Time for Change in Fight Against Human Trafficking

With a new administration in the White House, many sex workers and their allies are looking to the Obama administration with high hopes that we can effect substantive change towards acknowledgement of sex workers’ human rights.

Melissa Ditmore has a new article over at RHRealityCheck.org:  The Right Time for  Change in the Fight Against Human Trafficking.

In 2007, the junior U.S. senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, sponsored a Senate resolution creating the National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness, which we observed on Sunday, January 11. Human trafficking is rarely on the pundits’ list of priorities for President Obama’s administration, but he knows that early action in this area could have global impact. For starters, he should reconsider the current approach of raids, raids and more raids. It’s not working.

The Obama administration has the opportunity to reassess this failed federal approach to human trafficking. The recent passage of federal anti-trafficking legislation championed by Vice President Joe Biden offers a fresh start – and a chance to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

A good first step would be to move away from high-profile, resource-intensive and largely ineffective raids and to address the economic and social circumstances that increase vulnerability to trafficking. It flourishes in labor sectors with few protections, such as domestic work, agriculture, the service industry, and informal economies such as day labor and, yes, sex work. Expansion and targeted enforcement of labor laws in these sectors would not only go a long way toward locating, identifying and assisting trafficked persons, it would also protect the rights of all workers.

For the long term, strategies led by individuals and communities with knowledge of and access to trafficked people are far more likely than raids to meet with success. Obama’s 2007 Senate resolution recognized this, noting that the people most likely to come into contact with trafficking victims are “essential for effective enforcement” – but at the moment, such people are not shielded from immigration consequences or arrest if they come forward.

One Response

  1. Is anyone good with calculations? According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report, only 10% of human-trafficking cases in the US have been confirmed. The calculation is disputed by a commenter at http://www.nodo50.org/Laura_Agustin/only-10-of-alleged-trafficking-cases-in-the-us-confirmed

    Numbers can be endlessly fiddled, so I don’t give these any great weight either way, but they are suggestive of weakness in the US strategy at home.

    Best, Laura

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