Sex trafficking

Canada: Pass legislation to prevent the sexual exploitation of women & girls

Action Number: 
57.1
Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2014 Apr 15

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TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

Please join Equality Now and our Canadian partners EVE, Sextrade101, and the London Abused Women’s Centre in calling on the government to propose and enact legislation in line with the Nordic Model that will protect the human rights of people in prostitution while preventing future exploitation in the commercial sex industry.
Letters should go to:

The Honourable Peter MacKay
Minister of Justice
509s Center Block
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K1A 0A6
peter.mackay@parl.gc.ca
Telephone: 613-992-6022
Fax: 613-992-2337
Twitter: @MinPeterMacKay

The Honourable Steven Blaney
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K1A 0A6
steven.blaney@parl.gc.ca
Telephone: 613-992-7434
Fax: 613-995-6856
Twitter: @MinStevenBlaney

Letters: 

Dear Minister,

I urge you to listen to the survivors of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation advocating for the Canadian government to pass legislation that criminalizes those who pay for sex acts while decriminalizing and ensuring support for women in prostitution – known as the “Swedish” or “Nordic” model. After the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the prostitution laws as unconstitutional, your government has a vital opportunity to better protect people in prostitution, prevent sex trafficking and promote gender equality by joining other progressive countries that have adopted the Nordic model.

The exploitation of women and girls in the commercial sex industry is a human rights violation and a cause and consequence of gender, racial, ethnic, economic and other inequalities. While precise numbers are difficult to obtain, it is clear that the vast majority of those in prostitution are women, and that many enter as children. In addition, women and girls from marginalized communities are overrepresented. As many women and girls are not in prostitution through choice, but rather lack of choice, people in prostitution must not be criminalized, but instead should have access to comprehensive assistance and services.

The Nordic model has been adopted in Sweden, Norway, and Iceland, and is currently being considered by the parliaments of France, Ireland and Northern Ireland. I join Equality Now, EVE (formerly Exploited Voices now Educating), Sextrade 101 and the London Abused Women’s Centre in calling on the Canadian government to live up to its obligations under international law, including the UN Trafficking Protocol and UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, to address the demand for prostitution that fuels sex trafficking and to protect people in prostitution by proposing and passing legislation that:

1.    Decriminalizes people in prostitution (i.e. people selling sex),
2.    Criminalizes those who pay for sex acts, brothel-keepers, pimps and procurers, and
3.    Mandates robust funding for services for people in prostitution, including assistance for those who wish to exit prostitution.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

When Girls Are Part of the Solution Everyone Benefits (Huffington Post)

3/7/2014 -- Huffington Post -- "When Girls Are Part of the Solution Everyone Benefits" New York office Director Lauren Hersh on Project Impact, an arts-based leadership workshop for teen trafficking survivors.

Equality Now and Partners challenge UN push to legalise prostitution (Reuters)

9/22/2013 -- Reuters -- "Rights groups challenge UN push to legalise prostitution"

“What we’re asking is that the reports (advocating legalisation) be appealed or amended,” said Lauren Hersh, a former domestic violence prosecutor and head of Equality Now’s anti-trafficking programme.

United Nations: Listen to survivors – don’t jeopardize efforts to prevent sex trafficking

Action Number: 
51.1
Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2013 Sep 20

2 DECEMBER 2013 UPDATE: On 4 November 2013, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé sent an email to individuals and organizations who had signed our petition calling on the United Nations to listen to survivors and to clarify its position regarding pimping, brothel-keeping and buying sex. In this email, Mr. Sidibé stated that “UNAIDS is not advocating for the decriminalization of pimping or brothel ownership.” This is an important clarification, as recent UNAIDS-backed reports (see below) had called for the decriminalization of pimping and brothel-keeping.

What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

Please join survivors such as Ayesha, Alma, Michelle and Sam, Equality Now, and a coalition of 97 survivor-led and anti-trafficking organizations worldwide who have been disputing the UN reports since November 2012, in urging UNAIDS, UNFPA and UNDP to:

  • Clarify their position on the decriminalization of pimps, brothel owners and buyers;
  • In all future development of policies and programs on issues that affect people in the commercial sex industry, consult, involve and reflect the views of survivors of commercial sexual exploitation as well as a more diverse range of groups working on the issue of prostitution and sex trafficking.

Letters should go to:

Michel Sidibé
Executive Director
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)
20 Avenue Appia
1211 Geneva 27
SWITZERLAND
Email: sidibem@unaids.org
Fax: +41 22 791 4179

Helen Clark
Administrator
United Nations Development Programme
One United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
USA
Email: helen.clark@undp.org
Fax: +1 212-906-5778

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin
Executive Director
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
605 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10158
USA
Email: osotimehin@unfpa.org
Fax: +1 212-370-0201

With a copy to your country’s Ambassador to the UN, and to:

H.E. Ban Ki-moon
Secretary-General
United Nations, S-3800
New York, NY 10017
USA
Email: sg@un.org
Fax: +1 212-963-2155

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Executive Director
UN Women
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
405 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017
USA
Email: phumzile.mlambo-ngcuka@unwomen.org
Fax: +1 646-781-4444

Letters: 

Dear […],

I am deeply concerned about recommendations contained in two recent reports: the Global Commission on HIV and the Law’s report HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights and Health (2012), published by UNDP, and the UNDP, UNFPA and UNAIDS-backed report, Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific (2012). These reports not only make recommendations in direct opposition to international human rights standards, but also largely ignore the experiences and views of survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking.

These two reports tell countries that in order to support efforts to reduce HIV/AIDS and to promote the human rights of people in prostitution, all aspects of the commercial sex industry should be decriminalized, including pimping, brothel-keeping and the purchase of sex. However, the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women calls for countries to “suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.” In addition, there is mounting evidence that decriminalization and legalization – including of brothels – does not protect people in prostitution or improve their situation.

Furthermore, I am concerned with the two reports’ recommendation to revise and narrow the definition of trafficking in the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (UN Trafficking Protocol), which would prevent many victims of trafficking from being recognized as such. This would jeopardize their ability to access support and justice, and reduce accountability for their traffickers.

The Swedish (or Nordic) model on prostitution addresses demand by decriminalizing the person in prostitution and criminalizing the buyers and pimps. This approach recognizes the inherent inequality in the power dynamic between the buyer and the person bought in a commercial sex transaction. The effectiveness of combating sex trafficking through addressing demand for commercial sex has been affirmed by the UN Trafficking Protocol, the UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the former head of UN Women, yet the two reports at issue call for laws that address the demand for commercial sex to be repealed.

Promoting the human rights of people in prostitution – including their right to health, safety and freedom from violence and exploitation – and protecting them from HIV, are imperative. However, the two reports’ recommendations are in direct opposition to efforts and policies that have been and are widely supported throughout the UN. They also jeopardize efforts to prevent and address sex trafficking and promote gender equality. These cannot be side effects of efforts to prevent HIV.

In November 2013 UNAIDS clarified its position, stating that it does “not advocat[e] for the decriminalization of pimping or brothel keeping.” I respectfully urge you that (1) UNFPA and UNDP clarify their positions on the decriminalization of pimps, brothel owners and buyers, and (2) all agencies include the views of survivors of commercial sexual exploitation as well as a more diverse range of groups working on the issue of prostitution and sex trafficking, in the future development of policies and programs on issues that affect people in the commercial sex industry.

I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Letter to the Editor: Prosecuting Sex Buyers (NY Times)

8/5/2013 -- New York Times -- "Prosecuting Sex Buyers" Equality Now New York Director Lauren Hersh speaks out on the need to address demand in the fight against sex trafficking.


To the Editor:

United States: Pass the Trafficking Victims Protection & Justice Act in New York

Action Number: 
50.1
Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2013 Jun 10
Update Date: 
2013 Jun 25
Update: 

25 JUNE 2013 UPDATE - In a positive step for 16 and17 year-old sex trafficking victims, on 22 June, the New York State legislature passed a bill extending its Safe Harbor Law to cover all prostituted individuals under the age of eighteen (previously only victims aged 15 and under were covered). Now, 16 and 17 year-old victims who are arrested for prostitution will be classified as trafficking victims, thereby allowing them to access treatment services rather than jail time. Their criminal records will also be sealed so as not to penalize them further while they rebuild their lives. Equality Now congratulates Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Senator Andrew Lanza for their incredible work in ensuring passage of this bill during this legislative session.

Unfortunately, due to political grandstanding in Albany, the TVPJA was not passed. However, we are optimistic that the bill will ultimately pass during New York’s next legislative term as there was significant support for it in both the Senate and Assembly. Over the next few months, Equality Now and our partners will strategize on a plan to secure passage of the TVPJA during the next legislative session. Thank you to our thousands of supporters for petitioning the New York legislature in support of this campaign, and we hope we can count on your continued support in 2014.


 

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What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

The TVJPA will be up for vote this legislative session, which ends June 20. Please join our campaign today!

  • Write to the government officials below and urge them to pass the TVPJA during the June 2013 legislative session.
  • If you live in New York, ask your district’s legislators to pass the TVPJA. Click on the links to find your assemblyperson or senator.
  • Learn more about Ruth and other girls from Gateways program as part of Equality Now’s yearlong campaign, Survivor Stories, which showcases survivor leadership in the anti-trafficking movement - www.equalitynow.org/survivorstories

Letters should go to:

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Email: gov.cuomo@chamber.state.ny.us
Social media links:
Twitter: @NYGovCuomo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GovernorAndrewCuomo

Assemblyman Sheldon Silver
Speaker of the New York State Assembly
Legislative Office Building, Room 932
Albany, NY 12247
Email: speaker@assembly.state.ny.us

Senator Dean G. Skelos
Temporary President and Majority Coalition Leader of the New York State Senate
Legislative Office Building, Room 909
Albany, NY 12247
Email: skelos@nysenate.gov
Social media links:
Twitter: @SenatorSkelos
Facebook: www.facebook.com/senatordeanskelos

Letters: 

Dear Governor Cuomo, Assemblyman Silver, Senator Dean G. Skelos:

I am writing to request your support of the New York Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA, Paulin/Lanza A.2240/S.2135) and urge its passage during the June 2013 session.

According to the New York Office of Child and Family Services, thousands of children are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation in New York annually. Yet, the sellers and buyers of these children are rarely arrested.

New York must do better. Currently the violent crime of trafficking is a “non-violent” offense under state law. A person who buys a minor for sex receives a lower penalty than someone convicted of raping a minor of the same age. To compound this, someone who buys sex from a minor is afforded the defense that “he did not know the victim was a child”; no such defense exists for other forms of child abuse. Furthermore, New York continues to treat 16 and 17 year old trafficking victims who are arrested for prostitution as criminals instead of victims who require treatment and supportive services.

Please pass the TVPJA so that trafficking is made a violent felony and that penalties for buying sex from a minor are aligned with those for statutory rape; that New York’s anti-trafficking laws are brought in line with the federal anti-trafficking statute by removing the requirement that prosecutors prove that underage trafficking victims were coerced into sexual acts; and, that all prostituted individuals under the age of 18 are classified as trafficking victims, thereby eliminating the exception for 16 and 17 year olds, and ensuring that they receive support services instead of criminal records. The law would also give New York’s law enforcement better tools to target and arrest the pimps and buyers who are supporting this multi-billion dollar trafficking industry – not the victims.

New York has consistently been at the forefront of anti-trafficking efforts. It was one of the first states in the country to pass anti-trafficking legislation. I encourage you to keep up this incredible effort by working to pass the TVPJA. Thank you in advance for taking all legislative and policy measures to ensure that New York’s girls and women are protected from trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.

Sincerely,

Time to Reform India’s Sex Trafficking Laws (Ms. blog)

5/16/2013 – Ms. blog – “Time to Reform India’s Sex Trafficking Laws”; On campaign to amend India’s Immoral Traffic Prevention Act

India: Reform anti-trafficking laws to better protect sex trafficking victims

Action Number: 
49.1
Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2013 May 8

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What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to sign the petition.

  • Sign our petition urging Indian government ministers and members of parliament to adopt the above provisions into the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956.
  • Read Ayesha’s full story as part of Equality Now’s yearlong campaign, Survivor Stories, which showcases survivor leadership in the anti-trafficking movement.
  • Help us spread the word about this campaign by sharing this Action with your friends.
Letters: 

TEXT OF PETITION:

I support the cause to end sex trafficking in India and applaud the amendments made to the Indian Penal Code and other criminal laws by the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, which will end legal impunity for most forms of rape and sexual violence against women and girls.

However, in order to strengthen the laws and ensure that traffickers, pimps, buyers and others exploiting those in prostitution will be prosecuted and convicted, I respectfully urge you to amend the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA) to include the following provisions.

  1. Ensuring legal protection and removing criminal sanctions from women and children in prostitution. Prostituted women and children must be able to seek the help and protection of the police without fear of being prosecuted. To achieve this, Section 20 (“Removal of prostitute from any place”) and Section 10 (“Detention of prostitute in a corrective institution”) of the ITPA must be removed entirely.
  2. Criminalization of pimps and brothel keepers, not women or children in prostitution. The new measures in the IPC, inexplicably, do not include the offence of pimping and touting, which is completely contrary to India’s requirements to punish traffickers under the Palermo Protocol. Section 8 of the ITPA must be reworded to include the following language:


    “Whoever commits an act or acts of pimping or touting for the purpose of sexual exploitation or prostitution of another person shall be punishable on first conviction with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to ten years, and also with fine which may extend to fifty thousand rupees.

    Whoever commits an offence under clause (1) above for the purpose of sexual exploitation or prostitution of a minor shall be punishable on first conviction with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than ten years, but which may extend to imprisonment for life and also with fine which may extend to two lakh [two hundred thousand] rupees.”

  3. Punishment of those who pay for sex. According to Apne Aap, very few Indian women, and no Indian children, freely offer commercial sexual services to men. The vast majority are victims of trafficking who are being forced to earn a living. Men who abuse their economic power to sustain this industry are perpetuating the exploitation of the most vulnerable people in society. The law must, therefore, criminalize those who pay for sex, especially those who pay for sex with children. The following provision must therefore be added to section 5(b) the ITPA:


    “(1) Any person who purchases, or attempts to purchase, another person, on making or agreeing to make monetary payment or payment in kind, for sexual use or sexual exploitation, shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which shall not be less than six months and may extend up to two years and also with fine which may extend up to twenty thousand rupees, and upon second or subsequent conviction shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which shall not be less than two years and may extend up to five years and also with fine which may extend up to fifty thousand rupees.

    (2) Any person who commits an offence described under sub-clause (1) with respect to a minor shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one year and may extend up to four years, and also with fine which may extend up to rupees one lakh, and upon second or subsequent conviction shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which shall not be less than four years and may extend up to ten years and also with fine which may extend up to rupees two lakhs [two hundred thousand].”

  4. Strict liability for traffickers and buyers of a minor regardless of whether the perpetrators knew the victim’s age. Anyone “buying” or “selling” a minor in order to exploit them in prostitution, or “buying” sex in exchange for money from a minor, should be penalized. “I didn’t know she was not 18” or “she said she was 25” should not be allowed as defenses for perpetrators. Thus, the following provision must be added to section 22 of the amended ITPA:


    “When any offence under this Act or under Section 370 or Section 370-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is alleged to have been committed against a minor, the lack of knowledge of the accused regarding the age of the victim, or misrepresentation by the victim or a third party that he or she was eighteen years of age or older at the time of the offence, shall not be permitted to be raised as a defence.”

  5. Establishment of a fully government-funded Trafficking Victims Rehabilitation and Welfare Fund. Provisions must be made in the law for real and sustainable rehabilitation in women-friendly shelter homes, which provide necessary linkages to various schemes and programs that trafficked women and children can benefit from.

Enacting these changes to the ITPA will make clear that the Government of India has a zero tolerance approach towards trafficking and exploitation while seeking to protect the women and children who are victims of these heinous crimes. This is a matter of great urgency as has been pointed out by the Verma Committee Report and by Honorable members of the Cabinet. We add our voices to those of these eminent parliamentarians and members of the judiciary, along with the voices of those who cry out from behind the closed doors of their bondage in sexual slavery.

Yours with hope,

Citizens of India & Global Citizens

United States: Address role of U.S. military in fueling global sex trafficking

Action Number: 
48.1
Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2013 Mar 4

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What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

  • Please call on the U.S. government to enforce Article 134 of the UCMJ on “pandering” and “patronizing a prostitute” and affirm its commitment to combating the demand for commercial sex that fuels sex trafficking. Doing so would help ensure that the United States lives up to its national and international commitments to prevent the sex trafficking and exploitation of women and girls around the world, and its zero tolerance policy on human trafficking.
  • Read Alma’s story as part of Equality Now’s yearlong campaign, Survivor Stories, which showcases survivor leadership in the anti-trafficking movement: www.equalitynow.org/survivorstories

Letters should be addressed to:

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
United States of America
Fax: + 1 202-456-2461
E-mail: president@whitehouse.gov
www.whitehouse.gov/contact

The Hon. Chuck Hagel
Secretary of Defense
Office of the Sec. of Defense
1400 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301
Tel: +1(703) 571-3343
Fax: +1(703) 571-8951
E-mail: chuck.hagel@osd.mil

Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca
U.S. Department of State
Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
1800 G Street NW,
Washington D.C., 20520
Tel: +1(202) 312-9639
Fax:  +1(202) 312-9637

Letters: 

Dear President/Secretary/Ambassador,

I am concerned about the U.S. military’s role in fueling sex trafficking and exploitation in the commercial sex industry around the world. The U.S. government has officially recognized the link between the demand for commercial sex and the sex trafficking industry, and took action in 2005 to ban U.S. service members from purchasing sex. However, I am troubled that this provision against purchasing sex is not being adequately enforced. Recent news articles and reports indicate that women and girls continue to be trafficked to and exploited in brothels around U.S. military bases overseas despite the U.S. government’s zero tolerance policy on sex trafficking and the demand that fuels it.

Sex trafficking is a criminal industry that operates on the market principles of supply and demand. The demand is created by men who pay for commercial sex, ensuring that sex trafficking continues to exist. Traffickers, pimps and facilitators profit from this demand by supplying the millions of women and girls who are exploited on a daily basis around the world. The U.S. government is bound by international and national anti-trafficking laws and policies to reduce this demand. Lack of enforcement of the military provision banning the purchase of sex undermines the U.S. government’s commitment to combating sex trafficking, and perpetuates the abuse of women and girls around the world.

I respectfully urge the U.S. government to enforce the provision banning U.S. service members from purchasing sex and affirm its commitment to combating the demand  that fuels sex trafficking. Doing so would help ensure the United States lives up to its national and international commitments to prevent the sex trafficking and exploitation of women and girls around the world, and its zero tolerance policy on human trafficking. Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

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