Commentary on US Law: Commercial Sex and Trafficking
"How Many Trafficked Women Does It Take To..."
compiled by Carol Leigh
US law defines trafficking broadly, to include all commercial sex, porn, stripping, etc. It is a synonym for pimping, OR promoting any commercial sex. The (TVPA-Trafficking Victim's Protection Act 2000) positions the US against the legal (and illegal, ofcourse) sex industry. There had been a great deal of debate and around definitions of trafficking in international contexts, as seen above. This debate surrounded construction of the TVPA as well.
The definition of trafficking, in fact, has been the central issue. Fundamentalist church groups and anti-prostitution feminists sought a definition of trafficking which would include and EMPHASIZE all commercial sex. The TVPA ultimately reflects this perspective.
The most problematic aspects are the definitions of commercial sex and sex trafficking. If sex traffcking is commercial sex and commercial sex is "any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person," then, in this context, all sex workers are victims of sex trafficking, and the partner who trades for domestic survival (or a new washer) is a victim of trafficking. This construct defines Nevada brothel owners, strip club owners and clients as traffickers and all strippers (by definition), porn actresses and phone sex operators as trafficked persons.
Construct of Definitions of Trafficking: US Against Commercial Sex Industries
The TVPA divides trafficking into "severe trafficking" and "sex trafficking." The term trafficking includes both of these. Below is a summary of which aspects of the TVPA apply to which types of trafficking.
The TVPA is supposed to "combat trafficking in persons, a contemporary manifestation of slavery whose victims are predominantly women and children, to ensure just and effective punishment of traffickers, and to protect their victims." Although there are no punishments specifically for sex trafficking (commercial sex) the law says that the country is committed to combat commercial sex.
The increased jail sentences in the TVPA do not apply to "sex trafficking," but to "severe trafficking."
Protection and Assistance
Protection and assistance are only available for 'victims of severe trafficking.' The Money
Although there are no punishments, and no funds available for individuals, there is money for groups to work at combating commercial sex, and a process for investigation. Specifically Sec 107 provides grants to States, Indian tribes, units of local government, and nonprofit, nongovernmental victims' service organizations to develop, expand, or strengthen victim service programs for victims of trafficking. For more information about funding priorities, see US AID Strategy Prohibits Funds to Groups Supporting Sex Worker Rights (Page 7) "Organizations advocating prostitution as an employment choice or which advocate or support the legalization of prostitution are not appropriate partners for USAID anti-trafficking grants or contracts. Missions will avoid contracting or assistance agreements with such organizations as primary or sub-grantees or contractors."
In fact, John Ashcroft, in a national sting, recently targeted commercial sex businesses using other federal laws. These businesses were not involved in forced prostitution and had no reports of abuses, but these investigations and arrests became the target of this administration.
Below is an example of a benefit given to victims of servere trafficking which is not afforded to victims of trafficking. In other words, if a business is raided, workers may not be given information or translation services unless they claim (or the police believe) they have been forced, coerced, duped and kidnapped.
(2) ACCESS TO INFORMATION.--Victims of severe forms of trafficking shall have access to information about their rights and translation services.
**Update: Visit the
updated page about the 2005 Reauthorization of the TVPA for the latest information
about how the anti-trafficking framework encompasses domestic commercial sex,
even in voluntary contexts.