Soros and the Exploitation of Women
George Soros, 86-year-old multibillionaire hedge fund-operator, is famous around the world for promoting far-left causes. Or, as his website puts it, he is "a prominent international supporter of democratic ideals and causes for more than 30 years." His "philanthropic organization, the Open Society Foundations (OSF), supports democracy and human rights in more than 100 countries."
To date, Soros has given away close to $14 billion to various leftist "progressive" causes. He works for the decriminalization of both prostitution and drugs and helped kick-start America's medical marijuana movement, was an early proponent and major funder of the initiative to redefine marriage, underwrites numerous leftist think-tanks, and works assiduously for left-wing policy changes. OSF has nearly fifty offices around the world and more than 1,600 full-time staff members who are activists in numerous arenas, with particular attention to judicial decisions and supporting far-left judicial candidates. Soros recently gave $18 billion to OSF, establishing one of the richest foundation endowments ever and guaranteeing that his work will continue after he is gone.
One of his less publicized causes is "helping sex workers." He promotes the idea that decriminalization of prostitution would remove the stigma, social exclusion, violence, and fear of violence associated with the sex trade industry. Now, thanks to Jody Raphael, DePaul University College of Law, in an article for Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence (I serve on the editorial board), we have an accounting of Soros' support for the full decriminalization of the sex trade industry, long an issue for utopians who think making it legal to exploit women will somehow "free" them from their pimps and the criminal networks who make millions by trafficking and exploiting women. Raphael's Dignity article is 24 pages of careful research with eight pages of references. For instance, she reports that in 2015, OSF published two reports, "10 Reasons to Decriminalize Sex Work" and "Understanding Sex Work." Experts panned both as simplistic and criticized them for misreading the research and downplaying the inherent coercion, violence, and abuse of the industry.
As I noted when I debated this issue at the Oxford Union Debates, the first clue that decriminalization will not help prostituted women is that the pimps and criminal networks enthusiastically support the effort! The pimps know that decriminalization will make their exploitation easier and more profitable. Decriminalization will enable them to "explain" to vulnerable girls and women that what they want the girls to do is perfectly legal, strengthening the coercive potential.
More significantly, decriminalization does not work. As I have written and as research clearly reveals, the truth is that everywhere prostitution has been legalized or decriminalized, illegal prostitution has increased dramatically, along with corruption, sex-trafficking, the drug trade, and other undesirable and criminal activities. This is true in Australia, where illegal brothels increased 300 percent; in New Zealand, which considers itself a model for the rest of the world; and in the Netherlands, which neighboring countries call a "failed experiment."
The real tragedy, though, is that pimps control and reap the profits from 80-95 percent of all forms of prostitution. No wonder most prostitutes (90 percent) desperately want out. One study found that 80 percent of prostituted girls and women were assaulted by their pimps, and over one third received death threats against themselves or their families. A majority of the girls and women end up drug-addicted, bruised, and battered; they get older, worn out, infected with STDs, and used up.
When advocates wax eloquent about the career option of prostitution, they fail to mention that nearly 70 percent of those in prostitution enter before age 16 – hardly old enough to make a reasoned choice of life direction. In the U.S., the age of entry is typically 12 years old! In fact, legalization creates a greater demand for younger girls, who are thought by clients to be less likely to have an infectious disease. Legalization throws open the floodgates for child prostitution.
As is typical of the savvy George Soros, he gives relatively little directly to the grassroots sex worker groups, where the impact would be local and limited. Instead, the Open Society Foundation gives huge grants to large, international groups with broad, international influence. As the Dignity article shows, there is sympathy between the groups: the think-tanks produce slanted "research" that is then publicized and popularized by the grassroots organizations. Media are full of advocates promoting decriminalization of prostitution, claiming that it will eliminate HIV or prevent trafficking. Raphael tracks the money to find that many of the advocates are funded by Soros's OSF. In effect, Soros has created an "alternate universe about the sex trade industry that ignores known facts." In that "alternate universe," trafficking is understated, girls and women are represented as voluntarily choosing prostitution, and problems – such as coercion, abuse, and violence – are not inherent, but are caused by law enforcement and security personal at shelters. Conclusion: There are no ill effects in prostituting women; the problems come from enforcing the laws.
Raphael's research covers the links between OSF and the Gates Foundation; faults in The Lancet research on decriminalization; and the lack of evidence that OSF knows about major research on problems faced by New Zealand, Australia (Victoria), Germany, and Nevada. Instead, Raphael shows how that evidence is ignored in favor of an "alternate reality based on conclusions that rest on unproven assumptions." Then, millions of dollars are spent promoting that "alternate reality" throughout the world. Soros has identified ten "anchors" that are "effective proxies" and thus received major institutional funding. These organizations publish each other's reports and help expand each other's influence. Human Rights Watch, an OSF anchor, receives a basic $10 million annually for operating expenses, plus funding for special projects. Others among the top ten include the Center for American Progress, the NAACP, and the ACLU.
Sadly, as Dignity reports:
OSF's rationale for full decriminalization fails to consider violence and coercion in the sex trade industry, misreads research, and does not include research from venues where full decriminalization of prostitution has occurred. Thus, OSF and its grantees have created a partial view on prostitution that they advocate to the public. Those concerned with trafficking for sexual exploitation, violence, coercion, and abuse in prostitution should be cognizant of these strategies used by decriminalization advocates funded by OSF and be prepared to point out the unsupported assumptions and meet OSF's allegations with proven facts.
Raphael concludes that Soros's prostitution policies have become the vision of many of the major nongovernmental human rights organizations. Raphael shows how this vision has permeated even the DOJ, and how philanthropists escape public influence over their activities. She quotes one professor who maintains, "Quite literally, every American who pays taxes today is subsidizing the attempt of fabulously rich people to dominate our public policy."
We've long recognized that the war against pimps and traffickers is the slavery issue of our time. The pimp culture – so glorified in the entertainment industry – corrupts societies around the world and ruins the lives of countless young people. Now we understand that funding exists to empower organizations to promote an alternate reality about prostitution. Those who truly want to help girls and women will avoid the simplistic, utopian ideology of decriminalization of prostitution and, instead, join the abolition movement of today – end the demand – in order to end the scourge of modern-day sex slavery.
Janice Shaw Crouse received the "Abolitionist Award" from the George W. Bush State Department. She helped write and lobby for the original legislation and subsequent reauthorizations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. She has authored white papers, presented testimony before Congress, written briefs, and written dozens of articles on human trafficking. She serves as a senior adviser to the Demand Abolition Coalition and is on the editorial board of Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence.