Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Iran: Child Victim of Prostitution

Sold into prostitution at age nine, condemned by an Iranian judge to hang at 18, Leila (left) was saved by a group of human rights activists.

TEHRAN, IRAN - "I was nine years old when my mother started selling me. I did not understand what was happening."

Today Leila is a young woman of 22. For the past two years she has been cared for by a private home for destitute young women in Tehran, Omid E Mehr, which means Hope.

"My mother would say: 'Let's go out to buy things, like chocolates'. She would actually trick me. I was a tiny girl. She just took me to places."

Leila still finds it difficult to talk about the past. But we know that the "places" she speaks of are where she was sold for sex and raped.

Leila became the main source of income for a family of five.

The lawyer who eventually saved Leila's life, Shadi Sadr, is a controversial figure in Iran. Although she was imprisoned earlier this year for taking part in human rights demonstrations, she is widely respected and frequently quoted in the press.

Ms Sadr says Leila's story is not unique.

"A girl is considered one of the first commodities or properties that can be traded or sold in the eyes of a parent who is poor in Iran," she says...

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT News.BBC.co.uk

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