Women and Children First: The Economics of Sex Trafficking

| May 3, 2002

Women and Children First: The Economics of Sex Trafficking

Americans who think that the slave trade is a foreign problem mostly confined to impoverished countries may be unnerved by the Department of Justice's estimates of sex trafficking in the U.S.: It is the third most popular brand of organized crime, with America being home to 50,000 out of the 700,000 women and children that are trafficked worldwide. Kari Lydersen in LiP Magazine describes the causes and processes of this growing crime, whose profitability now approaches that of drug and weapons trafficking.

Lydersen writes that foreign women brought into the U.S. are especially vulnerable to falling into the sex trade: 'Women abducted or coerced from their native countries rarely speak English, and their captors have perfected the art of intimidation by regaling them with horror stories about life in America and capture by police or the INS.'

The women are lured to America with promises of well-paying jobs, and they are usually desperate to either escape poverty themselves or to provide for families back in their homeland. However, the women end up being indentured servants to those that smuggle them into the states, unable to pay to their captors the cost of coming to America.

Lydersen argues that the U.S. government's current actions are unable to combat sex trafficking as the phenomenon increases, and she expects that things will only get worse if we fail to pay attention to it: 'As the economy gets worse around the world, and the U.S. and European countries tighten their immigration laws, the trafficking of women and children for sex work and other purposes is likely to become even more pervasive.'
--Julie Madsen
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