As I continue to drive around Phnom Penh, I tend to take familiar roads and over the past few months one of the streets I drive on, I noticed a large building being constructed. I kinda got excited thinking wow this is a new apartment or condominium or hotel being built. For here in Phnom Penh, there are several construction sites going on. In this part of town, it made sense that this new building was going up as it is near a cluster of residential areas. But as the weeks went by, my initial excitement began to wain as I began to observe the construction of the building. The words that would flash in my mind was ''KTV''---Karoke TV---there are many KTVs all over Phnom Penh and they are to me an eye sore for a city that continues to be restored into its former glory days prior to the Khmer Rouge Era. KTV's are the new form of adult entertainment establishments that I have blogged about before. This is the changing face of the sexual exploitation of young women here in Cambodia. The young women who work here often come from poor backgrounds, have limited education and are desperately looking at ways to support their families who may live in the province.At these establishments sex is not happening on site, and so the criminal link to exploitation cannot be as easily proven due to the age of consent being 15 in Cambodia. There are a variety of KTVs here, some of the more upscale ones allows you to choose the ones you want from a parade of ladies that is brought to you once you have been seated in your private karoke room. As one patron said, Depending on the quality of the place, the room will likely be $5 an hour or more and the girls may or may not be free. Beer and food is generally more expensive than in beer gardens. Clients negotiate a price, pay a bar fine to take girls off the premises, and enjoy a few hours, or a night, with them. Asian customers like Vietnamese women, who dominate Phnom Penh’s sex scene, because of their preference for pale skin and fine features
So a few days ago as I took that familiar route, my initial suspicions were confirmed. The front of this tall high rise concrete building had no windows in the front of the building which is about 7 or 8 stories high. Yesterday, I saw a sign being assembled in the front advertising that it was a KTV establishment. Interestingly enough, the sign above the KTV comment was written in the Chinese language. Hmm...guess who is funding this building! No words written in Khmer. This is not just a KTV but it is also a hotel where several rooms are being constructed as I observed another side of the building, I could see several small balconies and windows. I think we would be naive to think that no sex is not going to happen here. Those rooms simply make it more convenient for patrons to close the deal.
Each day as I pass by this building my spirit gets quite irritated as I think of the many young women who will be working there because they have no other choice to earn income. I think of young lives who enter this place naively thinking that it is a good place to work but later discover that they are treated like a product or a piece of meat. I think of the young girls who have no way out of such establishments because they love their families and so believe that they have to endure the loss of human dignity and degradation in order to provide for those whom they love.
As I think of such young women and their frustrations and suffering, out comes my own frustrations and my holy discontent is being fueled. So the other day, I had the opportunity to share about this building with one of my staff and quickly my irritation turn to excitement as we started to brain storm about all sorts of possibilities. A vision was being born as we talked about different ideas of helping young women who found themselves working in such places. Bill Hybels, the pastor of Willocreek Church once said that ''vision is a picture of the future that produces a passion in you.'' Indeed, passion gets released among like minded individuals who have a heart to see young women be free of sexual exploitation. Now the real work begins, giving shape and form to this vision. Yet despite what appears to be endless obstacles, it is the Lord who will give shape and form to that which is formless. It is He who will download and plant connections and possible partnerships even before we have started the real work. He's already giving us some ideas. We just need to keep our eyes fixed on Him and keep moving forward waiting, watching and being alert as He orchestrates events and people to join in this journey with us. God always seems to make a way where there is no way, one step at a time. So for now, we pray, we pray for the young women who will be working there, we pray for the owners of this KTV and we are praying for the patrons who will go to such places and we wait, for as the book of Habakkuk 2:3 reminds me: For the revelation awaits an appointed time; Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.