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Fighting for the Sex Trafficking Demand Reduction Act

How can we uproot the system of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation in our world? At the top of the list is reducing and eliminating the demand for illicit sex. That means rightly putting the focus back on the buyers, making it difficult for them to purchase sex, and enforcing penalties against them accordingly.

Unfortunately, many countries neglect to pass laws making the purchase of sex illegal, which means traffickers can operate with impunity. The “Sex Trafficking Demand Reduction Act,” also known as HR 466, will put pressure on countries to pass laws making the purchase of sex illegal.

Below is a letter we’re sending to Congress, in partnership with other amazing anti-trafficking organizations, along with signatures from many organizations, survivors, and anti-trafficking advocates.

Dear Chairman Corker, Chairman Royce, and Ranking Members Senator Cardin and Rep. Engel
Cc: Chairman Smith and Rep. Maloney

On behalf of Exodus Cry, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), Shared Hope International, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, and the undersigned organizations and individuals, we write to express our strong support for bipartisan HR 466 “Sex Trafficking Demand Reduction Act,” its inclusion in the House version of the Trafficking Victim’s Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), and its inclusion in the Senate version of the international TVPRA.

Combating the crime of human trafficking has been named a top priority by the United States Government (USG).1 Emphasis has been placed on prevention of human trafficking, prosecution of perpetrators, and protection of victims. Prosecution and protection are unquestionably important; however, prevention of human trafficking is essential in order to eradicate the crime. The international community, scholars, NGOs, International Organizations, human trafficking experts, and other governments have all recognized that one of the most critical components of preventing human trafficking from occurring is reducing the demand for trafficked persons.2

HR 466’s language specifically addresses the need to prevent sex trafficking, a form of sexual exploitation that affects an estimated 4.5 million victims globally,3 by reducing the demand for commercial sex.

Research demonstrates that the legalization and decriminalization models of prostitution increase the market for commercial sex and thereby increase the demand for prostituted persons, thus increasing rates of human trafficking.4 In contrast, economic theory supported by case studies proves that reducing demand for commercial sex by criminalizing the purchase of sexual services reduces the market for sex and thereby reduces trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation.5 Internationally, there is ever-increasing support for criminalizing demand.6 The USG has been clear and consistent on its position regarding the importance of demand reduction and has specifically taken a strong stance against legalizing prostitution. The government has done so because it recognizes that prostitution fuels human trafficking and creates an enabling environment for it to flourish.7 Both Democratic and Republican administrations have reaffirmed in multiple national policies, publications, and in statements and directives the government’s position against legal prostitution.8 The TIP Office itself has produced research demonstrating the clear connections between legalized prostitution regimes and increased demand fueling sex trafficking.9

Despite the USG’s clear position in support of commercial sex demand reduction, this critical stance is not being implemented in the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) report to Congress, even though making “serious and sustained efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex”10 is a specific requirement for meeting the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons. Unfortunately, the TVPA has no clear guidelines on what constitutes compliance with the demand reduction criterion or how this important criterion is to be measured. This lack of clarity has created an opportunity for diplomatic expediency taking precedence over effective reporting. Provisions included in H.R. 466 remedy this problem by setting a straightforward standard for determining what constitutes legitimate demand reduction efforts.

Because legal prostitution fuels human trafficking, nations that have the ability to federally regulate prostitution, and maintain the legality of the purchase of sex, are not simply neutral in meeting the criteria mandated by the TVPA of making serious and sustained efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex, but are actually making serious and sustained efforts to increase that demand. Nevertheless, the State Department continues year after year to ignore this fact and award full compliance in the TIP Report to nations that allow for the uninhibited purchase of sex. The lack of rigor and quality in addressing demand in the TIP Report is having negative consequences on the prevention of human trafficking around the globe and inhibits progress that could be made if proper evaluation and reporting were taking place. HR 466 creates a simple solution by making the criminalization of the purchase of sex a requirement for meeting the TVPAs criterion of “making serious and sustained efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex.”

By including language from bipartisan HR 466 in the TVPRA, major steps can be made with regard to preventing global sex trafficking because countries will be encouraged to take meaningful and concrete steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex. Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please do not hesitate to call Laila Mickelwait, Exodus Cry’s Director of Abolition, at 951-990-9960 or e-mail [email protected]


Taina Bien Amie, Executive Director, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW)
Rep. Linda Smith, Founder, Shared Hope International
Benjamin Nolot, CEO, Exodus Cry & Director of Nefarious: Merchant of Souls Documentary
Patrick Truman, President and CEO, National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE)

Click here to view the full letter with a list of the organizations, survivors, and anti-trafficking advocates who have signed it.


  • 1. “When we stop this crime from happening in the first place, we are preventing the abuse of those who are victimized as well as the ripple effect that caused damage throughout communities into our broader environment and which corrupt our global supply chains. We all have an interest in stopping this crime. That’s why President Obama is so focused on this issue. And that’s why, as Secretary of State, I will continue to make the fight against modern-day slavery a priority for this Department and for the country.” Secretary of State John Kerry. Remarks at the 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report Release. Benjamin Franklin Room, Washington, D.C. 19 June 2013. Address.
  • 2. See, e.g., Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106-386, as amended (“TVPA”), United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime of 2000(“Polermo Protocol”), the Europe Convention on Action against Human Trafficking, and the 2011 EU Directive of the European Parliament and the Council. European Commission Communication From the Commission to the European Parliament, The Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, The EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012–2016 Brussels, 19.6.2012 COM (2012).
  • 3. International Labor Organization Global Estimate of Forced Labour, 2012.
  • 4. See, e.g., Di Nicola, Andrea, Isabella Orfano, Andrea Cauduro, and Nicoletta Conci. Study on National Legislations on Prostitution and the Trafficking in Women and Children. Brussels: European Parliament, 2005. Transcrime. Web. 11 July 2013.; Jakobsson, Niklas, and Andreas Kotsadam. “The Law and Economics of International Sex Slavery: Prostitution Laws and Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation.” European Journal of Law and Economics 35.1 (2013): 87-107. Print.; Cho, Seo- Young, Axel Dreher, and Eric Neumayer. “Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking?” World Development 41.1 (2013): 67-82. Social Science Research Network. Web. 12 July 2013 <>.
    In 2012 researchers Seo-Young Cho, Axel Dreher, Eric Neumayer published their research findings that demonstrated “the scale effect of legalizing prostitution leads to an expansion of the prostitution market and thus an increase in human trafficking, while the substitution effect reduces demand for trafficked prostitutes by favoring prostitutes who have legal residence in a country.” Their quantitative empirical analysis for a cross section of up to 150 countries proved that the scale effect dominated the substitution effect. “On average, countries with legalized prostitution experience a larger degree of human trafficking inflows.” In addition, in 2005 Di Nicola et al. provided descriptive statistics focusing on 11 EU countries. According to their results, stricter prostitution laws are correlated with reduced flows of human trafficking. In addition to Cho et al. and Di Nicola et al., researchers Niklas Jakobsson and Andreas Kotsadam found a causal link between legal prostitution and increases in human trafficking. Using recent sources of European cross country data Jackobsson and Kotsadam found that trafficking of persons for commercial sexual exploitation is least prevalent in countries where prostitution is illegal and most prevalent in countries where prostitution is legalized.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. In early 2014 the European Parliament voted and adopted a resolution stating that Europe should criminalize the purchase of sex, and that prostitution is a form of violence against women. See The French government lower house recently approved a bill to criminalize the purchase of sex and the law is expected to be passed by the senate by summer. See Additionally, the UK three days ago released a report of its findings from an investigation into the effectiveness of the UKs current prostitution laws. The parliamentary group concluded that the UK needed to criminalize the purchase and not the sale of sex. See
  • 7. Overlaps of Prostitution, Migration and Human Trafficking, Ambassador Mark P. Lagon, Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Berne, Switzerland (November 12, 2008) see also United States. Department of State. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report (“2013 TIP Report”), p. 27 Print.
  • 8. See e.g., TVPA; National Security Presidential Directive-22. The White House. Washington, D.C. December 16, 2002. http://www.combat- (“Presidential Directive 22”); United States. Department of State. Bureau of Public Affairs.
  • 9. DEMAND, Shared Hope Intl, 2007.
  • 10. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106-386, § 108(a) (2000), as amended.