In our hypersexualized American culture, it can be difficult to comprehend that countless numbers of women globally are paying with their lives and bodies for the sexual "freedoms" that are pushed in our media. What we think of as another matter of "individual choice" has mushroomed into an enormous worldwide problem of human trafficking and sex slavery.
To be fair, not every instance of sex slavery can be blamed on our culture, our media, or our generation's current fascination with/tolerance of pornography. For example, World Vision recently reported on the long-standing Indian tradition of devadasi, Hindu temple prostitutes. In some sections of India, girls as young as 12 are "married" to a Hindu god and forced into temple prostitution for at least the next 20 years. Sexual sin is nothing new.
There is a glimmer of hope for change, though, and this positive news was recently reported in The New York Times about the progress the Bush administration is making in combatting human trafficking and sex slavery. As Nicholas D. Kristof wrote in a recent column, the State Department's office on trafficking is one of the most effective units in the U.S. government. High praise indeed from the New York Times.
I'm guessing that President Bush's foreign policy will stand up about as well to the assessments of future historians as a baby gazelle to a pack of cheetahs.
Yet there is one area where Bush is making a historic contribution: He is devoting much more money and attention to human trafficking than his predecessors did. Just as one of Jimmy Carter's great legacies was putting human rights squarely on the international agenda, Bush is doing the same for slave labor.
We don't tend to think of trafficking as a top concern, so Bush hasn't gotten much credit. But it's difficult to think of a human rights issue that could be more important than sex trafficking and the other kinds of neo-slavery that engulf millions of people around the world, leaving many of them dead of AIDS by their early 20s.
. . . In an age of HIV, sex trafficking is particularly lethal. And for every political dissident who is locked up in a prison cell, hundreds of teenage girls are locked up in brothels and, in effect, sentenced to death by AIDS.
You can read the rest of the column as it was syndicated to the Denver Post. May I encourage you to give to groups working to combat this issue? I personally support Shared Hope International. But I know everyone laboring on this issue would appreciate your fervent prayers, especially on behalf of these victims.
Photo courtesy of World Vision. Originally captioned: "Ningamma and other former devadasi are now helping World Vision advocate against temple prostitution. Photo by Dean Owen."