July 07, 2005

The Silence of the Men

Public television's show "The New Heroes" broadcast a segment on July 5 about the sex trade in Thailand and the efforts of one man to help the young girls who are the victims. The International Labor Organization has indicated that the Thai sex industry has become so large, employing so many people, it is now defined as an official "commercial sector" of the country.

From a report available here:

"In Thailand, trafficking is a 500 billion Bahts annual business (equivalent to approximately 124 million U.S. dollars), which represents a value equal to around 60 per cent of the government budget (CATW). In 1998, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated that prostitution represented between two and 14 per cent of the economic activities of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Philippines (Jeffreys). According to a study conducted by Ryan Bishop and Lilian Robinson, the tourist industry brings four billion dollars a year to Thailand. It is not without reason, then, that in 1987 the Thai government promoted sexual tourism through advertising "The one fruit of Thailand more delicious than durian [a local fruit], its young women" (Hechler). "

The problem is not Thailand's alone. Brazil, the Phillippines, Cuba, India, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Russia, Kenya, Sri Lanka -- all have large sex trade industries, thriving in a globalized world economy that has sparked the largest growth in slave trading in centuries. But were it not for the men from the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and other countries with men who have lots of money and too much time on their hands, this sex trade would not exist.

Of course, this is not the only way women and girls (and young boys) are victimized.

In the United States alone, 1 million women are beaten by their spouses every year. Worldwide, the battering of women is prevalent.

The abuse and killing of women takes many forms. Marital and date rape, sexual abuse and incest, sexual harrassment in the workplace, the killing of female infants simply because they are female, domestic violence in the form of wife battery and murder. In some countries there are culture-specific forms of violence against women like female genital mutilation, and, in India, for instance, dowry murder.

Violence against women and girls is a much, much larger problem than global terrorism. Terrorism shrinks into insignificance when compared to the abuse, exploitation and murder of women and girls around the world.

Where are the voices of the three great religions addressing this worldwide epidemic of violence? Silent. I don't hear from the men of the Christian evangelical world about it. I don't hear from the leaders (all men) of the Catholic Church about it. Where are the voices of the Imams, and the rabbis? Where are the male religious leaders in all this?

Talking about terrorism is so much more palliative. Inciting to war against the heathen is a simple message. Supporting war for democracy and against tyranny is an easier sell. Talking about male violence against women and girls takes courage. It means taking responsibility. It means men talking about the proclivity of men to violence. It is a conversation that is not perceived as profitable by men. Patriotism is the last refuge of these scoundrels.

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