All too often in this country we only regard sex trafficking as an international issue. We often forget that, each year, between 100,000 and 300,000 American children are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation. I first became aware of this issue when reading The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam, a Cambodian sex slavery victim and survivor. It occurred to me that when referencing sex trafficking in this country we often refer to it as prostitution—I have an issue with that.
At it’s very core, I believe that the term ‘prostitution’ connotes a level of choice for all who partake in it. However, many young girls and women are prostituted forcibly and are thus sexually exploited. For instance, today, human trafficking is used for prostituting women and children—there is no choice in this. It has become, in my opinion, the largest form of slavery in our world.
Why should we care and why is this a feminist issue? Well, for one, women’s sexuality is being controlled and exploited. Women’s health and reproductive rights are being harmed daily, while many turn the other cheek. Also, at the heart of sex trafficking is control over women’s bodies. That is why it’s a feminist issue. Lastly, these prostituted women and girls are mostly the ones who endure punishment—even if they were forced into the sex trafficking sector. We must end this.
Now, what can you do to help? Support domestic commercial sexual exploitation GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services) as they work to get domestically trafficked young girls and women off of the streets and re-adjust them to life; lobby your congresspeople and educate them about the facts surround domestic commercial sexual exploitation. Stay strong and fierce, feminists!