CEBU, PHILIPPINES – A heavy chain today locks the doors of the Red Lips bikini bar in Cebu, Philippines. The bar was permanently shut down last week. As American families sat down to their Thanksgiving meal, officials halfway around the world gave thanks for shutting down a bar that trafficked girls and women. IJM had assisted with the original rescue operation, and staff were on-site for the momentous occasion.
The closure was a major victory. Three years ago, 26 young women were rescued from this bar, located on a street known for its trendy nightlife.
Since then, charges have been pressed against the traffickers who had frequented this bar. In October, three bar managers were finally convicted and sentenced to life in prison. All the while, the bar has remained open. Until now.
“I’m really happy to know about [the conviction],” one survivor named Raina* told her IJM social worker. She added, “But my happiness will be completed when I know that [the bar] will be completely closed.”
It happened last Thursday, November 26. Government officials locked the bar door with a heavy chain—no more trafficking would happen here. Thanks to the Cebu City Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (a coalition of government agencies and NGOs) and the Mayor’s office, the official closure came just one month after the convictions—a fast time frame.
IJM Philippines National Director Jesse Rudy commended the collaboration that resulted in meaningful justice: “It is a fine example of the public justice system working together to protect Cebu’s citizens from sexual exploitation. Sex trafficking has significant consequences for the persons who engage in it and the establishments who employ them. Our hope is that, as these costs are realized, this horrible form of abuse will stop.”