June 25, 2014
The U.S. Conference of Mayors has approved a groundbreaking resolution to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children and vulnerable adults by stopping and deterring men from buying their bodies. The resolution, proposed by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and cosponsored by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, was adopted unanimously this week at the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Dallas, Texas.
Lina Nealon, director of Demand Abolition, said, “Mayor Walsh and Mayor Hancock are setting a stunning national example for those committed to ending this human rights abuse. With the mayors’ leadership, the US joins a growing international movement that targets the buyers rather than the sellers as the most pragmatic way to shrink the illegal commercial sex industry—which includes sex trafficking.”
The resolution holds that sex buyers—not the pimps—fuel an inherently destructive industry. Prostitution harms not only the individuals involved—both those exploited and their buyers—but is a threat to public safety, health, and the economic growth of our nation’s cities.
The mayors resolve that all anti-trafficking strategies should be “survivor-informed [and] comprehensive, holding sex buyers and pimps accountable, while providing exit strategies and options for prostituted individuals.”
The resolution urges the federal government “to incorporate demand reduction as a primary, secondary and tertiary prevention strategy” in federal efforts to assist victims of trafficking.
Further, the resolution calls for more training and resources for local governments and law enforcement officials to deter buyers through tougher penalties and “john schools,” as well as to establish education programs to prevent men from becoming sex buyers in the first place.
Nealon noted, “The solution lies in changing the behavior of those who buy sex and shifting our cultural tolerance of prostitution as a ‘victimless crime.’ The mayors’ resolution offers practical measures to move the country in that direction.”
Earlier this month, Walsh launched an initiative in Boston to reduce the demand for prostitution by more than 20 percent within two years by focusing on the “johns” who buy sex rather than those who sell their bodies in the sex trade—the traditional targets of police and prosecutors. Boston is partnering in that effort with Demand Abolition, a non-profit organization based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, dedicated to reducing demand for illegal commercial sex nationwide.
Boston and Denver are among several cities working with Demand Abolition to implement, innovate, and measure demand reduction tactics. In these cities, multi-disciplinary, cross-sector teams are designing strategies to apply to their local context and will share lessons learned. Since many laws governing prostitution are implemented at the local level, cities have a major role in shaping policies and practical responses.
Michael Shively, a Boston-based researcher at Abt Associates who has conducted several studies on demand reduction tactics, said, “Mayor Walsh’s resolution on combating prostitution, including sex trafficking, is right on target, and supported by evidence on effective practices for reducing commercial sexual exploitation. It calls for a truly comprehensive approach, with a direct confrontation of the cause of sex trafficking: consumer-level demand for purchased sex.”
Click here to read the full resolution.
Click here to read the City of Boston press release.
Demand Abolition is a program of Hunt Alternatives. For more information, contact James Smith at 617.995.1920 (office) or 617.750.5584 (cell).