Written by: C. Foley | Jan 26, 2021
Governments spend millions of dollars each year fighting human trafficking and dealing with its effects on victims and society.
Consider just a few of the costs involved:
Policing efforts (investigations, evidence collection, forensics, apprehension, and prosecutions)
Development of community-based anti-trafficking and awareness programs and strategies
Government services for court hearings, prison, and probation
Generational impacts on children and young people who are imprisoned and who are unable to re-enter the general workforce and participate in the economy
Unfortunately, despite genuine societal costs, trafficking remains one of the most profitable enterprises for organized crime, at around $150 Billion in profits each year.
The reasons for this are many, including the fact that perpetrators are rarely prosecuted for their crimes, facing a low risk of punishment relative to the potential of high-profit gain.
Like any economic enterprise, the key is a response that addresses the core issue of supply and that of demand. Without demand (especially in the commercial sex-trade), profitability shrinks, and the crime becomes less attractive.
So how can this problem be addressed?
1. Education: The public-at-large must be better educated. Many believe that society’s view of commercial sex today is one of willful ignorance. Rarely is it reported or acknowledged. Modern culture supports its acceptance with media that glamorizes the lifestyles of strippers and prostitutes (as examples) while ignoring the very negative outcomes for many. Additionally, the propagation of myths that promote activities, such as “it’s just business” or “this is a victimless crime” must be countermanded with a more balanced perspective.
2. Using shame and criminal sanctions: Some communities have gone so far as to use shame as a powerful deterrent to users/buyers of services, posting the names and pictures of those arrested for solicitation. Financial penalties have also been used, imposing high fines for those caught soliciting.
3. Educating the buyer: Both victims and Johns face significantly higher risks of contracting sexually-transmitted diseases. Some 19 million are transmitted annually in the United States alone. The risk of hurting loved ones, future partners, or themselves can be better communicated if it is clear that such diseases are not always easily addressed or avoided and may give rise to severe consequences: liver cancer, cervical cancer, infertility, recurrent infections, and even death.
The fight against sex trafficking must be multi-faceted and engage vigorous law enforcement, prosecution, and victim assistance. Simultaneously, education must combat the willful ignorance and glamorization of a trade that fuels so much individual and societal damage.