The Road of Lost Innocence

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 September, 2008, 12:00am

The Road of Lost Innocence

by Somaly Mam

Virago, HK$102

It may not be well written but The Road of Lost Innocence achieves much that places it above slicker, better-edited memoirs. About Somaly Mam and her efforts to stem the trafficking of girls and women, it casts an ugly light over her country of birth, Cambodia, where, she writes, mothers sell their daughters into sexual slavery, fathers rape virgins in the belief it will protect them from Aids, policemen work in cahoots with brothel owners and murder is often the price for rebellion against enforced prostitution. Mam would know: she was raped at 12, made to marry several years later, then forced to service men in Phnom Penh to pay off her grandfather's debts. Until she met European aid workers, her days and nights were spent in airless rooms with men who beat or scared her into submission (punishment sometimes involved snakes and maggots). Readers will squirm at the matter-of-fact storytelling, which is strengthened by Mam's detachment and humility. After she became too old to be of value to the brothel she negotiated her way out and, with the help of the Frenchman she married, founded Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances, which rescues female sex slaves in Southeast Asia. Mam's book may garner support from people who can help. It should.




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