Sex is not a trade.
It isn’t something that should be bought or sold. It shouldn’t be used as a form of abuse. It shouldn’t be used as motivation to have men, women and children placed into slavery.
But unfortunately, it is.
Living and working in Cambodia I have discovered that I am living in what is called a transit nation. Not only does Cambodia have its own thriving and corrupt sex industry, but it is also a transit place for Vietnamese, Chinese and Laotian “workers,” as they are transported around South-East Asia.
A common sight throughout the city of Phnom Penh is to see provocative dressed young women, sitting in lines outside the many Karaoke bars. Men are free to pick their “company” for the night, and enjoy the music and food. Some of the many massage parlors double as brothels, and if a man wants good fortune all he needs to do is find a virgin.
To really get an understanding of the sexual climate here, you only need to look as far as the family.
In some families children are masturbated to sleep; it becomes an ingrained activity from a very early age. Children are even sometimes encouraged (more like forced) into compromising relations with other family members.
Just the other day, I was reading through the Phnom Penh Post newspaper and I read about the story of a 29-year-old man who had killed his 14-year-old niece. When he had attempted to rape her, she had put up too much of a struggle. Since he felt she was preventing him from taking what he felt was his right, he killed her.
These stories always leave me feeling at a loss, broken for the young people who have become instruments to be abused by others.
I know stories like these exist all around the world. Even in developed nations like Australia, the States and Canada. In fact anywhere where people are, abuses like these can be found.
When people are committed to satisfying their own cravings, regardless of the cost, there’s nothing left but whole families and communities wracked by injustice, without any hope for change.
I remember when I was a fresh-faced westerner coming to Cambodia for the first time a few years ago. My team and I were able to meet a fellow Aussie who has committed his life to serving his adopted Cambodian village. After a number of years caring for his community, this passionate Aussie was able to set up a life-changing orphanage, focused upon providing opportunity for the next generation, while assisting the current.
He told us stories of how he has helped to prevent families from selling their children into the sex trade.
On one occasion he discovered that a local family was negotiating to sell their child. They were a very poor family, and they couldn’t feed the children they already had. Housing a large family in a one-room hut, with a roof made from leaves, they were tempted to sell their youngest for extra funds. My new friend didn’t believe the family quite understood what they were planning to sell the child into, since the man from the city doing the negotiating had claimed he was going to provide a new family for the child.
My Aussie friend visited the family everyday for almost a week. He would beg for the child. Emotional, he pleaded that the family would let the child live in his orphanage, that they would let him care for the child. He said that the family would still be free to be involved in the life of the child, under the condition that they wouldn’t sell the child. My friend was not offering any money, just a genuine future and hope for the child.
After many hours, and much begging, the family handed over the care of their child to the care of the little-known Australian, committed to loving and caring for the children of his village.
He knows that what he did saved that child from slavery.
I know that he didn’t have to do it.
He didn’t need to spend those days begging for the child. He didn’t have to care. He didn’t have to defend another’s rights. He could have kept quiet. He could have played it safe.
Thanks to him, that child is safe.
I love meeting the everyday people who have decided to defend the defenseless. I love the stories about how they have been challenged to live beyond themselves. Some do it on forgiven soil, others in their own homelands. All are committed to laying down themselves, picking up their crosses, and living in such a way as to see that even the “little ones” are free to come forward and have a voice.
The sex industry, with all its elements of human trafficking, child abuse and slavery is truly an ugly sight in creation. So many things need to happen to bring it to a stop. I’d love to see the healing of whole families. To see the hurtful patterns stopped. To see children free of abuse.
I’d love to see the church continue to minister hope and life into these environments, regardless of how long it takes to beg for the children.