Several major hotel groups have been accused of profiting from the trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of women and children, according to landmark legal action filed this week in the United States.
This is the first time the hotel industry is facing action as a group for allegedly being aware of women and children sold for sex on their premises – and ignoring it. Legal action has been filed in US federal court in Columbus, Ohio drawing together 13 separate existing cases from women who claim to have been sold for sex in hotel rooms, many of whom were children at the time of their exploitation.
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
The milestone case was filed by the New York law firm Weitz & Luxenberg on behalf of 13 women, many of whom were minors when they said the trafficking occurred. The hotels “derived profit” and “benefited financially” by “providing a marketplace for sex trafficking,” the case said, citing “industry-wide failures.”
“Such corporate malfeasance has led to a burgeoning of sex trafficking occurring in … hotels that has reached the level of a nationwide epidemic,” it said.
An estimated 400,000 people are believed trapped in modern slavery in the United States, from forced labor to sex trafficking, according to the Global Slavery Index, published by the human rights group Walk Free Foundation.
“This is not one bad apple that need to be dealt with,” said Luis CdeBaca, former U.S. anti-trafficking ambassador-at-large. “The entire barrel has a problem … For years the hospitality industry has known that sex trafficking and especially child sex trafficking has occurred on their properties and yet it continues to happen.”
Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., Red Roof Inn, Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts, Best Western Hotels & Resorts and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts Inc. are just some of the hotel companies named in the filing.
One woman in the complaint said “I just wish that people realize how much it really is here in the US It doesn’t matter if it’s a shady hotel or a nice hotel, it’s going on in all of them.” When she was 26 years old, she was held captive at different locations of Wyndham Hotels where she sustained serious injuries from the abuse she endured.
Whilst some hotel companies have initiatives in place to tackle human trafficking, court documents said “These changes have arrived far too late […] Profit motives, not adherence to the law, continues to drive their decision making.”
Surprisingly, some hotel companies are not even meeting basic legal obligations to report on the steps they’re taking to address the modern slavery risk throughout their business. Send a message to the hotel sector now to demand they take action against trafficking and slavery.