Saturday, November 26, 2011

Preemptive Strike: Educating Our Police

For years traffickers have been getting away with their shenanigans because of a police force and court system that are uneducated about the issue.  Commercially exploited women and children are poorly treated, being arrested repeatedly while their pimp goes free, or being let off if they do a little "favor" for the arresting officer.  One of my friends was trafficked as a 14-year-old, and when she was finally able to call the police she was arrested, charged, and sexually abused by her probation officer.  This, unfortunately, is not an uncommon story.

Yet even in this depressing scenario, there is hope.  International Justice Mission (IJM), in conjunction with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, conducted a study in the Philippines called Project Lantern.  Over the course of 4 years they focused on educating and training the police force and judiciary system for anti-trafficking in Cebu.  The result?  After only 4 years there has been a 79% decrease in the number of children available for commercial sex in Metro Cebu!

This ought to be a strong call to us in the United States, where women are supposedly "equal".  If a patriarchal country like the Philippines can see such a dramatic decrease in sexually exploited children in only 4 years simply by educating those in law, then let's educate our law enforcement too.   California Against Slavery is trying to put a measure on the 2012 ballot that would make it mandatory to train law enforcement against sex trafficking.  I believe this would be the first law of its kind in the U.S. If you're in California I urge you to sign the petition for the initiative and vote in the upcoming election.  If you're in another state, consider organizing a coalition and talking to law makers about enacting a similar law.   If anyone complains that it would cause the state to spend more money than they have, just point out how much money will be saved by jailing the perpetrator instead of having a revolving door of trafficked children going through the system...

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