Sunday, February 22, 2009
A Global Affair
I'm not the most well versed when it comes to politics, business or knowing how to fix a car, but some things go noticed even if your not looking to hard for them. What I'm referring to is the effects of the plummeting economy. Here in Thailand you can't help but drive past barren rice fields that were once fertile green landscapes. A friend here told me that even the rice farmers who once were delighted to sell off old barren land are now afraid to because to them land still means a guarantee that they will have a meal on their plate.
One wonders while were going through a economic crisis back in the states where all these Americans are still forking out loads of their precious savings investing in the overseas industry of sexual exploitation. At first I had a hard time making the connection between a young woman in South East Asia who is forced to sexually exploit herself for the sake of survival and a guy back in the states arbitrarily walking into a 7-11 to buy a porn mag but the two are more closely connected then most would accept.
We are all contributors to this global industry of sexual exploitation whether we like it or not. We invest in these new markets by the way we shop, the way we surf the net and by the way we talk. We create a demand by feeding into lust and greed while leaving a trail of destruction in the process.
In South East Asia alone it is estimated that close to a million people are trafficked every year. Eighty percent of those are women and girls and up to fifty percent are minors. These are girls leaving the comforts and safety of their villages to invest in what they think is a better life abroad. Well that is what they think. And who are these unseen victims?
Six years ago in a dusty village 11 kilometers from Phnom Penh over forty victims of trafficking saw the light and were set free from their prison cells thanks to the corporation of the Cambodian government being lead by a group called IJM (International Justice Mission). At the time some of these girls were as young as five years old and had been trafficked hundreds of miles away from neighboring countries. In the past few weeks our group had the opportunity to serve those very same girls by giving them free eye exams and using that opportunity to reaffirm in them that they were loved, that they were special and that they were not forgotten.
Personally for me this was a humbling moment because it was these very girls stories found in IJM's book "Terrify No More" that brought us to start The Blind Project three years ago. When I look at them now I see teenage girls that are living in freedom. They are living the life that they deserve filled with hope and safety. They are someone's daughter, someone's, granddaughter and hopefully some day will become someone's wife.
The outcome of that very same trip we discovered that this isn't just an isolated incident. We our selves found twelve and thirteen year old girls in brothels still being sold to the highest bidder and this was three years after Cambodia supposedly cracked down on this issue.
When are we going to wake up men and realize that this global economy of lust is fueled by us? When are we going to realize that decisions we make effect the real lives and support underground networks of destruction and greed that suppress the rights and freedoms of so many. I'm not perfect and don't claim to be, but I understand even more so now that we have a responsibility. We are capable of being men of valor of decency and strength but why then do we settle for less? It starts with us. I had to accept the fact a few weeks ago sitting across the table from one of these girls that me as a man, my gender had something to do with the overwhelming abuse she once went through. Even through our distant interactions we had I couldn't help but feel that still they have a difficult time trusting men and so should they. They have a long road ahead of them hopefully one day they will be able to have a loving trusting relationship with a man.
I'll leave you with this. A rice farmer in Northern Thailand so distant from American politics and consumerism never imagined our economy would effect him and his family. Next time you make a purchase think a little harder about what industry you may or may not be exploiting.