It has been a few weeks since I returned from my first international trip as the Director of Prevention and I am still amazed at the strategic meetings and Nefarious screenings I was honored to be a part of in Hong Kong. The people I met have inspired me in new ways to continue to build out our prevention work and speak on behalf of the oppressed.
While I was there, I was shocked as I walked back and forth to my hotel through the red-light district and saw how blatantly human lives were being sold. The entire district was filled with Thai, Malaysian, and Mainland Chinese women on the sidewalks, aggressively wanting men to come into the bars, drink with them, and purchase sexual services. Many would grab the arms of any man that walked by and as I continued to watch the heartbreaking reality of what was happening around me, all I could think about was what these women have gone through that keeps them trapped in this nightmare of exploitation and facade of happiness. Although this was a painful reality to see face-to-face, it gave me greater zeal as I spoke with church leaders, lawyers, and legislators from around the world in this city.
I was on the ground for a total of eight days, and my schedule was packed with a series of several exciting events and opportunities to make an impact in Hong Kong:
- Eight Nefarious: Merchant of Souls screenings, totalling over 700 people who saw the film.
- Three Q&A/panel discussions with the International Federation of Women Lawyers, diplomats of both the Swedish and EU embassies in Hong Kong, and a representative from the Hong Kong government. Also in attendance were the attorneys at the Faith and Law Around the Globe Conference (FLAG) and officials from both the US and Hong Kong governments at the US Consulate.
- Three strategic meetings with church leaders, NGOs, members of the US government, and a law professor at the University of Hong Kong
- One prayer meeting with the Sons and Daughters outreach team to the Wan Chai red-light district.
- Two press interviews for a magazine and local TV station.
I want to thank all of you who stood beside us in prayer. Your prayer support resulted in the opportunity for me to speak one-on-one with several of the Hong Kong governmental officials who shared how Nefarious opened their eyes to trafficking. When I met with an immigration department official of Hong Kong, he wanted to show the film to his superiors to consider how his office could help. It was amazing to see this response from a man who has such an integral role for sex trafficking prevention. Many victims of trafficking in Hong Kong are currently being prosecuted as violators of immigration law instead of being offered support and services. We’re praying that the mindset of the entire Immigration Department can be made aware that women being sexually exploited are victims, not criminals, and that reformative measures will follow.
My main goal for this Prevention trip in Hong Kong, was to help those from the Hong Kong government to shift their paradigms and understandings of sex trafficking. When implementing preventative measures, it is extremely crucial to see the interconnectedness of trafficking and prostitution as well as the victimization of the women and children involved. After a week of speaking and traveling throughout this city, I could see a real impact being made on those I encountered at the conference and in independent meetings. I am determined to follow up with these newfound relationships, and to offer myself as a resource for further sex trafficking prevention. After experiencing the red-light districts of Hong Kong first-hand, I know that prevention work is critically necessary in the fight to end human trafficking–it seeks to stop the forces that allow for these women and children to be exploited in such tragic ways.