21 September 2021
A few years ago when I was chaplain for the Association of Presbyterian Women's national executive I was given the task of being the liaison person ECPAT. [Ending of Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism]. I dutifully read the literature and went to some meetings and became aware of the trade in children [boys and girls] in countries where poverty forced families to sell their children into this trade.
The children were in great demand - some as young as five and six [it was rumoured that you could not catch AIDS from a child. [WRONG - the statistics told us that most had the HIV virus very quickly] as well as providing paedophiles with easy access, denied in their own countries, to young children. As many of the customers came from Western countries, we were asked to make our government aware of the problem and get legislation passed so that anyone who had taken part in this activity in another country could be prosecuted in New Zealand [and Australia]. The old laws to do with slavery gave precedence for being able to do this and it was successfully argued in international courts that this was slavery. A child is defined as being under the age of 18 years. Although a lot of successful prosecutions were not expected to take place, the threat of prosecution at home would act as a deterrent for those travelling.
I suppose many of the women of the APW thought this didn't really affect them until it was found that sports teams travelling in Asian countries, or on a stopover in say Bangkok were taking in the child prostitution scene as part of the expected activities. When mothers in Gore and Invercargill, Kaitaia and Katikati found out what their sons were doing on these trips [and its very hard to draw out of a group activity] the APW along with other organisations rallied to lobby their members of parliament to pass the necessary legislation - which was done.
So now I reflect, that the new law about adult prostitution in New Zealand was passed apparently to protect those in the industry. Unfortunately, I doubt that it will give protection to those who linger outside St Johns Church after 11.00 at night sniffing glue before they pick up another customer, or those in the small [under four people] brothels in the streets of Papatoetoe round the corner from the manse. It does protect those in big business and they will become arrogant and aggressive in their search for business, but the 85%[?] of the prostitutes who have drug convictions will not be able to run their own place. It will give the illusion of easy money to our school leavers who search so hard for work - and who can prevent a legal business operating to attract workers? And will we accept money from the local brothel for our community activities?
Jesus says , I come to bring life, life in all its abundance "
We are challenged to teach our young people about the life and living and loving Jesus brings so they will not be fooled by easy money and the illusion of glamour. Parents and grand parents need to ask about the itineraries of travelling sports teams and give their children the power to say NO when they are uncomfortable about what others might urge them to do.
We as a church community, need to remember that people come to us because of the life we offer in Christ in our lives and loving.
May God use us to bring life and not destruction to our community.
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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