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Deconstructing Demand: The Driving Force of Sex Trafficking

Human Trafficking
Swanee Hunt

Worldwide, a growing movement is focusing on deterring purchasers of illegal commercial sex. That movement holds enormous promise in eradicating one of the most destructive yet hidden human rights abuses being perpetrated against women and girls, not only abroad but also rampantly in the United States. Too often, society puts the onus on the victims rather than the perpetrators of sex trafficking and other prostitution. But by far the most efficient approach in stopping this abuse is to focus on the sex buyers: When they stop buying, the entire system of degradation collapses. This article explains how focusing on sex purchasers eradicates the problematic distinction between sex trafficking and prostitution. Further, it lays out ethical, social, legal, medical, relational, and personal reasons that the illegal sex industry is incompatible with basic values of human dignity, gender equality, and fundamental care for others. Troubling questions have crippled efforts to halt gender-based sexual exploitation. For example: is the buying or selling of human beings for sex acts legitimized if the purchase is legal? What is the link between prostitution and sex trafficking? If those being bought or sold consent to the transaction, is their consent valid given that the average age a girl enters into prostitution is 13? Considering that by the time they are"consenting adults," they have been statutorily raped thousands of times and have known no other way of life, do they really have free choice? When is personal liberty of the minority more important than well-being of the majority?