The Pillars of Hope Initiative was launched by the National Association of Attorneys’ General(NAAG) in late spring 2012 to deter Sex Trafficking. The initiative emphasizes four ‘pillars’: improving documentation and streamlining policies, increasing detection and prosecution of traffickers, providing resources to trafficking victims, and raising public awareness of human trafficking.
On May 30, Eight non-governmental organizations working with trafficking victims, sex workers, and migrant women, including SWOP-Chicago, sent a letter to Rob MacKenna, NAAG president, responding to the initiative.
While these organizations applaud NAAG’s devotion to detecting and providing resources for trafficking victims, catching and punishing sex traffickers, and raising public awareness of human trafficking, they express concern regarding several aspects of the Pillars’ of Hope approach.
Generally, they express concern regarding initiatives that target prostitution and demand for prostitution broadly rather than concentrating resources on arresting traffickers, providing resources and services to trafficking victims, and working to facilitate information flow from NGOs and communities most likely to have intelligence on human trafficking to law enforcement officials. These initiatives include:
- Increasing resources for reverse-sting operations and media efforts to increase the stigma associated with paying for sex.
- Launching a media campaign against demand for sex in conjunction with the Super Bowl.
- Continuing efforts against online classified sites that host ads for adult entertainment.
In the letter, the authors argue that:
- Further criminalizing clients and stigmatizing sex workers will not stop human trafficking or child sexual exploitation.
- There is no evidence demonstrating that trafficking into prostitution is caused by client demand for trafficking victims.
- There is no evidence that increases in john arrests reduces prostitution or trafficking.
- Increased prosecution of clients may decrease reliable reporting of human trafficking, child sexual exploitation, and abuses against adult sex workers, making it more difficult for law enforcement to detect and access victims in the sex trade.
- Closing websites like backpage.com will not eliminate web-based prostitution markets but rather only relocate them to other sites or offline. This will make it more difficult for law enforcement to detect trafficking victims and successfully prosecute cases against traffickers.
The authors proceed to suggest that NAAG should:
- Develop working relationships with internet adult services malls to gain access to information that will improve detection and help prosecutors build cases against traffickers.
- Support law enforcement cooperation with service providers and advocacy organizations
that are rooted in communities affected by human trafficking, particularly organizations supporting sex workers, undocumented immigrants, low-wage workers, and other marginalized communities.
- Support organizations that assist survivors of human trafficking.
- Support uniform training of law enforcement on human trafficking and prostitution issues.
- Provide accurate information and support to trafficking victims by referring victims to local organizations.
The letter can be found here.