Obama, human trafficking and teachable moments on a difficult topic
President Obama's landmark speech on human trafficking – a major, but misunderstood human rights issue – is a teachable moment for parents to talk about sexual exploitation to kids who need to understand the issue.
Here, parents, is a teachable moment for your kids:Skip to next paragraph
is a longtime Monitor correspondent. She lives in Andover, Mass. with her husband, her two young daughters, a South African Labrador retriever and an imperialist cat..
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The president focused pretty equally on labor and sex trafficking, and announced a number of new US efforts to combat what he called “the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name – modern slavery.”
Somewhat predictably, though, the most vocal response here to the speech has come from those involved in the anti-sex-trafficking movement. “Sex trafficking” is a subset of human trafficking, one that has gotten a lot of domestic attention recently, from politicians to nonprofit organizations, celebrities to church groups. The stories that these groups tell of victims are horrific – of young girls, many of whom are American, being kidnapped or tricked, and the subjected to all varieties of violence and cruelties while pimps sell them for sex.
But ... it turns out to be a more complicated story. I wrote a cover story about this a few weeks back for the CSMonitor Weekly magazine. What seems at first glance to be a simple good-versus-evil issue is actually filled with all sorts of debates, confusions, and ambiguities.
You can read the full story, but the gist is that critics say that many anti-sex-trafficking advocates conflate trafficking with other forms of prostitution. And they say this domestic focus on sex has shifted attention – and resources – away from the other (and arguably far more common, if you’re including all sorts of forced labor) types of trafficking that Mr. Obama noted in his speech.
Advocates, meanwhile, say that this criticism is absurd. While certainly all human trafficking deserves attention, they say, there’s no reason not to focus on the exploitation of young girls, many of whom are American.
Which brings me to why I’m writing about this in a parenting forum.