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The Solution To Human Trafficking Is Hiding In Plain Sight

An estimated 4.5 million people worldwide are victims of forced sexual exploitation.

One in six teenage runaways become sex trafficking victims. Children, in fact, make up 20% of all trafficking victims.

The statistics are staggering and tragic. They are motivating factors, though, in January being recognized as “Human Trafficking Awareness Month.”

And while awareness is appreciated, it’s only the first step on the road to reform for a problem whose solution is hiding in plain sight.

The only way to end sex trafficking is deceptively simple: we have to stop those who create the demand in the first place. No buyers, no business. By creating strong deterrents, we can stem the endless flow of sex trafficked victims used to meet the demand buyers create.

In Nevada, legal brothels have been permitted in select counties for 48 years, but tolerated for well over a century. Thus, instead of creating strong deterrents, the state does precisely the opposite: it encourages sex buyers, and thus sex trafficking — a form of slavery prohibited under the 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution — through legalized prostitution in rural locales.

In Nevada, the government is the trafficker, raking in millions of dollars through taxes and licensing fees, not to mention tourism revenue, as a prostitution tourism state it gets paid when women and girls get sold. The other traffickers brag that recruiting in Nevada is the easiest because the laws have already done half of the work for them.

Women such as three survivors of Nevada’s legal prostitution marketplace, who with the help of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) Law Center, are now suing the state to bring this abuse profiteering to an end, citing the 13th Amendment’s absolute prohibition on all forms of slavery, and on governments enabling it.

In Nevada, women are treated as human sexual chattel with young women in particular in demand. And just as in other marketplaces, supply and demand drives the prices as those who profit from their bodies can charge higher prices. As one study by Creighton University noted, “phrases like ‘fresh meat,’ ‘brand new,’ and ‘daddy’s little girl’ are all used to connote the youth of those being sold for sex … The higher profit margins create incentives for traffickers to recruit younger individuals.”

Thus, it is not a coincidence Nevada is among the top ten states for young people, age 20 and younger (including potentially underage), engaged in the sex trade. In her book, “Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada, Making the Connections,” Melissa Farley cites a survey of 45 women who experienced prostitution in legal Nevada brothels that found 23% self-reported that they were prostituted as a child. The same survey found that 57% of the women gave part or all of their income to their pimp or trafficker.

No woman is safe in a world where other women are for sale. In Nevada, women outside prostitution face disproportionate male violence too. Nevada has consistently ranked first in the nation in domestic violence fatalities, seventh (as of 2020) for rape/sexual assault, and fourth for women murdered by men, while being only the 32nd most populous state in the nation.

And to refute the oft-used argument that legalized prostitution in certain areas reduces its presence elsewhere — at least 90%  of prostitution in Nevada is estimated to occur outside of the legal brothel system. Prostitution is officially illegal in Las Vegas and Reno, but commonly occurs in legal strip clubs and legal escort agencies. Per-capita rates for commercial sex, both legal and illegal, are 63% higher in Nevada than the next highest state — New York.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford said, “January is human trafficking month and there’s no better time to remind Nevadans victimized by human trafficking that my office is here to help.” We applaud his commitment, however, as long as there are legal brothels in Nevada, efforts to fight human trafficking will be futile. 

That one decision would help end human trafficking in the Silver State, free hundreds of women and girls from its ravages, and restore human dignity. But if the state digs in, it is my hope the NCOSE lawsuit and the federal courts will end this corrupt and dehumanizing system that — with state backing — presumes women exist for male use.

Christen Price is senior legal counsel for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, the leading national non-partisan education organization exposing the links between all forms of sexual exploitation such as child sexual abuse, prostitution, sex trafficking and the public health harms of pornography. Twitter: @NCOSE

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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