Saturday, March 17, 2012

No Easy Answers...

"What is relevant is that children are being enslaved..."

Book Club Review: "Half the Sky" - Chapter Two - Prohibition and Prostitution

The authors use Chapter 2 to discuss some of the problems that are inherent in trying to rescue women and children from the sexual trafficking nightmare that is deeply entrenched around the world. It is important for us not to oversimplify the issue and rush to judgment about how to solve the problem.

Chapter Two begins with an analysis of the conflicting approaches to solving the problem, essentially broken down into two divergent points of view. The more liberal establishment prefers to view prostitution as a necessary evil that will always be with us, and, as such, should simply be legalized and regulated. The more conservative side of the argument leans toward the “big stick” approach, that is, no legalization, but stricter laws and enforcement to protect women, especially minors from trafficking. The authors started out on the side of legalization and then moved to the big stick approach when they saw the considerable pitfalls and failures of the legalization model.

There is so much contained in this discussion of possible solutions, it would take much more time and space to detail them then I have space for in this post! Hopefully, we will get into some of the specifics in the discussion part of this post.

The authors close Chapter Two with a section they entitle “Rescuing Girls is the Easy Part”. In this section, the authors follow the stories of two teenage victims of trafficking, whom they successfully rescue by buying them out of slavery. The tragic truth that is revealed in the case of “Momm” is that many of these young girls become so addicted to the drugs that were used to enslave them, that they return to the brothels voluntarily, simply to get their fix. Further, her story reveals that many of these young girls become even more devalued as they mature physically and can no longer command the high price they did as young girls. At that point, many of them begin to train as “managers” of other young victims, and become the “perpetrator of the abuse” to other young girls who are caught in the net of sexual exploitation just as they were originally. Although tempting to judge and condemn the girls who adopt this behavior, we have never known the hell they have lived through that would lead them to such desperate acts.

As Christians, we are called to pray for those that are trapped inside the darkness of the world of sexual trafficking and prostitution. I hear the voice of Jesus reminding us that: “I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me...” Matthew 25:38  God's compassion for these young victims is the most compelling reason for us to become aware and seek His vision. This is not, I believe, a problem that should be labeled either liberal or conservative, Christian or non-christian, but rather a human tragedy that affects us all.

Questions for Discussion:

What do you think of the “Big Stick: vs. the “Legalize and Regulate” approaches to this issue?

Do you agree with the author's premise that the division between liberals and conservatives benefits the slave trade industry? How would you resolve this issue?

On Page 28, Nick is criticized by a native Indian for “interfering” in Indian affairs. Among other things, he accuses Nick of “Your stance...smacks of the Western missionary position of rescuing brown savages from their fate.” What's your opinion of that accusation? Is it valid/invalid? Why?

On Page 26, a rescue worker on the ground, Ruchira Gupta, spurns the whole debate that the left and the right are engaged in on this issue, dismissing it as a “theoretical framework at universities.” She states: “Very few of those theorists come to the grassroots and see what is going on. The whole debate about what we should call the problem is irrelevant. What is relevant is that children are being enslaved.” Your thoughts on her comments?

The opening story about the border guard who laughs and dismisses the problem of sexual trafficking, reveals a core premise to the growth of this industry: Some human beings are less valuable than others and can be exploited. Nick states his view of the problem on p. 24: “People get away with enslaving village girls for the same reason that people got away with enslaving blacks 200 years ago: The victims are perceived as discounted humans...When India feels that the West cares as much about slavery as it does about pirated DVDs, it will dispatch people to the borders to stop traffickers.” Is this a legitimate criticism of our part in the problem?

Note: Please feel free to comment on any or all of the questions, as well as any other area you would like to discuss. I found this chapter to be very enlightening on this subject. Still find myself wanting to turn off and look the other way. This is tough material to digest. But, we are not called to sit on the sidelines and cover our eyes with blindfolds so as not to see a painful problem. I have found the need though, to prepare for the reading with prayer and to sometimes stop reading and pray in the middle of it. This book is an expose of evil and we should not go blithely into this reading without appropriate preparation. I strongly encourage you to use “the weapons of our warfare” and put on the “full armor of God” before engaging in this battle.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”  Ephesians 6:10-13 

Next Friday: Chapter 3


  1. As a Christian, I find it hard to embrace the idea of the legalization and regulation of something so perverse and contradictory to God's plan. However, I am not sure what course of action needs to be taken in countries that view the women in these brothels as less than human, similar to the African slaves you mentioned. I thought Sweden's plan implemented some creative ideas that seemed to have positive results by punishing the buyer instead of the seller. This would definitely protect girls who are forcibly offering their sexual services. I do not think there is any easy solution.

    As far as divisions among liberals and conservatives regarding any issue, the benefits that can arise from these include seeing more than one point of view. When you have differing ideas, there can be a middle ground found where compromise allows the most important factors to prevail. What would I do? I would look at both extremists' claims and attempt to offer a solution that acknowledges the potential difficulties on both sides of the issue.

    On Page 28, Nick is criticized by a native Indian for “interfering” in Indian affairs. Among other things, he accuses Nick of “Your stance...smacks of the Western missionary position of rescuing brown savages from their fate.” My opinion of this remark is that it's absurd. I will reply with by quoting the fictitious Dr. Quinn from the show Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. In one of the episodes either the Indians or the black people were being legally mistreated. The reverend was defending his lack of protest because of the laws set forth by the government. Dr. Quinn says to him, "Reverend, I thought you answered to a higher law." I think her statement sums it up perfectly in that as humans, we have a primal obligation to protect life that supersedes any land boundaries.

    As far as getting to the grass roots, my opinion is that there is a purpose for every rung of an issue's ladder. There are those that do the field work who report it to those at the next level who ensure that the issue is a priority in raising awareness. Once the awareness is raised, some people will donate money in an effort to support those in the field. And, some of the awareness will spur some to get involved at the original grass roots level. It's all important. Are there times when too much talk occurs and not enough action? Sure.

    The opening story infuriated me in that the border patrol guard spoke with such hypocrisy and literally could not see that. I think the problem of sex slaver is of such magnitude that only God can guide any intervention and success. We can actively raise awareness and attempt to change the beliefs regarding the enslavement of young girls (and boys) for sex, but only He will be able to change the hearts of those that choose to engage in such atrocities. However, we can all ask Him what our part is in this war.

  2. Hi, Shannon - Thanks for your very thoughtful comments. I very much appreciate your input. I am beginning to wish we actually could sit down together once a week and have a "real" discussion of these issues that are so compelling in our day! There was so much in this chapter that warrants further discussion. Here's a bit of what I thought regarding the issues highlighted in the questions.

    I do appreciate the different voices coming from the "liberal" vs. "conservative" camps. However, I do believe we have to find common ground on which to agree so that we can move forward in actually dealing with the problem. I think it is likely very true that this division hinders our success and plays into the hands of the traffickers. The lack of patience that Ruchira Gupta reveals for the debating between the two sides, is, I think, very valid. She is in the trenches with the actual victims and as such, has a real life perspective that cannot be over-valued. Her voice needs to be heard loud and clear and is sometimes muffled by the "intellectual exercise" of engaging in debates that do little or nothing to resolve the issue, but feeds the egos of those who are engaged in the world of academia. There is a time and a place for such debates. And then there is a time to stop the talk and walk the walk. Jesus had little patience for the Scribes and Pharisees who loved to engage Him in debates about the law, but who did little to love the people they were supposed to care for. They took a great deal of pride in their intellectual superiority over the people, while the people were dying under their very eyes. Jesus had little time or patience with this. He called them "whited sepulchers". A stinging rebuke from the God of all Compassion...

    Much more I could say, but, for now, I'll leave it at that. Except to say, your closing comments about the need for God's intervention is so true and so necessary for us to know and act upon in leading us to pray and pray and pray some more. That is so much where I was coming from in my comments about putting on the full armor of God that we might stand. Without Him, we can do nothing. This is evil and to try to resolve it without the Lord is folly of the highest degree...

  3. are absolutely correct about the ineffectiveness of engaging in intellectual debates that do not lead to action. If their discussions were bringing about awareness that led to action, I think that would be a positive outcome. However, if these debates only lead to stubborn resistance regarding actions of any kind that alters from each parties proposed solutions, then that is a problem. I attended a movie night yesterday evening at a friend's house where one of the characters said, "There are two kinds of people in this world: talkers and doers. It's the doers that make a difference." So true. All of our talking (including my own) means nothing without living it out.


How are you doing on your journey with the Lord? Started yet? Still searching. My prayer is that you will be encouraged to seek after Him with all your heart. Without a doubt, you will find Him. He is searching for YOU!