Demand Change: Everyone Can Work To End Modern Slavery

Posted by Luis CdeBaca
March 29, 2011
Child Prostitute Waiting by Roadside

Last week, a court in New York sentenced a client of a prostituted child. So often, such a crime goes uncharged, or if an arrest is made, the case is unnoticed, unreported. But because the defendant was NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor, not an anonymous "john," the case was heavily covered. The pimp who allegedly provided the sixteen year-old girl to Taylor is under indictment as well, on federal sex trafficking charges. A successful outcome? To some degree, but it was certainly tarnished after the sentencing, when the child victim told her side of the story and media outlets used that as excuse to print her name.

This episode made me reflect about how easy it can be to regard the protection of survivors as the responsibility of the court system or victim advocates, while at the same time the media exploits and sensationalizes a crime and the public watches passively or even revels in the scandal. But just as this is not a victimless crime, this is also a crime in which the solution lies with all of us.

Last month I spoke to the United States Pacific Command about the trafficking situation in Asia and how members of the military family could fight modern slavery in such missions as procurement, disaster response, and volunteer activities. I highlighted the special responsibility of military personnel, as representatives of the United States, to combat the demand that helps to fuel sex trafficking, whether on or off duty. It is not enough merely to never buy sex oneself -- I asked the service members to commit to speaking out against bad behavior and to challenge the assumption that events such as bachelor parties and "R and R" are somehow exempt from standards of conduct.

The U.S. military has addressed this issue in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the State Department has revised the Foreign Affairs Manual to make our diplomats' responsibilities clear, and USAID has imposed a code of conduct for employees and contractors. This is not just a foreign problem, though. It is not only our servicemembers or our overseas representatives who should grapple with the scourge of modern slavery and the demand that fuels it.

As the Lawrence Taylor case demonstrates, commercial sexual exploitation is a problem in the United States as well as other countries. Trafficking cases are increasingly being brought at both the federal and state levels, and the Department of Justice is standing up long-needed anti-TIP teams in U.S. Attorney's Offices. But we know that opportunities to identify trafficking victims are still being missed. According to last year's TIP Report, which ranked the United States for the first time, the majority of identified U.S. citizen victims last year were prostituted children. Yet, in many states, the justice system treats their experience simply as a vice crime or a juvenile justice issue.

Last month, Secretary Clinton chaired the Cabinet-level President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and committed the Obama Administration to addressing victim services as part of much needed national conversation on gaps in protection for victims of trafficking. A few members of Congress have already begun the discussion. Just last week, Senators Ron Wyden and John Cornyn introduced a bill -- the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and Victims Support Act of 2011 (S. 596) -- that would launch six shelters throughout the country for minors trafficked into sexual slavery, and would ensure that they are identified as victims rather than juvenile delinquents. State legislators such as Leticia Van de Putte and Senfronia Thompson in Texas, Brandon Shafer in Colorado, and John Mizuno in Hawaii are working hard in this year's sessions to solidify structures and sharpen their laws, to enact initial anti-trafficking legislation, and to attack the demand that fuels trafficking.

But the responsibility to fight modern slavery is not limited to elected officials or law enforcement. We also need to talk seriously about how each person can attack the demand for commercial sex and undercut the traffickers' profit motive. On Monday, we hosted researcher Michael Shively for a brownbag lunch here in the TIP Office. Dr. Shively discussed where efforts have been successful, where they have erred, and strategies for moving forward. As Dr. Shively says, traffickers are in business because they are responding to the demand for commercial sex; demand reduction has to be part of the equation, just as are prosecution or prevention efforts that focus on supply.
It will take cultural change, not just law enforcement tactics, to get to a place where the idea that "real men don't buy girls" replaces the excuse "boys will be boys." Where an abused sixteen year-old is seen as a victim to be protected rather than as a "hooker" scandal to sell newspapers. Let's keep the conversation going. Traffickers will only retreat when we hold ourselves to the highest standards at home, in the workplace, and with our friends. We are all on the front lines in the fight against modern slavery.



March 29, 2011

John in Canada writes:

It’s an organized crime problem fueled by profit. We need to stop creating clever laws that serve only to enrich organized crime and start solving the problems head on. Increase risk means increased profit = equals more jeopardy for more people. If you’re going to wage war on something understand it, then destroy it, otherwise just stay at home.

Dante A.
Nevada, USA
March 30, 2011

Dante A. in Nevada writes:

Deal with the issue as if it were a 'plague'.

As a species we're so easily anesthetized - for a a host of possible reasons - with respect to any form of violence. Violence against our children should be at the top of our list with respect to the fomentation of a 'concerted combat operation' against the perpetrators (I didn't write 'kinetic action').

The retaliation on behalf of the victims should be 'cold'.

Dante A., AIA


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