The reality of the sex trade

Reports by the State Department do not take into account the complexities of the issue.

The horrible industry of human trafficking thrives in this country. In fact, the State Department estimates that at least 14,500 to 17,500 women and children are trafficked into the United States, and it is estimated that the actual numbers are closer to 50,000 people.

Unfortunately, reports by the State Department and other agencies do not take into account the complexities of the issue: the corrupt police, politics, border guards and state officials who are involved in this industry where young girls and women are treated as sex objects. Many countries even treat women involved in sex trafficking as criminals, no more than undocumented immigrants involved in prostitution. Many times, women fear being sent back to poverty-stricken families who sold them into trafficking or being sent to places where they could run into traffickers. There are significant risks with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections involved with trafficking, along with risks of hepatitis and tuberculosis. The AIDS risk is especially high in South Africa, where women have a 70 percent chance of contracting the disease. Unwanted pregnancies resulting in forced abortions and psychological effects, including drug abuse, suicide and murder, are also a result of sex trafficking.

In this era of globalization, technology has made it easier to traffic young women, but global blocs such as the United Nations can help combat this phenomenon by guaranteeing women in this exploitative industry asylum and treatment.

Likewise, this is a social issue in our communities that must be examined. Women’s sexuality is constantly exploited in advertising and popular culture, and as long as this exploitation on a mass scale exists, women will not be recognized as more than sex objects. The unfortunate fate of many young women involved in trafficking is unacceptable, but oppression is never destiny. To learn more or help with the cause, contact organizations such as Breaking Free in St. Paul or rally around this issue, along with other domestic-violence related issues, at the Minnesota Legislature.