What's it like to spend each day reaching out to sex workers in an Eastern European city. One project worker shares her story
I remember sitting in a night club talking to two Romanian women who looked close to 30. They were very beautiful, spoke some English, and seemed intelligent. I asked them what they do on their days off. They told me that they work seven days a week and don’t have a day off.
They shared that they work every night until around 6am. After that, they go to bed and sleep the whole day until the evening. Then they wake up and slowly start getting ready for another night of strip dancing in front of customers who laugh, tease, and taunt them; prostituting their bodies all night long to as many customers as possible.
As I listened to this bleak description of their lives, I thought it impossible that any human person could survive working seven days a week continuously with no days off. Prostitution is an emotionally challenging and potentially devastating form of employment; I could not imagine what state of mind these women must be in. I asked them how long they have been doing this, and the answer staggered me: 12 years! They told me they do it by their own free will and choice.
The question in my mind was whether I could believe that these women were really choosing to work seven days a week with no holiday. To me, it did not seem likely. The look of hopelessness and deep emptiness in their eyes convinced me that they have not chosen this life for themselves. Many of the ladies we meet in the brothels speak no English or Czech.
Further questions arose in my mind, such as how does a woman who speaks no English or Czech manage to travel to the Czech Republic, secure employment at a night club, and the relevant visa and papers necessary to work legally? I do not think this would be easily possible without the help of someone who is familiar with the Czech Republic’s sex industry. It is my belief that in most of these situations there is a pimp involved, and in more dire cases a trafficker.
Many people are not aware that modern-day slavery still exists. There is a very serious problem with prostitution and human trafficking in the Czech Republic. Through hundreds of conversations with different women, over the past five years of working in the Czech Republic in this field, I have come to believe that many women have been trafficked.
Trapped and hopeless
Many Czech people ask me why the ladies don’t just leave. I cannot speak on behalf of the women, and I am hesitant to categorise all women’s situations together, as each woman has her own personal story. I have found that even within the same night club, the stories of the women working there are vastly different and varied.
Some women have pimps, and some don’t. Each woman has a different 'contract' with those who get her into the sex industry, and some have no contract at all, just hoping to survive. Some believe they are doing this for love – sometimes boyfriends have trafficked their girlfriends. There are a few university students who are trying to save money towards schoolbooks and so on, but they are in the minority.
Most of the women in the brothels are those who have reached the end of their options; they feel trapped and have an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.
Responsibility for bringing justice
There is a brokenness and darkness to the sex industry, and Jesus calls us to be the light. There are heavy chains on those who are engaged in the sex industry, some are psychological and some may be physical.
All of us have friends and people around us. Would it be possible for us to start to share the message of what is happening in the night clubs with those we know? Would it be possible to speak the truth boldly into our societies about the injustice and exploitation taking place?
The women in the night clubs do not have a platform from which to share their desperation and sadness over the injustices they face.
Proverbs 31:8-9 tells us to,
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”