Free The Enslaved Thrown into the trunk of a car. Branded with a pimp’s name carved into her thigh. Forced to provide sexual services for countless men. This is the dominant image of modern sex trade’s victims on a continent considered an epitome of freedom and equality. Whenever we come across the term slavery, we automatically associate it with an institution that ended over two hundred years ago. However, as statistics evince, the estimated number of slaves today reaches around 21 million people which is 10 million more than the victims of the African slave trade meaning that there are more slaves today than at any point in human history. Modern slavery is more commonly referred to as human trafficking which, while seemingly different from the African slave trade, still operates on the same principle of a forced labour with no pay. Moreover, vast majority of victims are female forming more than 98% and thus, human trafficking can undoubtedly be considered a gender-based issue. One of the ways policy makers have attempted to improve current crisis is eradicating prostitution as a whole, not just the trafficking of women into the sex trade. Under the catchphrase “no demand, no supply,” they promote increasing criminal penalties against men who buy sex — a move they believe will upend the market that fuels prostitution and sex trafficking. They are convinced on the idea that all prostitution is exploitative. The problem is that the “end demand” campaign will harm trafficking victims and sex workers rather than helping them. The so-called “victim-centered” approaches have done nothing but indirectly hurt women, leaving them more vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation because they have criminal records limiting their access to housing and sustainable jobs.
This specific strategy also leads to more pressure on sex workers from pimps and traffickers. A pimp isn’t simply going to understand the fact that a new law has been implemented. Counter-trafficking experts are expecting that this change will cause drastic increase in the working hours of sex slaves since the number of clients are going to drop dramatically. However, it has to be understood that the law enforcement is only one part of the solution. The roots of human trafficking lie in the low social-economic background forcing women to leave their homes in order to financially support their families and themselves.
Solutions like ending demand for prostitution are not the answer as they are overly simplistic and do not tackle the core issues of the problem. On the other hand, satisfying the demand for basic social services, creating more shelters, job opportunities, building a responsive law-enforcement system and overcoming the corruption within governmental institutions might do the job. 6