What exactly is human trafficking?
The Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia featured “sex trafficking survivor and advocate” Ima Matul. The only problem is Ima Matul was not a victim of “sex trafficking” at all. Rather, she was a survivor of forced labor, that is, of being “trafficked” from Indonesia to Los Angeles to work as a domestic house worker. Matul was promised a salary plus room and board. However, when she arrived, she found out she was not paid any salary, was forced to work long hours and sleep in a closet. This sort of domestic worker exploitation is too common in Asian households. In 2014, an Indian diplomat’s wife was arrested in New York for essentially the same crime—abuse of domestic labor.
The Nevada Attorney General’s website speaks of 27 million human trafficking victims worldwide. Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt, like his Democratic predecessor Catherine Cortez Masto—now running for Harry Reid’s vacant Senate seat—links to only one website, the Polaris Project, as its source for information on human trafficking. Why is this particular advocacy group the only source of information on a state government website?
Laxalt’s office overstates even the statistics of trafficking provided by Polaris. The AG website claims 27 million people are “trafficked” worldwide. Polaris has reduced that to 20.9 million on its own website. Those who accept that number admit that three-fourths of those trafficked—estimated at about 15 million—are in fact labor trafficked, and less than 5 million are victims of sex trafficking. But sex trafficking gets the publicity, while labor trafficking rarely does.
The human trafficking hysteria began in 1999, when it was claimed 50,000 people were being trafficked as sex slaves into America annually. President George W. Bush spent $150 million dollars trying to find and “help” these trafficking victims. They couldn’t find any.
This has been the problem with human trafficking, and sex trafficking in particular. There just aren’t enough real victims in the United States to justify the money and time spent looking for them. So the anti-trafficking industry of nonprofits and law enforcement has to create victims. New laws that define trafficking to include “psychological abuse” and even voluntary independent sex work are passed. New inflated statistics and self-serving press releases are issued.
Although federal involvement in trafficking began in the Clinton administration, and was pushed by First Lady Hillary Clinton, it really took off under the Bush administration. In 2002, the Polaris Project was founded by recent Ivy League graduates Katherine Chon and Derek Ellerman. They parlayed the trafficking hysteria into a $4 million a year nonprofit. Sex worker rights organizations work on a shoestring.
In 1980, the Rhode Island Legislature neglected to include home-based prostitution as a crime. The new legal status resulted in dramatic decreases in rape and sexually transmitted disease. But this was not to the Polaris Project’s liking. Calling Rhode Island’s new decriminalized prostitution laws one of the “terrible two” (the other being legal prostitution in Nevada), Polaris worked overtime to re-criminalize indoor prostitution in Rhode Island, which it accomplished in 2009.
Now the anti-trafficking moral crusaders want to eliminate Nevada as the sole state with legalized prostitution. Why is the anti-Nevada group Polaris featured on the AG website, while groups who favor our system of legalized prostitution and sex worker rights are not?
Fortunately, more and more mainstream criticism of the statistics and beliefs of the sex trafficking industry are surfacing. Nevadans should look at the facts, and not the moral posturing, of the trafficking nonprofit and law enforcement industry. The real answer to sex worker exploitation is decriminalizing prostitution completely in Nevada.