Missing the Point, and Failing on Human Trafficking

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Missing the Point, and Failing on Human Trafficking

Ian

The plot thickens. Twice in the past few weeks, I have written about some serious confusion on the part of a radical right wing group, C-FAM, in the war against human trafficking. It appears that they don’t know the difference (or perhaps, choose not to differentiate) between forced human trafficking and prostitution. In other words: more signs of the right wing’s intense obsession with sex. That thought fueled a hunch that C-FAM might not be the only group in their camp on this page, and it looks like that hunch might have been right.

After looking through materials from Concerned Women for America’s (CWA) and Focus on the Family’s websites, it looks like more of the same. CWA’s Janice Crouse wrote an article with the following title: Ending Modern-Day Slavery: Some Solutions to Sex Trafficking.” Focus on the Family’s Citizenlink.org features an article, “U.S. Targets Human Trafficking.” The first line of that article? “The federal government is ramping up its war on sex trafficking.” Another from CWA, “Zero Tolerance for Human Trafficking,” begins with the following: “It’s a given: Prostitution co-exists with military bases and installations.”

The plot thickens. Twice in the past few weeks, I have written about some serious confusion on the part of a radical right wing group, C-FAM, in the war against human trafficking. It appears that they don’t know the difference (or perhaps, choose not to differentiate) between forced human trafficking and prostitution. In other words: more signs of the right wing’s intense obsession with sex. That thought fueled a hunch that C-FAM might not be the only group in their camp on this page, and it looks like that hunch might have been right.

After looking through materials from Concerned Women for America’s (CWA) and Focus on the Family’s websites, it looks like more of the same. CWA’s Janice Crouse wrote an article with the following title: Ending Modern-Day Slavery: Some Solutions to Sex Trafficking.” Focus on the Family’s Citizenlink.org features an article, “U.S. Targets Human Trafficking.” The first line of that article? “The federal government is ramping up its war on sex trafficking.” Another from CWA, “Zero Tolerance for Human Trafficking,” begins with the following: “It’s a given: Prostitution co-exists with military bases and installations.”

While these groups may be much more organized and a good bit more thoughtful than C-FAM, they seem to share the same hang-up: they don’t separate human trafficking (read modern-day slavery) from prostitution.

Now, I recognize that many of the most gruesome instances of contemporary human trafficking involve forced prostitution and other sexual exploitation, and I readily condemn both that denial of liberty and that form of exploitation. A recent report notes that female victims of trafficking exhibit a severity of post-traumatic stress disorder that puts their experiences on a similar level with torture victims – regardless of what you may think about legalizing prostitution, forced prostitution is undeniably abhorrent.

Roe is gone. The chaos is just beginning.

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And so too is slavery. The issue here is not that these groups are taking on sex trafficking – they are right to do so, albeit they might do so on different terms. The issue is that they don’t seem able to stand up and simply say that trafficking is wrong. Period. In all its cases. Whether it’s women and girls forced into sex work in Thailand, or young boys forced to kill their siblings and join a rebel army in Northern Uganda, or migrants held in debt bondage and forced to work unconscionably long hours of hard labor in unsafe conditions.

Time and again on this website, we have referenced situations where radically conservative organizations have tried to undermine science in order to protect ideology, withheld fact-based education from youth, and lobbied against the most effective, proven means of preventing both abortions and HIV infections. Here, we have cases where these groups make cursory reference to modern slavery – one of the egregious human rights violations of our age – in order to support their case against prostitution.

Why? The common thread in all of these cases is sex, and their views of it. If these groups really wanted to fight trafficking, they wouldn’t just be fighting prostitution. Former prostitute and Brazilian HIV activist Gabriela Leite says of prostitutes in general that they are not victims of society, but subjects of political history. As such, there is more at stake than simply sex. There are economic issues, political issues, issues of globalization – the same issues that fuel human trafficking. These issues may be complicated, and perhaps hard to address in a capitalist democracy, but they are the root issues in both cases.

Once again – like we see with sex education, like we see with emergency contraception, like we see with HIV prevention – the true root issues in tough situations seem like they are being ignored by these far-right groups, and are being replaced with moralizing and half-truths. Such ignorance is not just self-serving and therefore lacking in compassion for the true victims, it is simply not going to change the problems.

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Trafficking