A wealthy couple brought “Cathy” from China to the United States to be their nanny and housekeeper. She was paid next to nothing and was worked unmercifully day and night, as well as being physically and sexually abused by both the husband and wife. However, the husband—a Christian man—regularly exerted his “authority” as the “head of the household” over his wife and daughters as well. Scripture, he believed, supported his hierarchal beliefs and defended his actions. With this power behind him, he acted as the dictator in a household whose lowest subject was a female slave.
Human trafficking takes anti-egalitarian beliefs to their dangerous extreme. All people deserve equal rights and opportunities, but in human trafficking, some are slaves while others are masters. The United Nations says the majority of human trafficking victims are women, while most traffickers are men. In addition, even among traffickers, males are—more often than not—considered superior to females. Basic human rights and dignity are violated based upon stature and gender, or a combination of the two.
Modern day slaves are told where they will sleep, with whom they will sleep, what they will wear, if they will eat or not, etc., losing all control of their lives. Some traffickers tattoo their victims with a “brand” as a sign of ownership, applying the same principle that ranchers have used for years to brand their livestock. Labor trafficking victims are often smuggled into the country in containers, many of them dying en route. From psychological brainwashing techniques to torture tactics, every aspect of the slave’s life is tailored to teach her that she is in servitude to the traffickers.
Horrific as the stories are, they begin in our backyards. Although “Sarah” was a straight A student and came from a nice Christian home, she was tired of her parents’ rules. She met a new friend at school, who quickly became her boyfriend. Within three months, they went missing. Her “boyfriend” became her pimp and began selling her body to other men for sex.
Perhaps nowhere is the hierarchy of inequality more profound than in the dynamics of a pimp and his victim. He “owns” her and treats her like property that is bought and sold. He ensures that 100% of the money she brings in is brought to him by enforcing his power and control, sometimes with beatings.
One telltale saying used in sex trafficking is “pimps up, hoes down.” Misogynist beliefs justify abusing and exploiting the victim, but indicate that pimps deserve respect, and they call all the shots. Victims, referred to as “hoes,” are required to maintain a lower status. They may be forced to walk in the street while pimps walk on the sidewalk. Victims are forbidden to look an adult male in the face unless he is her pimp or someone she is soliciting. She must keep her head down in submission to her pimp. “Pimps up, hoes down,” has infinite ramifications.
In sharp contrast, in John 4, Jesus had a conversation with a “loose” woman (to the dismay of his disciples). His love and respect for her caused her to change her ways and lead many to Christ. Jesus was not embarrassed or ashamed of her reputation. It was not culturally acceptable for him as a man to have a conversation with a woman, especially a Samaritan woman. This did not dissuade Jesus from reaching out to her. Jesus accepted this woman whom others considered outside the realm of decency, or not good enough to be their friend.
Jesus’ egalitarian ways are in sharp contrast to the realities within the human trafficking world. Galatians 3:28 speaks to both slavery and gender hierarchy:
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Inspired by scripture, egalitarians are joining the fight against the oldest crime against human rights and equality. We pray for a world where Cathy and Sarah will be set free from slavery, a world where Christians will be known not for rules or false doctrine, but for following the example of our servant king.
How you can work against trafficking:
- Awareness is our first line of defense. It is said that slaves are “hidden in plain sight.” Bring in a speaker to teach your church, civic club, or other group about how to recognize human trafficking and what to do if you see it.
- You can use the discussion questions in the back of each chapter of In Our Backyard to host a nine-week study about human trafficking in your church.
- Finally, if you carry a cell phone, placing the National Human Trafficking Hotline (888-3737-888) in your phone arms you with a tool to report suspected human trafficking or even to just ask questions that come to mind.
Each of us can make a difference in our own way in this fight. Will you accept the challenge?