Image Source: Reuters
Caption: Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik (L) and British actor and human rights activist Emma Thompson leave a container exhibit in Vienna February 11, 2008. ‘The Journey Against Sex Trafficking’ uses seven transport containers to illustrate the brutal and harrowing experiences of women sold into the sex trade.
HAT has briefly featured Emma Thompson before, because she is made of Awesome. Not just for her acting and writing talents, but also for her personal principles and how she acts on them. She has always been very vocally against the expectation that women in films should diet excessively to “look the part”, and is documented several times as berating directors/producers who try to inflict that upon her younger co-stars. But she has much larger principles upon which she acts as well.
She is a self-described “part-time activist” (balancing activism with family life and her acting career) for human rights generally and against the trafficking of women for the sex industry in particular, regularly speaking at conferences/symposiums about practical ways to make it more difficult for women to be trafficked e.g. ensure that infant girls are issued registered birth certificates – the most vulnerable girls and women are those for whom there is no official record that they exist. She is the sponsor of graphic art installations that confront people with the hidden horrors of trafficking. She is speaker for The Helen Bamber Foundation, an organisation dedicated to the couselling and rehabilitation of victims of the trauma and torture that is sex trafficking.
And last year she made this heartbreaking video [PTSD Trigger warning] about the realities of life for a trafficked sex slave, commissioned jointly by The Body Shop and The Helen Bamber Foundation, and based upon the experiences of a woman with whom Emma has worked extensively as part of her activities with the foundation.
Final text: Women enslaved by sex trafficking lose more than just their names. Trafficking is torture.
The focus of this activism is practical as well as simple awareness-raising – to change the way in which trafficked women are treated under UK law (and the law in many other countries as well):
Apart from spreading the message about trafficking, the participants hope to drive viewers to petitions, online and in Body Shop stores, which will grant reprieve from deportation for 30 days for women arrested when brothels are busted and sex gang rings are broken up. Currently, they are imprisoned and shipped home. The Helen Bamber foundation is seeking time to counsel and help as well as convince the U.K. government to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.
This Public Service Announcement was shot in only a few hours, all that Thompson could spare from her schedule at the time. That rawness of an essentially improvised performance is what gives it much of its power.
(H/T to the TV program The Gruen Transfer, which discussed this video last week – I missed any original discussion of it online when it was released last year.)