In a presentation focusing on child prostitution in Cambodia, filmmaker Guy Jacobson called the trafficking of children for sex “today’s current Holocaust”.
About 45 people attended Jacobson’s talk, which took place at the School of Management Monday afternoon. Jacobson also showed footage from a feature film, a documentary and a television series on the subject, all produced by his company, Priority Films. Jacobson, a former lawyer and investment banker, said he felt inspired to take action after 15 girls, aged between 5 and 6, stopped him on a street in Cambodia and aggressively solicited him for sex. Through his research, he said, he discovered that over 2,000,000 children around the world are currently trafficked.
“Some of them are younger than a year,” Jacobson said, adding that girls as young as three months old are being raped. “In the time we have been here (around 30 minutes), 50,000 kids around the world were raped as sex slaves.”
Jacobson said he is launching a global campaign called “Do You Care?” and trying to involve celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman, Kofi Annan and Oprah Winfrey in his activism. With such high-profile advocates, he said, the public will no longer be able to claim that they are unaware of the problem. He said he thinks that once people become aware of the extent of the abuse, there is no way they cannot condemn such acts.
“I have yet to see anyone who thinks it is acceptable,” he said. “It’s pretty black-and-white.”
Producing the film was rife with danger, Jacobson said. Not only did the film team shoot in real brothels using hidden cameras, they also brushed up against the Chinese, Cambodian and Vietnamese mafias.
“We had Interpol calling us saying there were contracts on our life,” he said. “We had to have 40 bodyguards with AK-47s guarding us. Our producer was held hostage.”
He said the Cambodian government attempted to seize his film and block him from shooting, to the point where he hired Israeli agents to hide the film.
In one of the film clips, Jacobson’s crew encounters a Cambodian lawyer, who tells the filmmakers they are committing a crime by filming without a permit or license.
“He’s raping 5-year-old girls and the prime minister’s paying for the brothel and that’s okay,” Jacobson said. “I’m exposing it, and I’m a hardcore criminal.”
Kathleen Martin, an audience member, said she was impressed by Jacobson’s presentation, as she was not previously aware of the magnitude of the sex trafficking network.
Jacobson also said the explosion of new outlets for content in the film industry has made it easier for smaller films such as his own to reach a wider audience.
When asked how he thought trafficking should be stopped, Jacobson couched the problem in economic terms, saying it was wrong to attempt to curb the “supply” of children, which was never-ending. Instead, he said, it is wiser to focus on stopping the demand for them.
“We need to go after these sick perverts, these sex tourists,” he said. “Let’s make them know they can’t pay $50 to the police and walk away.”
Jacobson also proposed cutting off foreign aid to countries that did not attempt to stop trafficking and arresting sex tourists in their home countries when they returned.
Paola Olivari, another audience member, said she found Jacobson’s suggestion to try to cut off demand compelling.
“Normally, they say, ‘Let’s try to save all these weak people,'” she said. “But you really have to decrease the demand.”
Anita Ngai GRD ’07 said she was impressed by Jacobson’s passion and commitment.
“At first he tried to seem professional, but then you could tell this was an issue that was very close to his heart,” she said. “It was good to know there are still some people willing to give up a cushy lifestyle and work for years because they believe something is wrong.”