Friday, July 11, 2008

U.S. Anti-Trafficking Law Needs Improvement

From Medill:

By Hallie D. Martin

WASHINGTON D.C. – Thousands of working people walk near a bustling downtown intersection in the nation’s capital during the day, but after the clubs close at night pimps rule those streets.

The area was known as the red light district 30 years ago and it still is after 3 a.m., said Bradley Myles, the deputy director of the Polaris Project, a Washington-based organization dedicated to fighting human trafficking.

“This street, 14th, 15th and K, has been the main street since the 1970s where violent pimps are forcing women into street prostitution every single night,” he said. “And usually it’s not apparent to most people because it doesn’t begin until 3 a.m.”

The pimps’ activity in Washington meets the federal definition of sex trafficking, and is a microcosm of the problem in the United States.

The United States defines human sex trafficking as situations where individuals are forced into commercial sex acts by fraud or coercion, or if a person is a minor.

The sex trafficking industry is hugely profitable, and is the fastest-growing criminal industry worldwide, the Polaris Project reported.

In the Washington area, the project estimates human sexual trafficking revenue amounts to more than $100 million annually.

But participants in a discussion at the Hudson Institute Thursday, said there was not enough federal enforcement of laws meant to fight human trafficking.

There is no solid number of trafficking victims, though it is estimated 100,000 to 300,000 minors are trafficked within the United States each year. There is no estimate for adult women.

“No one knows if the cases are up or down because there are not enough years to compare,” said Tricia Swartz, the director of the National Center for Refuge and Immigrant Children. “But people suspect it is going up.”

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which passed congress in 2000 and was last re-authorized in 2005, provides grants to nongovernmental organizations that find and treat victims of trafficking.
The law also monitors programs that try to stop border trafficking.

It is up for re-authorization this year and is awaiting action in the House Judiciary Committee.
“What’s not working [in the law] is the prosecution of pimps and people who traffic people,” said Donna Hughes, a professor at the University of Rhode Island. “The law persecutes the victims, not the men or the pimps.”

Bringing pimps to justice is dependant on the testimony of their victims, which Hughes said isn’t happening. A revamped law needs to reduce the burden on the victim, she said.

Read the full article

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