Human Trafficking Legislation: What are we doing about it?

Virtually every country in the world is affected by human trafficking crimes. It is a multi-billion dollar industry with millions of humans being exploited every day. The United nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is the only United Nations entity focusing on the criminal justice element of these crimes. There is currently no law that governs world wide human trafficking. And, even if there was, it would be very difficult to monitor and enforce. Therefor, it is the responsibility of individual countries to develop, monitor and enforce their own laws. The last United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols Thereto, was held on November 15, 2000. Many other world wide protocols came from that one meeting including frameworks for extradition, mutual legal assistance, law enforcement cooperation and the increase in the capacity and authority of national authorities when it comes to human trafficking. However, not all countries have their own laws against human trafficking. In fact, out of the 36 countries in the Americas, only 58% have human trafficking laws that can accounted for (The Protection Project, 2015).

We can see the urgency needed on this issue. Even Pope Francis used his New Year Mass of 2015, to encourage the world to fight against human trafficking and modern slavery, and prior to that speech he brought together other religious leaders from Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and other faiths at the Vatican City on December 2, 2014 to call for an end to human trafficking and slavery by 2020.

In the United States, the cornerstone of Federal human trafficking legislation is the Trafficking Victims Protections Act (TVPA) of 2000, which was reauthorized in 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2013 (Title XII of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013). This act prosecutes traffickers, prevents human trafficking and protects the victims and survivors of trafficking. The reauthorization acts provide for the victims to sue their traffickers, protects against deportation, work to combat international trafficking, increase education, work to reduce trafficking internationally, strengthen trafficking reporting systems, provide protections and T-visas to victims, prevention of child marriage and emergency response provisions within the State Department to respond to trafficking crimes.

On September 29, 2014, H.R. 4980: Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act became law. The law protects children and youth at risk of sex trafficking, and helps to give states more authorization by adding a state plan requirement for reporting sex trafficking to law enforcement. There is currently safe harbor and anti-human trafficking legislation going through the House and Senate at this time. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 (S. 178) has been amended as of March 19, 2015. Two provisions have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee: H.R. 246 – To improve the response to victims of child sex trafficking and the Bringing Missing Children Home Act of 2015. However, due to two specific provisions dealing with LGBT protections and anti-abortion provisions, it has hit a standstill and has faced bipartisan issues.

In Ohio, human trafficking laws have changed drastically since 2011. According to the Polaris Project State Ratings on Human Trafficking Laws, in 2011, Ohio met 4 out of 10 conditions. As of 2014, Ohio has met 9 out of 10 conditions.  On June 27, 2012, Governor Kasich signed Ohio HB 262 – Human Trafficking /”Safe Harbor” into law. This bill exempts minors who are victims of human trafficking from the crime of solicitation if the crime is coerced. It also required the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and the Ohio Department of Mental Health to develop services that assist human trafficked victims, including a toll free victim assistance hotline. The Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force (OHTTF), formed in 2012, helps to provide resources and services for victims and the public on human trafficking. The OHTTF has been a driving force in getting Ohio state ratings up. On September 24, 2014, in Springfield Township, outside of Toledo in Lucas County, a human trafficking operation resulted in 14 arrests. Toledo, Ohio is in the top 4 gateway cities for human sex trafficking.

Other initiatives in Ohio include CATCH Court (Changing Actions To Change Habits), which was created by and  resided over by the Honorable Paul Herbert in Columbus, Ohio. Through this two-year program, women who are in his court due to prostitution are sent to residential rehabilitation programs to detox, receive intensive therapy, receive job training and peer support. The program has saved almost a million in jail costs and has rehabbed hundreds of women from prostitution. The most recent Ohio legislation is Ohio HB 130 – Human Trafficking. It was singed into law on June 20, 2014. This law gives protection to trafficked children through a court appointed guardian, placement with someone other than a parent who is participating in human trafficking and expands the prosecution for human trafficking from 6 years to 20 years.

If you are concerned about this topic, contact your state and federal legislators. Below are links to find your legislator.

The Ohio Legislature, 131st General Assembly: https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/

OpenCongress Legislator Search: https://www.opencongress.org/people/zipcodelookup

  • Sources:

United Nations: http: http://www.unodc.org/unodc/human-trafficking/

The Protection Project: http://www.protectionproject.org/resources/law-library/international-anti-trafficking/

Religion News: http://www.religionnews.com/2014/12/02/pope-francis-joins-faith-leaders-demand-end-human-trafficking/

Polaris Project: http://www.polarisproject.org/what-we-do/policy-advocacy/national-policy/current-federal-laws

U.S Congress: https://www.congress.gov

Ohio Attorney General: http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/humantrafficking.aspx

Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force: http://humantrafficking.ohio.gov/

NPR: http://www.npr.org/2015/03/18/393748178/abortion-provision-in-human-trafficking-bill-delays-lynch-vote

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