Posts Tagged ‘prostitution’

Our People must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful. (The Apostle Paul in his letter to Titus, chapter 3, verse 14)

One person whose life was certainly far from unfruitful was Josephine Butler (1828-1906).jos butler

History has forgotten Josephine Grey Butler but many thousands today should be thankful that she worked hard to improve the lives of women in the late nineteenth century.

Josephine was the daughter of John Grey a cousin to the famous Earl Grey. She grew up in a wealthy household. John Grey was a strong advocate for social reform. He was an unusual father in Victorian England. He believed in education for his daughters. Josephine absorbed her strong religious and moral principles from her father.

At the age of seventeen Josephine became a committed Christian after struggling to understand why God allows suffering. Later she would see this period in her life as God’s preparation for the work that He had for her.

Like other young women in her comfortable station in life, Josephine spent her time horse riding and going to parties and balls with her sister. She enjoyed discussing politics with her father at home but had no thought of pursuing her political interests until later in life when she would learn of the unjust laws that were enslaving women and fight to help women have a better life.

Josephine married George Butler in 1852. He lectured at Durham University and was soon ordained as an Anglican minister. They moved to Oxford where he obtained a position at Oxford University.

Later they moved to Cheltenham. George and Josephine had four children. The tragic death of Josephine’s youngest child and only daughter left her paralyzed with grief. Eva died at the age of six from a fall down the stairs. Cheltenham then had such bitter memories that the couple moved again.

George was offered the job as a principle of Liverpool College in 1866 and so they moved there. Liverpool was a huge seaport. There were many brothels there to service the sailors. Liverpool had the reputation in England of being the most immoral city in the country.

In the meantime, Josephine decided to throw herself into charity work to overcome her grief. She joined a Christian mission to the Brownlow Hill Workhouse in Liverpool. Many of the female inmates were former prostitutes. Josephine had compassion for these unfortunate women and began to show the same kind of love and care for them as the Lord Jesus did. She starting inviting the sick and starving women into her own home. She also went around asking businesses for money to buy a house for a women’s refuge so they did not need to return to the brothels.

Of course, the women needed some other way to make a living besides prostitution so Josephine set up a workshop where the women could make and sell envelopes. This enabled them to meet the expenses of their stay in the refuge.

Josephine quickly realized that girls from poor families were at a disadvantage. She began to support a campaign for better education for girls. In 1867 the North of England Council for Promoting the Higher Education of Women was initiated. Josephine became the first President. For six years she helped to organize public lectures. Several of her accomplishments were:

  1. A pamphlet called ‘Education and the Employment of Women” (1868)
  2. Cambridge University began to admit women in 1869.
  3. A work was published, “Woman’s Work and Woman’s Culture” (1869) Josephine advocated not only for education for poor women, but for property rights for married women and for the right to vote.

Unlike modern liberal feminists, Josephine did not see men as the enemy. She herself was happily married to a good man who supported her efforts in all that she did in spite of the fact that he was warned that her activities would damage his career as a minister.

Josephine merely wanted more harmony between the sexes:

“I wish it were felt that women who are laboring especially for women are not one-sided or selfish. We are human first; women secondarily. We care abut the evils affecting women most of all because they react upon the whole of society, and abstract from the common good. Women are not men’s rivals, but their helpers. There can be no antagonism that is not injurious to both.” (From her 1869 book.)

Soon after her works were published Josephine received a request to help with a national law that was very damaging to women.

Parliament had passed the Contagious Diseases Act (CDA) in 1864. It was in response to the amount of venereal diseases that were spreading in the British army and navy. The idea of the CDA was to regulate prostitution in order to protect the men. In 1866 and 1869 further acts were passed strengthening the regulation of prostitution and making some things worse for the women.

In effect what happened was that the sex trade was legalized. Any women living near a port town such as Liverpool were to register and to go through internal examinations at any time that an official asked them to.

What the CDA’s really amounted to were a pass for the men. Men were not asked to change their immoral behavior. Instead, women’s rights were violated. A woman who looked suspicious to a policeman could be sent for an examination. She was guilty until proven innocent. These exams were painful and humiliating. If a woman did have VD she was forcibly sent to a special hospital for up to three months (9 months in the 1869 Act) until she was cured. Refusal to cooperate was punishable by imprisonment.

Abuses were rampant. Josephine found that many innocent women and children were being arrested on the whims of corrupt police officers. Once branded as a prostitute, guilty or not, these women’s reputations were ruined. Now only a life of prostitution was open to them.

Josephine realized that battling the unjust laws was her God-given calling and she went to work to help these women. She now knew that God had allowed her to suffer so that she could sympathize with these women and girls. Josephine would need all of the courage that the Holy Spirit could give her for the task ahead.

joseph. butlerImagine living in Victorian England and speaking on these subjects. People were afraid to speak about such things behind closed doors let alone in public. But Josephine withstood ridicule and slander, heckling and harassing as she spoke publicly against the CDA’s. She was pelted with dung as she walked through the streets. Once a mob threatened to burn down the hotel where she was staying. Her compassion for justice enabled her to press ahead.

In 1870 Josephine became the head of the Ladies National Association for the Repeal of he Contagious Diseases Act. She emphasized the gender discrimination inherent in the CDA’s. She pointed out that it was unjust to punish the victims of vice and leave unpunished the sex who are the means and cause of the vice and the diseases that went with it. By legalizing the sin of sexual immorality men got off the hook. Women became the slaves to this evil institution. (This is not very different from modern human trafficking.)

Furthermore, Josephine warned that if Parliament could get away with violating the rights of female citizens, no one’s rights could be protected.

Finally, in 1886 after many years of toil, the Contagious Diseases Acts were repealed. Looking back Josephine could see the hand of God in the victory.

In 1890 after battling a long illness, George died. Josephine cared for him through his illness though she was in poor health herself.

Josephine settled in London. She wrote a biography of George, also a “Life of St. Catherine of Siena” (1898), and various tracts and her own memoirs.

In her later years Josephine moved in with her son George at his estate at Galewood in Northumberland. On Sunday December 30, 1906 she died.

Josephine Butler had tremendous faith in God’s goodness and love. She was strong and followed her Savior in His love for the poor and the downtrodden and those who were shunned by society. Like Jesus, she looked past their shame and into their hearts. Josephine saw women as humans made in the image of God. Josephine “walked the walk” of love and compassion. I pray that many will follow her example today.

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When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. (Hosea 1:2,3).

We don’t know any more details about Gomer except that she was a hosea and gomerprostitute, the daughter of Diblaim. The Bible is silent about how willingly she went along with Hosea. We know that she stayed with Hosea and had some children. Then she took off again into her old lifestyle. She seems just the opposite of Rahab, another famous prostitute.

Rahab remains one of the most famous women in the Bible. But Rahab’s story is quite different from Gomer’s. Matthew tells us in his Gospel that Rahab is an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5). Rahab is also honored as a woman of great faith by the writer of Hebrews, “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace” (Hebrews 11:31). James the Lord’s brother tells us, “And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” (James 2:25) Rahab saved the spies that Joshua sent into Jericho. This led to Israel’s victory. Because of Rahab’s faith and obedience to God, her family members were saved when the Israelites conquered Jericho. She is remembered for her faith and courageous actions.

Gomer is not remembered this way. Her only service was to marry Hosea and have children. Her part in God’s plan was to be a symbol. Hosea was to go through this strange marriage in order to give Israel a picture of its own idolatry. God’s purpose was to make the children of Israel see that they were unfaithful to Him and that punishment was on the way.

The works of the Israelites produced wicked fruit. God intended them to see this in the naming of Hosea and Gomer’s children. Gomer’s children would also be symbols.

And the Lord said to him, “Name him Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. (Hosea 1:4)

Recall that Jezreel was the place where Jehu had slaughtered all seventy of the wicked Ahab’s sons. It was the place where wicked Jezebel had died. (See post 8/5/10) God destroyed one kings’ reign after another in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. There was never one single good king in the Northern Kingdom. The king reigning in Hosea’s time was Jeroboam. His royal household would be punished too. (See post 3/7/15)

Then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them.” …. When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God.” (Hosea 1:6, 8,9)

Gomer’s second child was a girl. Her name, Lo-ruhamah, means “not loved”. Gomer’s third child, another boy, was named Lo-ammi. Lo-ammi means “not my people”.

What a sad picture for the Israelites! If I were a true believer in God at that time, Hosea’s words and actions would be devastating. To hear God’s judgment against their nation in those terms should have caused the Israelites to repent and seek God’s forgiveness. Instead they continued in the most disgusting kind of idolatry possible.

Through Hosea, God expressed His wrath:

Say to your brothers, “Ammi,” and to your sisters, “Ruhamah.” Contend with your mother, contend, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband; and let her put away her harlotry form her face and her adultery from between her breasts, or I will strip her naked and expose her as on the day when she was born. I will also make her like a wilderness, make her like desert land, and slay her with thirst. Also I will have no compassion on her children, because they are children of harlotry.” (Hosea 2:1-4)

We can relate to this as we are intended to relate to it. God is separating from his unfaithful wife. We know from history that the Northern Kingdom was indeed punished when the Assyrians completely overran them and caused complete devastation.

Yet God would remember His covenant. He would not completely forsake the Israelites who would repent and seek Him. In the next part of our story we see another picture of this.

Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.” So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley. Then I said to her, “You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you.” (Hosea 3:1-3)

Hosea buys Gomer backGomer had run away and was continuing in her harlotry. We do not know how long she was gone. God instructed Hosea to go and buy her back from the man she was living with. Apparently Gomer cannot go home with Hosea unless some remuneration is paid to the man. Hosea brought her home and renewed his marriage vows with her. This time, Hosea says, you will stay with me and stop being a prostitute. Hosea promised to love Gomer and be faithful to her. We are not told how Gomer responded.

Hosea continued to prophesy to the Israelites. He warned them of their punishment if they did not repent and return to God. On the other hand, just as Hosea was willing to take back his unfaithful wife, God would take back His people if they sought Him again.

Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,
For you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
Take words with you and return to the LORD.
Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity,
And receive us graciously,
That we may present the fruit of our lips.”….

For in Thee the orphan finds mercy.
I will heal their apostasy,
I will love them freely,
For My anger has turned away from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
He will blossom like the lily,…

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
Whoever is discerning, let him know them,
For the ways of the LORD are right,
And the righteous will walk in them,
But transgressors will stumble in them. (Hosea 14:1-9)

What a beautiful picture of forgiveness and restoration. Some scholars think that Gomer was only a metaphor and not a real woman. I disagree. God often used detailed physical pictures to teach Israel. What about Gomer? Did she listen to her husband’s prophecy and learn from it? Did she repent and become faithful to him?

We do not know what happened to Gomer after she returned home with Hosea. Perhaps living with Hosea and seeing his faithful love to her she repented. It would be nice to think that she became a believer and finished her life as a good wife and mother.

Certainly, God gives us a picture in Gomer’s story of His faithfulness and love towards us. No matter how bad our sins are, if we truly repent God forgives us and then does even more – He heals our sins and loves us freely. He will continue to answer us and look after us. “Whoever is wise, let him (her) understand these things.”






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But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.     (Ezekiel 33:6).

My friends, there are sins of commission and sins of omission. I am afraid that today the church is guilty of a serious sin of omission – neglecting the serious problem of human trafficking.

One woman had a chance to expose just how rampant the problem was in one part of the world. The problem is everywhere, but her story serves as an example of the heinousness of the crime and what she bravely did about it. Kathryn Bolkovac has written a book about her experience entitled, The Whistleblower. There has also been a movie released with the same title, but I only recommend it with caution. More on that later.

In her autobiography, Kathryn Bolkovac relates that she was a U.N. peacekeeper who exposed the sex trafficking that was going on in Bosnia. She bravely confronted the persons who were responsible for the brutal trafficking of underage girls at the risk of her job and even her own life.

While in Bosnia, Kathryn was in charge of the U.N.’s gender affairs unit. As she began to work on cases of abuse against women she uncovered a vast underground sex trade. What was worse, the local police and U.N. staff including some of her own colleagues were involved. Some were taking advantage of the ease with which they could use the underage girls, some even buying their own girl for personal use.

Kathryn tries to expose this but soon realizes that she is not going to get any help. She pushes for an investigation and instead she loses her job. Eventually she is able to smuggle some documents out of the country and press a lawsuit against DynCorp for unlawful termination of her employment. She won, but received very little in compensation. And of course, her opportunities to continue to help the young girls who were kidnapped and forced into slavery were ended while she was fighting to expose the perpetrators.

The book exposes the depth of the trafficking problem along with many of the reasons why it is so hard to stop. Too many men at the top who enjoy illicit sex have the power to keep the business going.

The reason I am telling Kathryn’s story is to help make people aware of the problem. It is larger than many people suppose. Yes, it is even a big business here in the United States.

The first step to solving a problem is to admit that we have one. We need to stop burying our heads in the sand, especially those of us who are Christians. No matter where you live, trafficking is probably going on. Even if you live in the country you can be sure it is happening in the biggest city near you.

What can we do to help after we admit the extent of the problem? We should be  having serious conversations with our daughters and other girls about the dangers that exist today. Many girls get kidnapped when they are promised a job that doesn’t materialize. Others are promised “help” by seemingly sympathetic men when they have left home. We don’t live in a predominantly Christian culture anymore. It’s sad to say, but we need to train our girls to not trust anybody. We should help them learn about the problem through good books, movies, and testimonies.

Speaking of movies, here is a word on the side with a BIG caution. A movie was made last year about Kathryn’s experience with the same title, The Whistleblower. I do not think that the producers needed to have the amount of nudity that they did in the movie. Everyone can get the idea without it. I think that the purpose was to shock people into seeing the reality of what happens to girls who have been kidnapped.

The only reason to see the movie is that it truly explains how girls get lured into the clutches of the evil traffickers. It shows some scenarios about how they are caught, why they are trapped, why it is difficult for them to escape, and how brutal their captors are. The story is basically the same all around the world. Girls are either kidnapped outright or lured in with the promise of a job. The stories of the girls that are featured in the movie are gut-wrenching.

The Whistleblower DVD is not for the faint of heart. It is brutal. Men who have a problem with viewing sexually explicit material may want to skip this one for sure. I wish the producers would have, and certainly they could have, left out the “over the top” scenes. People have plenty good enough imaginations; they don’t need the actual graphic material.

I would really advise an alternative movie, Nefarious. You can get it at the present time by going to the website –  store.exoduscry.com where you can purchase it for $20 plus $2.95 first class shipping. This film is being shown in churches and many are waking up to the reality that human trafficking is a serious problem and that we are guilty of the sin of omission by ignoring the problem. The problem is not going away. We are complicit in the dehumanization and exploitation of women and children by keeping our heads in the sand. Though it exposes the vast underground sex industry, the film goes beyond the details of the huge business making billions of dollars catering to the demand for illicit sex by offering hope for change.

As Christians, we know that changed hearts are needed. While the film does not call itself an explicitly Christian film, it deals with material that we as Christians can all relate to. There are stories of women who have come out of trafficking and been restored to peace and strength.

Have you heard the ungodly argument that if only we would legalize prostitution, sex trafficking would decrease? This film shows the fallacy of believing that prostitution decreases sex trafficking. Trafficking actually increases.

The best way to end the trafficking is to end the demand for it. This is going to be the hardest part of the job. But we can at least start in our churches and Christian homes to train our boys that only sex inside of marriage is beautiful and good. When men start treating women with the respect that God expects them to, it will be a start to ending the problem.

Beyond that, we need tougher laws against trafficking. This also will be a tough job. In the first place, men enjoy this sin and are reluctant to do anything about it. Even if they don’t engage in it themselves, their attitude is usually wrong. Many believe that women are involved in these activities voluntarily. In Bosnia, the girls were referred to as “whores of war”. In other places these victims are viewed as prostitutes.

The girls that are being trafficked are victims. They do not choose to “make a living” as slaves. This crime should be punished with the harshest penalties. Christians should be leading the way to end this atrocity.

There is a way to help women who are resisting prostitution. Many organizations are trying in practical ways to help the survivors of trafficking. Consider purchasing your Christmas presents this year from:

www.delicatefortress.com — They bring “shopping with a purpose”. Each item you find in their store provides “dignity, livelihood and fair wages to female artisans all over the world.” They help women not have to relinquish or sell their children or themselves in order to allow for their survival.

freedomstones.ws – “Freedom Stones is committed to eliminating and preventing human trafficking through livelihood projects that transform and develop vulnerable communities.”

www.eternalthreads.com — “Eternal Threads is dedicated to improving the lives of women and children most at risk of extreme poverty, trafficking and other forms of exploitation by providing sustainable livelihoods through income generating projects.” You can purchase many beautiful items such as jewelry, totes, paper, and much more.

www.madebysurvivors.com — This is an international “nonprofit organization which employs and educates survivors of slavery and other human rights abuses, including many women and children living in extreme poverty.” They train women in professions that enable them to earn enough money to care for themselves. 100% of profits go to support rescue and aftercare.

www.empowermentstore.org  —  By buying products from their store you will be helping survivors become financially self-sufficient and able to start new lives.

stoptraffickfashion.com  — Stop Traffic Fashion sells clothing and accessories made by the survivors of human trafficking. Survivors who have been rescued from their captors make almost all of their accessories and receive income from STF sales.

If Jesus was walking among us today don’t you think He would be saddened by the treatment of women and children? Do you think He would be happy with His church for sitting around and doing very little about the inhumanity to women and children? Jesus went about doing good and helping the poor and destitute. As His followers we must do the same.

Not everyone is called to work full time in the area of human trafficking. Not many women will have the opportunity to be a whistleblower like Kathy Bolkovac. But we can all do something: Pray. Learn about the problem. Tell others about it. Find ways to help the survivors. Pray some more.



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