More penalties for prostitution won’t help victims of human trafficking

Jan 21, 2014
Legal
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Laws that focus on the commercial sex industry ignore the large number of victims who are trafficked into construction, agriculture, factories, restaurants, homes and the hospitality industry

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Under the guise of improving laws against trafficking, states around the country are pushing policies that raise penalties for patronizing prostitution. This January, Human Trafficking Awareness Month, it’s time we faced the facts that these efforts will ultimately fail to protect trafficking victims.

First, let’s consider the complex definition of human trafficking. Human trafficking is a scheme where a perpetrator compels another to work against her will through force, fraud or coercion.

Who is a trafficker? A trafficker is someone who creates a climate of fear intended to intimidate and control a worker. They can exist in any industry, particularly where the trafficker can exploit certain vulnerabilities of the worker, such as limited education, scant knowledge of legal rights, age, limited English proficiency, reduced immigration status or limited awareness of resources for assistance.

Who is a trafficking survivor? An adult who is forced, defrauded, or coerced to work in someone’s home as a domestic worker is a victim of human trafficking. A child who is forced, defrauded, or coerced into picking tomatoes on a farm is a victim of human trafficking. Or a person who is forced, defrauded, or coerced into engaging in commercial sex is a victim of human trafficking.

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