Human Trafficking & The Sex Trade // Part 1

Back in October I had the chance to meet the guys at Rahab Ministries in Bangkok, Thailand.  Rahab ministries is a ministry that exists to give women who are working in prostitution a chance to change their lives.  I spent a couple days meeting with them; seeing and hearing what they do.  One evening they walked me through the Patpong district and explained how it all work.

The Patpong district is one of several red light districts in Bangkok.  The streets are lined in the middle with vendors selling anything you can imagine, while on each side of the streets are lined with go-go bars and strip-clubs.  A go-go bar is simply a bar with an elevated peninsula dance floor/stage in the middle with lots of stripper poles and bar seats all the way around it.  Not too different than a strip club… Yet the dance stage is packed full of girls in their underwear or bikinis and lots of the time “go-go” boots dancing as customers look on (a strip club minus the stripping I reckon).  Now the girls who aren’t dancing are “working” the customers.  Making sure they have a drink and the general expectation is that the customer buys the bar girl a drink as well.  The general aim is for the bar girl to get the customer to pay a “bar fee” (a fee paid to the bar for the girl leaving before her shift is up/bar is closed) as well as the girls fee and take the girl home that night.  Whether that be in the hourly rented rooms often times upstairs or some other hotel.

To make the situation more complex and appalling… Most of the women in this line of work are indebted to someone (either a loan shark or the bar owner).  The system is such that they are basically enslaved to this job and kept in debt so there is no seemingly way out.  It is said that close to 60% of all male foreigners to thailand are there for sex tourism.  Some reports say that 30-40% of the prostitutes in thailand are under the age of 18.  It is also understood that the majority of those girls have been trafficked.

As I walked around with Rahab that night I kept trying to figure out how I was to capture this scene through images.  Guys in the street with sheets of paper listing all the “services” available in their bar, trying to entice foriegners shopping.  Girls standing at the door already half-drunk trying to seduce people inside.  The faces of the girls dancing on the stages as we pass by each bar.  Girl after girl.  Face after face.  Most faces void of any emotion from night after night of dancing and meeting men.  It was as if hope of a different life was no longer there.

Due to the sensitivity of the girls currently in Rahab, we didn’t want to take pictures of their faces, trying to avoid any possible harm to them.  And I had at most a couple nights to visit the night scene and the bar owners and managers are not OK with taking photos of their girls or their bar.  For me, this was hardly enough time for me to even begin to grasp someone’s story and create the opportunity to be able to capture it well using images.  It became very apparent quickly that this was going to be a hard task.

As I contemplated over it more and more I decided I would take a different approach.  Sure I took a few images during my time there… But for the most part due to the time I had, I felt the need to put the camera away, pull out the pen and paper and sit, listen and watch what was happening.

The issue of human trafficking, the sex slave trade, child prostitution, and all that is connected with them is a very real and huge issue.  And because of that I wanted to spend a little more time on this subject as well as highlight both Rahab ministries as well as another organization working to combat the same issues in India that a dear friend of mine is starting.

So please, check back each day as I will be posting a new post every morning this week.

show hide 5 comments

Christina - I wish I’d been with you! Thank you for going and thank you for sharing- the word NEEDS to get out. One of the biggest areas the church needs to weep and pray over!

Alicia Ressmann - Heart wrenching.

Refuge of Light - A world-wide issue and the unfortunate commonality is the demand for such inhumanity.

Refuge of Light - How do we stop the demand?

lane - That’s a difficult question. I think one of the most important ways (but hardest) is to look, seek, hope and pray for heart change in the perpetrators. Raising awareness is a huge need and will definitely help. Much like william wilberforce brought tons of awareness to the trans-atlantic slave trade. However the ultimate end of it will be when people’s hearts are changed and they view everyone as equal to themselves. True heart change in my opinion come from the Gospel of Jesus.

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