Speakers to discuss sex-trade industry, human trafficking issues

Red light. The bright signal halts traffic until it is replaced by the green glow that restarts the flow of everyday movement – but, as one American couple will share tonight, not all red light efforts are that simple.Christa and Mark Crawford, who now live and work in Thailand, will touch on the complexities of the sex-trade industry in their presentation, “Red Light Rescue,” though, as they have found, the solution for bringing women out of the industry is not always clear-cut.

Carrie Currier, an assistant professor of political science, said prostitution usually thrives in economically underdeveloped countries and that, especially if it’s legalized, the state economy and tourism industry depend on it, making it hard to stop.

“It’s such a complex issue,” Currier said. “Some women are economically driven, some are kidnapped, some are sold.”

She said a lot of women come to the sex-trade industry through human trafficking, which, according to the United Nations Web site includes the transfer or receipt of people obtained through force, abduction or fraud for purposes ranging from sexual exploitation to forced labor to slavery.

According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report, 600,000 to 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year and about 80 percent of those are women or girls, who, the data shows, are primarily trafficked into commercial exploitation.

The Rev. Katie Low, associate campus minister who works with the Wesley Foundation, said other women are sold into the sex-trade industry, sometimes by their parents and still others enter because it’s the only way to make money and support their families.

In a Christianity Today article in January, Mark Crawford said the idea of filial piety still pervades parts of Asian culture and if these women have to support their elders, there often aren’t other industries where they can make enough money to do that. He said families who depend on their daughters for support take between 50 percent and 100 percent of their incomes.

For one woman who will be visiting campus with the Crawfords today, her virginity was sold at the age of 13 for about $800, according to an interview in Christianity Today.

Shortly after this, the woman, who goes by Moon, went to work at a noodle stand in Thailand. However, she said, the job was a ploy to bring her into a brothel, where if she didn’t comply with customers, she was beaten or restrained. She said she was raped about 100 times while she was there.

Low said Moon has not specified what she will speak about during the presentation but she will either talk about her experiences in the sex-trade industry or the ministry work she is doing now to bring others out of it.

“Moon is a good connection point because she can make relationships with women in brothels and other places,” Low said. “She’s a good point person for them.”

Christa Crawford, who has a law degree from Harvard, now tries to help women like Moon by teaching them vocational skills such as cooking and customer service.

Low said efforts such as these are important because breaking down the sex-trade industry is a long process.

“It’s not throwing money at them. It’s not a quick fix,” she said. “Because it’s not like you can go in and tell a prostitute, ‘You’re wrong, you’re a sinner,’ because a lot of these women don’t have a choice.”

According to UNICEF’s Web site, Moon was one of 20,000 to 30,000 children in Thailand who are part of the commercial sex industry – a multibillion-dollar industry worldwide.

Christa Crawford will present general information about the sex-trade industry with a focus on Northern Thailand as part of tonight’s “Red Light Rescue” presentation.

Low said while the Crawfords have responded to the situation in Thailand through their faith, the presentation will have a general focus and will cover everything from the economic and political factors to geography, ethnic and women’s studies.

“It’s a convergence of a variety of factors,” Low said.

Amy Lewis, a sophomore history major who serves on the leadership team at the Wesley Foundation, said the team agreed with Low to bring the presentation to campus because it’s a topic most students have not heard about.

“It’s new information about what’s going on in the global community around us,” Lewis said.

The Crawfords and Moon will also be at the Wesley Foundation’s building for dinner and conversation Thursday, where Low said there will be more of a focus on the spiritual response to the sex-trade industry.