In 2000, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a landmark legislation that increased the power of the US government to pressure other countries to fight the slave traffickers at the root: home.
Unfortunately, a new law passed by the House of Representatives in December (called the William Wilberforce Reauthorization Act, so named for the British member of Parliament who led the fight to abolish the slave trade in England in 1807) is taking efforts in a different direction, and what many in the anti-abolitionist movement believe is the wrong one, though well-intentioned.
The problem is that the bill focuses almost explicitly on sex slavery, assuming that all prostitution is forced and putting the prosecution of such cases in federal hands instead of allowing states to deal with them as they see fit.
The Wilberforce Act in effect changes earlier criteria used in the definition of slavery–that force, fraud or coercion have to be involved–so that even a woman who freely chooses to engage in prostitution is to be deemed a woman enslaved. This has the effect of criminalizing prostitution even in the state of Nevada, where it is currently legal to engage in prostitution.
The new bill also complicates cases involving child abuse by renaming the “Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section” of the old law, the “Sexual Exploitation and Obscenity Section.” According to Justice Department officials this small change will force the two dozen federal task forces that now concentrate on child prostitution to expand their efforts to adult prostitution, stretching thin an already-limited resource.
This House bill passed by a vote of 405 to 2 with almost no debate at all.
“Fortunately,” closes Richard Berstein in his piece for the International Herald Tribune, “the Senate seems likely to take into account some of the objections to the new law, so it remains possible that a more moderate piece of legislation will result–one that leaves the main initiative to combat prostitution with the states, and doesn’t commit the moral excess of defining every act of organized prostitution as a violation of federal antislavery laws.”
Let’s keep an eye on this one as well.
Read the original article here.