Cindy McCain calls for an end to human trafficking — now.

It’s been a big week for the fight against human trafficking in America.

Like so many others who work to eradicate sex trafficking, I was thrilled to learn that MasterCard and Visa had made corporate decisions to end the use of their credit cards as payment for adult services ads on backpage.com.

American Express made this same decision several months ago by pulling their card’s use.  All three companies should be lauded for taking a stand against the solicitation of human beings for commercial sex.

What’s sad is backpage.com’s response. After MasterCard and Visa’s announcement, backpage.com quietly let it be known that adult services ads could now be placed for free, by using FREESPEECH as the promotion code. This is a further slap in the face to all the young women and men who have been forcibly trafficked and sold over and over again by their traffickers through the backpage.com site.

Estimates and victim statements indicate that the overwhelming majority of trafficked victims were advertised on backpage.com.  Survivors know this, prosecutors know this, law enforcement knows this and traffickers know this—it is the site of choice. Online sites like backpage.com offer an anonymity to both buyers and sellers of sex, including to those offering minors who by definition are trafficked victims.

Kudos to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who has been fighting backpage.com.  He called on credit card companies to cut off doing business with backpage.com for adult services ads. Sheriff Tom Dart estimates backpage.com generates over $100 million in revenue annually from adult advertising.

These three credit card companies did the right thing by pulling the use of their credit cards to buy adult services ads and in turn make it more difficult to buy and sell human beings for commercial sex on the internet. A young woman was murdered last week in a Massachusetts hotel, after being advertised as an escort on backpage.com.  Two men believed to prey on “escorts” found on backpage.com were arrested as part of a ring to rob escorts at gunpoint.

Craigslist shut down the adult advertising section in 2010 after four escorts who had been advertised were found murdered and bound on a New Jersey beach. Seemingly, the only connection between the women was that they had each been advertised as an escort on Craigslist. It’s beyond time that backpage.com follow Craigslist and cease their adult services advertising section. If they are no longer profiting from the ads, they are simply aiding the selling of human beings.  This is not an issue of free speech, it is an issue of human rights abuse.

Editor’s note: Mrs. McCain is the July, 2015 curator of ONE Girls and Women. Her commentary was written for and appeared at one.org.

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