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Fighting Against Legalized Prostitution in Czech and Cambodia

110 Christian leaders around the world warn against an
( [email protected] ) May 11, 2004 09:24 AM EDT

On May 5, 2004, an international coalition of more than 110 Christian leaders called on the Czech Republic to reject the reported plans to legalize prostitution. The co-signers warned that such a move would be “a terrible mistake for the country as a whole and, in particular, for the women and children of the Eastern Europe region who will be victims of the Czech sex trade.”

Written on the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Council’s letterhead, the international coalition pushed the President Vaclav Klaus and other Czech leaders to resist the effort to make the country "the gateway for the flow of women and children from poorer Eastern and Central European countries to sex industries throughout Western Europe and the world -- an act unworthy of Czechs' traditions of fighting for their own freedom.”

The signatories wrote that they would also help resist the move in Congress and other legislative bodies as well as "through our organized women's movements and from tens of thousands of church and synagogue pulpits."

Through the letter, the leaders also warned that the move to legalize prostitution would “be a terrible mistake for the country as a whole and, in particular, for the women and children of the Eastern Europe region who will be victims of the Czech sex trade." Enlisting the experiences of countries that already legalized prostitution – the Netherlands, Australia and Germany – they warmed that a similar move would “irreparably harm” the Czech Republic's relations with the United States and other countries.

Dedicated to President Vaclav Klaus and other Czech leaders, the co-signers included ERLC President Richard Land; Todd Bassett, national commander of The Salvation Army; Clive Calver, president of World Relief; Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals; Michael Horowitz, senior fellow of the Hudson Institute; Donna Rice Hughes, president of Enough Is Enough; Diane Knippers, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy; Connie Mackey, vice president for government affairs of Family Research Council; Ronald Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action; David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical Association, and Thomas Trask, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

In the letter, Land and the others said the Czech Republic "is fast gaining an international reputation as a prime destination for European and other 'sex tourists' and pedophiles. The Czech Republic has also become a transit country for human trafficking and smuggling."

Barrett Duke, spokesperson for the ERLC said he and Horowitz and Lisa Thompson of The Salvation Army among others, met last year with Richard Krpac, consul of the Czech embassy in Washington.

They told Krpac the Czech Republic "had an opportunity to set a different standard for the new Europe rather than accommodating some current attitudes toward the moral climate in Europe and that they should set a higher example," Duke said. "Instead of legalizing prostitution, they should work very vigorously at ending prostitution, which in our opinion would significantly contribute to the eradication of trafficking in persons and human sexual slavery.

Meanwhile, an evangelical Christian group based in Arlington, Va., - the International Justice Mission – was granted $1.7 million in federal funds to fight prostitution and sex-trafficking in Cambodia. The Arlington groups is among the State Department’s War Against Trafficking, which also includes the Salvation Army and Shared Hope International, the latter a recipient of financial assistance from a Seattle charity called the Northwest Christian Community Foundation.

Sharon Cohn, the International Justice Mission's director of anti- trafficking operations, said quick action is imperative: "It's not about coming up with a five-year plan -- though these things are important," Cohn said. "It's about rescuing the girls and throwing the pimps and brothel owners in jail."

The U.S. government estimates that between 800,000 and 900,000 people are smuggled every year across international borders for prostitution and labor. UNICEF estimates that about 2 million children are involved in the sex trade worldwide.