Friday, December 19, 2003
How to help victims of sex slavery
Holly Burkhalter of Physicians for Human Rights is recognized as a distinguished human rights advocate. I was therefore disappointed that she praised a "community-based sex worker union" in Calcutta as the kind of group the United States should support [op-ed, Dec. 8]. Our experience is that this group, to protect its adult members, has opposed police raids that would have rescued many children from sex slavery.
Ms. Burkhalter also ignored the reality that prostitution (whether legalized or tolerated) provides legitimacy for traffickers who coerce women and children into sex slavery while preserving their lucrative business with little risk of prosecution. Often brothels serve as a vehicle or front for organized-crime groups that use revenue gained from the rape of women and children to fuel their criminal activity.
The link between prostitution and forced sex servitude is so strong and obvious that the U.S. government has barred funding of foreign nongovernmental organizations worldwide that advocate prostitution as a legitimate form of work to be regulated and legalized.
Ms. Burkhalter rightly cites India and Thailand as having problems with sex slavery. Last year, as a result of intense work by nongovernmental organizations, our embassies and the governments themselves, both countries dramatically stepped up prosecution of traffickers. In India, a special court was set up to handle these cases.
Still, as the annual State Department report makes clear, much more must be done in both countries, and it remains to be seen how these countries will be rated this coming year.
Created: January 5, 2004
Last modified: January 14, 2004
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