- Politics and Social Issues»
- Social Issues
Human Trafficing: Slave Trade of Today
A monsterous crime
Many of us have heard that there are more human beings enslaved today than at any other time in history. As your basic run of the mill (yet I like to think well read) American, I learned the seriousness of this issue only two years ago. This hub is the story of my introduction to human trafficing, and my thoughts and responses to it.
"Aren't you trying to get them to stop being prostitutes? "
I find out about modern day slavery at church
About two years ago my church advertised that one of the overseas missionaries we support would visit to report on his work. The meeting, in a beautiful hilltop home with panoramic views of the California mountains, opened the eyes of this suburban mom. A hush fell over the group as the pastor described his recent work successfully planting Christian church communities inside brothels. One person tentatively raised a hand. "But aren't you trying to get them to stop being prostitutes? I mean, how can a person be a prostitute and a Christian at the same time?"
The pastor looked down, probably pondering the disconnect between this world of rolling hills and expensive homes and the one he lived and worked in. "To answer that, I'm going to tell you the story of one of the women. We'll call her Anna."
"Anna was a Muslim widow with two small children, and no family to help her. Muslim countries don't have many jobs available for women, and Anna didn't know what to do. She saw an ad offering restaurant jobs, and though it was far away, it seemed her only option. She answered the ad, and was soon on a boat taking her to her new "home." After arrival she discovered that this place was not a restaurant. She was not allowed to leave, but did have the opportunity to send some money home regularly to care for her children."
"Why don't I encourage Anna to leave? The brothel she lives in is run by organized crime. If she tries to get away they will kill her as a warning to the other women."
Informative, not too disturbing
The tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.
The Pastor's story continues
"They don't like to let the women out much, but they will let us in. Mostly my wife does this work. She leads bible studies for the women, she offers counseling services. Mostly, she shows these women that someone cares. Lots of women have become Christians, including Anna. The brothel owners actually like the bible studies: the women are less depressed, and the brothel owners think they will be better prostitutes that way."
He paused. "The people who don't like it are the other pastors in my area. None of the churches in the city will accept prostitutes. I've pretty much been ostrasized over this. They call me 'The Prostitute's Pastor.' " Now he grinned. "But I like the name. I think 'The Prostitute's Pastor' is a good thing to be."
"We do encourage them to save their money if they can, and buy their way out. If they can get out that way, we will let them come live in the compound here, learn some job skills, hopefully find another way to make a living."
"For the time being, we are loving them where they are."
Christianity and sex slavery
This situation made me think over for the first time the response of the early church to sex slavery. No compassionate person is in favor of sex slavery, and the family minded see sex for sale as undermining marriages and destabilizing family life. But prostitution was far from illegal in the Roman world of early Christianity. The law of Moses forbids a man from making his daughter a prostitute, but the Jews were the exception. Also, many if not most converts to Christianity were pagan, not Jewish. Rome, having conquered so much of the world, was full of slaves. The city of Rome itself housed more enslaved persons than free men and women. How would the church react when a house slave from a Roman household wanted to be a Christian? This slave couldn't resist the sexual advances of anyone in the family that owned her. Would the church turn her away because of that? What about a slave who had been sold into a brothel? Would they refuse to let this person join them?
I don't have any proof, but I think the reaction of the above pastor was more common in the early church. People of the Roman world were pretty aware of the social realities. Our culture takes self determination for granted, and so we are more likely to see a prostitute not as a victim of violence and exploitation, but as making a bad lifestyle choice.
For more about early Christian response to slavery, and in specific sex slavery, see the section about Saint Patrick in "How the Irish Saved Civilization" by Tomas Cahill.
The modern face of human trafficing
When I first heard that there are more people in slavery today than at any other time, I realized that technology makes enslavement easier. Transportation was always an issue for slave runners of the past: so many Africans died during the horrific Middle Passage, ditto with Roman forced marches of the conquered. Today we have ships with modern engines, cars, high powered weapons to threaten and intimidate, antibiotics to deal with the inevitable health issues of the crowded and terrorized. It's even easier today than in the past.
As I learned, the modern world with its awareness of women's rights and modern economy may offer in some ways another life for recovering victims of human trafficing, but the hurdles are high. In the example of Anna above, providing for her children in another way will be a challenge, even if she buys off her captors. The handlers of women like Anna encourage alcohol and drug addiction, since this keeps the women in debt and even more controllable. Anna will need alot of support to find other work: if she does not have this support, slipping back into prostitution is all too common.
For women who enter this exploitation young, they are kept without the most rudimentary life skills. How can they survive in the outside world? Both they and their handlers know they cannot, without a great deal of help and support, both practical and emotional. And where will they find this?
A Great Website To Sign Petitions Against Human Trafficing
A hubber who commented on this hub told me about this website. It gives updates about a variety of social issues, including human trafficing. Most ordinary people feel they can't do anything about such a far reaching problem, but as a Western person you have the opportunity to exercise your right of free speech to sign petitions to let elected officials and companies know that you disapprove of laws and trade practices which make trafficing easier. The site constantly updates information about human rights issues and related petitions:
- Teen Sex Trafficking in the US
- HumanTrafficking.org: A Web Resource for Combating Human Trafficking in the East Asia Pacific Region
Provides information to combat human trafficking through prevention, prosecution, and victim protection.
- The Rape Trade -- child prostitution
Another FBI/local law enforcement agency initiative has recovered a number of child-victims of the sex trade. This time the media took notice. But some of the information given left me uneasy. Here's why.