I am sitting at LAX airport right now – thinking about the movie “Trade” and Nepal and girls I have met and books I have read. Thinking about the current state of the sex market and how things are shifting. The traffickers are always just one step ahead. They are entrepreneurs at their best. They have a great product and know how to market it in many different arenas.
As I boarded the Flyaway bus to get to LAX there was a young girl that didn’t speak any English that got on with me. A man who didn’t look a whole lot older dropped her off. I hope he was her brother, or boyfriend, or trusted best friend – but I can’t be sure. And even if he was, I can’t be comforted. She held one small bag and a paper with ?directions? on them. I don’t know what was on the paper but she was sent somewhere alone and it looked like she was told she would be taken care of when she got there. I can’t help but wonder how much goes on right under our noses. Maybe that was just her brother and she was just going to visit some family or do something else fun – but how can I be sure?
There are signs you can look for, sure. But it is difficult when your time is so limited. And it is frustrating beyond all get out when you cannot communicate with a girl that you have suspicions about because of language barriers. Although I obviously would not have asked her straight out if she was being trafficked or sexually exploited – there are other questions you can ask around that issue that will get you the answers you are looking for. The clues and the pieces to the puzzle – that they might not even know they are giving you.
And so I sit her at LAX looking at all the young boys and girls traveling alone – or with a quite older companion. And I wonder. What can be done? When is suspicion good? When is it offensive or over the top? And why have we come to a place in a world where we have to suspect a father traveling with his adolescent daughter…


Decriminalize vs. Legalize

I was able to go to the Soularize Conference in the Bahamas this last October. One of the speakers was Rita Nakashima Brock. She was co-author of a great book I read for one of my courses “Casting Stones”. I contacted her after the conference to get some resources. She said to me that after working with prostitutes and doing her research overseas she strongly believes that prostitution should not be legalized but SHOULD be decriminalized.
I have to say that the more I study here at Fuller, the more I work with the After Hours Ministry and the more I research prostitution I agree with Dr. Brock. This is still something I am very much thinking through and processing…but travel with me a bit.

Legalization: to make legal; authorize

Those that legalize prostitution (and yes, there are some places that do) “do so by giving the state control over the lives and businesses of those who work as prostitutes. Legalization often includes special taxes for prostitutes, restricting prostitutes to working in brothels or in certain zones, licenses, registration of prostitutes and government records of individual prostitutes, and health checks, which often means punitive quarantine. The term legalization does not necessarily have to refer to the above sorts of regulations. In fact, in one commonly accepted definition of legalization, legal can simply mean that prostitution is not against the law.” [quoted from this website] And this is not what we want. Prostitution should still be against the law – it just should not be a criminal act.

Decriminalize: to eliminate criminal penalties for or remove legal restrictions against (typically referring to consenting adult sexual activity)

While there are many reasons one gets into prostitution and many reasons one stays, I don’t think that putting these men and women in jail is ever really the answer. The times I have spoken with my girls after they have been in jail for a couple of weeks for getting picked up for prostitution I see no real effect the jailing had on them (other than pissing them off and making them annoyed). And to be real frank, I think it is the John’s that need to be put in jail if we are going to send anyone there. The laws that are currently in place for prostitution are reaching the “branch” problems – and we need to get to the root. Our laws are affecting the women involved while the men who are customers reap no consequences.

The criminalization of prostitution also makes it very difficult for these women to seek help or report violent actions against themselves to the police. If they report anything they can be charged or put in jail because of the actions that caused the crime against them. Several women I work with would be fearful of loosing custody of their child or losing status with the family and friends.

There is a website that makes a compelling argument “why prostitution should not ever be legalized” but you will notice that they use the two words legalization and decriminalization interchangeably. I think that is where the confusion and danger comes in. Legalization is not the same as decriminalization and until we have a clear understanding of what we mean by the word and what we are truly trying to accomplish – we’ll only get frustrated and step on each other’s toes.

And lastly, here is an article that I think is really compelling (which is for decriminalization) written by Wendy McElroy.