April 18, 2012

The Price of FREEDOM

If you are anything like me, the stories that have been breaking in the news about secret service agents paying for sex in Colombia probably have you sick to your stomach. Even seeing the headlines (even typing the words) makes my blood boil. Without turning this into a political debate (because these types of behaviors know no party lines) let’s make this a discussion about the culture of the sex trade.


Much of the sex trade is based on power- the person purchasing the service is the one with the power in many third world countries (and even in the US). The person that they are paying (which is most often a pimp) has the power to sell a woman and profit from her body. And the women that are being purchased? Their voices are taken away. They are treated as property. We sit in our Bible study groups and have a chuckle about brides in Biblical times being traded for a dowry of goats, yet we turn our heads and look the other way when women in today’s world are treated as a sexual commodity up for purchase. It’s uncomfortable. It’s not fun to think about- so we don’t.

I recently read Ashley Judd’s book, All That Is Bitter and Sweet, about her time spent teaching indigenous people in brothels about the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, crisis pregnancies and about making choices to take back some of the power that they lose when women are forced into being sex workers. The message is wonderful. But let’s be honest- that message will not possibly make it into every brothel across the world. Millions of women all over the world are still enslaved to sexual trafficking. Their bodies are not their own. They suffer health and family consequences as a result of the decisions that they are forced to make on a daily basis.

As people sitting in our cozy homes in America, it’s difficult for us to understand why these women don’t just run away. It’s unfathomable for us to imagine being hunted down like an animal by a pimp who feels that he has ownership over you. It’s unimaginable that we would be forced to perform sexual acts (many to the detriment of our health) while our own children played on the floor next to us because there was nowhere else for them to go. We can’t wrap our brains around the fact that in exchange for our very personhood we are barely given enough money to survive and to keep our children alive.

Now let’s talk about these sex slaves not as grown women, but as children. Yes, that’s right. Children as young as 5 and 6 years old are being traded for sex. Is your blood pressure rising yet? Mine is. I consider myself a fierce advocate for children, yet in the 30 years that I’ve been alive, more than 30 million children (according to UNICEF) have lost their innocence to the child sex industry. This is unacceptable. I think of my own children, skipping rope down the driveway and sitting at the kitchen table working on math problems. Nowhere does sex factor into this equation. IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO. Children are supposed to be children, and yet we let this happen to “other people’s children” right under our noses.

We like to think of this as a third world problem. After all- our government workers are going to places like Colombia for this type of “recreation”. But it is estimated that there are nearly 150,000 enslaved sex workers in our own backyards. Yes, that’s right folks, it’s a problem in our own communities. And if you really want to get good and made about it- let me tell you this. Our government in the last 11 years has only worked to assist about 1000 of these victims in their escape from sexual slavery. Less than 1%. If you want to talk about the 99%, let’s talk about it like this.

I’d like to think that most of us either don’t know that this is happening or we truly just don’t know what to do about it and that is why we allow this to continue. Today, I’m giving you something simple to do about it. Skip your dinner out tonight and eat PB&J at home. That new shirt you were going to buy? Leave it on the rack. The expensive paper towels you just put in your cart? Pick up the cheaper ones and let’s see if we can’t come up with something better to do with the difference of a dollar. That hot new song you can’t live without hearing? Don’t download it today. Turn on your computer and listen to it for free on youtube and watch the power of that dollar you save change someone’s life.

Last month, I told you about FORGO- an app that you can download to your phone and use it to donate money that you save by making daily lifestyle choices. This month, FORGO is partnering with Freeset to help rescue women and girls out of the sex trade in Calcutta, India- the country’s largest red light district. Women and girls are taken out of the brothels and delivered to safety. This precious woman is given medical care. Her loans are paid off. (Many women have to borrow money to pay for things like child birth and medical bills) She is taught a skill so that she can make a living wage. Her children are put in daycare so that they are in a safe place and are being taken care of instead of wandering the streets while mom works to provide for them. Freeset even helps set these women up for retirement.

Healthy, whole moms change the lives of their children. Healthy families make healthy communities. It just makes good sense. But for this to happen, we all have to be a part of it. No one else is going to step in and do it. The cost to deliver one woman from a life of sexual slavery and restore her to a woman who is honored and respected and whole is about $475. It’s hard to think of each life in terms of a price tag. If that was our mother, or our sister, or our daughter, we would move Heaven and Earth to make that $475 happen. These are our sisters. Let’s help our sisters. Let’s show them we value them. FORGO.

This woman is a former sex worker.  A woman who now can hold her head up high in FREEDOM.  Tiny lifestyle decisions do this.  Tiny decisions make an impact and this valuable sister can now make a difference for her family and for her whole community. 
I want to throw down the gauntlet.  I want the Millions of Miles audience to single handly bring a girl out of the sex trade.  I want you awesome people to be a part of helping a woman provide for her family.  I want YOU to be responsible for showing a precious woman that she is worthy and that her children matter.  If you are a reader here and you FORGO something (anything!) at the end of your transaction, you will be given the option to share with the world that you made a difference in the life of a woman.  This is not meant to be "showy" or "braggy".  This is meant to educate, advocate, and inspire others to make small decision to impact others.  If you share your FORGO- please tag Millions of Miles on Facebook. (by typing @Millions of miles) so that we can all encourage one another. If every fourth person that reads this post today decided to forgo a soft drink- we could do this by dinner time today.  LET'S DO IT!  I'm kicking it off by FORGO-ing taking the kids out for ice cream after school.  We have perfectly good popsicles sitting in the freezer.  That's $7 toward the price of freedom for a woman.
To get started FORGO-ing, go to forgo.it from your smartphone.  (this is a mobile app and it only works from mobile devices)  But don't worry- if you've decided to FORGO a smart phone- the technology is coming to do this from your computer.  Be patient :-)  For a full tutorial (and all the scoop) on FORGO- click HERE.  If you want to follow FORGO on Facebook and watch the running tally for how many girls are rescued from bondage, check out their FB page.

Keep spreading the word.  EVERY WOMAN MATTERS.

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