An expert in combating human trafficking urged congressmen last week to focus their efforts on reducing commercialized sex, focusing specifically on pornography, calling it "the root of human trafficking."
"The most critical component of sex trafficking prevention is reducing the demand for commercial sex," said Laila Mickelwait, manager of policy and public affairs for Exodus Cry, an international anti-human trafficking organization,
Speaking at a presentation hosted by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R- Ill.), Mickelwait highlighted the magnitude of the problem of human trafficking. She revealed that the industry generates over $32 billion in crime each year and includes some 10-30 million people held in some form of "slavery" today, performing a wide array of tasks including sexual slavery, forced or bonded labor, involuntary domestic service, child soldiering, and organ trafficking.
Mickelwait stated that while "rescue and rehabilitate" victims of human trafficking, "work of prevention is the most important thing we can do in the fight against the global injustice of sexual slavery."
And one such preventative measure, Mickelwait reveals, is abolishing pornography .
Pointing to Norway and Sweden, which have enacted laws "criminalizing the purchase, not the sale, of sex," she noted the decrease not only in prostitution, but in the number of men who buy sex and a decrease in sex-trafficking rates.
"Pornography is ubiquitous and self perpetuating," Mickelwait said, resulting in a system that is "both creating and supplying demand for commercial sex and thus sex trafficking" through its addictive effects on the brain.
She calls pornography "filmed prostitution" and oftentimes is human trafficking itself. Mickelwait said that victims of human trafficking are often recorded during sexual acts, such as in "live web cam pornography", and that the growing medium of child pornography is always a form of sexual trafficking.
Quoting a former pornography filmer Donny Pauling, she explained that pornography "is not a whole lot different from human trafficking", in that "you start seeing people for the amount of money that they could make you."
Mickelwait also rejected the protection of pornography as a form of free speech, saying the medium is "increasing demand for commercial sex, trafficking through production and distribution and perpetuating a culture of complicity in commodifying women and children's bodies."
While several forms of human trafficking occur in developing nations, sex trafficking occurs mostly in developing nations, Mickelwait reveals. Victims of sex trafficking are forced into the industry by a variety of means, including online recruitment, romantic interests or family members using their relationship to sell the victims, and abduction.