Activity: Go to the red light districts.
Price: 200 Baht/ $6 USD for a drink at a go-go bar.
500 Baht/ $15 USD for a girl for the night.
Location: Take your pick. Patpong, Nana, Soi Cowboy…
While we were in Bangkok, we went to the red light districts every night, but not for peep shows, beer, and sex. We prayer walked and reached out to the women in the bars with NightLight International.
Like I said in another post, Lonely Planet travel books tells tourists all about the go-go bars and the “sex industry” in Bangkok. While Lonely Planet tries to sanitize the brothels by making it seem as if the women working there are sex-addicts, desperate for western “love” or something, in reality, the young women working in these bars are there because of family pressure to send home money or find a western husband.
They don’t like the “work”- in fact, while they make themselves up as the darkness rolls in each evening, they put on invisible masks to distance themselves from the harsh reality of their world. As I sat across from a young woman in one of the bars and asked her how her job was going, her face darkened, tears welled up in her eyes, and as she shook her head slightly while bravely forcing a smile. We talked for a few minutes, before the bar owner called her to dance on the bar in a thong. As she took off her skirt and climbed up onto the bar, she put her mask back on. As tourists hooted at her with lust in their eyes, my heart ached.
From talking with her, I knew how much she hated her job, but she comes back each night because her father is in debt, and she doesn’t know how else she can earn money to help him. She is 21 years old, just like me, but some of the girls in the bars are much younger. Some families send their daughters to Bangkok with a “friend,” knowing full well what kind of “gainful employment” awaits them. In Thailand, daughters are easily sacrificed for the sake of the family.
I noticed a middle aged American tourist eying her greedily. He called a bar girl and pointed to her. The next thing I knew, the young girl came off the bar and went to sit with him. He was too close and too drunk… and the entire situation was too terrible. Soon another girl joined the man. There he sat, feeling like the king of the hill, arms wrapped around the naked shoulders of two young does. He didn’t know their names or stories or anything about them… they were just girls with numbers pinned on their bikinis. Flesh, ripe for his picking. Another younger tourist sat on a bar stool, flirting, laughing, and throwing money in the air. Maybe he got some perverse pleasure from watching the women scramble on the floor to pick up the cash. The whole scene was so dehumanizing, and the men so arrogant. Maybe they, like many other sex tourists, thought they were knights in shining armor- saviors, as if their patronage would really help the women make something of their lives.
Fortunately, before the night was over, I had a chance to tell the young girl about NightLight’s jewelry shop- an opportunity for her to find safe and dignifying employment, free from objectification, abuse, and risk of STDs. Although the look on her face told me she didn’t believe getting out was an option at this point, I hope and pray that she remembers and takes that opportunity in the future. (Here is an article that the BBC wrote about a woman who left prostitution with NightLight’s help.)
According to the UN, 60% of men who go to Thailand are there for sex. So much for the stories about “business trips” and “visiting the temples.” You can help by praying against the sexual strongholds both in Thailand and in the lives of the tourists that perpetuate this evil. Pray for the women trapped in this lifestyle. Pray for the organizations that bring the light of Christ into the darkness of the red-light districts each night. And please, write to Lonely Planet and demand that they remove their endorsement of the go-go bars, brothels, and strip clubs in Bangkok from their tourist books.
The challenges are great, but we know our God is bigger.
The battle belongs to the LORD.