Sex Trafficking, Law Enforcement and Perpetrator Accountability

Holly Burkhalter


In theory, everyone – except for criminals involved in their exploitation - agrees that children must not be in the sex industry and further, that those who prey on them must be prosecuted and punished. Virtually every country in the world has adopted national laws prohibiting the commercial sexual exploitation of children. International law is clear on this point, as well. Yet, when governments – and NGOs working with them – take action to extract children from commercial sex venues, common ground on protecting children from abuse can quickly erode with concerns about the efficacy of police intervention, the possibility of collateral harm to consenting adult sex workers or a decrease in access to HIV-prevention and related health services. The author argues that healing this divide must come through the reform of local police – and that, without the participation of law enforcement, there can be no long-term protection for children vulnerable to trafficking and related exploitation. In this article, human rights practitioner Holly Burkhalter argues that healing this divide must be accomplished through the reform of local police – and that human rights advocates, local governments and others seeking to combat trafficking cannot achieve long-term, sustainable protection for children without the involvement of law enforcement.


trafficking, children, law enforcement, accountability, impunity, protection, raid and rescue

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