When I was 16 I went to my first 'Pimps and Hoe's' dress-up party. (I know what you're thinking, and yes, depending on their social circles many Australian adolenscents are corrupted by such ridiculous sexual-themed parties at a young age. However, please extend grace and don't assume that all Aussies are sleezes and tarts from the age of 14). To be honest, I didn't exactly know what a pimp, or a hoe for that matter, was. So I just put on a pair of short-shorts and my ex-boyfriend's work outfit- complete with checkered shirt, work-hat, work-boots and tool belt- and headed out the door. After a couple of puffs of a joint and way more alcohol that my teenage body could handle, I got a call from some mates that were coming to pick me up. The party was held in a very secluded, small country town about 40 mins north-west of Melbourne CBD. My friends had no idea how to get there, so in the hope of saving them the trouble of directions I left the party and started walking along the freeway at 2 am. I can't remember much, however I recall that after quite a bit of walking, and no sign of my friends, I was suddenly very aware that I was in tiny shorts and a half un-buttoned shirt with my bra showing...and I was walking along a very dark road at a some-what dangerous hour on a Saturday night. After hours of walking (and still no sign of my punctual collection posse) I slumped down on the side of the road in frustration. My head was spinning, my heart was racing; only thing that I wanted was to pass-out in a warm bed...and I had a thought: I look like a prostitute.
Now, don't get me wrong, I am by no means comparing my feelings at the time of the event to the feelings of a woman who is waiting on the side of a dark road to offer her 'services', or saying that I was feeling anything remotely similar...just that in that moment, I feel that I got a little glimpse of the solidarity that a woman might feel while she's alone on a cold night anxiously waiting to be 'picked-up'...and it has always stuck with me.
Did you know that there are 2.7 million victims of human-trafficking being forced into prositutution in the world today? That's the population of Chicago. 80 per cent of these victims are women and children. In Italy alone there are estimated to be between 19,000 and 24,000 people working on the streets as prostitutes, and there is thought to be 3 times that number working in 'indoor prostitution' (apartments, nightclubs, massage parlours etc.). So what are we doing about it? Well, I can't speak on behalf of all the countries where this rapidly increasing industry is evolving, but I can give you some information on what action Italy is taking:
The Department of Equal Opportunites passed a legislation (Act 18) that promises protection for victims of human-trafficking, not depending on whether or not they choose to testify towards their traffickers. This is already a big step forward in respect to the rest of Euope, who's Human Rights Legislations still require victims to testify in exchange for their protection (one point- Italy). The Italian government was providing 5 million euros to the DEO, who then, as part of this new law, opened up a free help-line for victims of human-trafficking in Italy to call, which guaranteed intervention and protection. This help-line was operating out of 15 capital cities around Italy. However....the descent of the Italian economy has caused many government funds to be removed- including many of these funds for the DEO. On the 1st of August, 2010, 14 of the 15 help-line operators were shut-down, and 2 million euros was cut from the funding. Today, the total of funds provided for the DEO doesn't even reach 4 million- keeping in mind that obviously this money is being used to carry out other legislative acts also. Article 18 of the DEO legislation still rests as head of the fight against human trafficking in Italy, however there are huge complications. While Acts 18 continues to be active, there are other laws still standing that do not allow it to work in the way that it should. For example, the Department of Immigration states that someone living illegally in Italy (obviously including people that have been smuggled or trafficked into the country who don't have resident visas) should be fined from 5-10 million euros, and even after that they are not guaranteed permanent residency in the country. This means that many times after illegal immigrants have been discovered, whether they were trafficked here or not, they are deported back to their own countries without an option. All this to say, the Italian government is not provding necessary help, and because of this, victims are reluctant to come forward and turn to the authorities for fear of being fined and deported...and the vicious circle goes around and around. Pretty discouraging, isn't it? In my despair for world-wide human trafficking epidemic (also being labelled as 'modern-day slavery') I cling to this hope: there is another Power on our side of the battle.
"One of the Pharisees asked him (Jesus) to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table.. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at a table in the Pharisees house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now, when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself , 'If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner'...- Luke 7:36-39
'....Then turning toward the woman, (Jesus) said to Simon (the Pharisee)- "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time that I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, HER SINS, WHICH ARE MANY, ARE FORGIVEN...for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little."- Luke 7:44-47
When speaking to those who refused to believe the truth about Himself, Jesus said:
"Truly I say to you, the tax collectors and prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you." - Matthew 21:31
During the time of His ministry, Jesus' love reached even the lives of women deeply entangled in sin and sexual immorality. God loves these women; He created them in the same way that He created you and I, He extends the same hands of love and redemption that He extends to us...and He forgives them in the same way that He has forgiven us. All through the Old Testament we have examples of God's chosen people, Israel, prostituting themselves to foreign idols and other god's...and God still offered them His mercy. Over and over, He promised deliverance for Israel, regardless of how many times 'she played the whore'- all His chosen people had to do was turn back to Him. The same applies to us today- when we turn to Jesus, when we cast our burdens upon Him, we are delivered from the emptyness of our previous lives- we become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Whatever we did in our lives before Jesus, we are forgiven and redeemed. That is God's promise, and the meaning of Jesus' cross, to all of us who believe in Him and repent for our transgressions- no matter whether we are liars or theives; pimps or prostitutes. Whoring yourself to sex, whoring yourself to idols...it's all whoredom. We are all whores in need of His redemption.
There is intense heavyness and heartbreak in my spirit for the women that I see standing on the corners of the street. My apartment building is right beside one of Rome's main roads; a hot-spot for prostitutes. Night in and night out I come face to face with empty, broken, and desperate girls. I am reminded of the reality of the crime that is human trafficking each time that I walk home from being out with mates. I see the pain in their eyes, the masks of courage that they hide behind. My heartbreak deepens when I think about the men behind the schemes, and even further for the men that fill the voids that they carry in their souls by seeking the women. Their view of Creation is just so enormously skewed. However, God didn't give up on His people Israel and Jesus didn't give up on the sinful woman. I remind myself that my sin is no different than theirs. In the same way that I needed to be redeemed from a life without Jesus, they all need to be also. I pray for God's Spirit to move in the hearts of these women and men, and for Him to call them to Himself; for Him to provide them with a way of escape from the prisons that they are living in.
The world is so fallen, and so drenched in evil; it's a battlefield out there in the valley of darkness... but I KNOW that God's light overcomes darkness. I know that His mercy overcomes sin. I know that His love overcomes everything...and I mean, EVERYTHING...and I know that He's on our side.
But now says the Lord,
He who created you,
He who formed you,
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine,
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour,
You are precious in my eyes,
and honoured and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
people's in exchange for your life.
Fear not, for I am with you,
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
I will say to the north, give up,
and to the south, do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.