When Justice Is Not Just


Talmage Payne, CEO of Hagar International, recently blogged about the difficulties of securing justice for victims of human trafficking. To turn victims into survivors, he suggest we redefine justice. Here’s more from his article; you can read the complete text here.

The perpetrator is followed as he drives a young girl to a seedy hotel room and locks the door. The NGO tracking the known sex offender has already called their police counterparts. An arrest is imminent.

But they wait. Not seconds or minutes but a full half hour. Confident that the rape is well enough along to cover her body and the room with forensic evidence, the door comes down and the child is “rescued.”

Hagar was called by the authorities to take custody of the girl. Staff arrived at the police station to find the child and perpetrator in the same room while she was interrogated in front of several officers.

Today, the anti-trafficking community organises interventions around the “three P’s”- Prevention, Protection and Prosecution. The “justice” conversation largely revolves around the idea of “prosecution” and the measure of effectiveness is perpetrators convicted. I asked one embassy official last year in Kabul what change they most wanted to see and the answer was an unequivocal ‘perpetrator conviction.’

Certainly we all celebrate when justice is served to abusers and traffickers. Hagar lawyers spend thousands of hours each year as victim advocates in criminal proceedings. But it seems somehow that the focus on counting convictions has lost sight of what really matters to victims.

We need a wholistic and victim-centred view of justice. A bill or rights that say they have a right to be safe regardless of criminal proceedings. That governments should safely return trafficking victims to competent care in their home country. Protection of survivor’s identities from the public media and greedy NGO marketing. The right to competent council and care. The right to have their voice heard.

It’s time for a wholistic, victim-centred approach to justice.


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Melissa loves merging her passions for writing and for helping provide restoration for exploited people. She graduated from Miami University with a degree in Adolescent English Education and is a former middle school language arts teacher. She now works full time as an editor. Melissa has visited Freeset in Kolkata, India.

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