Saturday, July 21, 2018


Until 2000, the United States prohibited trafficking in persons through criminal statutes enacted in the post-Civil War era. The Supreme Court's narrow interpretation of these statutes--as addressing only the most overt and forceful forms of coercion--limited the government's ability to prosecute many cases. The Mann Act, passed in 1910, made prosecution of forced prostitution easier by not requiring proof of force, fraud, or coercion, but the Act applied only to the movement of individuals across state lines for prostitution. Ultimately, the Mann Act's transportation requirements and limited criminal penalties failed to capture the full reality and gravity of trafficking. As a result, the largest number of trafficking cases prosecuted in a single year was six in 1999.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), passed in 2000, was intended to dramatically change the structure of U.S. anti-trafficking efforts at home and abroad. The Act codified a “victim-centered” approach to combating trafficking by expanding criminal statutes to reach more instances of trafficking, increasing criminal penalties, and creating numerous victim assistance programs. Extensive immigration relief was also a central component. Below is a survey of the relevant federal, state, and tribal tools currently available to address sex trafficking within the United States.

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