16 December 2022

We as Christians should come into action: ‘Where were the spiritual fathers? We accepted this together”

We all have a certain image of what’s happening at the Red Light District: the windows, the
lighting, the women, the crowds. But, even though the women behind the windows are viewed by
thousands of eyes, they are anything but visible. Who wonders what stories are behind these

The fact that few people wonder about this question is something the women are well aware of. Frits
Rouvoet of the Bright Fame foundation received a painting on his birthday last year, called ‘I am
visible’. On one side, it shows newspaper clippings. The woman explains: “Many people know how to
write about us and they have a certain opinion about us. But it’s only about the person with the
mask. They don’t know the person that’s behind the mask. Frits, you managed to come behind my
mask. And not just that: you broke through it, making me visible.”

The human behind prostitution
Through this, you can hear the need to be truly seen. Something people by definition might not
expect from these women. Frits describes one of the young women he deals with: “a women who
looks good, she’s so-called independent and out of free will behind the window, earning good
money. In short: ‘accomplished’ for the world. But little by little she discovers that she got tangled up
in a complicated case. She’s together with a man who’s about 20 years older than her and they have
a son together. He can’t be seen in public anymore, because he can be arrested and turned in at any
second. She’s in a relationship she doesn’t want to be in.” When Frits compliments her on how she
interacts with her son, she bursts into tears. You see, she only ever hears how she does everything
wrong. “When you get to know a person step by step, you’ll stop seeing prostitution. You’ll see the
person behind the prostitution. Recently, she admitted for the first time that she wants to quit
prostitution, as soon as she can.”

Another woman once said to Frits: ‘When you come by, I know I’m truly seen’. Where thousands of
people walk by, focused on the bodies of the women, they can feel when someone truly sees them.
Frits explains he hasn’t even really elaborately talked to her up to that point. Simple conversations
about the weather and small gifts like flowers or a Christmas present make a difference.

Legal profession
That’s what touches Frits when he looks at the painting. Since 2000, prostitution is a legal profession.
“That means that an unemployment agency can tell any girl that’s applying for jobs but can’t find
one, ‘there’s a sex club where they need more women. You can apply there or else it has
consequences for your welfare’. We didn’t take that into account when we legalised it. We all
allowed something in our society we had no idea of, but we are opinionated about. When I’m in front
of a classroom and I ask who’s planning to go into prostitution, people laugh. The women that are
currently behind the windows would have laughed back then, too. There’s no girl, despite the pro-
prostitution movement proving it wrong, who ever dreams of becoming a prostitute. There’s always
a story behind it.”

Ordinary women in abnormal circumstances
With that in mind, Frits and his team walk the streets. “We want to see the woman behind the
prostitution. The woman with whom God had a purpose, the one who wants to be a good mother or
the daughter working for her family abroad to pay for a surgery.” The women feel abnormal, but in
fact, they are ordinary women in abnormal circumstances. Their feelings of shame cause them to
lead secret lives. They have to lie to their family about the job that they do. They live with the
constant fear of having a picture of them ending up on the internet, and it being found by family or
friends. “We were able to get a girl out of prostitution. She was so happy when she found a different
job. Now, she was finally able to really show something to her family.”

To rise up as Christians
Frits thinks that we Christians should be ashamed. “Leviticus 19:29 says ‘Fathers, do not profane your
daughter by making her a prostitute’. This is about clearing the land of disaster and scandals. Well,

where were the spiritual fathers back in 2000? I think we Christians should come into action and truly
make ourselves heard. I once walked around at the Red Light with a group of boys. They returned
crying about everything they had seen. They were ashamed. The women were ashamed, too. But we
as church are not ashamed, because we let it happen.”

Youngsters, the church of the present
The fact that more and more youngsters are touched by the faith of the women is a positive change
Frits witnesses. “I see especially youngsters up to the age of 30 come into action. They use all kinds of
mediums, like social media. We always say ‘Young people are the church of the future’ and that is the
truth, but it is only the half-truth. You see, they are also the church of the present. I think we should
give them the opportunity to come into action.”

Come as you are
“You can always come to Jesus as you are, even when you’re behind a window as a prostitute. That’s
what we want to offer the women. As long as I don’t know their whole story, I’m not the one to
judge. Even if you’ve ever, some way or another, dealt in criminal activity; it’s the circumstances that
brought you there. I still see a piece of mask and once in a while it opens up, but it hasn’t been
broken yet. I think that’s what’s important: that first you get rid of the mask and then someone can
start to develop themself. That’s what we’re focussed on: to make sure that relationship is there. It's
not just your job and it can’t be just your calling, it is part of your life. Like Jesus shared His life, we
can share ours.”

Applying Biblical principles
Frits sees that youngsters truly want to do something for ‘that one girl’. And that is something we
Christians generally can learn from. “I think we all can reach out to that one person and stand
shoulder to shoulder with them, so that that one person becomes visible. That holds for the entire
society, even your annoying neighbours. There’s always a story behind it and I think we should be
looking for that story. That means you should just go up to someone and ask: ‘Hey, you want to get a
drink?’. “I believe that when we start giving, we will start receiving. I think we should start applying
Biblical principles and share what we have: our time and energy.”

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