Traveling to Jakarta and meeting the children and women who are part of the Children Under the Bridge program forever changed my life. I learned that many young girls enter sex work because of the debt of their mothers. Basically, these girls are “sold” to the pimp in order for the mother to pay her debt; then the debt is transferred to the child who now has to “work” to pay it off, if she can.
While there I spoke to one mother and her daughter who were victims of this cycle. The daughter was forced by the pimp into sexual trade at age 12 because the mother could not pay. She had her first child at age 12. She is now a full-time sex worker with a seven year old child. She is 19. Her mother continues to work as a prostitute because the debt grew. You can hardly imagine the life of this girl at 12 years old, and for the past 7 years.
Because of this we have identified 12 girls who are most vulnerable. The girls pictured here are the ones most likely to experience the same fate. Their mothers or care-takers are involved either directly or indirectly in sex work. They live in environments where sex trade is a daily, open activity. Many do not attend school. They are all desperately poor. In our assessment, these girls are likely to either choose or be forced into prostitution because of the situations of their lives. Therefore, these will be our highest priority for training and education so that we can give them a way to survive without entering the sex trade.
Most of these girls do not attend school. Some never have. They have no skills for employment. They live on the street or in the middle of the prostitution working area. Only two have both father and mother. Some have no one to care for them except the other prostitutes. All of them are likely to enter the sex trade unless we can provide an economic alternative.
These are the ones at highest risk. While boys will generally find some kind of employment as they grow up girls are left with very few choices, especially if they have children. If we can change the lives of these girls, we will break the cycle that has kept their mothers as economic sex slaves for years.
Prayer and your support, that’s what we need. All of this effort is occurring in a Muslim country in the worst part of Jakarta. Safety is a big concern. Intervention by the government is another concern. Let’s keep it quiet and do what we are commanded to do, “love our neighbors as ourselves”. And maybe we can rescue these girls from a life of prostitution and unspeakable humiliation.