12 March 2013

Saving women in prostitution: is conversion the only way?

Last week, I watched Nefarious, a film about human trafficking. As it is produced by American evangelicals, I was a bit nervous about how well prostitution and human trafficking would be presented in the film. Fortunately, the film did a very good job of nuancing various factors that lead to prostitution: force (more traditionally known as trafficking), poverty, illegality, lure of a better/easier life, cultural acceptance/pressure, and/or distorted notions of love (e.g., loverboys).

They also, in their interviews with former prostitutes in the Netherlands and America, showed some of the devestation that occurs on account of prostitution, even for those who have more freely chosen the work. Choosing to turn away from that way of life seems almost impossible. The film gave the statistic that 95 percent of those who leave (perhaps even rescued from?) prostitution return to it. The one watching the film was (implicitly) encouraged to pray that prostitution might be stopped and that prostitutes might come to know God. Although I do pray that, I also pray a lot of other things - as I think this prayer is too simple.

As much as I truly believe that Christ is the only one who can fully heal someone from the damaging effects related to prostitution, I was disappointed that Christ's role in the film was not larger. Shouldn't we also be praying for God to be involved in everything leading up to and surrounding prostitution? Like punishing traffickers and sex tourists, challenging ideas of self-worth and sex, and fighting against neglect and abuse.

I believe that God is not only interested in saving souls - he's interested in saving the world in its entirety. The film did injustice to God by not discussing his desire for justice and his being able to break the structures causing much of the brokenness related to prostitution and human trafficking. According to the makers of the film, trafficking occurs because too few people say and do nothing (and our task is then to spread the word). Yet, at the same time, the film made it obvious that there is much spiritual darkness involved in trafficking: how else can you explain a culture that understands loving one's daughter as choosing to prostitute her close to home instead of further away (cf. the section on Cambodia)? Poverty, the usual explanation for this behaviour, cannot adequately explain why most of those in the village accept selling one's daughter for sex as normal and desirable. Never discussed in the film is cause of so much demand: many foreigners coming to the villages to buy children. Yet, it is just here that God has also been working small miracles - it is becoming easier for foreigners who do this to be punished under the laws of their home country, which will hopefully change and even prevent "sex tourism" in these villages.

I believe that part of healing the hurt related to prostitution is God's justice being acted out through punishment of those who have participated in trafficking and having sex with a child "prostitute." Such punishment is also a strong encouragement for those committing these crimes to change their ways. Thus I cannot pray about trafficking and prostitution without praying both for the women to know God well, as well as changing and punishing those who have participated in her becoming a prostitute.

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