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Monday, July 16, 2012

The Cost of Demand

In 2005 Shared Hope International conducted a studied in four separate countries (United States, Netherlands, Jamaica and Japan) to investigate the impact of demand on woman and child who are victims of commercial sex trafficking.  It then turned their results into a 30 minute video titled DEMAND.  It's findings?  Without demand, the 2 million that are currently victims would no longer exist.    But while the solution is seemingly obvious, its implementation is difficult to  incomprehensible. How do we eradicate something that, according to the DEMAND, is affecting every major center, every major city in the United States?

In order to understand demand, one must look not only at the "consumer," but also the seller.  In his article "Understanding the Demand", Kevin Bales reveals that "slaves today are cheaper than at any other time in history."  Whether it's due to an increasingly desperation among third world populations, or high population counts, trafficking people is surpassing drugs and weapons in profits.  Not only is it profitable, but the risk is relatively low cost.  Bales discusses how difficult it is to penetrate what he calls the "wholesale chain."  The web of recruiters, transporters and traffickers is so complex and varying that it's difficult to disrupt them.  This provides a relative safety net for traffickers.  Low cost + low risk = high demand.

The high demand comes not just from the low risk for the seller, but from the low risk to the buyer as well.  There is a legal sex market in the United States with strip clubs, peep shoes and pornography, but Demand says that even legal businesses can become fronts for trafficking by turning a blind eye.  It's close to impossible to ensure that all girls in these venues are "free" and many times, they are underage.

On paper this all makes sense, but it's in reality that things get complicated.  How do we tell the difference? How do we separate the victims from those seeking this lifestyle?  The most basic answer? Education.  If the public chooses to become aware of the issue of modern slavery and learn how to identify victims, this will lead to an increase in reports and apprehensions by authorities."  As Bales puts it: "an increase in risk to the perpetrator will decrease the demand."  Education will also decrease the likelihood that society will be able to rationalize the activity of buying trafficked people.  A strongly negative public attitude toward trafficking would make it prohibitive to buying sex, just for the fact that the consequences for the "product" to be a trafficked woman or child would be so high.  The stronger the attitude, the higher the prosecutions, argues Bales.

Take the first step to saving trafficked women and children buy watching DEMAND and then sharing it with friends and family.  By creating awareness about the cost of buying sex, we can create a force that will lead to better victim identification and international cooperation.  Make the pledge to end demand.  

1 comment:

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