We welcome the increased political attention on sex trafficking and slavery that the Initiative reflects. There has been a growing public awareness that forms of slavery exist even in America today, and the End Modern Slavery Initiative is evidence that government is willing to consider ways to end that injustice.
While we welcome this focus among lawmakers and political bodies, the End Modern Slavery Initiative fails to provide the meaningful measures needed to end sex trafficking.
Drawing on our years of experience working women and children who have been trafficked, we would draw attention to the following aspects of the End Modern Slavery Initiative (EMSI) that fail in its purpose:
The EMSI limits the definition of sex trafficking to include only people under the age of 18. Our experience and common sense suggests that people sold into prostitution do not automatically become free at the age of 18. Unless the EMSI can include those over the age of 18 within the definition of sex trafficking, it will fail to address the true scope of the problem
The EMSI delineates between sex trafficking and prostitution in a way that does not accurately reflect the true nature of sex trafficking and slavery. While there may be a small percentage of prostitutes that do not feel compelled to sell sex by a pimp, trafficker or other coercive person, the vast majority of prostituted women are victims of sex trafficking. They may have been groomed, beaten into submission and psychologically scarred to create the illusion that they want to sell their bodies, but our work informs us that this is the hidden truth of modern slavery. Until prostitution is recognized as innately linked with human trafficking, little will be accomplished to end slavery.
The EMSI aims to reduce human trafficking by 50%, but it does not look to established examples in other countries where this has been accomplished. In Sweden, for example, this was accomplished by making the purchase of sex a major offense, with mandatory jail time. The EMSI does not view all forms of prostitution as linked with trafficking and does not take the bold steps needed to control slavery by making the purchase of a person for sex illegal.
We would encourage further work by lawmakers to explore ways to improve the efficiency of this initiative. We suggest addressing trafficking by being informed by organizations on the front line. We welcome the opportunity to discuss our position more fully and support future initiatives that will bring an end to modern slavery.
If you share our concerns, please click the image below to sign this letter and send it to our representatives.