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Human and sex trafficking; problems and solutions.
Since the issue and industry of human trafficking is a multi-facaded problem, there is no one simple solution. Rather, the solution must be comprehensive, addressing all aspects of this epidemic. We so often refer to the process of anti-trafficking efforts as the “war against human trafficking.” I think it is accurate to describe this fight as a war, since it is a $40 billion highly organized industry. Therefore, the approach must be in alignment with what we are facing. If we are facing a war, we need an army. There is not one NGO or governmental agency alone that can solve the problem of human trafficking. Each agency has its own agenda, each one making little impact, with the exception of a few, such as International Justice Mission based out of Washington, D.C. There are several roots to the problem- economics, globalization, poverty, ignorance, gender prejudice, law/rule of law, lack of morale, corruption, etc. The list goes on. So, if we are to develop an army to fight in the war against human trafficking, the agencies that are engaged in this war need to all come under one umbrella and strategically combat in the war together. There must be unity of purpose and execution. When an army goes to war there isn’t just infantry (although vitally important), but there are also operations specialists, analysts, recruiters, etc. In the war against human trafficking in the United States, there are several governmental agencies engaged including USAID, UNICEF, FBI, ICE, DOL, and GTip. They each have their own budgets and own agendas. There are several “small” operations going on between these agencies making very small impacts. However, if they were to combine their efforts, coming under one umbrella, the level of effectiveness would rise.
There also needs to harsher penalties for the “johns.” It is known that if you speed, you may face the consequence of a ticket. For example, in the state of Tennessee, a reckless driving penalty is up to six months in jail or a ticket of up to $500 and is a Class B misdemeanor. This sounds pretty harsh to me. Ironically those who engage in sexual activity with a prostitute (aka “johns”), in the state of Tennessee face exactly the same penalty as a reckless driver. These johns promote the spread of disease, may or may not be engaging in rape, and financially support the world of human sex trafficking and face the same penalty as a reckless driver. This just doesn’t seem right. The law does not change much from state to state, so this penalty can be seen as nationwide; the fine being the more common of the two. I say ditch the fine and put the johns in jail for a year or two. This will definitely decrease the demand. If the demand is decreased, the supply (those being trafficked and/or prostituted) will decrease. The problem with this is actually catching the john. The focus of law enforcement tends to be more on catching prostitutes and/or trafficking victims rather than johns, so the focus would have to shift.
Thirdly, our law enforcement must be trained to spot trafficking victims and their traffickers. Agent Quinn of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation states that 70% of law enforcement does not feel adequately trained in this area. I wonder how many cases of human trafficking police have come in contact with and never even noticed. After being informed of the signs of a trafficking victim, an acquaintance of mine who is also a metro police officer, spotted a victim. However, it is doubtful this was the first time he had seen a trafficking victim. Rather, it was the first time he had noticed one. Training of our law enforcement in this area needs to be federally mandated. The problem with this is that if it is federally mandated, it most likely will need to be federally funded. This is unlikely to happen for several reasons that cannot be explored in this article.
Fourthly there must be harsher penalties for traffickers. Existing legislation and law enforcement in the United States and other countries are inadequate to deter trafficking and bring traffickers to justice, failing to reflect the gravity of the offenses involved. No comprehensive law exists in the United States that penalizes the range of offenses involved in the trafficking scheme. Instead, even the most brutal instances of trafficking in the sex industry are often under laws that also apply to lesser offenses, so that traffickers typically escape deserved punishment.
Crimes, Felony Types, and Sentences under Tennessee Human Trafficking Act of 2007
Sentence (in years)
Involuntary labor servitude
Class B/Class C
Trafficking persons for forced labor or service
Trafficking for sexual servitude
As can be seen on the table, a sex trafficker can face as little as 2.7 years and up to 30 years. Thirty years sounds like a strong deterrent, however in a recent Tennessee case, the convicted were sentenced to a minor three years in prison, with the thirty year sentence being a stark rarity or non-occurence. Also, because of the newness of the trafficking laws, it is known that many judges do not yet know how to interpret and apply these laws.
All of the discussed solutions can also be applied on an international level as well. The problems that will be faced abroad however are different. For example, stronger penalties for johns will run up against the very strong gender prejudice found in such countries as Thailand and India. The mindset in these countries is that it is the right of men to be able to demand sexual servitude from women. There also exists a very large amount of police and court corruption as well, so where there are laws demanding penalties, they are unlikely to be enforced. The same goes for law enforcement training and harsher penalties for traffickers.
Also on an international level, it would be effective if there was an international definition and law for human trafficking. Human trafficking is a global crime and usually occurs by the victims being globally transported. Therefore, it is necessary for the world to agree on what human trafficking is and the penalties a perpetrator should face. Since there are not even laws in some countries against trafficking, what is legal in one country is not in another, so a global crime becomes very difficult to prosecute. According to a World Bank study, two-thirds of the world’s population live outside the protection of the law. This calls for more legislation and more enforcement of rule of law. Another thing to push for on an international level is an international task force. This would be a very difficult project to undertake, but I believe the effects would be great.