Pattaya is a beach town along the shores of tropical Thailand, but its not all fun in the sun. There is a nightmare coming to life here each day. It begins in the early afternoon and goes all through the night. There are upwards of 2,000,000 prostitutes in this city alone. The numbers are most likely higher, but since prostitution is actually illegal in Thailand, the exact numbers are hard to come by.
Sex slavery is ingrained in the culture here: men walk by and grab the women, lift up their skirts and touch them inappropriately as if they are intimate objects, or living dolls as one bar so lovingly calls it. These women don’t have identities, they are reduced to dolls, dolls played with and discarded.
They are countless women and children, trapped in a waking nightmare.
You can’t go anywhere in Pattaya to get away from sex slavery. It’s everywhere you go. Every time you turn your head it’s there. One of the main concentrations of go go bars is a road that is about three blocks long and is closed off to cars, called Walking Street. Immediately as you walk onto the street, the heaviness hits you: The amount of bars, the women lining the streets, every three feet another person is handing out fliers for sex shows, the street children forced to perform to make money and entertain tourists, women dancing in the windows, white men walking down the street holding the hands of their Thai “girlfriends” that they have paid for.
Thousands of tourists stand, gawking at the novelty of the street as they take pictures of the women lined up outside of bars to get men to come inside. It’s not just men there for the purpose of buying sex: its families with their children on vacation, fathers taking their young teenage sons out for a good time, young couples strolling down the street through the chaos holding hands.
Its chaos, its confusion, it feels like another universe. It’s a nightmare.
Its brokenness all around.
Why would someone bring their family to this environment? How could someone laugh as if it’s all fun and games when these women are being abused and mistreated right in front of their eyes? How do people still believe that this kind of thing is okay, or even good for people? How is it that this industry continues to happen?
The women put on a mask, they act happy and pretend to have fun. They live inside the fantasies of men, but in reality they are living out their own nightmare: they are broken and abused. The one thing that they hate the most, they have to do really well. If they aren’t acting happy or flirting like they should, the man can just move on and find some other girl. Each night is a struggle: they don’t want to have customers but on the other hand they depend on them. They need the money to survive, so they put on a happy face and scream and flirt with the men passing by. They tie their identity with whether the men give them attention, whether a man chooses them as their girl for the night.
Walking through these places day in and day out these past months it is so easy to see through it all; To see through the facade of “fun party.” As the men drown another drink, you can see the emptiness in their eyes and As the women dance and flirt, their eyes are also empty, sad, and quietly accepting that this is their life. So lets get real here, is this system really positive for anyone? It’s really more of a nightmare.
These women have no hope of anything more. I’ve asked many girls, what would their dream job be, if they didn’t have to work in the bars and none of them could give me an answer. They can’t afford to think that way, so they don’t. They live day to day, using the alcohol in the drinks bought for them to dull their sadness and eventually they get numb to their situation.
Last night we took our cameras into Walking Street. We went in with a mission: to expose the darkness in this place, to show people the truth, to expose the nightmare that is ongoing. It was so challenging. Challenging to get a good shot in all the chaos, to not show too much of the girls, to not get kicked out by the bouncers and security guards. I battled wanting to run to each girl and tell her what I was doing, to tell her she is valuable and so worthy, to tell her I’m not like all the tourists taking photos for fun, to take her by the hand and get her out of that situation, to tell her there is hope for something more.
Much of the world is so hardened. Hardened to this injustice, hardened to the ways that they live their lives spiraling into more and more sinfulness. It would be very easy for me to become disheartened, to quit my journey in missions and work a 9-5 job, but I won’t. I won’t do this because I serve a God who is faithful, a God that lives and gives hope. Just as He pursued me, He is pursuing these people that are so lost and broken. I firmly believe that God is making all things new, that He is working on bringing as many of these people back to himself that will come. He does not get impatient as we do, time is not an issue for Him. I may not see this injustice eradicated in my own lifetime, but I know by faith that one day it will be gone.
I won’t sit by idly and let this continue. I will keep fighting, praying, telling as many people as I can, but most of all I will trust that God is sovereign. He is already in the process of redemption for not only this city, but the entire world. His timing is different than mine, but I have faith that one day this nightmare on walking street will be finally over.
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:8-9