Victims are not Criminals

Victims are not Criminals

A 14 year-old Nina trapped in a hotel room, after she fled from her home, has to serve 20 different pimps for the next 13 years who advertised her for sex on the internet, while abusing her daily physically and verbally. During this time, she was convicted of 52 offences, mostly prostitution coupled with theft and false ID charges.

Criminal detainment of sex trafficking victims, including children creates a vicious cycle of further victimization. In the US, victims are often detained and even arrested. This exposes a major gap in the legal procedures of such cases. Detention breeds distrust amongst the victims against law enforcement agencies. It stigmatizes the very concept and leaves deep impacts that cannot be shaken off by the victims for long, affecting them psychologically, educationally, financially and occupationally. Though they are quickly released and re-trafficked, the chances of exuding criminal behavior escalates and results into more arrests later.

‘Voices’ from people the System Failed

Statistics don’t often present a complete story. Here are 3 personal stories of victims from the United States, who were criminalized and convicted for crimes they were forced to commit by others.

A 14 year-old Nina trapped in a hotel room, after she fled from her home, has to serve 20 different pimps for the next 13 years who advertised her for sex on the internet, while abusing her daily physically and verbally. During this time, she was convicted of 52 offences, mostly prostitution coupled with theft and false ID charges.

Susan got dropped out of school, even before she turned 16. And before reaching 20, she had been arrested 12 times for all sorts of notorious crimes, like prostitution, burglary and drugs. The guy whom she thought her boyfriend turned out to be a male trafficker. In a few days, he started beating her and forcing her to work for 9-10 hours a day, seven days a week. He used her like a lucrative tool for making money; while she was with him, she got arrested 38 times, mostly for prostitution.

Since the tender age of 12, Penny has been forced into flesh trade. Even before she turned 14, she got arrested several times. She had many pimps, who used to constantly abuse and threaten her. She even got pregnant at the age of 15. The worst happened when she fled her trafficker and reported about him to the police. The police arrested him, only to release him later, which posed great danger for Penny. In 9 years, Penny was arrested 42 times, mainly for prostitution related crimes.

The Nordic Model

Contrary to the US, “The Nordic Model approach to prostitution (sometimes also known as the Sex Buyer Law, or the Swedish, Abolitionist, or Equality Model) decriminalizes all those who are prostituted, provides support services to help them exit, and makes buying people for sex a criminal offence, in order to reduce the demand that drives sex trafficking. This approach has now been adopted in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Canada, France, and most recently, Ireland.”

Good or Bad?

The model is intended to slash demand for flesh trade. Critics in Ireland, where this law had recently passed argue that criminalizing the purchase of sex, has made prostitution even more dangerous. The safety of prostitutes can be compromised.

Having said that, the proponents of the legislation in Ireland defended the model by saying it’s too early to judge its effects, yet they expressed concern about not raising enough awareness for enforcing it in Nordic countries.

“Unless we promote the change in law, unless we actively and visibly enforce it and communicate that enforcement, then the social change doesn’t happen,” says Denise Charlton, chair of the Turn Off the Red Light campaign.

However, we should note that several Nordic countries, including Sweden, where the law has been passed more than a decade earlier witnessed steady decline in the rates of prostitution and trafficking. The main reason behind the success of the model is it’s different-approach – it’s a radically different way of measuring the role of intention in prostitution and identifying the role each stakeholder in the incident plays.

India Re-Structuring Archaic Trafficking Laws

India reportedly has 25 lakh prostitutes working out of nearly 3 lakh brothels in 1,100 red-light areas across the country.

Passed in 1956, the Suppression of Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act outlines the definitions, the scopes and illegality of prostitution in India. It allows for women to engage in the flesh trade, as long as it’s done individually and voluntarily.

The law around this remains murky. Fortunately, Maneka Gandhi, India’s minister for women and children came up with a new anti-human trafficking law, which would prevent victims from getting arrested alongside traffickers and provide needed assistance, protection and rehabilitation to the survivors. According to the UN Office for Drugs and Crime, South Asia, including India is the second-largest region for human trafficking crimes in the world, next to East Asia.

The main objective of the draft bill is to strengthen existing anti-trafficking laws, focus on survivor’s needs, and prevent sex-trafficking victims from going behind the bars for no crime of their own. Hopefully, the final bill would be presented before the Indian Parliament by the end of the year.

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