On May 11th and 12th, The World Summit: End Sexual Exploitation 2025 was held at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference formed working groups of experts and advocates in law enforcement, business, front line workers and survivors of exploitation, to discuss ways forward in the fight against trafficking and sexual exploitation. The working groups came up with the following recommendations:
- Criminalize the purchase of all forms of commercial sex, recognizing that this represents abuse of power over exploited people.
- Oppose the legalization of prostitution, and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation. This approach does not protect vulnerable people and does not promote harm reduction. To the contrary, studies show that legalization increases exploitation and violence against women.
- Support the Nordic Model and work toward its adoption in the United States and around the world.
- Hold corporations that support and promote sexual exploitation responsible for their participation in exploitation.
- Provide comprehensive social services for victims of commercial sexual exploitation so survivors have the opportunity to realize their full potential.
- Encourage the use of civil causes of action and expand existing statutes of limitation.
- Abolish laws that penalize people victimized by commercial sexual exploitation, expunge all criminal records relating to it, recognizing the injustice of charging people with a crime committed against them and crimes that occur as a direct result of exploitation.
- Create sustainable economic empowerment legislative funding mechanisms for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation.
- Prioritize prevention strategies as an integral form of combating commercial sexual exploitation.
- Designate resources toward law enforcement efforts to hold perpetrators accountable.
- Repeal legislation that protects predatory and exploitative behavior promoting commercial sexual exploitation on the internet.
- Eliminate the word “prostitute” and “sex work” or any other language that legitimizes commercial sexual exploitation from any legislation.
Kathleen Barry, author of Female Sexual Slavery and long time advocate for women’s rights, gave the plenary speech at the conference. I spoke with her over the phone this week about her experiences at the conference and the impact of the discussions and recommendations.
Barry is Professor Emerita at Penn State University. She holds doctorates in in sociology and in education from the University of California, Berkeley and taught at major universities for over twenty years. For more on her work, visit kathleenbarry.net.