As the author of When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography: Healing Your Wounded Heart, and as one whose first husband was ensnared by the evil web of pornography, I became heartbreakingly aware that porn fuels the demand for sex-trafficking. The continued demand by men to buy women is fed by internet pornography. With that knowledge, I felt compelled to get involved with Tiny Hands International, an organization who intercepts girls who are about to be trafficked from Nepal into the sex-trade in India.
Because sex-trafficking is a relatively “hidden” crime, accurate data is hard to come by. Nonetheless, we know that this is a serious problem in the United States, but an even greater problem worldwide. The Trafficking in Persons Report, July 2015, gives the most current statistics. This report explains that Tier 1 countries fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards (United States) vs. a Tier 2 country that doesn’t comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards (Nepal) or a Tier 3 country that doesn’t meet minimum standards and isn’t making significant efforts to do so. There are certainly differences between the evils of sex-trafficking in the United States as opposed to how it’s played out in third-world, undeveloped countries, but there are also countless similarities. Evil is evil.
One Sunday in 2014, shortly before I left for Nepal, my pastor asked, “What if everyone in our church was just like you?” My heart heard it this way, “What if everyone cared as much or as little as you care about the poor, the vulnerable, and the exploited?”
If I’m honest, some days our world (with me as its representative) would look GRRREEAAT and other days—well—not so great. There’s just something about faces that impresses us with the value of a human being. But when we don’t see those faces, we don’t feel the urgency. We know that someone is just as valuable whether they are in the same room with us, or across the hall, or three doors down, or across the world.
Ten years ago it was possible to be ignorant about exploitation because you didn’t have any reliable information about it, but now with globalization and the internet and with air travel … you can choose to ignore it, but people are aware of it – we have to intentionally blind ourselves in order to avoid the pain of having to do something that will come if we open our eyes to see the suffering that’s going on, albeit on the other side of the world, but for people who are just as precious as our own children.
Sex-trafficking is, in my opinion, the Greatest Injustice of Our Time. Young women and children are harvested from villages and streets of Nepal and taken across the Nepal/India borders for the purpose of sexual slavery. In the village, there are no opportunities. Going overseas may be the only opportunity for them to make a living. Thousands of girls come to Kathmandu, Nepal, every year looking for work and they can’t find work. You need money, business knowledge, a skill, a personal contact, a place to stay … there is no one helping them with that except the sex-industry. The sex-traffickers have their people at the bus station waiting to receive these girls. “Do you need a job? A place to stay? Great, come with us.” And they give them these basic provisions, which they desperately need.
Girls get ensnared into the sex-industry in this way. There is no other industry that’s really an option for them. If they want to be a tailor, two years of training and apprenticeship is required with no pay. They have to figure out how to eat and live and they make no money to send to their family, which was the whole reason for coming to the big city. Their family needs money NOW. They have to support their family and pay for tuition and uniforms for their little brother/sister, so they seemingly have no choices.
Often, traffickers go right into the villages and offer these girls jobs, education, and marriage. These girls leave behind everything they have known and set out with the hopeful expectation of a better life. They are innocent, and so trusting. A girl will travel with her benefactor, sometimes by bus, sometimes by train, stopping at hotels along the way to eat, and trying to keep out of sight. They cross the border on foot, and she does not ask why they must be so secretive. She naively swallows easily whatever explanation her benefactor happens to give.
That’s when she learns she’s been sold and her job is to have sex with old men. This is debt bondage. It works like this … I kidnapped you, I sold you, now if you want to be free, you have to pay me back. It’s NUTS —in our eyes; we think, this is a huge injustice, but this is how a fatalistic culture works. Fatalism is the belief that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable. So, she cannot leave, because she now owes the brothel owner a great deal of money, which he or she paid to the trafficker.
When the girl refuses to have sex with men in order to pay back the brothel owner, she is subject to the most horrible forms of tortures. Typically, trafficked girls are beaten and gang-raped in order to be initiated into their new life. They are sometimes locked in a dark room, unable to see the light of the sun for days—until they will consent. They are beaten with pipes and cords, burned with cigarettes, and have chili powder rubbed in their genitals. They are told that if they refuse, their mothers and sisters will be trafficked in their place. Day after day, if she continues to refuse, the tortures will grow worse. The other girls will tell her what is inevitable: she cannot hold out, she has no choice in the matter—she must accept her fate.
She will break. She won’t be free to refuse customers. She won’t leave the brothel without an escort. She won’t contact her family or loved ones in any way—let alone send money for her siblings’ education. She will be a prisoner—kept in a cage or a locked windowless room. Eventually, she will get HIV and in time she’ll be too sick to work and she’ll be forced to leave the brothel and go back to Nepal. She won’t be welcomed back like the prodigal son/daughter we read about in God’s Word. No, now she’s unclean, and her family and friends will reject her. Her only option will be to wander into a nearby village and find a young, desperate girl who’s run out of options and she’ll offer her a job…
This is the reality for 30,000 young girls in Nepal and Bangladesh annually. Let that number sink in for a minute. Thirty thousand children and young women sacrificed for the “pleasure” of men who are willing to pay a price for them.
One of the most beautiful things I got to see in Nepal was Tiny Hands’ intervention strategy. You see, Border Monitoring and safe houses are their primary strategy and greatest investment to protect innocent girls from the experience that awaits them in a brothel. They have 21 border monitoring stations along the border of Nepal and India. Local pastors oversee sub-committees, and their parishioners help monitor the borders, watching for red flags that a girl is being taken across the border for illicit purposes. When they recognize such signs, they intercept the girl and her trafficker before she can be taken across the border and placed in the hands of a brothel owner. In April, Tiny Hands surpassed their 10,000th interception!
After Nepal, I found myself still asking myself this question on repeat: “What if everyone cared as much or as little as you care about the poor, the vulnerable, and the exploited?”
I believe God chose to ruin my comfortable life by that trip to Nepal. It didn’t have to be a trip to Nepal — He could have used any number of evidences of our broken world that happen within a 10-mile radius of our home. But He intercepted my heart in Nepal. You see, just like Tiny Hands intercepts young girls and children who are headed in one direction until Tiny Hands obstructs their path and prevents them from continuing toward a horrific destination —in the same way, Jesus intercepted my life. First, when I accepted Him as my Savior, and second, when He called me to walk shoulder to shoulder with Tiny Hands.
So, I ask you …
What if everyone cared as much or as little as you care about the poor, the vulnerable, and the exploited? I believe the evils of sex-trafficking must be confronted on two fronts; first on that of internet pornography, and second, as we partner with ministries who are successfully combating sex-trafficking in the United States and around the world. Your involvement can make the difference between life and death—every second matters.
This article first appeared in the July 2016 issue of Theology for Life. To download this issue please click here.