Hype and Horror in Human Trafficking

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Sept. 23 front-page article "Human Trafficking Evokes Outrage, Little Evidence" gave substantial space to the tragic crime of human trafficking, but it left readers without a clear understanding of why the number of prosecuted cases is so low.

Human trafficking crimes are underreported for a variety of reasons. Many police investigators are not aware of the federal anti-trafficking law and how to use it. Many view women involved in the sex industry as deserving of their fate and feel that law enforcement officials have more important crimes to pursue. And how many police officers know that a minor working in the sex industry is by definition a trafficking victim?

Prosecutions are an inaccurate measure of human enslavement and exploitation because the crimes are hidden, the perpetrators decentralized and victims ashamed or afraid to speak out; and building cases is extremely expensive and time-consuming.

Such crimes are about victims whose lives are destroyed. It's not about the numbers.



The writer was lead researcher and writer, from 2005 to 2007, at Shared Hope International, which works to end sex trafficking.


Regarding "Human Trafficking Evokes Outrage, Little Evidence":

While any form of slavery or coerced migration, particularly of minors, is morally abhorrent, public policy must be evidence-based.

Moral panic evoked by groups with vested interests has been hijacking government policy around the world, as did the white-slavery crusade of the late 19th century. This not only diverts resources but stifles rational debate about the very real problems regarding the safety, health and welfare of those in the sex industry.

As the article pointed out, there are very few facts to support the astonishing claims of the anti-trafficking movement, which has successfully inflated and conflated very different concepts with a zeal that clouds judgment.

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