Last week I caught a glimpse of the underworld of illicit prostitution. Along a dimly lit street in Chiang Mai, on our way to a night market, the HELP group accidently had stumbled upon one of the hubs of prostitution in Thailand. The streets were lined with bars, karaoke clubs, and massage parlors. Girls were everywhere--they lined the streets outside the parlors, they sat on bar stools, they peeked out from dark rooms. Foreign men were around every corner, could be found in every "business," inside, outside, walking, sitting, prowling, drinking, talking. Most where old and white, traveling the streets alone. Some had already found a girl, and the ones still in the bars were busy eating and drinking with these girls, girls half their age, girls dressed in next to nothing, with enough makeup to shine through the grime and blackness of the night.
How do these men, lacking all tact, openly partake in such an evil thing?
Do they consider the possibility that a prostitute does not choose to have sex with them, but is forced to do so, for varying reasons? Do they consider that she might have been taken from her home country and family, into a world that is dark, horrible, and terrifying, but worse, a world that offers little to no option of escape? What can you say to these people, who are our everyday neighbors, coworkers, and church members back home, and who have come to a foreign country to escape the rules and laws of their home countries? Do they know it is illegal? And more importantly, do they know that it is wrong?
In Thailand, as in the rest of the world, evil is alive and well. But here it is different. Here the hidden escape from the surface of things, exposing ordinary people to a world we would not have ordinarily seen back home. It is a reality that I find hard to grasp. It is an image that I cannot forget.
I believe in the overwhelming goodness of people, in all sappy ideas like hope, peace, and love thy neighbor. But I also believe many people have forgotten what it means to be good, and what it is to be evil. Whether someone trafficks a person, or buys a person for sex (after they have been trafficked), it is the same thing.
I hope that I will not lose my dreams here. But when I see such things, I wonder how any of us make it out alive.