The War on Syrian Girls 235
Finally, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act can be used to ensure criminal liability for
sex traffickers. 198 Both the forced labor and sex trafficking statutes extend culpability beyond
traffickers who "personally engage in the prohibited activities" listed, to individuals "who
benefit, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture which has
engaged in the prohibited activities." 199 Known as the benefiter theory, such an individual can be
convicted of a human trafficking crime even if they never recruited, transported, groomed, or
coerced the victim; the "benefiter" must only have knowledge of, or reckless disregard for, the
fact that the labor, services, or commercial sex act were compelled through prohibited means. 200
In addition to the TVPA, the "Palermo Protocol" was established by the United Nations to
address trafficking in persons. 201 The protocol calls upon all U.N. member states to enact human
trafficking laws that protect victims, prosecute perpetrators, and prevent future incidents of
trafficking. 202 Thus, foreign governments and volunteer organizations can employ a number of
legal tools to intervene in the Syrian crises and prevent further sex trafficking of Syrian minors.
The Syrian civil war and rebel-fueled violence has caused civilians within the country to
endure horrible trauma and suffering. While many Syrians have sought refuge in foreign
countries, they can still fall victim to human and sex trafficking in these supposed safe places.
The most common trafficking involves Syrian minors, specifically girls, whom are sold
repeatedly for sex and forced labor. Syrian minors are often tricked into the world of sex
trafficking through false promises of marriage or a better life; some are even sold by their trusted
family members in exchange for desperately needed money. ISIL has also played a significant
role in capturing and selling Syrian girls as sex slaves to their soldiers. While many governments
and NGOs have campaigns focused on combating sex trafficking, the Syrian government has
failed to address child sex trafficking through its laws and governmental actions. The Syrian
government lacks law enforcement training on the recognition and rescue of sex trafficking
victims, one of the vital first steps in the fight against human trafficking. The United Nations and
its member states, including the United States, have concentrated various efforts towards the
Syrian refugee crises and the violation of civilian rights by both pro- and anti-government forces.
However, to significantly impact the crises, protect Syrian minors, and prevent further child sex
trafficking, Syria must increase law enforcement action against trafficking offenders and ensure
that trafficking victims receive adequate care and support. The government also must take action
to identify trafficking victims among individuals arrested for prostitution or illegal immigration.
Foreign governments must use any and all legal tools available to combat the Syrian warfare and
protect minor children from falling victim to the world of sex trafficking. These crimes against
humanity must be stopped, and Syrian minors must be given the chance to live the life they
deserve — a life without fear of sex slavery or sexual violence.
198 John Cotton Richmond, Human Trafficking: Understanding the Law and
Deconstructing Myths, 60 ST. LOUIS U. L. J. 1, 8 (2015).
200 Id. at 8-9.
201 Id. at 10.
202 Id. at 10-11.