A unsettling look into human trafficking
Imagine having everything you know taken from you, then being forced into a life of slavery and prostitution. This is the life portrayed by Evelyn Chew in Andrew Kooman’s play She Has A Name, presented by Burnt Thicket Theatre at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, July 18–29.
The young girl played by Chew in the unsettling drama is called “18,” representing an existence stripped of humanity. She Has A Name portrays this cold reality in an unapologetic manner, showing the darker side of man’s desire for control.
The play also attempts to show a positive side of humanity. Jason, a young lawyer, played by Carl Kennedy, visits with Number 18 to gather evidence and persuade her to testify against her pimp (also played by Kennedy), in hopes of bringing those responsible to international justice.
Ironically, for a play intended to raise awareness of a terrible situation, its setting in Bangkok causes the viewer to feel a slight disconnect from the situation.
The sad fact is that this isn’t simply a representation of a horrific life in some far-off land; human trafficking is a growing reality across Canada. Eastview Community Church hosted a panel of three experts at their new downtown campus, 188 Princess, to further explore issues raised by the play.
Dianna Bussey, director of Salvation Army correctional and justice services, pointed out that many young women are brought into the city from First Nations reserves and forced to work. Shona Stewart, a former victim of human trafficking and director of Dignity House in Winnipeg (a second-stage home for women leaving the sex trade), said the average age is 14.
These girls, together with those brought from other countries, are often trapped in situations with very little hope of escape. Organizations working to help women leave the sex trade often come up against legal issues, such as the threat of deportation for girls illegally immigrated from other countries. The young women often have nothing to go back to, and return to a life of prostitution to survive.
Through the story of one girl in Bangkok, She Has A Name provides a look into the horrific world of human trafficking. The play takes the audience to a place of discomfort and leaves them there. Eastview pastor Dave Ens expressed the tension well: “I really enjoyed [the play], but I didn’t enjoy it at all…It was very intense and very beautiful.”
It seems the unsettled feelings should remain to serve not only as a constant reminder of injustice, but also to as a reminder that it’s our duty as Christians to do more than simply be aware; we’re called to fight against injustice for those who cannot fight for themselves.