I have a reporter’s journal. I take it with me wherever I go with this crazy idea that I am somehow recording and reporting our history in Eastern Europe. Sometimes, a day in the life of a missionary is about recording and reporting and hoping and praying. I will need a new notebook soon because my pages are full of glimpses: past sermon quotes and conversations and Skype calls with our team, and lectures: a chronicled truth that God works in miraculous ways in impossible situations. And I can flip those reporter pages all the way back to last February when I sat with Maria in Germany.
Maria is not her real name, you know. Reporters do that sometimes, change the name to protect the identity of their source. I did that. I took a page from the reporter’s handbook.
I have a little quote written in my reporter’s journal from the conversation last Thursday.
Some people are called to the women and some people are called to the issue.
Insightful, I thought. I hope that I am called to both but right now, today, I would love it if Jesus would guide my fingers on the keys of this computer as we add one last component to understanding this incomprehensible monstrosity. One more piece of the grotesque puzzle and then this mini-series moves to the YOU and the ME and what the WE that is US might do to let Jesus work in and through imperfect vessels.
It turns out that there are two kinds of girls that end up prostituting, at least that is what my reporter’s journal says.
Most people from the ethnic majority of an Eastern European country will be trafficked. To be trafficked means to be bought and sold across international borders for the purpose of being prostituted, enslaved, or harvested for organs. Most girls who are Romani (Gypsies) will be prostituted within the country of their origin. There are exceptions but this is the tendency.
Girls from an ethnic majority are often educated, university students or graduates who see the opportunity for a better life outside of their passport country. They have the ability and the drive to move to western Europe in pursuit of their dreams. These girls are perfect prey for traffickers. Stopthetraffik has a great video to illustrate this. Click here
Girls who are Romani are often uneducated or undereducated. Some grow up within communities where a bride-price is a deeply embedded part of their culture. At the age of 13 or 14, they become marriageable to a man for a dowry. A girl who is a virgin can bring the same price as a cow.
For these Roman communities, the selling of a girl for prostitution is a rather small jump, especially if the girl has displeased her new mother-in-law. After the marriage has been consummated, the girl enters into her new husband’s multi-generational home where she becomes the property of her mother-in-law. If she does not please her, she can be cast out. She is ruined. She has no education. She has no family. She has no future.
Equally horrific is the fact that orphanages are full of unwanted Roma children. They will rarely be adopted by the majority ethnic population. Within many state run orphanages, the physical and sexual abuse begins at an impossibly early age. By the time they are released into society at the age of eighteen, they have one life skill at their disposal: the use of their body as a means of survival.
So often, we assume that prostitutes choose their profession. Only bad girls sell themselves, right? But the reality is a much grimmer truth. Girls become prostitutes because they have no other means of survival. Girls become prostitutes because they have quickly learned that a man’s appetite can put food in her stomach. If you are hungry enough, vulnerable enough, hopeless enough, naked enough, you find a way to survive or you die.
As we prepare to move into a focus on prevention and education, let us recap what we have learned:
Selling people is easy when you see them as a commodity.
The trafficking of humans is a well-oiled, multi-national machine run by business-savvy individuals.
A conservative estimate of 27 million people are currently slaves today.
The process of making a girl into a prostitute begins with her vulnerability.
Selling one’s body is a means of survival.
The vast majority of prostituted women have been tricked and/or forced into the profession against their will. They prostitute their bodies or they die.
End of story. End of report.