M. S. Thirumalai
Hiding Behind the Façade of Language Use
Our sensitivity against prostitution is blunted by change in language use referring to this evil practice. Currently, commercial prostitution is called sex trade or sex work and those individuals and groups involved in commercial prostitution are called sex workers. Several countries including Netherlands have elaborate legalized prostitution.
With the advent of the Internet, which offers some form of anonymity and thus some false security, under-aged children are also drawn and forced into this activity.
Four Million Women and Girls Forced Into Prostitution
A report suggests,
An estimated 4 million women and girls are bought and sold worldwide, either into marriage, prostitution or slavery. Many are lured into the hands of traffickers by promises of jobs. In some countries, traffickers target poor, vulnerable communities. They may arrive during a drought or before the harvest, when food is scarce, and persuade poor families to sell their daughters for small amounts of money.
Each year, at least 10,000 girls and women enter Thailand from poorer neighbouring countries and end up in commercial sex work, according to UNICEF. Some 5,000 to 7,000 Nepali girls are trafficked across the border to India each year, mostly ending up as sex workers in Mumbai or New Delhi. Although the greatest volume of trafficking occurs in Asia, Eastern European women are increasingly vulnerable. http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2000/english/ch03.html
Secular Efforts Bring in Toleration and Acceptance, Not Redemption
There is a general consensus against child prostitution and forced prostitution but, as secular trends continue to impact all of us, there is a growing tendency of toleration and acceptance of the reality of prostitution. Secular effort revolves around recognizing prostitution as a profession, which may be regulated, but not to be decried or eliminated. These “sex workers” need to be recognized as “professionals” with given rights.
Of course, there is also the recognition that the spread of HIV/AIDS may be facilitated by the sexually transmitted diseases, and to that extent protective measures may be adopted.
Missionary Training On Sensitive and Private Issues
Missionary training needs to understand these ongoing changes in attitudes in the secular world and help build a theology and practice to stop the growing exploitation of women and children. Prostitution is nothing but the exploitation of women and children, even though recent growth in male prostitution or homosexual prostitution calls for a special understanding.
Prostitution and Adultery Not accepted as Social Norms for All: the Question of Loyalty in Wedlock
Even in societies that practice polyandry, prostitution is not approved. While in physical terms, prostitution is selling one’s body to another for pleasure, etc., every culture looks at prostitution also as an act of disloyalty.
By its very nature, prostitution is committed without attaching any sense of permanence to the relations between a couple that come together in the act of prostitution. Social norms always seek some sort of permanence and continuity.
Ill-treatment of Prostitutes
So, in many traditional societies, while prostitution and prostitutes may be tolerated, accepted and even appreciated for their artistic talents, etc., (as it was the usual custom in the past in several communities in India), prostitution and prostitutes have been ill-treated at the level of social norms suggested for individuals to follow. Going to a prostitute was approved as a legitimate distraction for the wealthy male in classical Tamil society according to classical Tamil literature. And yet, neither prostitution nor prostitutes are presented as the model to emulate. They are a condemned lot in rural areas, for every evil in society they may be cited as the main reason.
Fallen Women Seek Redemption
Investigations clearly indicate that a vast majority of women involved in commercial prostitution as their mode of living, really want to leave prostitution. In fact, a survey indicated that 87% of women wanted to get out of their present condition. 78% desired a home or safe place, and 73% wanted job training in other areas. http://powerhouse-ministry.org/annielobert_prostitution.aspx. This only shows clearly that these desolate women’s God-given conscience, the inner soul, still yearns for the righteous ways of living.
Decriminalization Is Not a Process of Redemption
However, the world at large, just as it aims at desensitizing the language used to refer to prostitution, wants sort of justifying the act. For example, in 1949, the United Nations “adopted a resolution in favor of the decriminalization of prostitution for individual prostitutes, which has been ratified by fifty countries (not by the United States). Many European countries including France and the United Kingdom decriminalize prostitution per se, leaving all related activities criminal such as soliciting, advertising, etc. In 1973 the National Organization for Women passed a resolution supporting the decriminalization of prostitution.” http://www.bayswan.org/stats.html
Redemption Through the Word of God
On the other hand, the Word of God seeks to redeem those who are fallen into the act of prostitution, and not justify it. Prostitution is viewed as common, sacral and spiritual in the Old Testament. The story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38 is a moving episode that indirectly portrays the fate of prostitutes in the Hebrew society. Stoning to death for a woman to be married and found to be no virgin was a possible punishment (Deuteronomy 22:13-21). In Leviticus we find a reference that speaks against parents forcing daughters into prostitution (Leviticus 19:29). In Genesis 38:24, cited above, we also learn that burning to death could be a possible punishment for prostituting. In all these remaining pure perhaps dominates the thinking.
Moral aspects against prostitution are clearly enunciated in Proverbs, in verses such as the following:
for a prostitute is a deep pit and a wayward wife is a narrow well. Like a bandit she lies in wait, and multiplies the unfaithful among men. Proverbs 23:27-28.
A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth. Proverbs 29:3.
Scholars point out that prostitutes might have dressed themselves in some distinct ways. We see this in Proverbs 7:10, which reports, “Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.” Subsequent verses in this chapter in Proverbs also describe speech and other mannerisms of a prostitute. (Such descriptions are identified in many other cultures as well. For example, several ancient literary works in Tamil, an ancient language still spoken in south India, give similar descriptions.) In this chapter in Proverbs, adultery and prostitution are shown to be related.
Exemplary Models in the Old Testament
Even as the Old Testament speaks about prostitution and describes the evil ways of prostitutes, especially those of the female gender, we also see that the Old Testament presents the redemption of these women through several episodes. For example, we all read about the story of Rehab, who is actually a part of the genealogy of David and Jesus, our Lord.
The Old Testament recognizes the practice of religious prostitution and condemns such practices. In Deuteronomy 23:17-18, we read, “No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute. You must not bring the earnings of a female prostitute or of a male prostitute into the house of the LORD your God detests them both.”
Spiritual prostitution is greatly dealt with in the Book of Hosea and elsewhere. The life of Hosea becomes the symbolic revelation of God’s love for His people. People have deserted Him and sought after other gods and idols. And yet the heart of God is for His people. There is a guarantee that when people repented of their prostituting acts, He is going to lead them into salvation.
Spiritual prostitution is likened more to adultery than to the act of prostitution. Loyalty plays a crucial role here.
Redemption Through Repentance
Redemption comes when repentance is demonstrated. The New Testament has a number of instances where the penalty part is kept under a low key. Redemption becomes the dominant theme. Here are some of the verses that speak of the overwhelming power of repentance before the Lord Jesus Christ that bring in redemption:
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. Matthew 21:31-31.
“Sin no more” becomes the cornerstone of a redeemed fallen man or woman (John 8:3-11).
A Call for a Theology and Practice of Redemption in Our Missionary Training
As our Lord is ready and willing to forgive all those who repent of their sins, how do we give this message of hope to those 87% of women (and men) who want to get out of their present condition? Our goal is to train individuals and groups to become the bearers of Good News to all, even these women and men, and so, we need to pray and develop a theology and practice grounded in the Word of God to help redeem these persons.
6820 Auto Club Road, Suite A
Bloomington, MN 55438
M. S. Thirumalai
6820 Auto Club Road, Suite A
Bloomington, MN 55438