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September 15, 2011   

From the Desk of  Carol Soelberg: 

Today we give a brief report on the tragic and disconcerting topic of prostitution and sex trafficking -not a topic that most of us want to go anywhere near.  Unfortunately, it is a topic and a concern that desperately needs and deserves our attention. 

Is there a need for a new drive for the abolition of slavery, the answer is "yes" -- for all of the world's children deserve and need to be protected.  The first step is to educate ourselves about the problem. 

Sincerely,

Carol Soelberg
President, United Families International

Exposing Modern Day Slavery
 By Ann Bailey

Stepping off the plane in Las Vegas and looking around at the rows of slot machines, alluring marketing posters, and swarms of party-ready people, my mind flashed back to a time, not that long ago, when this city ran a major marketing campaign designed to attract families to choose it as a vacation destination.  Las Vegas --  A family vacationing mecca?  -- a city that, for all its bright lights and sleek and sophisticated hotels, malls and restaurants, is nothing more than a cover for its seedy underbelly; a metropolitan empire built upon the twin vices of gambling and prostitution.

The reality of Las Vegas is best described by its current, much more honest marketing slogan:  "What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas."   A trade show and conference had brought my husband and me there; but I knew I would be counting the minutes until I could leave, for I know what drives Las Vegas and it isn't fine food, entertaining shows, and shopping. 

I know because of UFI's involvement with the various anti-human trafficking organizations that work to stop sex trafficking from absorbing and destroying the lives of literally millions of young girls and women. I know because of United Families International's continual efforts to stop prostitution from becoming legitimized in UN documents and to help prevent its legalization at a domestic level.   Promoting prostitution drives demand and sex trafficking delivers the supply.  That cycle is on clear display on the Las Vegas Strip - the number two most popular destination in the U.S.

Did you know?

*    Prostitution is actually not legal in Las Vegas proper.  It is, however, legal in nearby Nye County and in several other counties, mostly in Northern Nevada. 

 *    10,000 men a week come to the Las Vegas strip for prostitution--one of the largest conventions in Las Vegas is centered on prostitution.    

*    Prostitution is a five billion dollar a year industry in Las Vegas and "they have plenty of money to bribe officials," states Dr. Melissa Farley, researcher and author of Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada.

*    For example in the year 2006, four out of seven County Commissioner in Clark County (Las Vegas) were under indictment.  (Farley)

*    Most everyone connected to the Las Vegas Strip is related to the prostitution circle  (cabbies/chauffeurs, tourism, advertising, restaurants, shows, entertainers, airlines, hotels, etc.).  They all benefit from it either directly or indirectly.      

*    Human Trafficking, particularly sex trafficking, is known by criminals to be a low-risk, yet high-profit business 

*    Ninety-four percent of the individuals who are trafficked for sexual slavery in the U.S. are female.

*    The average age of a trafficked victim is 12-14 years old (U.S. Department of Justice)

*    Today, worldwide, there are more people held in slavery than at the height of the transatlantic trade. 

Why should this matter to me?

Put quite simply, this is modern-day slavery.  According to Laura Lederer, President of Global Centurion and an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law Center:

Human trafficking is a multi-dimensional problem. It is a transnational crime connected to other transnational crimes, such as drug and arms trafficking; it is a human rights issue, because it deprives the people being bought and sold of their basic rights and freedoms; it is a global health problem connected to the spread of HIV/AIDS and other serious communicable diseases; finally, it is a national security issue, because it fuels organized crime, threatens the rule of law, and creates trafficking pipelines that can be utilized by terrorist and extremist organizations looking to carry out violent acts. 

Experts estimate that as many as 27 million people are trapped in some form of slavery around the world today. According to the most recent analysis from the United Nations, many of these are women and children trafficked into the international sex trade.  A report released by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) claims that human trafficking is a growing phenomenon, that 79% of the crimes are for commercial sexual exploitation (as opposed to 18% for forced labor), and that the vast majority of victims are women and children. 

The above statistic is quite important because many of the proponents of the legalization of prostitution (renaming it "sex work") try to minimize the numbers of individuals - mostly women and children - brutalized by sex trafficking by claiming that the number of those who are trafficked for forced labor is greater.  This is done in an effort to draw attention away from the problem of prostitution and its obvious link to sex trafficking.  We at United Families see this tactic used regularly at the UN.

 Sex-tourism is a major driver of sex trafficking with well-heeled tourist from the developed world preying upon the less-developed world.  The Coalition Against Trafficking of Women reports that of four countries (The Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia), it is estimated that between 0.25 percent and 1.5 percent of the total female population is engaged in prostitution.  That's 200,000 prostitutes in Thailand alone.  There is great financial incentive for these same countries to look the other way as between 2 and 14 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) is tied up in prostitution.    

Laura Lederer also points out that contrary to what Americans might assume, most trafficked persons in the U.S. are not foreigners - they are young women and children who were born here.  In fact, the a U.S. Department of Justice Report stated that more than four-fifths of victims in confirmed sex trafficking incidents were identified as U.S. Citizens (83%).  Estimates vary on the number of juveniles (under 18) involved in prostitution.  But the best estimates are 300,000 youth in the U.S. are involved.    

Conclusion

It cannot be forgotten that there exists in Las Vegas a world apart from the strip where normal families work and raise their children; a place where traditional family values are alive and well. But it cannot be swept aside and forgotten that glittery Las Vegas is not just "a great place to visit and vacation," but rather "the epicenter of North American prostitution and sex trafficking." (City as Predator, NY Times)    

Las Vegas is just a well-known manifestation of a massive and overwhelming crisis and the writing of this article does little more than scratch the surface as to the depth of problem and the intricacies involved in eradicating prostitution and trafficking.  It is a global scourge that does require a "multi-dimensional" solution. There are many fine organizations that dedicated themselves to this effort and United Families International will continue in our efforts to impact UN and international policy on this issue. 

As with the 19th century abolition of slavery movement, there will be no solution until enough people become aware of the problem and step forward to help.  Perhaps this can be a starting point for many of us.

 Some resources to educate yourself and protect your family:

Myths and Facts about Trafficking for Legal and Illegal Prostitution

Trafficking in Persons Report 2011

Myths and Facts about Nevada Legal Prostitution

End Human Trafficking: A Contemporary Slavery

Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery 

 The "Natashas": Inside the New Global Sex Trade

Some organizations that singularly focus on this issue:

Polaris Project     

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women

Stand against Trafficking  (lists multiple anti-trafficking organizations)  

Program on Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery

Ann Bailey is a dedicated voluntary for United Families International who has extensive experience at the UN and with research and analysis on pro-family policy issues.