maid.

Fernando (known as Ranga throughout the book) describes her nightmare from beginning to end, while also introducing the reader to the conflict within Sri Lanka. Ranga is not alone within her struggle, but the country as a whole is suffering creating vulnerability to human trafficking.

Ranga grows up during a time where peace is not known in Sri Lanka. A civil war irrupts between the people and the government leaving the entire country as the battle field. Chaos among the government creates great strains for the people; poverty overwhelms the country striking families including Ranga's. Military conflict also creates incentives to migrate to a safer environment. However, large migrations of people into a new country causes them to be the minority and thus vulnerable.

As a single mother, Ranga's deepest desire is to provide for her son; to be able to send him to a good school. Unable to find work in her country, Ranga agreed like so many other young women to work as a house maid for wealthy families in Lebanon. However, she agreed under false pretenses. Desperate to pay for her son's education, she contracted with a company that sent her  Lebanon to work for a family for two years.

In actuality, Ranga became the slave of a wealthy mother of three children. Her passport was confiscated from her possession and all communication with the outside world was cut off from her. Every day she was assigned to complete an impossible routine of chores and every little fault was punished with a grave beating and deprivation of food.

Months and months pass while Ranga is trapped within a luxury apartment unable to even step outside into the sunlight. Her suffering from her "owner" becomes so severe that it is apparent to Ranga that if she does not find a way to escape soon she will be killed from the next potential beating or starvation. Her only possible escape seems to be from the balcony that is attached to her room. Thoughts continuously run through her mind, plans about jumping off the balcony. This is not a suicide attempt, but a risk she is willing to take to return to her son.

Praying, Ranga does jump off the balcony. She falls thinking of her freedom; breathing it in. She hits the ground, astonished that she survived the fall, however, black eats up her initial happiness and her mind goes blank.

Days later she awakes in a hospital. She was free, but her freedom came with a price. She damaged her spinal cord and as a result she is paralyzed from the waist down. The doctors told her that she was lucky to be alive, but that she will never be able to walk again. Ranga, once again proves her strength and persists through therapy and reconnects the feeling within her legs and slowly learns to walk again.

Building a relationship with her physical therapist, Ranga, reveals her enslavement to her. Before her story could spread further, the false company that she first contracted with, sends her back home. Back in the arms of her beautiful son and parents, Ranga continues to prove her undying strength. She travels to America to leave behind a community that no longer embraces her in order to discover a new world that presents opportunities for herself as well as her son.

Interview with the Author

Beatrice Fernando's survival story captivated me; I was greatly impressed by her strength and bravery. I really do recommend her book because it is so truthful and powerful that it really makes one think about larger issues in life and within the world. Her book sparked questions within me that I was curious to have answered. Fortunately, I was able to come in contact with Beatrice Fernando and personally ask her a few questions about her story and book. Below is the interview that I conducted...

1) Reading your book, I understand that it was very disappointing for you after you returned home from your entrapment when your community did not embrace you, but it seemed like your misfortune instead tainted you. Your nightmare-like story was released to the public and the community scorned you instead and did not welcome you with open arms. After this experience what gave you the will and strength to again try and share your story with the world through your book? 

That was the aftermath of slavery. I left Sri Lanka to come here to the United States hoping to start a new life, a life without shame and a life without my past.  As you know, I was a writer since I was a little girl. When I started my new life here in the States, I realized that I could not hide from my past, and I wanted to tell my parents and my siblings what really happened. So I started to write my story hoping to explain to my family members of what really happened. It was during that time, that my transformation began. When I started to relive that horrible experience, I began to see and understand in depth what I did, why I did it and the lessons that I have learned. I realized that I can help other abused women if I share my story with them. I realized that I could help other battered women, or the discouraged, and the ones who have given up, hope to find their courage again to fight for life, believe in their strength and spirit to make things possible.  So I published the book. It was not only until I was interviewed on the radio and TV (after connecting my story with human trafficking and modern day slavery)that I became aware that I was the victim and that I should not be ashamed or feel bad for what had happened. It was this country that gave me the understanding, freedom, and the awareness to come out of my hiding, and to accept what was done to me. Then I realized, it was a waste of time to live in the past, but to accept what was done to me, and to live through my pain and use my suffering to prevent others from falling into the same trap. So I joined an organization that was working to end slavery and began to speak about my story to raise awareness about slavery and human trafficking. That lead me to where I am today.  This is my land, the land that gave me the real freedom and the courage to take a stand. People in this land accepted me for who I am, and I didn’t have to pretend anymore and I am proud of myself and appreciate the life I have.

2) This unthinkable experience can rip a person a part and I’m sure it will always have an affect on you. However, at this point in your life you seem very accomplished and in a much better place. What advice can you give to others that you seem to live by in order to become a stronger, wiser and more motivated person out of an experience so crushing?

When you become a victim, there is no real final escape. You may be free from your physical prison, but you can never undo the damage. You can only learn to live with it, taking one day at a time. Therefore my advice is that, you need to accept the life you are born into with the good and the bad. You need to let go of the past, live in the moment, and appreciate being alive. Pain is a gift; difficulties, sufferings makes you stronger, therefore embrace them and live through it instead of fighting it.  Scars in your heart and body will make you more humble, so don’t be afraid to live life, appreciate it, but always believe in yourself. Reach for the stars, go beyond your physical confinements, nothing is impossible for we are all born with such a great human spirit.  All you have to do is believe it.

3) Your child seems to be the light and love that gave you the strength to overcome your servitude and not give up. He was young at the time of the experience, how has this affected him as well? Now older, what is the expansion of his understanding of the circumstances that you were under? I’m sure he knows that he was a large savior in your life and this must create a special bond between you.

 I am so glad that you saw my son as my savior. He sure is my life, light and my savior. We do share a special bond, and he has grown to be a wonderful obedient son. He is well aware about what happened, and also read my book. He supports my work and even helps me with my work with the organization. But, as a child he suffered for my choices. When I became a victim to slavery, my whole family became victims to this crime. You know how my parents suffered. But my son is the one who suffered the most. He grew up believing it was his fault that I suffered, because it is for him that I went to Lebanon, it was for him that I tried to get back to etc. Therefore, he tried to be the best son; he didn’t enjoy his childhood, didn’t make friends, didn’t believe anyone and grew up as a lonely sad child. Since I brought him here to the States with me, he lost all his connections to my family and friends. He has no ties with his cousins or relatives. He is really lonely and alone. Recently he got married and is starting a new life. My only wish is that he finds love and fills his life and his world with comfort, trust and joy.

4) This may be a question to personal that you may not feel comfortable answering and I respect that. However, if you do not mind, I wanted to ask about the balcony moment that you described in your book. The entrapment was so grueling and unbearable that you decided the only way to escape was the possibility that you survived the fall from your balcony window. What gave you the strength to actually be able to jump? Of course your need from freedom, for your son and for your own survival led you to this decision. But this decision was obviously more difficult done than said. How did your fears of jumping and your concerns that it would resemble a suicide attempt not overwhelm your hope about the outcome of the jump?

At the time I wrote the book, I was not as open as I am now. Therefore, I hesitate to say much about that moment.  In reality, it was one of those nights when I walk up in my own blood after being beaten by that woman that I realized that there was no escape. I was going to die in the hands of that woman. It was the moment when I  hit rock bottom, I was helpless, and felt like I was loosing my faith. I was walking that thin line between faith and fate, wondering if I should give up and give in. I thought of all the reasons why I have to live. It was my son, but, I knew I was on a death row. I can’t go back or go forward, I come to realize how good it is to live, to take a chance on living. I also had a tiny faith left in me that if I could hold on to my faith a little longer, may be my faith will keep me alive. It was that faith inside me that gave me the strength and courage to make the decision to challenge death with the hope of living. I wanted to believe I would survive the fall.  But to believe, I had to take a leap of faith, and so I did.  What I didn’t describe in the book is that, it was God’s arms that I felt cradling me when I fell to the ground.

5) I personally loved your book. It was of course hard to read because a person never wants to hear and recognize the hardships of another, but this is the importance of the book. Recognition that human trafficking is present and does go on and that it needs to be attended to with extreme measures is a message that needs to be sent. Your personal account sends this message through emotions. Is this the reaction you were trying to receive from your readers? What are your hopes regarding the impact of your story?

I am really happy what this book offers to the public, and the effect it has on everyone who reads it. But I have to say, when I was writing it, I was not aware of human trafficking and modern day slavery, or that I was the victim of this crime or such crime existed. I believed it was my fate, my luck and I blamed myself for what was done to me. I wrote the book to find peace and healing; give back to the world what I have received; the strength, courage and hope.  So this book was written from my heart, without expecting anything in return but to give all I have learned through my experience, to share it with others women just like myself living in the darkness believing there is no way out and giving up in life. All I wanted to do was give hope to those who may have suffered and may be living in hiding. But now I am so glad that my story is an example of what slavery is all about. My story puts a physical face to this crime of trafficking and slavery. I am so glad about the impact my story has today.

The Nivasa Foundation

Beatrice Fernando did not stop with the release of her book, but continued to help others through her organization, Nivasa. Beatrice Fernando best describes the heart and purpose of her organization, herself saying, " The women in Sri Lanka, who mange to return home after being abused, raped, and enslaved have the tendency to become enslaved again because they do not realize that it is a crime, that they are victims. All they want is to find a way to make a living, and they take it as their fate or luck so they go again to another country, to another home believing things will be different, but they never change. I want to change this, break this cycle of slavery by providing an economical solution to these families by taking one of the burdens off of their shoulders (one of which is their children) and provide support to educate their children and provide them with a secure safe environment and a home;...

 Nivasa means home. Giving the children a sense of home, where they can grow up surrounded by their parents with peace, love and security." 

It is obvious through the words of Beatrice Fernando that she is truly passionate about helping others and fighting human trafficking. Visit her website at and see her passion and love. Give back and help others, just as Beatrice Fernando has done and is continuing to do. You can sponsor a child and personally be responsible for the happiness in a child's life. 

Work Cited

Feingold, David A. “Human Trafficking.” Foreign Policy 150 (Sept.-Oct. 2005): 26-30,32. JSTOR. Web. 16 Apr. 2010. <>.

Fernando, Beatrice. “Breaking the Cycle of Slavery One Child at a Time.”
Nivasa. Nivasa Foundation, n.d. Web. 2 Mar. 2010. <>.

- - -. In Contempt of Fate. Merrimac: BeaRo Publishing, 2004. Print.

Work Cited Pictures

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