WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A coalition of fifty-three leading anti-trafficking experts and organizations have sent a letter to Village Voice Media demanding the immediate and permanent removal of the Adult section of its subsidiary’s Web site Backpage.com where advertisements placed by others have resulted in the sex trafficking of women and girls. The coalition’s call today, on the United Nations’ International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, is seen as an action that would immediately address and deter future exploitive trafficking by individuals that utilize internet-based advertising as part of their activity. The coalition targeted the UN’s observance day for comment because of its view that this sex trafficking is considered by many to be the symbolic equivalent of slavery.
The letter, which is being sponsored by FAIR Girls, an advocacy organization which works to prevent the exploitation of girls worldwide with empowerment and education, comes on the heels of similar appeals by 36 prominent clergy and 51 Attorneys General.
“Last week, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, two people were indicted for beating a 13-year-old girl, forcing her into sex trafficking and advertising her with photographs on Backpage.com. In September, according to Memphis’ The Commercial Appeal, a federal grand jury indicted two people for selling for sex two teenage girls, ages 15 and 16, through ads on Backpage.com,” said Andrea Powell, Co-founder and Executive Director of FAIR Girls. “These four indicted individuals, like many others, are charged with using Backpage.com to exploit and enslave girls in our own backyards. The picture of how such advertisements are used could not be more clear. Village Voice needs to shut down the Adult section of Backpage.com and get out of the business of earning revenue from advertisements placed by others on its website that can put women and girls at risk of being trafficked and victimized.”
Village Voice asserted in a September letter to the Attorneys General that it takes “effective measures to track and eliminate illegal activity by third parties using the adult services sections of its Web site,” noting that it has implemented numerous safeguards and devoted significant resources to this effort. The coalition recognizes and applauds the effort, however, disputes any claim of acceptable progress. They contend that Village Voice’s efforts “fall far short of what is needed to eliminate the use of [Backpage.com] by others to exploit women and minors,” and cite the indictments in Brooklyn and Memphis as recent examples.
In its letter to the Attorneys General, Backpage.com states that it is dedicated to “eradicating the scourge of child trafficking as quickly and effectively as possible.” Yet when faced with criticism that it is not doing enough to prevent this phenomenon, Village Voice responds by saying that there is an “the underage-prostitution panic.” Village Voices also cites on its Web site a law enforcement figure of 8,263 arrests in the U.S. for child prostitution in the last decade. Advocates believe this number is a small fraction of the reality; nevertheless, the number in and of itself, is still unacceptable. The coalition maintains that as long as Backpage.com allows individuals to use its site to post “service” ads, there is no way to guarantee that women and girls will not be subjects of sex trafficking.
“Web sites such as Backpage.com that accept advertisements allow individuals who seek to sexually exploit women and minors to hide the identities of their victims, making prevention and rescue nearly impossible,” said Powell. “The internet is not a separate cyber world where the laws against buying and selling of women and girl should not apply. If Village Voice is really committed to ending trafficking, it needs to shut down the Adult section of Backpage.com.”
View the coalition’s letter to Village Voice HERE.
FAIR Girls (formerly FAIR Fund) prevents the exploitation of girls worldwide with empowerment and education. Through prevention education, compassionate care, and survivor inclusive advocacy, FAIR Girls creates opportunities for girls to become confident, happy, healthy young women. FAIR Girls currently operates programs in Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia, Russia, Uganda, and the United States. The FAIR Girls home office in Washington, D.C. offers compassionate care to prevent the exploitation of all girls, with a special emphasis on girls who have experienced homelessness, life inside the foster care system, sexual abuse, and trafficking. www.fairgirls.org