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Craigslist Gives Up 'Adult Services' in the United States

Sep 17 2010
Law enforcement and human rights advocates rejoice, but will the change help end human trafficking?

After testifying at a hearing regarding domestic minor sex trafficking on Wednesday, Craigslist officials agreed to remove adult services advertisements in this country for good.

Her.meneutics has followed the story of Craigslist closely (see a 2009 interview with Kaffie McCullough and news report from March). In June, we interviewed Malika Saada Saar, founder and director of Rebecca Project for Human Rights, which monitors Craigslist's postings and launched a campaign to end the adult services section of the popular web site. At that time, Saada Saar urged readers:

Be very aware that all of our girls are really at risk of this issue of sexual violence. There is a statistic that 1 in 3 girls, by the time she reaches 18, will have suffered some form of sexual violence. So I think it's important for us to honor the sacredness of our daughters, and recognize that too often our girls are sexually victimized. Whether it is a trafficker, or someone who purchases our girls, or the next door neighbor who goes onto Craigslist, we have to be able to hold accountable those persons who subject our girls to sexual violence. We should be able to honor our girls' sacredness, to talk to them, and to recognize that they deserve only to be honored in their bodies, not hurt, not criminalized.

Due to the continuous efforts by human rights advocates, law enforcement, and Congress, on September 3, Craigslist stopped running the adult services, formerly known as "erotic services." It has received much criticism for its adult services section, which has been linked to sex trafficking, particularly of children.

Approximately 100,000 children are prostituted every year. At the House Judiciary subcommittee hearing, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children president Ernie Allen stated, "Internet services have made it possible to pimp these kids, offering them to prospective customers with little or no risk."

Craigslist has been reluctant to remove this section. It charges money for these types of postings - sources claim that the site makes $30 to over $40 million on those advertisements - and invokes the argument of free speech and censorship. The Washington Post reports:

[S]ome lawmakers questioned whether the need to protect children overrides the need to protect free speech. "Speech in the form of postings that incite violence against children is not protected speech," Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) said.

Yesterday, Focus on the Family president Jim Daly posted on his blog:

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Craigslist Gives Up 'Adult Services' in the United States