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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.

Author Biography

Holly Burkhalter
Holly Burkhalter currently serves as Vice President for Government Relations at International Justice Mission. She formerly served as the U.S. Policy Director of Physicians for Human Rights and as the Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch.
How to Cite
BURKHALTER, Holly. Sex Trafficking, Law Enforcement and Perpetrator Accountability. Anti-Trafficking Review, [S.l.], n. 1, june 2012. ISSN 2287-0113. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 21 feb. 2018. doi:


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