“Where in reality, the ‘whores’ are minors, which means the ‘customers’ are millions of child rapists worldwide.”
We have to change how we talk about the modern slave trade. It’s a billion-dollar criminal industry exploiting 5,000,000 children. The language, like the act, is psychological manipulation to a criminal degree. The worst of it happens in the sex trade. Where in reality, the “whores” are mostly minors, which means the “customers” are millions of child rapists worldwide.
Language used to describe sexual exploitation and those involved has perpetuated the myth there are no victims or perpetrators of human trafficking. Only “prostitutes, pimps, whores and clients”. Such terms give the false impression that victims choose to be exploited. Taking blame away from the exploiters. Placing guilt and shame on the victims. Engendering human rights violations of millions for a profit.
How much? $32 billion every year, according to studies investigated for the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT). Of that number, $15.5 billion is made in industrialized nations. This is not exclusively a third world problem. The children forced into prostituting themselves are not workers. They are victims turning a profit for the third largest global criminal enterprise.
People sell people. In the shadows. How do we shine a light on the human trafficking problem to make real change?
Change starts with how society views the issue. Is the trade of persons called slavery, or business? First step is challenging the labels placed on the victims and traffickers, and spreading understanding of what happens in the human sex trafficking ring.
Sexual exploitation happens in a range of socioeconomic classes. There is not one type of trafficker or victim. In some parts of the world, the traffickers are politicians or local law enforcement. In other places, they are businessmen or restauranteurs. In more desperate situations, they are family members. The victims vary in identity. From children sold in the slums of India, to young women in Ukraine who enter a business for a job interview and get stripped of their legal documents and forced into prostitution.
In cities around the world there are apartments with one or several rooms where girls are kept and sexually violated by paying men off the streets or the internet. It is happening everywhere.
Non-profit organization Equality Now has collected statements of victims, describing the torture and fear they face at the hands of their exploiters. “They forced me to sleep with as many as 50 customers a day. I had to give [the pimp] all my money. If I did not [earn a set amount] they punished me by removing my clothes and beating me with a stick until I fainted, electrocuting me, cutting me,” states Kolab, a sex trafficking survivor from Cambodia. Sex trafficking victims, whose average age range is 7-24 years old, are conditioned with cases of repeated rape and abuse at the hands of their pimps before they are turned over to service countless paying clients. Convicted traffickers have identified these clients as “white, male customers”, who are predominantly “rich Americans”.
Law enforcement dealings with human trafficking victims reveal that people who are forced into pornography or prostituting themselves are often afraid to reach out to the authorities for help, if able, because the traffickers have manipulated them with threats, violence, drug addiction, and believing what they’re doing is the crime. When in fact the real criminals – the traffickers and clientele – are rarely identified, and more rarely held responsible.
On the international legal scene there is “The Trafficking Protocol” — formally titled the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children — which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2000. However, the terms of implementation and holding nations accountable remain vague.
Deceptive terms on the human trafficking scene make the problem impossible to solve. Human trafficking will continue growing as a problem, so long as society remains ignorant or afraid of talking about it honestly. We are caught staring at the snake’s rattling tail, when it’s the head we’re after. Traffickers are criminals posing as so-called bosses, while children are victims perceived as criminals. How do we change the false reality? Target the real criminals. Identify the victims in the dark. Raise awareness of those who are vulnerable to entering the trade and channel our resources to develop strategies of prevention. Our personal choices and national, regional and global policy-making efforts can either promote or prevent the trade of innocent persons. One life at a time. Speak truth. Stop trafficking.
Take initiative and sign petitions to firm up human trafficking laws on The Polaris Project website. In cases of suspicious activities, please call the National Human Trafficking Resources Center at 888-373-7888 or text them the code BeFree (233733).