Sex sells. Did you click on this link because of its unconventional title?
Last December, Craigslist pulled its ‘erotic services’ section out of Canada after many critics and organizations called for its removal. Craigslist has been cited in several sex-slavery cases across Canada in which victims have been posted for sale at hourly, or half-hourly rates. The first Canadian human trafficking conviction involved two girls who were advertised on Craigslist. Both victims were seventeen and fourteen respectively, and were forced to have sex with 10-15 men daily.
The complexities of sex trafficking are never-ending, and the legislation in Canada does not persecute offenders strongly enough. Perpetrators get off with a mere slap to the wrist.
Rachel Llyod, the founder and director of the Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEM), an organization that helps teenagers whose sexuality has been exploited for commercial gain, is releasing “Girls Like Us,” a passionate memoir cross reportage on the sex trade. Llyod offers a critique to a free market society where absolutely everything is for sale.
Llyod also delves into the race and class factors affecting prostitution. Black and Latina girls with whom Llyod has worked with are thought to have chosen their life. In the legal system, they are referred to as young adults, even when they are under 15. The police dismiss their rapes under the guise of “theft of services.” Federal American law states that anyone under the age of 18 who is sold as a victim of trafficking need not prove their case. However, if the girl is an American and of color, she will most likely be charged with prostitution and jail. The politics of sex trafficking are much more complicated than what is seen on the surface.
In New York, girls under seventeen are too young to consent to sex, but they are regularly charged with sex crimes. The paradox led to the creation of the Safe Harbor Act in New York, a bill mandating that underage persons involved in the sex industry not be charged.
In an excerpt from Llyod’s book, she notes the lack of media attention on missing girls and women:
It makes a difference in whether your disappearance gets copters and dogs or flyers. It makes a difference in how you’re treated by a jury of “your peers.” It makes a difference in whether your family members are believed or taken seriously. In over a decade of working with thousands of girls, most of whom have been missing at some point, many of whom were literally kidnapped and held by force, I have never seen a GEMS case that has gotten an Amber Alert.
As summer vacation is dawning upon us, perhaps it’s time to rise to Llyod’s challenge in “Girls Like Us” – and to liberate girls from sexual exploitation.