Sex trafficking is at its core a system of gender-based violence and inequality. According to Exodus Cry, 98% of those bought for prostitution are women. And 99% of the buyers are men. Prostitution – which is often forced upon the victim as a form of trafficking – is “a system where women exist to fulfill the sexual desires of men.”
According to the United States Government, “eighty percent of [trafficking] victims are female; nearly 70% of all victims are trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. These statistics clearly indicate that there is a correlation between trafficking and the status of women, on the one hand, and between trafficking and prostitution, on the other.”
The more that gender inequality is accepted, the more normalized it will be for men to abuse, oppress, and exploit women. And the more women will accept this as an inevitable part of life.
As CSCE remarks, “trafficking in human beings could not flourish but for the existence of local prostitution markets where men are willing and able to buy and sell women and children for sexual exploitation.”
Gender inequality not only fuels the trafficking system but also makes women and girls more vulnerable to becoming trafficked. When women and girls have less access to education, fair wages, dignified employment, voting power, and other basic human rights, they become more vulnerable to trafficking.
CSCE says that human rights violations such as the “unchallenged discrimination in educational systems and the economic marketplace that contributes to women's missed opportunities and economic distress….make women economically vulnerable, more likely to engage in prostitution, more likely to consider migration, and thus more likely to be preyed upon by traffickers.”
Gender inequality is a breeding ground for sex trafficking.
In the United States, gender inequality can also look like the sexualization and objectification of women in media, the normalization of rape videos being viewed on porn sites, the tendency to blame rape victims for “asking for it,” and much more. As Gail Dines reports, she once interviewed a rapist who said that abusing his victim was easy because “culture did a lot of the grooming for me.”
If we want to stop human trafficking, we must start with the root problems: gender inequality and gender oppression.
By cultivating a world where men and women are seen and celebrated as equals, we can help prevent crimes of gender inequality and gender violence, including sex trafficking.
4 Easy, Effective Ways to Promote Gender Equality:
- Buy from women-owned businesses
- Actively support companies that promote education, healthcare, fair wages, equal opportunities, and dignified employment for women
- Share the word about how gender inequality fuels sex trafficking
- Speak out against systems of gender inequality happening in your own country and around the world