Former Representative John R. Miller (R-WA) has been championing anti-sex trafficking efforts on the Hill since 2002. Recently, Miller wrote an op-ed in The New York Times which that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is actively opposing legislation to further anti-sex trafficking efforts:
Sex slavery is not the only modern incarnation of this ancient institution–factory slavery, farm slavery and domestic servitude are still with us–but it is the largest category of slavery in the United States. People who have spoken with the president say that he wants the fight to end modern slavery to be one of his legacies as president.
…. Should the department prosecute the American sex tourists who create demand for adult human-trafficking victims in foreign countries? No. Should Congress make clear that there should be increased penalties for Americans who sexually abuse children abroad? No way. Should we give our courts jurisdiction over Americans who traffic human beings abroad? Certainly not. Should the attorney general include information in his annual report on his department’s efforts to enforce anti-trafficking laws against federal contractors and employees? No. Too “burdensome,” says the Justice Department.
The department strongly objects to a provision that would make it easier to prosecute pimps, the chief slaveholders in the United States. The Justice Department opposes taking away from pimps the defense that they did not know a child’s age. And it opposes easing the requirement to prove force, fraud or coercion in order to prosecute a pimp for human trafficking.
How did President Bush’s Justice Department come to these positions? … A culture clash, I suspect, is the real reason for the Justice Department’s opposition. This isn’t the usual culture clash of right and left, religious and secular. In this case, the feminist, religious and secular groups that help sex-trafficking survivors are on one side. And on the other are the department’s lawyers (most of them male), the Erotic Service Providers Union and the American Civil Liberties Union — this side believes that vast numbers of women engage in prostitution as a “profession,” by choice.
… Both sides agree there is a small group of expensive call girls–the kind paraded in recent political scandals–who may choose to engage in prostitution. But that’s where agreement ends. Those who work with trafficking victims and those who have interviewed survivors believe that most prostitutes are poor, young, abused, harassed, raped, beaten and under the control of pimps against their will.
Put me on the side of those who have worked with the victims. I have talked with survivors all over the world, including the United States, and I share the view that these women and girls–the average age of entry into prostitution is 14–are not participating in the “oldest profession” but in the oldest form of abuse. They are slaves.
Read Miller’s full take on the DOJ’s response to the William Wilberforce Reauthorization Act at The New York Times. Curious about what the DOJ had to say? Check out my post detailing some of their points or jump directly to their comments.