NEW YORK, July 21 /PRNewswire/ — As the oldest legal advocacy organization dedicated to advancing and defending the rights of women and girls, Legal Momentum stands with our allies who work every day with trafficking victims to support the Senate version of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act co-sponsored by Senators Joe Biden and Sam Brownback.
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“The United States Congress enacted historic legislation eight years ago, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, to combat the scourge of human trafficking,” said Legal Momentum’s President Irasema Garza, “and this legislation has helped thousands of victims escape slavery and receive protection, while their traffickers are prosecuted.”
But these gains are in jeopardy because of a House-passed bill that would distort the definition of human trafficking by expanding it to include adult prostitution.
Victims’ advocates and survivors oppose equating adult prostitution with human trafficking. Under current law, human trafficking is defined as labor or commercial sex performed under force, fraud or coercion or any commercial sex performed by minors. The House legislation proposes a major change in this definition. It removes the force, fraud or coercion requirement from adult commercial sex cases. By doing so, it places under federal jurisdiction cases, which are traditionally the province of state and local authorities.
Changing the definition will not make trafficking cases easier to prosecute. In fact, by requiring federal authorities to expend resources investigating adult prostitution cases which are traditionally under the jurisdiction of state and local authorities, it will spread thin the resources dedicated to policing trafficking. It will harm the most vulnerable victims of human trafficking — children — by reducing the resources dedicated to finding and prosecuting predators who go after children.
The Senate bill improves victim protections and strengthens the ability to prosecute human trafficking. It builds on the House-passed bill and expands protections for minors who are trafficked, and eliminates many of the obstacles trafficking victims have faced in accessing protection. This bill goes far beyond any of the prior reauthorizations and reaffirms the United States’ commitment and leadership towards eliminating modern-day slavery.
While trafficking cases are difficult to prove, federalizing prostitution will not make trafficking cases any easier to prosecute. The Department of Justice stands in solidarity with the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Association of Attorneys General, and the National District Attorneys Association, all of which agree with victim’s rights, women’s rights and human rights organizations and the Senate bill on the need to preserve the current definition of human trafficking.
Any change in the legal definition of human trafficking attacks the fundamental integrity of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and will severely undermine our government’s ability to battle what is now an international trade in children and women. Senators Biden and Brownback have taken a courageous stance to protect women from modern-day slavery. Their bill expands our country’s commitment to protect vulnerable women and girls beyond the historic efforts to which our government dedicated itself with adoption of TVPA eight years ago.