Does it look like someone has tried to scratch their way out of the door in a brothel? Chances are the person you have had sex with is a human trafficking victim

Following on from my previous blog about human trafficking victims no longer found handcuffed to a bed in a brothel, which concentrated many on labour trafficking, it is now time to dispel some of the myths about sex trafficking.

Recent reports of police raids of brothels, and convictions of individuals for trafficking young girls and forcing them to work in the brothels, sex trafficking has again received an increased media profile.  However, these cases highlighted in the news are only the tip of the iceberg, and the sad reality is that most victims are not found until it is too late.

The US State Department report released last week makes it clear that the detection, prosecution and conviction rates for sex and labour trafficking are woefully low.  This is not a country or region based problem, globally the war on human trafficking is not being won.  One of the main problems is that human trafficking is a vast organized crime, which preys on those who are the most vulnerable or disadvantaged.  By it’s very nature the majority of sex trafficked victims are kept below the radar as in many countries brothels and prostitution are illegal.

Although there are many specialised law enforcement units working throughout the UK to identify sex traffickers and their victims, without the assistance of the public and neighborhood law enforcement, it is questionable whether the battle against sex trafficking in the UK can ever be won.

The Police Service Northern Ireland have recently launched an initiative to educate those people who use the brothels.  It is not unusual for a client of a brothel to question whether the person (woman, man, boy or girl) servicing them is doing so voluntarily.  In many cases, a client will have been asked by the person servicing them to call the police or to help them.  However, there are very few clients who have then made contact with the police or tried to help.  The excuse “I didn’t want to get involved” is one which comes up time and time again.  In reality, all that it would have taken to assist that victim is an anonymous phone call to the police.  While it is accepted that campaigns aimed at educating clients about the possibility that they are having sex with a human trafficking victim will not prevent these clients from using the brothels, it may help to raise awareness of the small things that they can do to help.  A phone call to the police or a Human trafficking support group to report a door that looks as though someone has tried to scratch their way out, or a girl who is covered in burn marks or bruises, may be the difference between life and death for that girl.

The biggest stumbling block for law enforcement is that most of the brothels which house the trafficking victims are not in mainstream places, and are not known as brothels.  A house in the middle of a housing estate, or a van driving up and down a motorway is the modern day brothel.  All it takes is an advert in the back of a newspaper, or on the internet, and the clients will come flooding in.  Many clients find the thrill of tracking down the van in the service station, or entering the house through the back door at midnight to be as much of a thrill as the sex they will then purchase when they are inside.  This is where raising public awareness makes all the difference.  A neighbour who notices that there are visitors to a house all day and night, and who calls their local neighborhood police officer, or local authority anti-social behaviour officer may ultimately be reporting on a sex trafficking ring without even knowing it.

The time has come to educate the public into looking for the signs of sex trafficking, the neighbour, the security guard at the service station, the local neighborhood police officer who regularly speaks to the local prostitutes or their clients, all of these have a vital role in the fight against sex trafficking.

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About gurdena

Social Justice Lawyer, interested in all things contentious. Specialising in criminal law, and anything criminal justice related, also employment law. Door tenant at 1 Grays Inn Square chambers. Find out more at www.alisongurden.com

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