Stopping the Demand for Trafficking in Women & Children

Last week I attended a panel discussion sponsored by UNANIMA on trafficking. The focus was the premise that reducing the demand for prostitution would reduce trafficking. A good case was made for this by comparing the experience of the Netherlands and Germany where trafficking is criminalized but prostitution has been legalized with Sweden where there are strong penalties against pimps, brothel owners and traffickers and those who buy sex acts, but no penalties for women who are sold.

Proponents of legalized prostitution argue that legalization makes it possible to manage prostitution. They say that legalization will stop pimps and organized crime figures from controlling women through abuse and violence, reduce trafficking by stopping the buying and selling of women and children on the black market, curtail underage prostitution and reduce HIV/AIDS transmission by requiring prostitutes to undergo regular medical examinations.

The experience of Germany and the Netherlands argues against these claims. Here is how legalized prostitution has worked in these countries.

  • Buyers continue to perpetrate violence against prostituted women and girls. In one study, 85% of prostituted women in the Netherlands reported having been raped in prostitution. Buyers can rate the performance of prostituted women and girls on-line. Women and girls who resist unsafe sex or perverted sex acts are punished by owners and pimps who still supply women and girls to “legitimate” brothels.
  • In 1960, 95% of prostituted people in the Netherlands were Dutch; currently 80% are immigrants from poor countries.
  • At least 70% of prostituted people in the Netherlands are undocumented.
  • ChildRight reports that between 1996 and 2001, the number of prostituted children in the Netherlands has increased from 4000 to 15,000. One-third are immigrants.
  • Over the last decade the sex industry in the Netherlands has grown by 25%.
  • Legalization has not reduced transmission of HIV/AIDS because most prostituted people remain undocumented and are therefore not tested and more significantly there are no laws requiring medical screening for buyers.

In contrast, there has been a decline in sex trafficking into Sweden. There, in addition to directing strong penalties against pimps, brothel owners and buyers, Sweden

  • Works to dismantle social attitudes that underlie the prevailing systemic inequality between women and men.
  • Funds services for those who have been trafficked
  • Has initiated an intensive public service campaign against the demand for trafficking

There are many things that you can do to stop the demand for trafficking in women and children.

  • Promote the passage of anti-trafficking laws that follow the Swedish model of punishing those who buy sex.
  • Participate in awareness-raising groups that make known the situation of human trafficking in your country or region.
  • Pray daily for an end to human trafficking.
  • Protest against the sexualization and commoditization of women and children in the media and on the Internet.
  • Promote the UNANIMA International campaign to Stop the Demand for Trafficking in Women and Children in your parish, school, club meeting, etc.

Learn more about UNANIMA’s STOP THE DEMAND campaign at www.unanima-international.org

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