This Sex-Trafficking Bill Infringes on Free Speech While Hurting Sex Workers

free speech

By Cathy Reisenwitz –

It seems like “sex trafficking” is all the rage these days, even though it makes up a tiny percentage of human trafficking worldwide. I guess ladies giving forced blowjobs is more exciting than a guy picking cotton under threat of death or torture, even though the latter is far, far more common.

While everyone wants to save young ladies from sex slavery, distressingly, a host of forces has hijacked a worthy cause in order to promote their less-than-worthy causes. For example, many people want to make it illegal for websites to advertise sex work. Thus the SAVE Act of 2014, which stands for “Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation.”

It effectively forces publications to police their advertisers to be sure sex traffickers aren’t taking out ads. That’s why the ACLU opposes it. Interestingly, many Republican lawmakers oppose it as well, mostly because it imposes mandatory minimum sentencing.

Essentially, the bill would force websites to censor their ads or become “willfully blind” of questionable advertising. This would, ironically, lead to less ad supervision. Online services from Tumblr to Tinder could be impacted, along with the usual suspects like

The most depressing thing about this legislation is how completely and totally it misses the point. Sex trafficking can’t be stopped by punishing advertisers! In fact, according to everyone from Amnesty International to the UN, the best thing lawmakers could possibly do to end sex trafficking is to legalize sex work. The important thing aid workers must do is differentiate sex workers and sex slaves. The best way to do this is to work with, not against, sex workers.

This is pretty common knowledge, not to mention common sense. So it’s odd no one is putting it into practice, and anti-trafficking groups keep coming up with pointless, rights-violating legislation. It’s odd until you realize anti-trafficking groups aren’t really against trafficking. If they were they’d focus on the tens of millions of domestic laborers trafficking annually. No, most anti-trafficking groups are really anti-prostitution groups who have found a new way to sell old, ineffective, rights-violating medicine.

In no place, at no time, has criminalizing sex work ended sex work. It has, however, forced  women and men to work in the shadows, where they are victims of violence and predation with no legal recourse. It has necessitated the use of pimps and madams. It has led to women being arrested for carrying condoms. Prohibition has been a total total failure and a human rights tragedy. But antis are using human trafficking to put a new face on it.

The SAVE Act has got to go, along with all other similar legislation. If we want to end human trafficking, we should focus on all victims, and we should work with, and not against, our best hope of finding and saving the women trapped in it.


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