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Cassandra Clifford
Executive Director and Founder of BTFF

Friday, July 20, 2012

Nefarious Screening Raises Complex Questions

This past Monday the historic Byrd Theater in Richmond hosted a screening of Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, put on by the Richmond Justice Initiative.  The movie traveled across the world while exploring the underworld of prostitution, ingrained with sex trafficking:  From the borders of Eastern Europe, to the heart of Southeast Asia, ending in Las Vegas, director Benjamin Nolot raises the difficult, and much debated, question: can commercial sex trafficking really end if prostitution still exists?  It is probably one of the most controversial, and complicated, questions in regards to human trafficking, but what Nefarious explored was how different countries approached this question.

Amsterdam is, of course, one of the most famous examples as prostitution has been legalized.  This decision was partly based on the idea that this would create a safer environment for girls in the lifestyle.  Nefarious raises doubts on the claim through interviews with former prostitutes and even a brothel owner.  Although prostitution was legalized, the owner still had a "panic button" within easy reach for a girl and one witness testified to most girls still having pimps.  Are these indicators of a truly safer environment?

Nolot brings stark contrast to his film by also focusing on Sweden, a country that has made the buying of sex illegal through the Law that Prohibits the Purchase of Sexual Services.  While this seems on track with many other parts of the world, Sweden broke ground with this law by not punishing the girl at all; they are offered assistance and services while the johns are given sentences that are the equivalent to a US felony.  While prostitution has not been eradicated in Sweden, it's government can say with confidence that after being in affect for over ten years, there has been no new recruitment into the commercial sex trade.

While there are many debates over how to "solve" prostitution, what is statistics, and movies like Nefarious, have made clear is that one can never assume a women in the commercial sex trade is not a victim of modern slavery.  These contrasts made by Nolot in his film raises the logical question of how the United States is working to identify and aid victims caught trapped in sex trafficking.

The most shocking finding?  The range in policy across the the country.  Washington State has been praised as one of the ground breakers in prostitution reform with revised laws that have increased the penalty for patronizing a prostitute, where a buyer could even have to register as a sex offender after multiple convictions. On the other hand, North Carolina's policy is identical across the board: from prostitute to pimp, everyone receives a misdemeanor.  In a world where domestic minor sex trafficking has been reported in all 50 states, the US cannot take the risk of ignoring these concerns.   Whether prostitutes are in the trade by choice should not be the main concern.  The reality is that human trafficking victims are held in slavery under the guise of prostitution and legislation must be reviewed in order to free them.

Do your part today and write your congressman or congresswomen and ask what your state is doing to protect those forced, coerced and tricked into commercial sex trafficking.

Interested in Nefarious? Buy the DVD here.

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