PROGRESS! UN Resolution Reiterates the Need to Eliminate the Demand that Fosters Sex Trafficking

In 2019 I provided expert court testimony in a South African child sex trafficking case involving a 16-year-old girl who was trafficked from Lesotho to South Africa where she was sexually exploited on a US-based live camming website. Even though justice was served on the two sex traffickers who were sentenced to multiple life sentences for their egregious crimes, those who purchased sexual access to the exploited child and the US based live-camming website were left unscathed. Sex buyers from across the globe who participated in the exploitation of the minor victim provide a glimpse into the behemoth that is consumer-level demand. More than 6,000 logins to the victim’s online profile over a two-year period were documented by investigators.  

From the brothels of Cape Town, South Africa and streets of Maputo, Mozambique, to the tourist markets in Kathmandu, Nepal and the redlight district of Pattaya, Thailand, I have observed, studied, and/or investigated the inextricable link between systems of prostitution and sex trafficking for over two decades and came to one unambiguous conclusion: consumer-level demand is the oxygen that keeps these ecosystems functional and fettered with physical, psychological, and sexual violence. 

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) remains unwavering in its commitment to deter buyers and discourage the demand that fosters trafficking for sexual exploitation. Drawing from a variety of local and international knowledge sources, research, and insights from demand reduction tactics employed by law enforcement agencies, non-profits, and multidisciplinary specialists, we know the conclusion and solution is clear: buyers can be stopped, and demand reduction tactics can be effectively employed, within a human-rights based approach, while generating revenue for survivor support services.

These concepts were the central tenet of NCOSE’s submission for the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly for the Appraisal of the United Nations (UN) Global Plan of Action to Combat Human Trafficking, which took place between 22-23 November 2021. 

NCOSE was an accredited contributor to the High-level Meeting of the UN General Assembly in 2021 

The political declaration stemming from this event was recently welcomed in UN Resolution 77/194 (Trafficking in Women and Girls), which was adopted by the General Assembly on December 15, 2022. Noteworthy is its unequivocal reference to the importance of demand reduction.  

The UN resolution calls upon governments to: 

…intensify their efforts to prevent and address, with a view to eliminating, the demand that fosters the trafficking of women and girls for all forms of exploitation and in this regard to put in place or to enhance preventive measures, including legislative and punitive measures to deter exploiters of trafficked persons, as well as ensure their accountability  

Dr Geeta Sekhon, a close friend and ally with whom I’ve had the pleasure to collaborate with in the training of police investigators and prosecutors from several countries, is a renowned expert and consultant for the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Having worked on human trafficking related issues in 35 countries, Dr Sekhon has an important perspective on UN policies and the issue of demand reduction that have been periodically recommended in several resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly. She points out that demand reduction strategies, although not always the focus in counter-human trafficking efforts, need to be the “pivotal focal point in dealing with trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.” While the resolution is not binding on member states, Dr Sekhon remarked that UN Resolution 77/194 is “the expression of the collective will of the General Assembly and even though recommendatory in nature, it reflects the collective will of the UN and all its member states.”  

We are heartened by the strong resolve shown by the UN to keep demand reduction as an important and pivotal response to combating the crime of sex trafficking, and we undertake to support and amplify these efforts here in the United States, and elsewhere in the world. NCOSE’s institutional knowledge and multipronged approach to holding sex buyers accountable (law enforcement training, research, policy, litigation) are important arrows in the global response quiver.  

The trafficking of women and children, particularly girls, for the purpose of sexual exploitation will not cease until we deal decisively with consumer-level demand for prostitution. The estimated $99 billion annual profits from sex trafficking may be pocketed by sex traffickers, but it is paid for by sex buyers. Demand reduction is primary prevention and essential to every dimension of policy and practice that impact the sex trade and sex trafficking.  

ACTION: Ask Your State Legislators to Combat Demand!

Please take 30 SECONDS to fill out the quick action form below, asking your local elected officials to adopt policies that increase accountability for sex buyers and reduce the consumer-level demand for sex trafficking.

The Numbers

300+

NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.

100+

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.

93

NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.

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