I knew it was going to be dark, but nothing could have prepared me for this.
This week, I traveled half-way around the world to better understand cultural slavery and the sex industry in Thailand.
On the outside, Bangkok is a bustling city, but when the sun goes down, the red-light districts light up.
It’s easy to think this is a problem on the other side of the world, but the streets fill with men from the United States and other western nations.
Western men select women according to their the number pinned on their outfit, order sex acts from menus, and throw ping pong balls at the women as if they’re animals. From “secret menus,” the girls they take home can be 12 years old or younger.
Some of the men try to rationalize their acts by saying…
“She chose this life.”
“I’m helping her.”
“She wants it.”
“But no one chooses this,” Bonita, a brave 72-year-old woman, committed to breaking women out of poverty in partnership with World Help says.
“The women come because culturally they must support their family, so they come to Bangkok for work, never expecting to end up in this industry.”
From the outside, that may seem like far-fetched. How could they not know?
But in rural, largely uneducated areas, a family’s rice crop will fail. The landowner will demand payment, but the family has nothing. The landowner will offer that one of the daughters can work off the debt in a factory…or in the city…
…and they end up here…
On streets known as “Soi Coyboy” or another that advertises, “The World’s Largest Adult Playground.”
If you look close, you’ll see a hollowness in the women’s eyes. Some attempt to cover their faces or body parts in shame. For those who have just started working, you can still see the shyness and embarrassment and loss of innocence. It’s painful to watch.
It’s even more painful to listen to their stories.
Like Lamai, who in the bar shared that was her 25th birthday. When asked if she had any plans to celebrate, she said no. She had to work 28 of 30 nights in the bar to keep her job.
She spent her birthday selling her body for around $15.
She had no other choice. That’s what poverty does—it takes away your ability choose and gnaws on the fibers of what it means to be human.
Nothing could have prepared me for the sights and sounds and stories of darkness this week. But I’m grateful to say nothing could have prepared me for the sights, sounds, and stories of redemption, too.
Stories like that of Yanisa (name changed), who thanks to the work of World Help and their partners, was able to leave the industry, learn a new skill, and encounter Christ. Because she escaped the industry, she was able to rescue her younger sister and child from the same fate. She began praying for her family to know Christ. To date, 13 members of her family and many throughout their community have come to know Jesus.
This is hope. This is freedom. This is transformation.
Right now, you can help give a girl like Yanisa a way out. For $50, you can help introduce one girl to a freedom she has never known! You can provide things like a safe place to live, education, medical care, counseling, outreach, and so much more. But most importantly, you will introduce her to the love of Jesus — a love that can transform her life.
Will you help break the chains of cultural slavery today?