New human-trafficking report contains many serious flaws 

The 10th annual Trafficking in Persons report is nearly 400 pages and filled with assessments of 175 different countries’ efforts to combat human trafficking. It’s a monumental achievement that provides a diagnosis of the impact of human trafficking around the world. It represents the work of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons staff in the State Department, along with contributions from nongovernmental organizations that assess the trafficking problem at a local level in the nations where they are located.

But, it’s deeply flawed.

Numerous references to the United Nations-generated Palermo Protocol of 2000 — instead of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act that was passed by Congress in the same year — indicates a shift away from U.S. law to international U.N. agreements. The report repeatedly refers to the Palermo Protocol as the baseline for assessment, instead of the congressional provisions.

The 2010 report focuses on “sex and labor trafficking.” This language is significant because it conflates the two types of trafficking, and those who see prostitution as “sex work” use that phrase. Instead of focusing on commercial sexual exploitation, the term links the two forms of human trafficking as “forms of employment,” requiring proof by the employer that force, fraud or coercion was not used in the “hiring.”

There are practical problems related to the new emphasis on “labor trafficking.” It encroaches on the purview of the Department of Labor — responsibilities for which the trafficking office is not prepared to handle. It also disregards Congress’ trafficking-act mandate to address sex trafficking. In fact, the 2010 report repeatedly denies the extent of the problem of sex trafficking.

The 2010 report criticizes the fact that “more investigations and prosecutions have occurred for sex trafficking than for labor trafficking.” It declares, “Sex trafficking comprises a smaller, but still significant portion of overall human trafficking.” It states categorically, “More people are trafficked for forced labor than for commercial sex.” Further, the report claims that 82 percent of adult victims are trafficked for forced labor compared to only 15 percent of sex-trafficking victims, and that among child victims, 56 percent were trafficked for forced labor and 38 percent for sex.

These statistics are reported as valid in spite of the assertion buried deep in the report: “Despite the mandates of 2005 and 2008 amendments to the [Trafficking Victims Protection Act], uniform data collection for trafficking crimes or numbers of victims among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies did not occur during the reporting period.”

Finally, the 2010 report does not address the provisions of the 2008 Wilberforce Act, which required the trafficking office to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts across federal agencies, thus ensuring compliance with the legislation’s provisions, including a new model law for states that would make all acts of pandering and pimping per se crimes regardless of whether there is proof of fraud, force or coercion, and whether the victim is a minor.

This article appeared in The Weekly Standard.

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