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.
President, United Families
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.
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.
example in the year 2006, four out of seven County Commissioner in Clark County
(Las Vegas) were under indictment. (Farley)
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
Trafficking, particularly sex trafficking, is known by criminals to be a
low-risk, yet high-profit business
percent of the individuals who are trafficked for sexual slavery in the
U.S. are female.
average age of a trafficked victim is 12-14 years old (U.S. Department of
worldwide, there are more people
held in slavery than at the height of the transatlantic trade.
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
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.
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
End Human Trafficking: A Contemporary
Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business
of Modern Slavery
The "Natashas": Inside the
New Global Sex Trade
organizations that singularly focus on this issue:
Against Trafficking in Women
Trafficking (lists multiple anti-trafficking organizations)
Program on Human Trafficking and
Modern Day Slavery
is a dedicated voluntary for United Families International who has extensive
experience at the UN and with research and analysis on pro-family policy