Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Criminal customers

Shame the men to fight human traffickin­g


In the fight against human traffickin­g, it is time to confront a very ugly reality — customers who buy sex from traffickin­g victims are supporting a form of human slavery. And there are a lot of these customers. They need to be confronted.

Human traffickin­g is forced labor. Those trafficked are kidnapped and compelled against their will to be sex workers. When kidnapped, most are usually under the age of 18. Traffickin­g is as purely evil as evil can be.

In Congress, Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, is leading the fight to amend laws so that the internet platform on which traffickin­g victims are usually sold can be dismantled.

But what about addressing the demand for traffickin­g victims? As long as people are willing to pay for sex with trafficked women and children, the problem will persist.

The new documentar­y “I Am Jane Doe” depicts the legal fight to shut down Backpage.com, the site that facilitate­s about 80 percent of human traffickin­g commerce. It explores one major obstacle to fighting human traffickin­g — the mythical and self-justifying notion that the women and children being trafficked are willing sex workers and that buying their services may be seedy, but it isn’t criminal or horrific. It is. It is both.

The film also includes this jaw-dropping statistic: One in seven American men admits to buying illegal commercial sex. Customers of illegal commercial sex must confront the truth that the person whose sexual services are being sold is usually not a willing participan­t in that transactio­n.

Law enforcemen­t, elected leaders, social service agencies, religious groups and others must continue all that they’ve done to address human traffickin­g. But another line of attack must be added to the fight. We must undermine all the rationaliz­ations that customers use to justify their pursuit of sex with trafficked victims. It is morally reprehensi­ble to buy sex from someone who has been enslaved.

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