Designed to drive awareness of human trafficking in Israel, a provocative campaign in a busy Tel Aviv Mall used an empty storefront to display models posing as trafficking victims. Each woman had a price tag and details of their age, weight, height, dimensions, and country of origin.
First reported on CNN, the organizers aim is to collect enough signatures to pressure the Israeli justice ministry to make it a crime for men to go to prostitutes as a next step in the fight against women trafficking, said attorney Ori Keidar, one of the founders of the task force against the problem.
“The legislation against the prostitutes’ customers will bring a reduction in the demand for prostitution and it will be a less lucrative business for crime organizations,” Keidar said. “This in turn will bring a reduction in the trafficking of women.”
Over the past decade, about 10,000 women have been trafficked into Israel, locked, beaten, raped, starved and forced to satisfy 15-30 men a day.
The fight against trafficking in Israel increased about tree years ago when Israeli police began applying significant resources to fight the abuse. Somewhat ironically, al Qaeda’s presence in the Sinai has inadvertently reduced trafficking as border patrols along the Israeli-Egyptian border, where most of the women are smuggled across, have increased.
“This legislation against the customers will bring a further reduction in trafficking and with a little more pressure we can make this go away” Keidar said.
“This [proposed] legislation against the customers will bring a further reduction in trafficking and with a little more pressure we can make this go away” Keidar said.
Human trafficking is a modern scourge primarily affecting women and children. It is defined by the United Nations as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
This modern day form of slavery is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, and is now tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry, after the drug-trade. The total annual revenue for trafficking in persons is estimated to be between USD$5 billion and $9 billion. The Council of Europe states, “People trafficking has reached epidemic proportions over the past decade, with a global annual market of about $42.5 billion.” The United Nations estimates nearly 2.5 million people from 127 different countries are being trafficked around the world.
Sadly, the internet plays a strong role in human trafficking where it enables pimps to ‘offer’ the women and children the control for rent or for sale. Recently news about several state Attorneys General’s pressure on Craigslist has brought media focus to the issue, but it is naive to look at this as solely a Craigslist issue.
Human trafficking occurs on virtually every dating and personals website – a quick check on the Seattle Times Personals pages, and the Washington Post’s personal pages shows ads equally explicit and suggestive of trafficking. And while it is easy to point a finger at companies with these services and demand stricter vetting processes (which should happen) there is only so much investigation a company can reasonably be expected to undertake to determine whether the ad is legitimate, or whether the person has been forced to place the ad.
Also needed is greater public awareness, increased law enforcement resources, and stronger penalties for ‘Johns’ (those seeking sexual services) and slave masters who hold people in forced labor, bonded labor (also called debt bondage) and child labor. The International Labor Organization estimates worldwide that there are 246 million exploited children aged between 5 and 17 involved in debt bondage, forced recruitment for armed conflict, prostitution, pornography, the illegal drug trade, the illegal arms trade, and other illicit activities around the world. In the U.S. they are often forced into au pair and housekeeping jobs.
To learn more about trafficking and the internet, read my blog Child Trafficking and the Internet.
Do your part to end trafficking – Apply the power of one
Several years ago I was speaking at a conference on human trafficking prevention, and a man in the audience approached me as I finished my remarks. He was overwhelmed by what he’d learned in the conference and was looking for how he as an individual could make a difference.
It was a determination he carried back to his state and he began by working with local law enforcement groups to help them get a more personal sense of the tragedy and scope of human trafficking. He explained that prostitution is the only crime where we arrest the victims and let the perpetrators go free. As he built their knowledge and compassion, and made them aware of the resources they could leverage when they came across trafficking victims, more arrests were made of the johns and pimps abusing these women and children.
He also began organizing protests outside known ‘massage’ parlors, raising awareness of the plight of women forced to work under these conditions, and deterring clients from entering. At the same time, he worked with local newspapers to bring greater awareness of human trafficking to the public’s attention. In less than one year, this man’s efforts created an entirely different environment in his county, one where citizens had become vigilant and developed compassion for victims they had formerly dismissed as ‘prostitutes’, where police had significantly assisted victims and arrested abusers, and where ‘massage’ parlors no longer felt welcome.
There are about 3,100 counties in the U.S.
- Imagine if just one person in each county took up the cause.
- Imagine if law enforcement across the country was given deeper insight into the plight of these victims, an understanding that they ARE victims, and the tools and information needed to help these women and children get to safe shelters.
- Imagine if pressure were brought to bear on lawmakers to make stiffer penalties for those exploiting these victims.
- Imagine the difference it would make if everyone in your communities became more sensitive to this exploitation and vigilant in identifying cases where women and children are being bought, sold, and rented by the hour.
- Imagine if every online citizen became more vigilant and sensitive to this horrific crime, and reported suspected cases to the websites and police.
Stop imagining. If we’re going to make a difference we all have to be that person. Make that difference. Save those lives, and convict those who abuse them, for the abusers truly are sex offenders.
Every pimp and every john who forces himself on a woman who is not free to choose otherwise, or on any child, is a sex offender.
To get involved in the campaign against human trafficking, you can find more information and organizations in your area by searching online for human trafficking and your region. In Washington state, the Attorney General’s website hosts information, as do many other Attorneys General’s sites. Many states host information on other government websites as well.
If you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, or you yourself are a victim, get help by calling the Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888.