Lawmakers: DOD needs tougher prostitution enforcement
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — When a U.S. Navy ship hits a foreign port, sailors are briefed about the country’s human trafficking status and reminded not to have sex with hookers, said Seaman Benjamin Saylor.
“They say things have changed from the way the Navy used to be,” said Saylor, assigned to the USS Blue Ridge. “They tell you it’s illegal anywhere and you’ll get in trouble.”
A year after the military’s ban on solicitation of prostitutes went into effect in October 2005, lawmakers are wondering just how many people are “getting in trouble,” given the military’s historical relationship with prostitution.
According to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the number of servicemembers charged with solicitation is unavailable due to the “differentiations involved in regard to the type of arrest, investigation and who is conducting it,” said spokesman Maj. Stewart Upton.
But no DOD personnel have been charged with human trafficking since a federal “zero tolerance” policy went into effect in 2003, he said.
Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y., and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., commended the DOD’s actions so far, but both said more work needs to be done.
“Anti-trafficking efforts must become part of DOD’s organizational culture and infrastructure. Despite some progress, I am concerned that this is not yet the case,” Smith said in his opening statement at a June 21 joint hearing of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee.
That includes enforcing the new prostitution ban in the Uniform Code of Military Justice “in the same manner” as other UCMJ violations, McHugh said.
Following an executive order by President Bush, the Defense Department issued a four-part directive in 2003 to educate DOD personnel on the legal ramifications of human trafficking and began placing bars off-limits. Next came the prostitution ban in 2005.
While such efforts are “aggressive,” the Defense Department also needs to enforce, track and tell its personnel about prosecutions to send a strong message that “the crime won’t be tolerated” and that “violators will be held accountable for their actions,” said McHugh’s press secretary, Brynn Barnett.
As it learns, the military’s program will continue to “evolve,” Upton said.
One tool will be to measure the effectiveness of the Trafficking in Persons training program. The Defense Department’s Inspector General is to publish a progress report in December, Upton said.
The military also is working on the demand by encouraging commanders to place bars that engage in human trafficking off-limits.
“As we receive feedback from the field, the current awareness training will be adjusted to better reflect the evolving nature of the crime of human trafficking,” Upton said.
Servicemembers are evolving, too, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jason Bonnough.
“The training is pretty straightforward,” Bonnough said. “Now, if people go to prostitutes, they keep quiet about it. I think people are taking notice.”