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The Eye of the Beholder: How Bad Data, Scrambles for Funding and Professional Bias Shape Human Trafficking Law and Policy

February 24, 2013

Human trafficking is not unique in having attracted multiple and conflicting points of view on everything from the extent of the problem, the definition of what the problem is precisely, and who are its victims to how to best to support them. Like “sexy” and “of the moment” human rights issues of earlier decades, such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and genocide and perhaps like morally intractable issues such as abortion, there are advantages and disadvantages to the level and diversity of attention currently focused on the issue. The advantages are evident: more attention on a still little understood phenomenon should work to bring more funding, more activism, more legal teeth and more assistance to bear in supporting persons who are victims of the problem. But multiple disadvantages exist as well, although often more subtle and harder to discern. The level of interest means that a few experts are perpetually called upon to explain the fundamentals to relative newcomers; accordingly, the level of discourse necessary to tackle this complex issue does not advance rapidly. Too, there is a sort of brain drain, in that those who do gain expertise, particularly among law enforcement and policy makers, are quickly promoted (as there is considerable funding and attention on this issue) and their successors start over again with little or no knowledge. Furthermore, with so much interest even across otherwise uncooperative political divides, high level politicians and policy makers want to be involved and so funding is diverted to “High Level Working Groups” and away from those most likely to encounter a victim “in the field.” Human trafficking then becomes a top down issue, when it needs to be bottom up – driven by the real needs recognized by victim service providers (and specifically including those victim services providers who are not soliciting federal funding, to provide objective data), and voiced by the victims themselves.

Excerpt from an article written by Dina Francesca Haynes. Continue HERE

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