Wednesday, March 5, 2014

“Compliant Victims” of Human Trafficking

In an ongoing discussion I’m having with a good friend about police crackdowns on prostitution in our area, The question is asked: What about “compliant victims,” those who “seemingly willingly enter into trafficking”? After all, “in these instances, it is difficult to determine whether a victim is being trafficked, or entering into their circumstances of their own volition.”
The question pretty much gives away the answer. If you can’t tell whether a person is being trafficked, it’s not clear what to do, is it? Shouldn’t the first question be, Is this person being trafficked? If so, the first priority is to set that person free from captivity; only after that – but I would want to see it immediately after that – should action be taken against the trafficker.
Governing the entire process should be the ethos that people are innocent until proven guilty and that innocent people’s lives and property – even those of people in professions we wish there were no market for – are sacred. The idea that we can stop trafficking by going after those who (as far as we know) would patronize only legal merchants if given the chance is just wrong.
For one thing, the Bible nowhere tells us to put prostitutes and those involved with intoxicants in cages. If you think it even allows us to do so, tell me this: how long does the Bible tell us a 17-year-old first-time prostitute should spend in jail? Should she also have her name in the paper? Should she also be mutilated so she is no longer a desirable product?
Consider, please, the possibility that the lack of biblical guidance on the subject, far from being a license for libertine social planner wannabes to do what is right in their own eyes, is an indication that this is an instance of “‘Vengeance is mine,’ says the Lord, ‘I will repay.’”
The introduction of “compliant victims” doesn't change the basic situation: either people are being coerced or they aren’t. One of the articles linked to above tells of a bunch of do-gooder thugs who raided a brothel in Nicaragua and afterward admitted that they couldn’t tell the difference between “compliant victims of human trafficking and legal prostitutes.” They hassled each equally, disrupting legal business, but without necessarily rescuing victims of trafficking, since they didn’t know who they were! This is madness.
I asked my friend where, if he wanted to traffic a prostitute, he would do it. Would he do it in Elko, Nevada, or Bangkok, where prostitution is legal, or would he do it in Philadelphia, where it’s not? He replied Philadelphia – there would be no market for slaves in the other places. If you want to know why, after trillions of dollars and countless lives have gone down the drain, trafficking of drugs and prostitutes is worse than ever, you need look no further than the unbiblical laws against them. Repeal the laws against them, and they won’t go away, but we can stop wasting money dealing with the symptoms of man’s rebellion against God and get down to the root.
One good way to do that would be to take the resources we currently spend on hassling druggies and prostitutes and equip them to make decent livings in ways we approve of.
Again: if we Christians want to do effective work in Jesus' name to make disciples of all nations, we need to stop doing things he hasn't commanded us to do – like caging women so desperate they resort to prostitution and people who grow plants God planted in Eden – and start doing what he has most definitely charged us to do, specifically securing the release of those unjustly imprisoned (Matt 25:36) by kidnappers – and by governments.


  1. We take different paths but arrive at the same destination. Well written, Henry.

  2. Thanks, Darren. Good to know I get read once in a while!