Sunday, May 11, 2014

Thinking About .... Prostitution

It's been a while since the Government of Canada struck down the law on prostitution effectively leaving our nation without a clear legal position.  Since then a number of groups have sprung advocating a variety of positions on the issue.  Some say we should legalize.  Some want to adopt the 'Nordic Model'.  Others share variations on a theme.  Still others want to go back to punishing women who participate in the sex trade.

It seems to me that women who are involved in the sex trade aren't there because they enjoy selling their bodies to strangers.  Most are there because there is no viable option for them. They are caught in a trap of exploitation, abuse and oppression. We need to rethink our approach to the entire issue.

Consider this... in many cases the only option these women have to feed themselves and their children is to sell their bodies.  If our approach is simply to punish buyers or sellers to the point where they can no longer do business, what happens to these women?  How do they provide for themselves and for those who depend on them?  

We need to talk about the WHY behind prostitution.  In most cases the WHY has nothing to do with sex.  Sex is simply a commodity that is being sold to address another issue.  Most women who are involved in the sex trade are impoverished.  For a variety of reasons, they are trapped in the prison of poverty.  Those reasons can be anything from a lack of education, to a lack of opportunity, to physical/mental health issues, to exploitation, to addiction and the list goes on....  The real issue in prostitution is POVERTY.

If we are serious about ending prostitution in our country, we need to get serious about ending systemic poverty.  In most cases, our approach to poverty is to provide charity. I'm not against charity, but I will never forget the wise words of a friend who told me that a money problem generally can't be solved with money.  Overcoming poverty requires us to address the root issues.  Ultimately, poverty is connected to a combination of mindset, a lack of support, education and finally opportunity.

What we think about ourselves profoundly affects what we believe about who we are.  If someone believes that poverty is as good as it gets for them, then poverty will be all they ever know.  Changing the way people enslaved in poverty think about themselves and their world is the first step to lifting them out of poverty.  Because I am a Christian, I default to the words of Jesus and the scriptures when I look for solutions to issues around me.  The bible teaches me that I am transformed by the renewing of my mind.  In other words, as I reshape my thinking, I see my life and world transformed.  For me, that shift in thinking is directly connected to embracing the words and teaching of Jesus.  For others, they will embrace someone else's teaching and hope for the same results. Sometimes they see them.  Sometimes they don't.

There are people in poverty who have changed their thinking.  They just need support as they struggle to break free.  Here too, the scriptures are clear.  We need to support those who are in poverty, not just with our charity, but through supporting the efforts of those who are seeking to break free.  It's impossible, in my mind at least to claim to be a Christ follower and not be willing to support those who are seeking to break free of poverty.  Jesus is in the people-lifting business and so are we!

Education is a key in breaking the cycle of poverty.  Education includes everything from the most basic people and life skills through to skills training and post-secondary education if necessary.  Think about this for minute...  if you had no education, no marketable skills to enable you to earn a living wage, your options would be severely limited.  Your education affords you opportunities and advantages that people who haven't had that opportunity are without.  Women who are seeking a way out of systemic poverty and the sex trade need every educational resource we can provide so that they can establish a better and brighter course for themselves and their children. Some may say that the cost of education is too high but it pales in comparison to the costs that systemic poverty creates for our society.

Finally, women seeking to break free from the sex trade need an opportunity to transition to meaningful, gainful employment.  While those opportunities may come through the private sector, it's more likely that a fresh start will require some creative partnerships between government, the private sector and the not-for-profit world.  

The Church could and should have a significant role in what I am describing.  Governments will do what is politically expedient and palatable.  The Church is duty bound to fulfil it's mandate to care for the poor, the oppressed and disadvantaged.  While we need to preach the life changing power of the gospel, we have a moral obligation to break the chains of those who are oppressed and enslaved in systemic poverty.

So... before you sign a petition asking the government to 'do something' about the current situation, perhaps it's time to prayerfully consider YOUR PART in a proactive response to the worlds oldest profession.  Signing a petition is easy.  Intentionally supporting a woman who wants to break free of the sex trade is messy and difficult, but it's more likely what Jesus would do.


Anonymous said...

I am alsoa Christian, and I approach the issue from the practical prospective. We cant legislate morality, it just dos't work.So let's loot at harm reduction, the biggest issue is woman's exploitation and the second is the health concern.
My proposal would be to legalise the and tax the "trade".
The only acceptable model I see is a coop model where no one is allowed to own the "business" .Exploitation is eliminated, mandatory medical examinations and safe sex practises should be legislated, the rest woui be up to municipalities as to what settings would it be required before licensing.
As for the moral majorityI suggest that Jesus would be more comfortable around prostitutes then our modern day Pharisees.
Serving them treaing them with dignity, people could make a difference one person at a time.
And ad long as they are all in a safe place as part owners of a coop, they would be safe till we can reach them and make a difference in thei life's.

Kevin Rogers said...

Thanks for a refreshing perspective.

In the church I pastor there are prostitutes from the neighbourhood who share in the meals and some who frequent our worship services.

Poverty is certainly a significant factor for the street workers.

I would also add that mental health and addiction are part of the milieu.

A good resource person is Katarina MacLeod from