I came across the following experience about a woman in India who was sold into prostitution by a relative, in one of our older magazine issues (pgs 24-27 of the 6/22/83 Awake!) and I thought it was an excellent example of today's text about Jesus feeling pity and compassion for people who are spiritually neglected and being "skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd."
This woman's experience is unique because she was able to see first-hand the level of corruption and hypocrisy engaged in by a variety of religious leaders and church members who belonged to Hindu, Muslim, and Christian religions.
My Rescue From Prostitution
It was the beginning of another day. I lay in my bed, perspiring. I tried to sit up, but a spell of dizziness threw me down. I knew I was sick. But suddenly there came a loud knock at the door and a middle-aged woman, one of my employers, walked in.
“What’s the matter with you, girl? Still not up?”
“Madam, I’m very sick,” I pleaded. “Can’t I rest just for today? I assure you I’ll be all right tomorrow.”
“Listen. I well know this trick of feigning illness. Come on, now, it looks like we’re going to have good business this evening.”
You have just received a glimpse of my life in the inner chambers of a brothel. Yes, I was a prostitute—certainly not a profession to be proud of. For nine long years I flashed false and vacant smiles and conducted shameless bargains. Then in rare moments of solitude I shed many a tear of remorse, feeling helpless. Oh, I wanted desperately to escape. But it seemed as if I was bound fast and would never be free. You may wonder how I came to be a prostitute.
Well, 29 years ago I was born in a little mountainous village cradled in the mid-Himalayan range. When I was but three years old my father died. Soon after, my mother began living with another man, and I was taken in and cared for by my eldest sister and her husband.
When I was 14 years of age they arranged for me to marry a man 25 years my senior. I was taken to my husband’s home where his parents treated me with contempt because I had no dowry to offer them—except my poverty-stricken self. Although this phase of my life was short—lasting only two years—it was long enough to cast long-lasting shadows of serious doubts and questions in my mind.
My husband had begun having relations with another woman in our neighborhood. Yet, in spite of his misconduct, he would go to religious shrines every week, and at his invitation, Brahmin priests would visit our home. But never a word of rebuke!
Sold Into Prostitution
Then one evening the man with whom my mother was living came around to see me to make a proposition. He said he felt that life for me was becoming unbearably difficult and that he wanted to help me out. He could get me a very good job that involved little work yet lots of money. But, I, with a group of several other village “belles,” would have to travel with him to a distant city. At home there were no emotional ties or material attractions to hold me back, so I agreed to make the trip. Thus, within a few days, this journey to a city I’d never heard of, and to a life I’d never, never dreamed of, began.
On arriving at Bombay he took us to a home full of many young girls like us—except they were much better dressed and flaunted heavily made-up faces. Inside, we were introduced to two women who looked us up and down with gloating eyes. Then the man who brought us left, promising to return later in the day.
We had been sold! He had sold us girls for 500 rupees (about $56, U.S.) apiece! No sooner had he made his departure than we were told we would have to pay back what he had taken—no, not 500 rupees, but 5,000 rupees ($560, U.S.)!
“Why?” we asked.
“That is the rule!” they announced with finality.
Then threats were resorted to just in case we tried to escape. But I couldn’t run away. I had nowhere to go! So I accepted that initial debt of 5,000 rupees, which soon acquired interest. There was only one recourse left to become free from it, and that was to do the “work” they had for me to do—to be a prostitute!
But, surprisingly, it was those nine years as a prostitute that gave me clear, closeup views of the fruitage of the religious “tree” of my birth. Immorality and hypocrisy went hand in hand! For example, one of my employers was a devout Muslim, and maintained the long fast of Ramadan every year. She piously gave alms to the beggars at the mosque. Fellow Islamic believers freely associated with her, and in spite of her utterly corrupt practices she was an accepted member of her religious community.
And it was no different with my other employers. One frequented the Hindu temple, while another attended one of Christendom’s churches. Their private lives were not unknown to their respective religious leaders and friends, and yet they also were respected members of their religious communities. In short, they all had the silent consent to practice what their religions openly condemned—prostitution. Is that not hypocrisy?
It did not take long for me to become infected with such hypocrisy. Thus, every Saturday morning I bathed, and with my friends, visited the temple of the goddess Mahalaxmi to offer sweetmeats and money and then return to our brothel with salved consciences! Upon our request, Brahmin priests would visit us to perform religious rituals, and then they would accept whatever we paid them and vanish. There was never any counsel to uplift us from our degradation, nor any fatherly rebuke that we longed to hear.
Then, in the beginning of my ninth year in the brothel, my employers quarreled among themselves. One of them slyly reported matters to the police and our brothel was raided. All of us were taken to the police station—all, that is, except our employers. They were hidden away within their large and “respectable” homes.
For the next two weeks, the cold prison floor was our bed, while our food, which really was unfit for human consumption, consisted of dry, half-cooked bread served with an occasional assortment of greens.
The only visitors we had were a group of well-meaning women who wanted to help by teaching us Hindu hymns. But they failed pathetically! What we really needed was to know the truth about life’s purpose, and the truth about God, whether or not there is a Creator. And if there is, does he care for us? If so, why had he permitted unclean practices like ours to exist? But those women, however good were their intentions, did not have the answers.
The 14 nights in prison took their toll on me and I fell seriously ill. I was taken to the hospital where I was on a sickbed for the next 17 days. I was reduced to half my size! When I left the hospital, my employers gave me some time off to recuperate. So I decided to make a journey back home, spend some time with my people, recuperate in the mountain air and finally return to where I thought I belonged—the brothel!
A Turning Point
Back home in the village nothing much had changed, except that my husband’s lover was now his wife and mother of his children. My sisters, as usual, worked in the fields from sunup to sundown. The first few days were spent making social calls and distributing the little gifts I had remembered to pack. But the novelty of those days soon wore off and I was left wondering. What did I really want out of life? Did I want the life my people were living in the village or the life back in the city? The two life-styles were different and yet both lacked meaning and true purpose.
About that time two women stopped by our door. We invited them to sit and offered them some tobacco (as is our custom). But they refused the tobacco, and we asked them why. They said they had just returned from the city after hearing something wonderful. So my sister and I asked them to tell us all about it.
They said the gods we had been worshiping were entirely different from the true God, our Maker. His name is Jehovah and he loves us all. Jehovah is soon going to eliminate all forms of wickedness, they explained, and bring in a New Order of righteousness, peace and security on this very earth. We were also told that the invitation to live in that New Order was open to all. But accepting that invitation meant making necessary adjustments in our lives now.
“How do we know what you’re saying is the truth?” we interrupted. “And what are these changes we have to make?”
“You must study the Bible, which is God’s only book of truth,” they continued. “In its pages you’ll learn all you need to know. As for the changes, this is one we’ve already made—we’ve stopped smoking cigarettes!”
“But what does smoking a cigarette have to do with God?” I questioned.
“In the Bible,” they answered immediately, “we are told, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ But how can we say we love ourselves when we fill our lungs with harmful tobacco smoke? It is an unclean thing to do and Jehovah God wants us to be clean.”—Matthew 22:39; 2 Corinthians 7:1.
I was taken aback! Somewhere in the depths of my unhappy mind an undefinable feeling of joy was coming to life. I threw my cigarettes outside and never touched one again. A very significant change after having smoked 20 cigarettes a day, every day!
My Questions Answered
Immediately my sisters and I began making plans to go down to the city and find out more about this God, Jehovah, and his purposes. The family we were introduced to were Jehovah’s Witnesses. I had never heard of Jehovah’s Witnesses before. I now decided to work and live in that city so that I could study the Bible with the family, who gladly took me into their home. Every morning we had a Bible discussion for at least an hour. Gradually, the questions and long-lasting shadows of doubt cast in my short-lived married life and years in brothel slavery began disappearing.
For the first time I learned that there is a purpose to life. I discovered that the Bible teaches that man was created by God to live forever on earth in permanent peace and happiness; also, that death was no part of God’s original purpose for humans. Instead, the marvelous prospect set before our first human parents and their potential offspring was to fill their days by gaining knowledge of their Grand Creator and to enjoy the work of their hands.—Genesis 1:28; 2:16, 17; Psalm 37:29.
I also learned why God has permitted wickedness and unclean practices until now. Our first human parents chose to rebel against God and instead be guided by his adversary, Satan the Devil. (Genesis, chapter 3) So Jehovah, the Great Judge, allowed the passage of time to prove beyond doubt that man-rule apart from God-rule cannot possibly succeed. My joy knew no bounds when I learned that God’s time limit for man-rule under Satan’s domination is fast running out. But what about me, a former prostitute?
I related my entire background to the family with whom I was studying, and they explained to me from the Bible about the gracious benefits of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As I listened tears of sheer joy rolled down my cheeks. My past could be forgiven and erased! I was welcome to embrace the hope of living forever under righteous conditions. And until the realization of that grand hope, I could live among clean, honest people who do their best to practice what the Bible teaches, a people who tolerate no corruption in their midst.
As I studied the Bible the months raced by and I lost no time in symbolizing my dedication to Jehovah God by water baptism in 1979. Since then I have rejoiced in the privilege of Christian preaching, sharing with others the comforting truths I have learned from the Scriptures.
My gratitude to our heavenly Father, Jehovah, and to his Son, Christ Jesus, knows no bounds. For, thanks to them, I have indeed been rescued from prostitution!—Contributed.