Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel told Milwaukee Brewers Blaine Boyer’s story of when he went overseas and experienced a life-changing event. What was the life-changing event? Freeing a person from human trafficking (Brewers’ Blaine Boyer). Boyer and his friend, however, did not need to cross the ocean to save people from modern-day slavery because human sex trafficking occurs in the United States as well. Every state and region endures human sex trafficking, and the government stands by content with their single, unenforced law passed in 2013 (Victims of Trafficking). The United States federal government needs to construct a two-tiered solution to protect trafficking victims and persecute the sellers and buyers of sex.
Just three years ago, the United States government passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2013, in which the government acknowledged “existing laws often fail to protect victims of trafficking.” The Trafficking Victims Protection Act continues to acknowledge the lack of help for victims after being rescued from the abusive conditions. In fact, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act references the Declaration of Independence, recognizing all of mankind is created equally and “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights (Victims of Trafficking).” The rights referenced are simply a person’s freedom from slavery and servitude. Amendment 13 reinforces these ideas with a few words, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude… shall exist within the United States…” (US Constitutional Amendments). Human sex trafficking prevents the Declaration of Independence and the thirteenth amendment from truly representing the United States of America. While the federal government passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act to support Amendment 13, it did not provide enforcement within the numerous police jurisdictions. Many people do not know about sex trafficking, and thus the awareness portion of the Act fell through. The federal government’s solution stood well in theory. In reality, however, the solution does not work. A two-tier solution, however, attacks the sex trafficking problem from both sides: the victims and the buyers.
Sex trafficking victims and the trafficking suppliers and buyers represent a simple economic concept: supply and demand. With continued increasing demand for sex from buyers, sex sellers will continue to bring in their supply: the trafficking victims. Supporters for decriminalizing prostitution believe some sex workers voluntarily want to work in the industry. Annie Lobert, sex trafficking victim, at first found the industry appealing. Quickly, she regretted her decision. She tells her story through her book “Fallen: Out of the Sex Industry and Into the Arms of the Savior.” Lobert believed being an “escort” held adoration, love, and value, all things she never felt as a child, and headed to Hawaii. Making hundreds of dollars a night, she soon moved to Las Vegas and became sought after by the prestigious men. The exterior, however, is not all that it appears to be, and Annie Lobert quickly realized as much. She became “owned” by her pimp, and lost not only her dignity, but also all her money. Lobert then found herself in jail and raped numerous times (Fallen). This story is not uncommon for those who choose to become an “escort”. A similar event occurred across the world in Germany with a girl named Alina. Alina left her family and went to Germany to become a sex worker as well. Her story did not go as she believed it would. The owners kept the women locked up until needed for sex and took their money afterwards (Unprotected). Both Alina and Lobert were afraid of the police because they believed the pimps paid them to ignore the mistreatment. In Lobert’s situation, she found herself behind bars on numerous accounts. Lobert is not the only trafficking victim placed behind bars, nor should they be placed behind bars (Fallen). The police should bring them to a certified counseling community until they recover. Society, in any other case, would be horrified to see a victim in jail for no wrongdoing. The only difference in sex trafficking cases is the federal government holds no law against placing the victims in jail. America needs to give the victims a new start, which they cannot do with criminal records of being in jail due to their forced history. Sweden’s Nordic Model, a model which allows the victims to walk away with no record, summarized the effect in a few simple words, “It was a matter of a shift in perspective, which can be summarized by stating the obvious: if there was no demand there would be no prostitution (Swedish Institute).” If society shifted its perspective from criminalizing the victims to criminalizing the true criminals, then the “business” would decline thus eliminating sex trafficking as a whole.
Creating a system of counseling and persecuting would decrease prostitution and trafficking victims, as seen in the Nordic Model, which is Sweden’s bill to target buyers of sex rather than trafficking victims, and Cook County. Legalizing prostitution, like some organizations such as Amnesty International suggest, would allow pimps to escalate sex trafficking rates legally. Many believe legalizing prostitution will give women better living conditions, however, Germany legalized prostitution in 2002 with the Prostitution Act, and the living conditions are equal, or worse, to countries with illegal prostitution. Alina lived in a brothel outside of an airport in Germany. The brothel owners locked up the women, Alina shared a bed with three other people, and she only left the brothel in the company of a guard (Unprotected). Since Germany legalized prostitution over a decade ago, police reported it became much more difficult to target abusive pimps. Even social workers said that prostitutes were working in even worse conditions than before (Inside the National Push). Along with the horrible conditions increasing in Germany, organizations still push for decriminalizing prostitution. They believe the decriminalization would stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STD), but oftentimes buyers do not use condoms, according to Spiegel Online (Unprotected). By stopping sex trafficking, society will directly lower the rates of STDs being spread. Many of the victims, if they obtain an STD, get the STD forced upon them through rape, much like how Annie Lobert was raped (Fallen). To protect trafficking victims from getting raped and living in abusive and neglected conditions, the United States government can set an example and arrest the people selling the victims and the buyers.
By creating the Nordic Model Sweden eliminates criminal records for trafficking victims. On January 1, 1999, Sweden allowed police to condemn buyers, and attempted buyers, of sex, by either jailing the buyers for six months or giving high fines (Swedish Institute). Cook County, Illinois, jumpstarted an identical model in its own jurisdiction. The police arrest buyers while counseling the victims. Sheriff Tom Dart began the idea, and seventy other jurisdictions began similar, or completely identical, systems within their jurisdictions. Police and scholars stated “focusing law enforcement attention on sex buyers reduces demand for prostitution.” Sheriff Dart saw no repeat offenders after placing his own high fines on buyers within his jurisdiction (Inside the National Push). The United States federal government should institute a similar bill to Sweden’s Nordic Model, or Cook County’s model, throughout the entire country. Trafficking victims would get counseling and gain work skills, while the buyers and pimps would be heavily fined or sent to jail, depending on the severity of each individual case. Eventually the victims could join in the workforce by counseling incoming victims or other industries. Sheriff Dart, as stated earlier, saw no repeat offender of buyers because of the high fines or jailing (Inside the National Push). Sweden’s Nordic Model stated within their evaluation of the model of a need, perhaps, to jail up to one year for buyers (Swedish Institute). Creating a similar model in the United States of America allows for other countries to see the effectiveness of the program, thus diminishing trafficking worldwide. The two-tiered solution creates its own funding, as well, through the fines collected from the offenders. In Cook County, sixty percent of the money collected from the fines supports the support program for the women, the Women’s Justice Program. Forty percent of the funds support the juvenile justice programs (Inside the National Push). On a federal level, the United States economy would not need to go further into debt to fund the program. A self-funding, two-tiered program is necessary for the United States government and citizens to fully support the solution to end sex trafficking.
The United States government should follow in the footsteps of Sweden by standing up against one of the largest international social issues: human sex trafficking. Everywhere in the world, from Germany to Asia to Africa, sex trafficking occurs daily, even in the United States of America where freedom is claimed to be meant for every person in Amendment 13 (US Constitutional Amendments). With the continuing turning of heads in America to an issue where not one citizen is safe, society enables trafficking criminals to abuse innocents across the world, like Annie Lobert and Alina. The federal government needs to step in and implement a bill stating the criminalization of buying and selling men and women’s bodies without their consent will be punished by heavy fines and jail, much like the Nordic Model in Sweden and Cook County, Illinois. Trafficking victims should be allowed to have their records clean of any crime related to their time in the sex industry. Citizens should not look out across the world, like Blaine Boyer, for sex trafficking, but instead look in their backyards. America is viewed as the land of the free, so the federal government, and its citizens, should make the land as free as it already should be for trafficking victims.
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Swedish Institute. “The Ban against the Purchase of Sexual Services. An evaluation 1999-2008”. November 2010. PDF file.