Home > sexuality, slavery > >Sex slavery

>Sex slavery

>This is an article written by Justin Holcomb of the University of Virginia. It comprises a chapter in Mark Driscoll’s Porn Again Christian.

A warning, this is extremely disturbing reading. Consider carefully whether you wish to know this information before you read the article.

Driscoll has further chapters on this issue titled,

This verse seems apt,

” ‘Woe! Woe, O great city,
O Babylon, city of power!
In one hour your doom has come!’

“The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more—cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men.” (Revelation 18 NIV)


Sex Slavery

Over the past three decades the world has witnessed four distinct waves of trafficking for sexual exploitation1. The first wave of trafficked women came from Southeast Asia in the 1970s and was composed mostly of Thai and Filipino women. The second wave arrived in the early 1980s and was made up of women from Africa, mainly Ghana and Nigeria. The third wave, from Latin America, followed right behind and was comprised of women mostly from Colombia, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic. The newest wave is from Eastern and Central Europe. Just a decade ago these women did not even register in the sex trafficking radar screen. Today they represent more than 25 percent of the trade.

There is a wall of complacency, complicity, and corruption that has allowed this trade to explode recently. Sex trafficking runs by the laws of supply and demand. Demand is generated by thousands of men. Economic, social, cultural, and gender factors make women and girls vulnerable to being exploited as an endless supply2.

The international political economy of sex not only includes the supply side—the women of the third world, the poor states, or exotic Asian women—but it cannot maintain itself without the demand from the organizers of the trade—the men from industrialized and developing countries. The patriarchal world system hungers for and sustains the international subculture of docile women from underdeveloped countries. These women are forced or lured into the trade of providing international sexual services. Men accept this world order as well, regardless of their background. The world that is so satisfying to too many men is the same world that is utterly devastating to too many women and girls.

How Are Women Procured?

The Trafficking in Person Report is an annual report that serves as the primary diplomatic tool through which the U.S. Government encourages partnership and increased determination in the fight against forced labor, sexual exploitation, and modern-day slavery. In the 2008 report, these true stories were documented:

Lila, a 19-year-old Romanian girl who had already endured physical and sexual abuse from her alcoholic father, was introduced by an “acquaintance” to a man who offered her a job as a housekeeper/ salesperson in the U.K. When she arrived in the U.K., the man sold her to a pimp and Lila was forced into prostitution. She was threatened that she would be sent home in pieces if she did not follow every order. After an attempted escape, her papers were confiscated and the beatings became more frequent and brutal. Months later, after being re-trafficked several times, Lila was freed in a police raid. She was eventually repatriated back to Romania where, after two months, she fled from a shelter where she had been staying. Her whereabouts are unknown.

Nineteen-year-old So-Young stands at less than five feet tall after being chronically malnourished in North Korea. A refugee, she crossed illegally into China with hopes of a better life, but found instead a nightmare of sexual exploitation. An “employer” offered her approximately $1.40 per day in exchange for work—money that So-Young planned on sending back to her family. Deceived by this empty promise, So-Young spent the next several months being passed between handlers. Just days before she was to be purchased by a forty-year-old Chinese man, So-Young managed to escape with the help of a local pastor. Three years later, she was forcibly repatriated to North Korea where she was imprisoned for six months before escaping once more to China. Traffickers kidnapped her once again, repeatedly raping her prior to her sale. Her new “husband” also raped her multiple times before she was able to escape. So-Young remains in hiding today: “There are many people coming out of North Korea, but they don’t have anywhere to go and no other choice but to go that route [into China].”

Samya lived with her mother, step-father and three brothers in a small Cairo apartment. When her step-father raped her, she ran away from home and started living on the streets at the age of 14. She met a group of street kids who, like her, had fled abuse at home. After two months on the streets begging for food and avoiding harassment from police, she met Shouq, an older lady who allowed some of the street girls to stay with her. The first night Samya stayed at Shouq’s apartment, Shouq told her she would have to earn her keep by having sex with male clients for the equivalent of $16. Samya, afraid to live on the streets and fearful of returning home, had sex with several men a day for nearly one year; Shouq kept all of the money.

Kunthy and Chanda were trafficked into prostitution at ages 13 and 14. Held captive in a dilapidated structure in Phnom Penh that locals called the “Anarchy Building,” the girls were raped nightly and routinely beaten, drugged, and threatened by the brothel-keeper and pimps. The girls were released thanks to police intervention and placed in safe aftercare homes. The brothel owner and pimp were prosecuted, tried, and sentenced to 15 and 10 years in prison, respectively, for trafficking and pimping children. Today, Chanda lives in a local aftercare home where she receives excellent care; she wants to become an English translator. Kunthy’s dream is to own an Internet café and design Web sites for businesses. Right now, she works at a local NGO, attends a computer training school, and lives in a transitional housing facility that allows her both freedom and security.

Mary, a young Kenyan woman, met a German tourist in his late sixties at a beach resort and he impressed her with presents and pampering. After departing Kenya, he convinced her to visit him in Germany, but immediately upon her arrival he confiscated her passport and forced her into prostitution. “He raped me, as did the men I was forced to pick at the bar.” Lucy’s health then deteriorated. “I knew it was time to escape—or risk death trying.” Fortunately, Lucy was able to gain access to a telephone and seek help from German police who then rescued her from her trafficker.

Women do not sign up for sexual slavery. Most of girls were recruited or coerced into prostitution. Others were “traditional wives” without job skills who escaped from or were abandoned by abusive fathers or husbands and went into prostitution to support themselves and their child
ren3. There are numerous ways that women are procured for the sex trade. Below are the most prevalent:4

  1. Bogus recruiters offer prospective job seekers a “complete package” for positions abroad. These offers don’t require prior work experience, and they almost always seek young, preferably single, women. These arrangements often include training, travel documents, and airfare, at no cost to the applicant. In 95 percent of these cases, the promised job does not exist.
  2. Ads are placed in seemingly legitimate employment agencies. Some set up “career day” booths at universities and offer “contracts.” These firms are nothing more than hunting grounds for criminal networks involved in the sex industry.
  3. Relatives, neighbors, or acquaintances can gain trust and approach a young woman or her family with an offer to help her land a job abroad. These culprits include teachers, orphanage workers, police officers and their wives, etc.
  4. Other trafficked women lure in new women. Sometimes this is the only way for the old ones to escape. Sometimes pimps give them the option of going home if they can reel in a certain number of other women.
  5. Sometimes family members (parents, siblings, spouses, etc.) sell women or girls into sex slavery.
  6. New boyfriends also lure women by promising a night out and then force them into waiting vehicles to sell them to pimps or traffickers.
  7. Outright abduction is one of the most terrifying. Women and girls are simply taken while walking home from school or work.
  8. The most horrible is the targeting of orphans. Many girls are at risk when they must leave the orphanage when they graduate at sixteen or seventeen. Most have no resources or funds for living expenses or any education or training to get a job. Traffickers often know when these girls are going to be turned out of the institution and are waiting for them with job offers. Sometimes girls are even purchased from orphanage workers.
  9. Drugs also play a role in procuring and keeping women. Some women are involved in sexual exploitation because they need money for their addiction. But many are forced drugs to make them compliant and to incapacitate them.

It is important to note that not every woman is an innocent dupe. In fact, police and government officials often go to great lengths to stress that some of these women willingly enter the trade. In their eyes, this so-called willingness justifies their apathy and indifference. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even the “willing” women have no idea of what really awaits. It’s true that many women know full well when they accept a job offer that they’ll be working in some aspect of the sex industry—massage parlors, strip clubs, peep shows, and escort agencies. The vast number of women are not aware of the nature or conditions of the work that awaits them. Women are told they will earn $5,000 a month, live in luxury, have three days off, and be able to pick their clients. Also, the “contracts” they sign are for three months, after which time, they are told they are free to leave.

Most women are put into debt bondage, unable to pay off the high interest rate their pimp charges them. They are sold in markets, raped, forced to service ten to thirty men a day, can’t refuse any paying customer, are given no sick days and no days off for their periods, get pregnant, acquire HIV and other STDs or medical and psychological problems, and experience constant abuse and frequent gang rapes.

Customers of these women are sex tourists, U.N. peacekeeper and international humanitarian aid workers, U.S. military men, and local men in the area. The presence of these “mongers” has provided a valuable, readymade market for local brothel keepers trading in trafficked women.

“Breaking” the Women

In secret training centers, thugs snap the spirit and will of their terrified hostages. Women are quickly raped, often a few times. Their travel documents are taken and their activities are tightly controlled and restricted. They are locked in their rooms where they “work” and are under constant guard. They are warned that if they attempt escape they will be severely punished. And they are told that if they do escape their families are targeted. Often, they are videotaped or photographed in embarrassing sexual encounters, and warned that if they escape, the pictures will be sent to their families and hometowns. One woman forced into sex slavery shares her story:

There were many women in this one apartment. Some were crying. Others looked terrified. We were told not to speak to each other. Not to tell each other our names or where we were from. All the time, very mean and ugly men came in and dragged girls into the rooms. Sometimes they would rape girls in front of us. They yelled at them, ordering them to move certain ways . . . to pretend excitement . . . to moan. . . . It was sickening. Those who resisted were beaten. If they did not cooperate, they were locked in dark cellars with rats with no food or water for three days. One girl refused to submit to anal sex, and that night the owner brought in five men. They held her on the floor and every one of them had anal sex on her in front of us all. She screamed and screamed, and we all cried. That girl killed herself the next day.5

After women are beaten and threatened, they are sold to brothel and bar owners that service the huge numbers of foreigners who make up sex tourists, international peacekeeping forces, and U.S. military men. The level of physical violence and psychological intimidation used to control these women is deliberate and extreme. It’s meant to instill fear—to crush them, destroy their will, and force them to comply. Some women have been mutilated and murdered as punishment for refusing to engage in the sex trade. Some are killed as examples to other women. In short, women are forced to do whatever it takes with whoever pays, and they are forced to do it with a smile on their face, a sparkle in their eye, and a moan on their lips. But all this is done because they will be killed and discarded if they do not.


1 Victor Malarek, The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2003), pp. 1–7.
2 For a thorough explanation of these factors, see Kathryn Farr, Sex Trafficking: The Global Market in Women and Children (New York: Worth Publishers), pp. 132–162 (Chapter 5—“From Here to There: Sex Trafficking Flows and the Economic Conditions That Drive Them”).
3 Denise Gamache and Evelina Giobbe, Prostitution: Oppression Disguised as Liberation, National Coalition against Domestic Violence, 1990.
4 Victor Malarek, The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2003), pp. 9–29 (Chapter 1—“Smuggler’s Prey”).
5 Victor Malarek, The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2003), p. 33.

Categories: sexuality, slavery
  1. 2008 December 21 at 01:46

    It is difficult to understand how people get so evil… we need to be continuously reminded of these women so that we do what we can to stop it, reminded without going numb to it…
    I fear that without actually interacting with these women or at least people who are working with them, that I will have no intensity to see change…

  2. 2008 December 22 at 01:11

    Much of the apathy comes from the complete inability to do anything. THe crime is horendous, but many of us are so impotent that we have to turn to apathy to sleep at night.
    Its the real problem in the church that we have lost the faith to believe that we can do something about this stuff. Christians throughout history have done the impossible, but so many of us have accepted the lie that there is nothing we can do.

  3. 2008 December 22 at 06:59

    Two things come to mind, beyond the obvious that this is a horrendous thing. Mainly my thoughts boil down to supply and demand. I think it is obvious, from human nature, that there will always be demand for prostitutes. The problem, as detailed in your post, is when demand outstrips a willing supply. Because it is illegal there is money to be made by those with no conscience and because it is entirely underground there can be no protections for these poor women. From a supply side, this would happen less if it were legal as it would be open and there would be at least a semblance of protection for these women.
    The bigger side of this equation is the demand. In our fallen world all (wo)man will act upon his lusts to one extent or another. Unless of course, there is something influencing them to act in a manner not consistent with our fallen nature. That something is religion, specifically one of the big three, Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The former two become part of an internal code that influences behavior with little external pressure (in our modern religions.) Islam on the other hand is both internal and, where it is the law of the land, external as well. Islam teaches restraint in (some) moral matters, and is willing to enforce them in a violent manner. As religion is on the wane in western society sex trafficking will continue and increase as that internal pressure towards moral restraint is removed more and more. As Vox has said, in a post-Christian society it is the burka or the brothel for women.

  4. 2008 December 23 at 08:12

    TMYU, jc_freak, I agree being informed and reminded is helpful. I am not sure we all have to be involved in every issue. While God does not wish us to be slack in doing good works, he does have different works for different people. Some are to speak against abortion, some are to fight slavery, some are to speak up for the poor and oppressed, some are to preach the gospel, some are to teach disciples.
    It can also be overwhelming in this globalised world. Even those sent to the poor cannot possibly help every poor person. So I think we need to find what God has for us and do it, while working on our own sin nature to squash it—it is meaningless to preach against war if you beat your wife.
    Erik, I don’t know the solution. Slavery was outlawed at the same time it was ended, though the parallel is difficult as we are seeking to end sex-slavery, not necessarily prostitution. Read some other chapters in Driscoll’s book, he covers prostitution in the army. Even if “legal” many involved, seemingly-voluntarily, do not wish to be. Prostitution is not illegal in New Zealand yet it is not decreasing. While the law does not give one the power to be free of sin, it can be a guide as to what is acceptable. It is possible that people’s attitudes have changed from, “it happens but it is wrong,” to, “it happens and it is perfectly acceptable.”

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: