Recent news around misuse of craigslist for the sexual exploitation of minors has led the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) to make the difficult decision to return a sizeable charitable contribution from craigslist Charitable Fund.
To be clear, we do not believe that craigslist actively supports trafficking of women for the purposes of sex or sexual exploitation of minors. We also understand that other organizations may choose to accept funds from the craigslist Charitable Fund, and for valid reasons.
CHANGE did our due-diligence, and was glad to see that craigslist contributes funds to anti-trafficking groups; includes on its website warnings, safety tips and information to report suspected exploitation of minors and trafficking of women for the purposes of sex; and cooperates with law enforcement. However, we think craigslist should go the extra mile for women. There are additional steps the company could take to develop a more meaningful response to the serious human rights violations that seem to be facilitated by the site.
CHANGE does not take a position on the sex ads that appear on craigslist --we consider these issues very complex. In offering suggestions about how to improve safety and respect for women who engage in sex work or who may answer such ads, our suggestions should not be read as approval of the advertising that appears on craigslist for sexual services.
In a letter to craigslist Charitable Fund president, James Buckmaster, CHANGE suggested craigslist take the following steps:
- Establish an advisory council of experts in sex work, human trafficking and human rights to review existing policies at craigslist related to sex ads and help establish new criteria and procedures for craigslist to follow to ensure that such ads do not violate, but rather respect human rights. Such an advisory council should have a clear vision, should not conflate sex work with sex trafficking, and should be grounded in fundamental human rights.
Craigslist has an opportunity to demonstrate corporate responsibility and leadership. By using this unfortunate situation to establish a new and strategic approach to addressing trafficking, craigslist could make a powerful, positive contribution toward advancing the rights of women.