Who’s Trafficked?

Another great article from Melissa Hope Ditmore Ph.D., a researcher we can really stand behind! Melissa edited The Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work.

Who’s Trafficked?
Melissa Ditmore on May 19, 2008 – 8:00am

It is already sadly evident that the U.S. government’s anti-trafficking program has devolved into a global campaign against sex work and is not working to halt trafficking. In a 2006 report critical of the program, the Government Accountability Office found that “the U.S. government has not developed a coordinated strategy to combat trafficking in persons abroad…or evaluated its programs to determine whether projects are achieving the desired outcomes.”

Now comes a plan to further ratify this failure. The Trafficking Victims’ Protection Reauthorization Act addresses the crime of trafficking in persons, which is recognized in U.S law as cases that involve force, fraud or coercion, which includes threats, intimidation, and psychological abuse. The law offers protection to workers who are most vulnerable to abuse — immigrants, people in forced labor, and minors who exchange sex for cash or goods. The bill currently before Congress, however, would expand the definition of “sex trafficking” to include cases in which no elements of force, fraud or coercion were involved.

Specifically, the House version of the TVPRA would expand U.S. laws against prostitution by re-defining most prostitution-related activities, regardless of consent, as trafficking. Human trafficking is a complex issue, but there is widespread agreement about its key distinguishing features, namely the use of force, fraud or coercion. HR 3887 throws out these cornerstones and threatens to re-define all prostitution, arguably even all sex work, as trafficking. And it would require the involvement of federal law enforcement through a broad new provision that covers actions “affecting” interstate commerce (rather than actual activities that involve the crossing of state lines, the standard trigger for bringing in the feds). Therefore, most prostitution-related activities defined as sex trafficking would fall under federal law even if no interstate commerce was involved.

4 Responses

  1. Who is sponsoring this bill?

  2. I’m a little confused as to how they could re-define most “prostitution-related activity” as “sex trafficking.” Is that based on the assumption that most prostitutes work for someone? Maybe I’ve been a little isolated in the indie-escort community; I suppose that if they took into account all the massage parlor employees, the agency girls and those who really are “pimped,” it could constitute the majority (but not a vast majority).

    The Feds have already found other ways to involve themselves in prostitution-related criminal proceedings. They’ve overstepped their constitutional authority by using hogwash excuses such as:

    • Using a public utility (telephone, internet) in facilitation of a crime

    • Money laundering (posing as a massage parlor or escort service as a front for prostitution)

    • Falsifying federal tax documents (not stating occupation as “prostitute” or “brothel owner” when filing)

    Add to that tax evasion, harboring aliens and hiring undocumented workers, and they have an excuse for getting involved in any prostitution case. Of course it doesn’t surprise me that congress is trying to get them even more involved in combating sex work. With so little luck at uncovering actual sex trafficking operations, they’re changing their mission to match their findings.

    Kudos to Ms. Ditmore for her work on the trafficking issue. It sounds like an interesting read.

  3. […] across national, county and state borders for the purpose of paid sex (trafficking as defined by TVPRA). Prop K DOES NOT prevent any form of investigation into the crimes mentioned above. In fact, if […]

  4. […] across national, county and state borders for the purpose of paid sex (trafficking as defined by TVPRA). Prop K DOES NOT prevent any form of investigation into the crimes mentioned above. In fact, if […]

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