On Advocacy and Human Trafficking in Georgia
You’d think the word “trafficking” is pretty straight forward, right? You’d also like to think that most people would readily support the efforts and positions of advocates who fight such an injustice as human trafficking right? The answer to both of these questions have surprised me, and I will elaborate below. But first, I must express gratitude for the opportunity to work at the Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic at Emory University. It is because of my experience through the Barton Clinic that I have started to really know what it’s like to be an advocate in the fight against human trafficking. I thought I knew what trafficking was all about. But I continue to be “schooled” as I see that it’s a much harder and more complicated battle then it first seems.
So, back to the questions I mentioned above. What does it mean to be trafficked? Well, that depends. Are we talking about the international definition according to the United Nations, the federal definition, the state definition, or the definition according to the Polaris Project, the leading organization in the fight against human trafficking? These definitions differ, and in considerably large ways. The federal government includes both the selling and buying of sex as part of the definition of “severe forms of trafficking.” Polaris Project, on the other hand, does not include buying in its definition of trafficking. In Georgia, most jurisdictions have not adopted the federal definition which would make pandering a crime. However, in a recent 8th Circuit Court of Appeals case, the court adopted the federal definition, marking an important shift in how the state defines trafficking.
WABE’s Denis O’Hayer has been covering the fight against human trafficking in Georgia, and in a recent interview with Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter, O’Hayer sheds light on the prosecutor’s views on prostitution and human trafficking. Porter was a member of the Joint Human Trafficking Study Commission, which released its draft report this past week. In the interview, Porter said that many of these prostitutes which he has come across are not victims of human trafficking, but are “self-exploiting” themselves. He also strongly criticizes the advocacy community for not having better numbers on how many trafficking victims exist in the state. I argue that these children who are supposedly “self-exploiting” do not have a choice but to perform sexual acts against their will, whether it was through physical coercion, psychological coercion, or deception. I also argue that, while yes, we do not have hard data on the actual number of victims in the state, you have to understand it is due to the nature of this underground crime; also, just because we don’t have hard data does not mean that there isn’t a serious human trafficking problem. We have evidence that there indeed is a problem. My supervisor will respond in a follow-up interview on 90.1 sometime this week, about which I will blog on later.
The lesson I’ve learned so far, is that nothing is what it seems, and this is especially true in the world of advocacy. It’s a hard battle, and even when it’s a good cause, not everyone will be on your side, even when they are supposed to be. You just have to remember your passion, get the facts straight where you can, and use your fellow advocates to get yourself motivated again.
For more information on the demand-side of human trafficking and how to get involved, visit http://www.demandforum.net/.