There is a demographic within the issue of prostitution and sex trafficking that is overlooked. And I myself am guilty of this ignorance.
While in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we had the privilege of meeting an organization called Urban Light. It is a bit of an extraordinary story, but basically one incredible young woman from the US saw a problem and decided to do something about it. She was visiting Thailand to learn more about sex trafficking when she came across a group of young boys bring sexually exploited. And what she realized was no one was helping them. So for the past 3 years, Urban Light has existed to give these young boys all over Thailand a hope for their future.
I must admit that I was unexpectedly touched by what this organization is doing and the situation these boys are in. Most of them are only teenagers, pushed by their own families to make money by whatever means necessary. As a result of this pressure and responsibility, the boys end up working in the bar scene every night, going home with a Western man 3-4 times their age only to do the same thing again and again.
My first encounter with these boys was on a day trip to a lake where we played frisbee, swam in the water, ate a picnic lunch, and laugh a lot! They reminded me of my cousins, who use to tease me and drive me nuts sometimes when we were growing up. They were just typical adolescent boys, full of life and energy. As the day began to wind down and dusk approached, one by one the boys left. It was time to go to work. I had to fight back tears as suddenly I felt like an older sister watching her brothers walk right into harms way. I cannot explain the sudden connection I felt for these boys, but my heart told me it was real.
Later that night as we went to do some filming of the red light district, we saw some of the boys from Urban Light. No longer carefree, the night brought an uncomfortable silence as we all stood there knowing what the boys were doing at the bars. Again, I was overcome with emotion as one of the bar managers signaled for the boys to get back to work. I suppose it was obvious that we were not actual customers and I did not want them to be reprimanded, but it was so hard to let them go.
As frustrating and heartbreaking as this situation is, I must remember Urban Light. They are fighting for these boys, and my prayer and hope is that more would join in. This is not merely an issue of prostitution and sexual exploitation, but of poverty, cultural pressure and dynamics, lack of education, and broken people. It affects men, women, and children; the suppliers and the consumers.
We cannot pretend this issue does not exist, we cannot say we are helpless to fight back. With knowledge comes responsibility, right? It is a heavy burden to bear, but I will gladly choose it over ignorance.
What will you do with the information you are given?
Please contact me or go to Urban Light if you have any questions. They are a non-profit and operate on the generosity of others!