Thursday, April 12, 2018

Trump Is In No Position To Sign A Human Trafficking Bill

My latest piece, "Congress's New Sex Trafficking Bill Won't Solve Anything," is up at The American Conservative. It's a criticism of the latest sex trafficking bill passed by Congress, FOSTA.

The bill prohibits website owners from “promoting or facilitating prostitution of another person.The terms “force, fraud, or coercion,” were not mentioned, which means Congress essentially redrafted the traditional definition of human trafficking to include prostitution between consenting adults.

Human trafficking is actually a fairly complex subject, but there is one simple, central caveat -- traffickers thrive upon vulnerability. Thus, criminal penalties for prostitution leave members of the sex industry susceptible to exploitation because they can’t go to the police for protection. 

By the way, that exploitation isn’t entirely limited to pimps and traffickers. In order to avoid being arrested, sex workers are often extorted for free sex by those who are sworn to “protect and serve.” Last year, the city of Oakland settled a civil lawsuit with a teen prostitute who had sex with as many 30 local police officers. More than a few officers had sex with her while she was underage.
Obviously, there’s no definitive way of knowing the exact extent of this police extortion. However, there was one academic study that provided statistics. The author Stephen Dubner and economist Steven Levitt have published numerous unconventional studies under the banner of “Freakonomics.” One of which found that 3% of Chicago prostitutes’ sex acts were provided for free to area police officers to avoid arrest.
Contrary to popular belief, websites that allow sex workers to advertise their services help them to avoid working for a pimp. With technology, they can selectively screen their clients and provide the police with data in case they are victimized. Albeit, that is the case in countries where prostitution is decriminalized. For those reasons and more, a university-conducted survey found that nearly 80% of U.K.-based sex workers responded that the Internet made their work conditions safer.
But, in the end, this concept generally falls on deaf ears because we live in a time when the terms “prostitution” and “trafficking” are falsely used interchangeably. In other words, the debate surrounding human trafficking has been stifled by an extremely flawed belief that essentially everyone in the sex industry is a victim of human trafficking.
It’s a small part of the current moral panic in which over-reactions are manufactured by activist organizations. Case in point, Walmart recently agreed to remove issues of Cosmopolitan magazine from checkout stands after receiving pressure from the anti-pornography group, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

Worst of all, this moral panic often ignores the more relevant issue of labor trafficking. Case in point, Donald Trump has made human trafficking a major talking point without even a hint of pushback from the press. In fact, he declared January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Therefore, with that in mind, we should evaluate the labor record of the President.

Donald Trump - Wikimedia Commons

During the 2016 campaign, an alarming story got lost in the mix. The New York Times and Vice profiled the human trafficking conditions at the Trump International Golf Club in Dubai. Foreign construction workers were lured to Dubai with contracts for certain wages. However, upon arrival their passports were taken, they were charged exorbitant fees, paid only a fraction of their promised wages, and essentially forced into indentured servitude.
In his defense, Donald Trump doesn’t own the Trump International Golf Club in Dubai. However, it’s deeply disturbing that the person who signed the FOSTA bill earned up to $10 million licensing his name to a property that, by all indications, was built with modern-day slave labor.

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