Global: Call to end facilitation of sex trafficking by Village Voice Media

Equality Now has just issued Women’s Action 40.1 (March 2012) – Global: Call to end facilitation of sex trafficking by Village Voice Media – calling on Village Voice Media, the owner of Backpage, to stop facilitating and profiting from sex trafficking by shutting down its “adult” advertisement section.

In 2009, pornographic nude photographs of a 14-year-old runaway girl, “M.A.”, began showing up on the website, a classifieds website selling everything from used sofas to opportunities for sexual exploitation. Village Voice Media Holdings, LLC (Village Voice), the owner of webpages around the world, willingly hosted the posting placed by M.A.’s pimp advertising her services as an “adult” escort for sex, providing an easy way for men to contact her pimp and make arrangements to rape M.A.

Regardless of attempts by Village Voice to screen out ads that promote sex trafficking, its ads continue to result in the rape of women and girls. Just last month, a 15-year-old girl was kidnapped and sold by traffickers on Backpage via “adult” ads that included nude photographs, proving the ineffectiveness of Village Voice’s efforts.

Sex trafficking is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that violates the human rights of women and girls around the world. According to the United Nations, women and girls make up 98% of sex trafficking victims, and about 2 million children are exploited every year in the global commercial sex trade. The internet is now the most frequently used platform that traffickers and “johns” use to buy and sell women and children for sex in the U.S.

As a widely-used and well-known website, Backpage through its corporate owner Village Voice must end its complicity in the rape and exploitation of girls and women. Equality Now calls on Village Voice to abide by international human rights principles and demonstrate corporate social responsibility by shutting down its “adult” advertisements on and in its newspapers.

I write to you with deep concern regarding the human rights issue of sex trafficking. The selling and buying of women and girls for sexual exploitation violates their rights to bodily integrity, equality, dignity, health, and freedom from violence and torture.

I was concerned to learn that Village Voice Media, through its “adult” advertisements on Backpage, facilitates the sex trafficking and exploitation of women and girls in countries around the world. Sex trafficking is a multi-billion dollar global criminal industry that is fuelled by those who exploit and profit from the commercial sex industry, including traffickers, pimps, the “buyers” of commercial sex and companies that profit from and facilitate exploitation. Girls and women who have been trafficked suffer life-long harm.

Governments, human rights advocates and private companies must work together to end this human rights scourge. I understand that the internet is now the most frequently used platform by traffickers and “johns” to buy and sell women and children for sex in the United States, and as one of the most widely-used websites for “adult” advertisements, profits greatly from them. The United Nations has recognized the role the internet can play in facilitating sex trafficking, and has called on private businesses to make sure they are not complicit in sex trafficking making them “partners in exploitation.” I urge you to join other newspapers and online advertisement websites who have taken an unequivocal stand against sex trafficking and exploitation by refusing to post and profit from “adult” advertisements. I hope you will show corporate responsibility and uphold human rights by shutting down the “adult” section on and in your newspapers to help put an end to the rape and exploitation of girls and women.

Thank you for your attention.
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This petition will be delivered to Mr. Jim Larkin, Village Voice Media CEO & Board Chair and Mr. Carl Ferrer, Vice President,, LLC.
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