Each year, hundreds of thousands of women and children around the world become victims of the global sex trade. They are recruited into prostitution, often using tactics involving force, fraud, or coercion. Criminals working in organized networks treat the victims like commodities, buying and selling them for profit. This modern-day form of slavery is called sex trafficking.
The transnational flow of women and children for the sex trade occurs among sending, transit, and receiving countries. Traffickers recruit victims in sending countries, where there is poverty, unemployment, or political instability that motivate people to seek work and opportunities in other countries. They move victims through transit countries on the way to their destinations. In receiving countries, the pimps await the arrival of the women and children they have ordered for their prostitution operations. Men come to establishments offering prostitution to pay money for sex acts. The dynamics of this trade in women and children for sex acts is a balance between the supply of victims from sending countries and the demand for victims in receiving countries.
Sex trafficking, slavery, and prostitution are not new forms of exploitative criminal activity. Over a hundred years ago, sex trafficking was called the “white slave trade” and prostitution was called “vice.” Societies that value the freedom and dignity of people have long recognized the harm of these activities to women, families, and communities, and consider them incompatible with universal standards for human rights. In 2002, President George W. Bush directed the U.S. government to adopt an “abolitionist approach” to combating trafficking in persons. He said: “Prostitution and related activities, which are inherently harmful and dehumanizing, contribute to the phenomenon of trafficking in persons…”
Analyzing trafficking and prostitution as parts of an interlocking system reveals how the components are linked, and studying the dynamics of supply and demand for victims reveals what keeps the system working.
Over the past decade, most of the analyses of the causes of sex trafficking have focused on factors in the sending countries. And efforts to combat trafficking have aimed to stop trafficking on the supply side through education and prevention campaigns in sending countries to alert people about the phenomenon of trafficking. Potential victims are warned about the tactics used by recruiters and the consequences of trafficking, with the aim of reducing the supply of victims. In comparison, there have been few campaigns or efforts aimed at reducing the demand for victims.
The movement to abolish trafficking and sexual exploitation needs a more comprehensive approach, one that includes analyses of the demand side of trafficking, and develops practices to combat the demand in receiving countries. A focus on the demand side means making men personally responsible and accountable for their behavior that contributes to the sex trade. In October 2003, at the United Nations, President George W. Bush spoke about the role of the demand in perpetuating the global sex trade: “Those who patronize this industry debase themselves and deepen the misery of others.”
This report will describe efforts to address the demand side of sex trafficking. It will define the demand and describe its different components. It will describe laws, policies, and programs aimed at reducing the demand for prostitution in communities and entire countries. It includes a review of research on men’s behavior and attitudes towards prostitution and researchers’ analyses of men’s behavior and motives to purchase sex acts.
To read the full report, please click here.