Monday, November 21, 2011

My Night in a Brothel

"If you take me to America with you, I will leave this life."

Kamlal's statement stunned me. For a moment I envisioned myself taking her by the hand and marching out of the brothel. I started to reason that she could live with my husband and I in our guestroom. I saw a better life for her unfolding....

....but in the blink of an eye it was back to reality. 

Rusty joked with her that we could adopt her, and we all laughed. We knew there would be no way to take this 35 year old woman - with a husband and 2 children - away to America. It just isn't that easy. 

But looking around me, I wished it was. I was standing on the balcony of a brothel in the Red Light District of Delhi, India. From behind the iron bars on the windows, women were beckoning their customers. They would service the men in the 8 tiny rooms to my left and right - 4 on each side of the balcony, 2 on top of each other. I call them rooms, but they were more like prison cells. A 5 by 4 cement room with a cement slab for a "bed". There was no ventilation, and only a small red bulb for a light. I couldn't bring myself to imagine these sweet women "working" in these damp, dark cells. I shuddered and whispered the name of Jesus. There was little I could do but pray for His presence to fill the darkness.

We'd come to G.B. Road to visit the mothers of 4 of the boys at one of our Children's Homes. Our contact, Saji, had been doing ministry in this area with his wife for several years. In the video below, you'll hear him explain that there are between 15 and 20,000 women working in brothels on this road. The road is less than a mile long.

He also explained that for some families, prostitution is multi-generational. One little boy from our home has not only a mother working in these brothels, but a grandmother too. We've never been so convinced of the importance of rescuing the children out of this area. No child should have to grow up in a brothel. No little boy should have to watch his mother being bought by strange men night after night. No little girl should grow up seeing her mother treated like property.

But there are children who do. After a slow climb up a dark, filthy stairwell, we met a little girl who couldn't have been more than 7 years old. She offered me some gooseberries and we sat and ate together. She, like her mother, seemed happy. But our contact told us it was only a mask.

"Many people here have become addicted to alcohol and drugs, because once they get into this [profession], many people use them and mistreat them... therefore they have become addicted. Maybe they show their smiles on their face but inside their hearts I feel there are very many pains and agonies."

But the women aren't the only ones. When Saji introduced us to Kamlal, he explained that her husband was the one addicted. "We have taken him to rehabilitation two or three times, but it doesn't last. He is addicted, and he is abusive." We found out that Kamlal is forced to sell her body to support her husband. "He will come for money," Saji explained, "and if she does not give it to him, he will beat her."

I asked how much she costs.

"200 rupees," she responded.


That's the price for her dignity, her health, her self-respect. $4.00! I was appalled. The beautiful woman standing in front of me was only "worth" the price of my mocha at Starbucks.

As I tried to wrap my mind around that figure, I wondered if her work or her abusive husband was the reason for the back pain she was complaining about. She asked us to pray for her, and Saji explained that she'd experienced healing from prayers before. She knew she could turn to Jesus in her suffering. And so, I prayed. I prayed for healing, and then I prayed for a new life for her. I told her she was a child of God - made in His image. I told her that He had a plan for her life - and it wasn't prostitution. I asked God to reveal Himself to her and to reveal His plan for her life. And all the while she clung to me like a liferaft.

Rusty told me I should sing over her, and she agreed. From the moment we walked up the staircase I'd been wanting to sing Rita Springer's "Holy Spirit Come" over this place.... but when I opened my mouth all I could sing was Amazing Grace. I fought back tears as I felt God saying - "My GRACE is big enough. It's big enough to cover you, and it is big enough to cover Kamlal. My grace is sufficient - and it is even big enough to cover a brothel."

As we said goodbye, I prayed for His GRACE to find Kamlal.


We met 9 more women that night in the brothel, including the mother of one of our boys. She was surprisingly social - full of laughter and insisting on playing "hostess" and getting us drinks. But when Saji explained she had been in this brothel for 10 years, I wondered what kind of pain was hiding behind her smile.

Rusty asked why the women stayed here. "Most of them cannot even read," Saji explained, "so they can't really escape this life." I found myself praying a prayer of thankfulness for my free education. I wondered how I could have been born in a place with so much opportunity, when there are girls just like me born into brothels.

Saji went on to explain that the apartments they lived in were owned by landlords that required half of their income. "So... if they make 200 rupees, the landlord will get 100 of it", he explained. Rusty and I looked at each other in disbelief. That meant these women only got $2.00 from each of their "customers". I tried to hide my shock as I took another sip of my soda.

My soda that was bought by money earned from prostitution.


My mind was reeling as we prayed over two more women and said our goodbyes. They hugged me more tightly than I have been hugged in years, and I wondered why they clung to me so desperately.  I hoped it was because they saw Jesus in me. I hoped that they could see that I loved them. I hoped that our prayers brought some light into their dark world.

I whispered "Jesus" on every step back down the cramped staircase. Over and over I begged Him to come - for the customers, for the women, and for the children we were leaving behind.

As we drove away from G.B. road, I knew I would never be the same.


We may not be able to end human trafficking on our own, or to rescue the prostitutes we met -  but we can fight for the next generation. The Children's Homes we support in India and Thailand are doing more than just rescuing children from brothels - they are preventing children from ever being at risk of trafficking. By giving these children a safe home, an education, and equipping them with sustainable life skills, we are providing a way out of this cycle. Our little girls will grow up knowing their worth, and knowing that they are capable of a better life. If you want to help us protect and empower these children, you can give a tax-deductible donation HERE.

1 comment:

  1. Ericka, what a beautifully written, tragic story. I am so thankful that you and Rusty are following the Lord's calling for you both and that you are willing and able. Prayers for those people seem so feeble because of the dire situation...that is until we remember the ultimate power of prayer. Bless you both.