Trafficking:A Universal Standard

See Trafficking Statutes HERE.

Read this written by Chesler on her blog at Cheslers Chronicles

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ) a prostitute or a victim of trafficking is entitled to justice but only if she has been “forced, tricked, or coerced” into doing what the DOJ calls “sex work”—and if she can prove it.

Today, according to U.S. governmental Trafficking Prosecutors, a rescue-worthy prostitute is someone who has been forcibly “trafficked” or “tricked” into sexual slavery. If she is from a Third World country, she commands more DOJ sympathy that does an American child who has escaped from an incestuous and dangerously abusive family in Iowa or Minnesota and who has ended up in the arms of a violent pimp or brothel-owner in another American state.

In addition, the DOJ does not seem to count minor children who are used in “commercial sex acts” as trafficking victims because, by definition, they have not necessarily been “coerced” or “duped.”

In September and October of 2007, The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) sent careful letters to the Attorney Generals’ Office, one of which you may read HERE, which noted DOJ failures, asked critical questions, and called upon it to strengthen law enforcement in this area.
23 Aug, 2007
Letter from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women
The Honorable Peter Keisler
Acting Attorney General of the United StatesDepartment of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NWWashington, DC 20005
Dear Mr. Acting Attorney General:

Founded in 1988, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women is the first international non-governmental organization to challenge the trafficking of women and girls as an acute form of gender discrimination and a severe violation of human rights. The one hundred representative signers of this letter include leaders of organizations and communities that range across the country’s religious, ideological and political spectrums. What unites us is our collective outrage at human trafficking and our commitment to end it.

More than six months ago, Congresswoman Maloney and Congressmen Wolf and Scott wrote to former Attorney General Gonzales to express their concerns with the Department’s anti-trafficking policies and strategies.

They did so in the context of his public statements that the initiative against domestic trafficking was a matter of high priority to the Department. We share these views and applaud these statements.

The multibillion dollar “industry” operated within the United States by criminal traffickers enslaves and devastates hundreds of thousands of girls and women in a manner eerily reminiscent of the 19th Century African slave trade.

We write because of the Department’s apparent rejection of the views expressed in the Maloney-Scott-Wolf letter and because of our serious concerns about the Department’s anti-trafficking activities.
First, we fail to understand why the Department has called on States to enact a model statute that effectively requires proof of fraud, force or coercion for the conviction of sex traffickers, instead of encouraging State and local prosecutors to strengthen and enforce existing statutes under which traffickers can be convicted on proof that they have “merely” engaged in sex trafficking.

Our concern about the Department’s model law is made particularly grave by its seriously misguided definition of prostitution as a form of “labor or services.”

The effect of conceptualizing prostitution as a form of “work” not only conflicts with public statements that former Attorney Generals Ashcroft and Gonzales and other administration officials have made, it also effectively converts the pimps, brothel owners and others who profit from the prostitution “industry” into presumptively legal employers. The Department’s “labor or services” definition is thus in clear conflict with repeated statements of the President, with his National Security Policy Directive 22 and with almost all State and local laws on the subject.

What the Department’s trafficking policy as embodied in the model law dangerously ignores is the acute difficulty of gaining testimonial evidence of fraud, force or coercion from terrified and brutalized victims of trafficking, and the potential danger that such a requirement poses to victims’ safety. It is well documented that many victims enslaved by traffickers suffer from traumatic bonding and related conditions that make it impossible for them to give the testimony essential to the prosecution of fraud, force or coercion cases.

In fact, we believe that the Department’s policy will cause predatory traffickers to increase their acts of violence and psychological abuse in order to ensure that the persons they abusewill not serve as prosecution witnesses.

Requiring proof of force, fraud, and coercion has not only had a detrimental effect on the prosecution of cases of domestic trafficking. Such proof requirements have been cited by anti-trafficking leaders in other countries as obstacles to holding traffickers accountable for their systematic acts of violence against girls and women.

If trafficking victims are afraid to testify against their traffickers in the U.S., as they are, they are more afraid to do so in foreign countries with even more violent traffickers and often less protective legal systems.

The approach of the Department’s model law appears to be replicated in the Department’s prosecution policies and strategies. We are gravely concerned by the Department’s failure to more fully utilize D.C. Criminal Code § 22-2707, which makes sex trafficking per se a felony offense.

In enforcing the D.C. Criminal Code, the Department functions much like State and local prosecutors, so that vigorous utilization of Section 22-2707 would send a powerful leadership message to those prosecutors, one that would help ameliorate the negative effects of the Department’s model State law.

In the same vein, we are troubled by the Department’s failure to more fully utilize 18 U.S. Code §2422(a), a statute recently amended by Congress that requires no proof of fraud, force or coercion and that would be of particular value in jurisdictions where major cities in different States border each other.

There are a number of additional aspects of the Department’s anti-trafficking policies and strategies that trouble us, and about which we ask your views:

· The Department has given domestic traffickers effective immunity from criminal tax laws, when otherwise legal business owners are prosecuted for such acts as failing to provide W-2 forms. Congresswoman Maloney has recently introduced legislation that would ensure that traffickers are prosecuted for violating criminal tax laws, a leadership act that builds on Senator Grassley’s leadership in the 109th Congress. The Grassley bill was unanimously endorsed by the Senate Finance Committee. Will the Department support this initiative?

· In the face of persuasive research conducted by Equality Now, the Department has failed to utilize existing criminal statutes to prosecute so-called “sex tourism” operators. Do you agree?

· The Department prioritizes the prosecution of traffickers of girls and women brought into the United States from foreign countries. Are American citizens who have been subjected to trafficking any less worthy of the Department’s protection?

· The Department, through its grants under the Violence Against Women Act and like programs, often denies support to applicants who operate programs for trafficking survivors. Clearly, victims of domestic trafficking, routinely subjected to rape and battery, are as much in need of and as much entitled to assistance and services as victims of other forms of gender-based violence. Do you share this view, and do you believe that victims of domestic trafficking are underserved?

· The Department has failed to pursue funds for the grant programs and the survey of the unlawful domestic commercial sex industry that were authorized by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005. Is it not important for the Department, and the country, to know as much about the predatory world of trafficking as is known about the country’s gambling and drug operations?

· There is an apparent lack of coordination within the Department of its anti-trafficking activities. We believe it essential, as called for in the Maloney-Scott-Wolf letter, for there to be a single, accountable office headed by an experienced criminal prosecutor to whom Congress and the American public can look for results in the conduct of the Department’s anti-trafficking activities. Do you share this view?

· The Departmental leadership on the trafficking issue has been vested in the Civil Rights Division even though the Division’s sole jurisdiction is the prosecution of traffickers who have committed provable acts of fraud, force, or coercion against adult victims. While we celebrate the highly professional and committed prosecutors who have brought such cases, we are deeply concerned that the anti-trafficking strategy adopted by the Department will shield traffickers from prosecution while encouraging them to intensify their acts of violence and psychological abuse. Do you believe this concern legitimate?

(Full disclosure: I am one of the signatories of these letters as are The National Organization for Women, Equality Now, and feminists Melissa Farley, Diana Russell, and Gloria Steinem— but so are representatives of the National Association of Evangelicals, The National Congress of Black Women, American Values, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Salvation Army, etc).

In short, there is agreement about this across the political spectrum.
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1 Comments:

Blogger greenconsciousness said...

One of the most important aspects of this post by Phyllis Chesler is that it notes the hideously obscure way the DOJ shares statistics with the US public. It is impossible to determine how much gender violence is committed and where it is the worst from DOJ's victim statistics. The DOJ's research is gathered and presented almost incoherently. Obscurely - maybe because they do not want us to find what Chesler and the other authors uncovered and named. do not collect and display AND RELATE their studies by category in ways that facilitate the use of the information. Their whole presentation must be revised and their definitions refreshed.

3:14 PM  

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