Is Legislation actually helping?

**For the sake of space, this blog post is only focused on the United States and their legislation. Describing the legislation of the rest of the world is extensive and important, but for another time.

The culture of the United States has pushed for the need to fight against human trafficking. As a result, the people have pressed their representatives in Congress to pass laws to help fight human trafficking. In April of 2015, the 114th Congress passed domestic human trafficking legislation to combat this severe issue. To summarize what they did:

“Legislation aimed at combating trafficking in persons (TIP) is a top item on the legislative agenda for the 114th Congress. TIP is of significant interest to the United States as a serious human rights concern, and it is believed to be one of the most prolific areas of contemporary criminal activity. TIP is both an international and domestic crime that involves violations of labor, public health, and human rights standards, as well as criminal law. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)—most recently reauthorized in March 2013 (Title XII of P.L. 113-4)—is the primary law that addresses human trafficking. Domestically, anti-TIP efforts provided under the TVPA include protection for victims, the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenses, and education of the public… As human trafficking issues intersect with many different policy areas (e.g., immigration, child welfare, the criminal justice system, missing and exploited youth), legislation to address human trafficking is varied. This is illustrated by the panoply of bills that have recently passed the House. For example, the Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act of 2015 (H.R. 350), Trafficking Awareness Training for Health Care Act of 2015 (H.R. 398), and the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act (H.R. 514), as passed by the House, would address interagency coordination, efficiency, and best practices as they relate to combating human trafficking. The Human Trafficking Prevention Act (H.R. 357) and the Human Trafficking Detection Act of 2015 (H.R. 460), as passed by the House, would enhance training for officials to help identify victims of trafficking. The International Megan’s Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking (H.R. 515), as passed by the House, would create a new center in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that would be responsible for notifying the destination country of international travel by child-sex offenders, where appropriate. Several other bills, as passed by the House, would strengthen the federal and state responses to trafficking through a variety of service systems. H.R. 246, To Improve the Response to Victims of Child Sex Trafficking, would ensure that reports to a federally funded tipline of sexually exploited children can include children who are victims of sex trafficking. The Enhancing Services for Runaway and Homeless Youth Victims for Youth Trafficking Act of 2015 (H.R. 468) would use the Runaway and Homeless Youth program as a vehicle to enhance services to youth who are vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking. The Strengthening Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act of 2015 (H.R. 469) would strengthen state child welfare agencies’ responses to the trafficking of children. A number of bills would amend criminal justice policy in an attempt to obstruct human trafficking. For instance, the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act of 2015 (SAVE Act, H.R. 285, as passed by the House), would provide penalties for knowingly advertising, or knowingly selling advertising that offers, certain commercial sex acts. The Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act (H.R. 159, as passed by the House, and S. 166, as reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee) would incentivize states to enact safe harbor legislation—which would ensure that children who are found in prostitution would be treated as victims rather than perpetrators—and increase restitution amounts for victims. Several pending bills, such as the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 (H.R. 181; S. 178), the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act of 2015 (H.R. 159), and the Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act of 2015 (H.R. 350), all as passed by the Domestic Human Trafficking Legislation in the 114th Congress Congressional Research Service House, would adopt a multi-prong approach to anti-TIP efforts, including improving services to victims. For example, H.R. 181 and S. 178 would create new grant programs for law enforcement and victims services, and would amend the criminal code (Title 18 of the U.S. Code) for certain trafficking-related activities. S. 178 would also impose an additional $5,000 penalty on anyone convicted of certain trafficking-related and other offenses and would establish a Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund into which revenues from such penalties would be deposited and used to award certain grants authorized by the TVPA or to enhance victims’ services.”

 

I know that was a lot, and you can find all of this an more at https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43917.pdf

 

They went on to claim that as many as 17,500 people may be trafficked into the country each year and perhaps 100,000 US citizen children may be victims of trafficking within the United States. Altogether, the US alone has passed 13 different bills helping to fight human trafficking. These bills include:

  • Enhancing financial penalties for those who are convicted of trafficking offenses
  • Reducing the demand
  • Cyber Crimes Unit and customs enforcement
  • improving investigations and prosecutions of child abuse
  • improving the child welfare system
  • grant programs for domestic minor victims of sex trafficking
  • increase communication between agencies
  • training for government officials
  • sex offenders registry

Don’t get me wrong, all of these are amazing things. We want all of these to be enacted and the United States has done a very good job at enforcing these forms of legislation. The problem with the legislation isn’t that legislation isn’t being passed. The problem is that the legislation that is being passed isn’t always efficient. There are several problems that the legislation doesn’t always address. First, the traffickers are extremely innovative. The United States legislation is good at fighting specific issues, such as the exploitation of children through the welfare system. The legislation is set in place to fight this specific issue, but not the issue as a whole. Within a months time, traffickers can find ways to exploit kids through a whole different process.

Another big issue with the legislation is that the legislation system continues to exploit the victims of trafficking by convicting them. For example, a prostitute may be stuck in his/her system of oppression by a pimp who is threatening the prostitute’s life. When the cop finds a prostitute on the side of the road eliciting sex, they will often criminalize the prostitute instead of trying to find the person oppressing the prostitution. The system is improving in this realm, but the issue still exists.

There are hundreds of different ways that legislation isn’t actually helping to fix the problem. I encourage all of you as my readers to start doing the research yourself. I am more than willing to help you see all of these things, but I want to advocate for you to start looking into these things yourself. This is a serious issue. Are you willing to start doing something about it?

 

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