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Friday, 13 July 2012

The Women In The Window

Before I start this post I want to make one thing very clear.  I am against the abuse of women, children, men and animals.  (You might think this doesn't need to be said but it does unfortunately.)  All use of another person, whether through prostitution, pornography, etc., for ones own gratification is a sort of abuse.  It doesn't matter to me if money has changed hands.  It doesn't matter to me if its legal.  It doesn't matter to me if people argue that these women, men, children want to do this, that it's their choice.  What matters to me is the worth and dignity of human life.

When I write this, I am not judging these women who stand in windows or on street corners or elsewhere.  I do however struggle with anger toward the men who use them.  Also toward the people and tourists who stroll around these streets and designated districts, pointing and exclaiming at what they see as though it were some sort of festival.  Human misery on display.  Break open the popcorn and let's be shocked and amused from a safe distance and then travel home again and share our little adventure.  Get a bit of thrill and then go back to the safety of the hotel.

Contrary to what we'd all like to believe, many prostitutes that work legally are not there by choice.  To think this is the ultimate naivety.  Human trafficking is alive and well and many reporters believe that there are more victims of this today than ever before in history.  I naturally can't claim to know what happens in each individual case but generally, a woman or child is taken, left alone for awhile in a little room somewhere.  Then raped and beaten repeatedly and violently for days and made dependent on drugs and after that, they are put out to practice.  In the case of children, most who are forced into prostitution die very young because their bodies simply can't handle such treatment.  Unless I just have a terrible sense of humor, there is nothing funny about it.  I've thought and thought and can't even think of one thing that makes me smile about this situation.  Nothing that would make gawking from the sidelines okay.  

If you have a daughter, would it be fine with you if she was treated this way?  And to add insult to injury, if people found nothing wrong with her abuse and enjoyed walking by, making crude comments about her, pointing at her as though she were an animal in a cage? 

 I remember walking in broad daylight through Amsterdam's red light district with my mom and my sister on one of our first days there.  Typically for us, we had gotten lost.  None of us wanted to go there but we ended up there just the same.  We had been walking from a distant area of the city, talking, laughing, being silly.  Suddenly the mood seemed to shift.  It wasn't actually physically darker out but it felt that way.  There was a heavy and oppressive feeling in the air that made our laughter seem out of place as indeed it was.  I remember looking around and seeing women posing in the windows.  Most were staring boldly (it looked like a defensive stance to me as if daring someone to say something) out into the street but not actually at anybody.

But as I walked by one window, a younger girl (I would guess 16 or 17 years old) stood there in a light purple bra and panties and she looked straight into my eyes.  Straight into them.  I remember it so clearly that even today I am bothered when I think about her.  Then she looked down at the ground and the fingers of one hand were kind of fidgeting nervously with her bra strap.  She stood there.  Head down.  Shoulders slumped.  And I stood there and looked at her.  When she raised her head again, she had tears on her cheeks.
I don't doubt that someone somewhere loved and missed this girl.