Monday, October 17, 2011

Beer Gardens

One evening when I was coming home from a visit to Marie Ens's home, her driver turned down a particular street and what I saw was a series of beer gardens. For those of you who don't know what beer gardens are, in its simplest form its a place where men go and drink beer. But sitting at the entrance of these beer gardens are a several young women who act as 'hostesses'. They are invited to sit with the patrons and we often hear stories of girls being touched in appropriately. Some of them are forced to have sex with the clients.

So the other day I was talking to my tutor----he used to be quite familiar with beer gardens because in his prior life before he became a believer, he like many Khmer young men would go to the beer gardens every night, hang out with the 'hostesses' and get drunk with his friends. He was telling me that one could 'rent' a girl for the night and she would basically sit at the table and participate in the drinking activities or just socialize with the men. I asked my language instructor why young women would choose such a job. His answer, well many of them are not educated. They either come from the rural areas or are so desperate for a job that they believe they can make more money at a beer garden than working at a factory. Moreover, they actually think that it is a much easier type of work than working at a factory because one starts at 5pm until and works till 10pm and you just have to sit and talk to the patrons. What they don't realize is how easily they are setting themselves up to being sexually harassed or sexually assaulted by men who frequent the beer gardens as their role is to help make the men feel comfortable and so they may often find themselves in uncomfortable and awkward situations.

Here in Cambodia, there are many beer gardens all over the city and in the rural areas. They come in all shapes and forms. In the evening, if I am on my way back home from visiting friends in my tuk tuk, it is a common sight to see many young women dressed up in very tight, scantily fit clothing, sitting on chairs at the entrance of these beer gardens. Thankfully, there are people here who are doing outreaches. One of them is a young Khmer Christian woman that I met this past weekend at church. I am hoping to join her one evening on one of her outreaches with her team as she seeks to minister to the girls in the karoke bars and beer gardens. The work is tiring and wearying but in just one year God is giving her glimpses of fruit as some of the women are part of a bible study group that she hosts.

To say that a 'spirit of lust' exist here is an understatement. It really pervades in so many different forms. But thankfully we serve a God who reminds us that where sin increases, grace increases more, where there is darkness, the light will shine and where there is love, freedom is on its way.

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