[From the archives.]
The mother stood in my courtroom, arguing for custody; the father hadn’t bothered to show up. She had no lawyer but was well dressed, well groomed and well spoken. I’d read through her paperwork and didn’t see her occupation, so I asked her.
“I’m an exotic dancer.”
Exotic dancer? I asked in my head. You mean like a stripper?
Out loud I coughed slightly and said, “And what’s your monthly income?”
She told me, and by the end of the hearing I awarded her custody of her son.
Later back in chambers I had a question for my clerk. “That mom, the exotic dancer. Do you think that means she’s a stripper?”
“Oh come on, Judge,” she said from her desk. “What other kind of exotic dancer is there?”
That led me to another question.
What kind of society is it that makes young fathers feel that they can leave their children behind, forcing the mother to raise the child all on her own?
A Community Subsisting on the Sex Trade
Here’s an article that broke my heart and brought me hope at the same time.
A village in Gujarat hosted a mass wedding and engagement ceremony of 21 girls on Sunday aimed at breaking a tradition of prostitution which has for centuries exploited women of a poor, marginalised and once nomadic community in the region.
The article explains that this village’s inhabitants once served warring factions by selling their daughters to warlords as entertainers, dancers, sex slaves. The government has tried to help the village build an economy, but farming isn’t as profitable as prostitution so they continued to sell their daughters. One government official said, “Prostitution is a tradition which this community adopted for ages and it has been very normal for them. They did not think they were doing anything wrong.”
Where did I find hope in this? Working as a prostitute lasts only until the woman is engaged to be married so the government and a group of social activists organized a mass wedding of young women before they entered the sex trade. Eight got married and thirteen more got engaged, ending the possibility of life as a prostitute for those twenty-one young women. In a village of 50,000 people it’s not much, but it’s a start.
It didn’t come cheap. The activists spent $18,000 to make this happen. In a country where the average annual salary is about $1,300 this is a fortune.
We who belong to Jesus Christ should be able to relate. We’ve been ransomed too. The ransom was high: it cost Jesus his life. But that’s who he is, it’s what he does. He sets captives, slaves, the oppressed free!
Our Neighbors: oppressed, captive, enslaved
It’s easy to look at that village and shake our heads at how a society could go so far down that road, so far that prostitution is not only condoned but depended upon for daily sustenance.
Remember the young mother I spoke of at the beginning of this article? That’s not in some far off village of former nomads. That’s here and now.
She takes her son to school, she goes to PTA meetings and parent/teacher conferences, she drives him to soccer practice, and she goes to court to make sure there is a legal order that says she gets to make the decisions about what’s best for her son.
She works as an exotic dancer to make this all possible.