Recently, Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) introduced the bipartisan Sex Trafficking Demand Reduction Act, which would amend the minimum standards of combatting sex trafficking (contained in the current Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000) to include language prohibiting the purchase of sex.

This change would specifically target the buyers of sex. As Demand Abolition, a research organization dedicated to eradicating the commercial sex industry, puts it, “[s]ex buyers drive the illegal sex trade. Without their money, pimps and traffickers have zero incentives. No buyers = no business.” Demand Abolition’s research Who Buys Sex? found that U.S. sex buyers spend more than $100 per transaction on average.

As stated in the bill’s findings, “[r]esearch has shown that legal prostitution increases the demand for prostituted persons and thus increases the market for sex. As a result, there is a significant increase in instances of human trafficking.”

Thus, the bill declares that “if a government has the authority to prohibit the purchase of commercial sex acts but fails to do so, it shall be deemed to have failed to make serious and sustained efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.”

Passage of this bill would be an excellent step towards curbing the demand for paid sex. By making the purchase of sex acts illegal, it would implement a part of the Nordic model of combating commercial sexual exploitation. This model has proved successful in countries such as Sweden (which pioneered the model), Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Canada, France, Ireland, and most recently, Israel. One of the model’s aims is to change the culture’s perception of certain behaviors and actions as unacceptable. Buying human beings is one such behavior the model discourages, and it does so by creating criminal sanctions for the buying of human beings.

You can check out my previous blog, How Prostitution and Sex Trafficking Are Inseparably Linked, for more information on what research has shown us on this subject. The Sex Trafficking Demand Reduction Act references a key piece of research that analyzed 150 countries and found that, on average, countries with legal prostitution experienced higher reports of human trafficking.

Efforts to combat sex trafficking should combine with efforts to combat prostitution. Both are businesses that profit through the buying and selling of human beings for sex. The Sex Trafficking Demand Reduction Act is a crucial step in positively shaping our country’s culture and re-affirming the human dignity of women, boys, and girls who are being bought and sold.