Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The End of the Law?


            Just as the new anti-trafficking law in Massachusetts is getting women in bondage new attention from the state, it looks as though many of them will again see their hopes of freedom diminish. For the first time since Congress passed it in 2000, congressional deadlock may cause the ostensibly non-partisan Trafficking Victims Protection Act to expire. 

            At first glimpse, this may not seem so bad. This seminal federal anti-trafficking law is relatively weak – only 104 traffickers were convicted under it between October 2009 and September 2010, just over two per state. Although prosecution rates have been rising over the past decade, this level of enforcement is not high enough to amount to much. If trafficking in the Boston area is as widespread as we suspect it to be, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of criminals involved in the trade within twenty-five miles of the Statehouse. We don’t need to apprehend every single criminal – merely enough that the rest of them abandon their efforts to enslave their fellow human beings – but the Trafficking Victims Protection Act does not nearly go far enough to achieve even the latter.

            Part of the reason why the dominant federal law governing trafficking has been so unsuccessful is that it requires survivors of trafficking to prove, beyond doubt, that their captors held them under a status of force, fraud or coercion. In practice this is often almost impossible. While labor trafficking survivors may be able to prove that they were never paid for their services, sex trafficking survivors may find it almost impossible to prove that they were not being forced into prostitution. Since prostitution is already illegal in all states besides Nevada, a pimp can plausibly claim that he paid his “girl” underneath the table for her services, and the woman he preyed upon will need more than a simple denial to prove his guilt. With hard evidence so rare in sex trafficking cases, it can be difficult for the poorly worded federal law to be genuinely effective in federal trafficking cases.

            On the other hand, the law provides for more than just trafficking definitions and prosecutions. It funds the National Human Trafficking Resources Center Hotline, national taskforces charged with protecting women, and numerous state law enforcement programs that help train state and local officers in how to spot traffickers. Massachusetts, then, could find itself able to train far fewer police officers in identifying slaveholders and the human beings behind their bars if Congress fails to renew this Act by September 30th out of sheer negligence.

            The nice thing about living in a democracy is that we are far from powerless in the face of apathy. In order to encourage your senator to put their support behind the renewal of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, go to the World Vision Activist's Network page and click "Download Resource" to find the phone numbers of the senators who have yet to sponsor a renewal. The helpful people at the Activist's Network have included a sample script that you can read to the person on the other end of the line (who is likely to be a college intern, not a senator, so don't be nervous!). The page also includes the senator's Twitter page, in case you'd rather send them a tweet, or if you'd prefer to do both. If you don't have a Twitter and would prefer not to make a phone call, a list of senatorial emails can be found here. And if you'd like to contact your congressman, there is no public list of congressional email addresses and telephone numbers, but you can find his or her contact info by following this link and entering your zip code.

It's election season. Candidates are listening to everything their constituents are saying, praying for reelection. If they think standing up for freedom will help get them reelected, then getting them to stand up for freedom will be a no-brainer.


"Trafficking in Persons Report 2011." United States Department of State. United States Department of State, 27 June 2011. Web. 18 Sept. 2012. <http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/164458.pdf>.

            Jack is a sophomore at Gordon College, where he studies English, political science, human nature, and how to make the world a better place. 

No comments:

Post a Comment