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Buying Sex and Sex Trafficking

How does Sex Trafficking relate to Prostitution? An interesting question.

Any person with half a conscience should quietly inquire:- "Does my purchase of sexual services on the street, at a hotel, massage parlour or elsewhere contribute to the horrible crime of sex trafficking?"

There is abundant evidence to show that Demand for commercial sex is a driving force behind sex trafficking. Moreover, there are harms which arise to oneself and other persons from engaging in the purchase of sex. These harms are physical, psychological, societal and economic in nature, some with generational consequences.


The demand for paid sexual services creates:-
1. The need for a supply of trafficked women
2. The opportunity for criminal gangs to make money from trafficking women to meet that need.

We, therefore, believe that you cannot end sex trafficking without addressing the demand for paid sexual services.

In order to fully appreciate what we mean by male demand for sex trafficking, it is important to first understand the legal definition of the crime of human trafficking and how that relates to the purchase of sexual services.

The definitions used below are taken from the Trafficking In Persons Act (No. 14 of 2011) of Trinidad and Tobago which was passed in Parliament in June 2011 and took effect in January 2013.


Trafficking In Persons is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power, the abuse of a position of vulnerability or the giving or receiving of payment or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

Where a minor (under 18 years) is the victim, there is no need to prove the means referred to above.


For the purposes of this discussion, Exploitation includes:-

(i) “exploitation of the prostitution of others” - the deriving by one person of monetary or other benefit through the provision of sexual services for money or other benefit by another person; and

(ii) engaging in any other form of commercial sexual exploitation, including, but not limited to, pimping, pandering, procuring, profiting from prostitution and maintaining a brothel.


“sexual exploitation” means compelling a person to engage in—
(a) prostitution;
(b)the production of child pornography or other pornographic material; or
(c) any other sexual activity.

|Profession or Exploitation?


Those who pay for sexual services often argue that prostitution in one form or another is the world's oldest profession. However, social science research has established beyond reasonable doubt that prostitution is really the oldest form of exploitation of women and children in the world.

Watch this video by a female officer who reveals the reality behind the fake smiles on the faces of prostituted persons. It helps to put in perspective the trauma to which they were exposed throughout their lives.

In many instances, though not all, prostituted persons are in some position of vulnerability. This may be due to abject poverty, a debt, addiction, being a disadvantaged migrant, homelessness, prior sexual abuse, etc. Some are deceived into thinking that their working or living conditions will be different from what they turn out to be. This is sometimes the case with persons who were involved in prostitution on their own and are trafficked and exploited by pimps or "managers".

In fact, according to Sigma Huda, a former United Nations Rapporteur on Human Trafficking, “it is rare that one finds a case in which the path to prostitution and/or a person’s experiences within prostitution do not involve, at the very least, an abuse of power and/or abuse of vulnerability.”

Investigations into the presence of several Latin American and local females in places known for providing sexual services have revealed that many of them were recruited through abduction or deception and were being exploited. In the case of the foreign women, some of them were kept against their will behind high gates and fences and escorted to and from their destinations by thugs hired by the exploiters. Many escaped their captors only after the premises were raided by immigration authorities.


According to law, they may be considered victims of a serious crime the penalty for which is a $500,000.00 fine and 15 or more years in prison. Trafficking of a child will result in a fine of $1,000,000.00 and 20 or more years in prison.

buying sex is not victimless crime

|Legalise or Decriminalise?

Some claim that prostitution can be "sanitised" by adopting certain legislative approaches to either legalise the trade or decriminalise it.

However, there are others who put forward research to suggest that neither of the two approaches is sufficient to sever the link between buying sex and sex trafficking or to eliminate the exploitative effects on prostituted persons. The research suggests that countries that have legalized or decriminalized commercial sex often experience a surge in human trafficking, pimping, and other related crimes.

|Attitudes of Sex Buyers

So who are the buyers of sex?

Data collected in the USA from various research projects show that men of all ages, social backgrounds, religions and political persuasions buy sex. Usually, there is a small percentage of sex buyers who make up the majority of sex purchases. Clearly, they are creating the demand which drives the supply of vulnerable persons for this form of exploitation. Their continued purchase of sexual services is the catalyst for the traumatic situations endured by victims of sex trafficking.

An interesting resource is a PDF report from Shared Hope on male demand for commercial sex in various countries including the Caribbean, Far East and Europe.

What do these sex buyers think about prostituted persons? Are they aware some are trafficking victims? Are they aware their actions cause harm to others? Do they even care?

Internet forum posts by male sex buyers to 'rate' their purchases reveal a lack of respect for prostituted persons as fellow human beings. The focus is on the man's attainment of an orgasm. Period. Whatever he has to do to attain that is his priority, regardless of the debased acts he perpetrates on the prostituted person. (The language used is derogatory, offensive and not of the nature which we will link to or reproduce on this website.)

A similar disconnect has been seen where men rate their sexual experiences with non-prostituted women, leading to the belief that the attitudes in such men are ingrained and directed against women generally.

It is disturbing that, in another research, some men who were surveyed said that knowing a woman they bought or rented for sexual services was a trafficking victim would not make them stop or help her because they felt it was none of their business and or that they paid their money and were interested in getting their money's worth, regardless of the plight of the person concerned.

Others said if they suspected a person they had rented was trafficked they would not proceed with the sex act. However, they did not know how to identify a trafficked person. Nor do many trafficking victims self-identify as such.


An interesting fact is that the purchasers of sexual services are clear as to what situations would deter them from continuing their "hobby". Among those cited by them are the actual enforcement of laws against them for purchasing sex; being exposed to the media, their family members and employers; being sent to prison, and being labelled as a sex offender by the courts.

As you can see, these are some extreme deterrents all of which are examples of them conforming to more socially acceptable behaviour. None of them involves a change of heart or attitude towards females.

|Social Transformation

The position of sex buyers supports the contention of Professor Kevin Bales that, for modern slavery to exist at all, human traffickers and exploiters must think that their victims are less human than they are.


This was the case for the African Slave Trade where the main distinction was ethnicity. Sadly, it appears to be the same for the sex trafficking of women and girls who are deemed by some men as 'beneath them'.

This is why we encourage all males to rethink the way we view women. They are more than hips, lips and fingertips. They are much more than the sum total of their sexual and sensual body parts.

It is when we see them as human beings, equal to ourselves, that we will cease to denigrate and objectify them. That we will cease to purchase and rent them. That we will protect them, even from their own unwise decisions and choices.


Such a transformation will require re-education and re-socialisation. It will require those of us who disrespected women to admit same and commit to change (with the necessary support systems) and teach those males in our circle of influence to do the same.

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