INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller joined community leaders today in signing a pledge to take responsibility for ending public tolerance for the commercial sex industry.
"Men from all backgrounds and races fuel the demand for the illegal sex trade and it is this demand that leads to human trafficking and exploitation of young women and children," Zoeller said. "The average age that children are pulled into commercial sex is 12 to 14. That's why there is a need to change the culture that makes it acceptable for men to purchase sex and to talk openly about it as socially accepted in male-dominated places. This public pledge is just one step men can take to draw attention to the issue and promote a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to crimes that victimize women and children."
The pledge asks men to make a "commitment of becoming a better man" by demonstrating the following:
· Not purchasing or participating in prostitution or any form of the commercial sex industry;
· Holding friends accountable for their actions and demanding they show respect toward women and children; and
· Standing up and taking action to protect the vulnerable from this destructive market.
Zoeller said the pledge was created in part by Shared Hope International, a nonprofit that aims to "prevent and eradicate sex trafficking and slavery through education and public awareness."
In his leadership role on the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) "Pillars of Hope" Presidential Initiative, Zoeller has been publicly supportive of efforts to combat human trafficking. This year-long national effort undertaken by NAAG president and Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna is built upon four action steps, or Pillars, which are:
· Making the case of human trafficking;
· Holding traffickers accountable;
· Mobilizing communities to care for victims; and
· Raising public awareness and reducing demand.
"As part of the 'Pillars of Hope' Presidential Initiative, I have committed to raising awareness of human trafficking and to helping reduce demand for the commercial sex trade," Zoeller said. "The 2012 Super Bowl's presence in Indianapolis has helped us bring attention to this global problem and ramp up state and local efforts to help victims and prosecute traffickers. Proactive steps already taken by the Super Bowl host committee, nonprofit organizations, community groups, activists and local churches are commendable."
Attorney General McKenna plans to visit Indianapolis during Super Bowl weekend to join Zoeller in discussions with nonprofit groups, law enforcement and state officials to learn more about Indiana's human trafficking prevention efforts.
Zoeller is also the co-chair of the Indiana Protection of Abused and Trafficked Humans (IPATH) task force. The task force has trained more than 1,500 persons since July 2011, including law enforcement, cab drivers, first responders, medical professionals and others so that they can identify human trafficking victims and know how to respond.
Zoeller said he also strongly supports improvements to Indiana law that would make it easier to rescue human trafficking victims and prosecute traffickers, especially traffickers of children. If signed into law by the governor, the measure would eliminate the requirement to prove force or threat of force when children are trafficked and broadens the activity to include not just prostitution but also sexual conduct. Since trafficking is often committed by criminals who are unrelated to their victims, the bill also closes a loophole so that any person who victimizes a child by selling or transferring custody of that child for the purpose of trafficking can be prosecuted.
January is "National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month." Human trafficking is tied as the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world, just behind drugs, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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