Tuesday, October 30, 2007

FAQ's about anti-trafficking legislation

Q: Why does New York State need a trafficking bill?

A: Existing laws against crimes such as rape and kidnapping don’t adequately address trafficking. Kidnapping requires that the victim be secreted, held, or confined; rape requires an imminent threat of force; and these elements are not always present in a trafficking situation. Traffickers use a range of techniques including deceit, intimidation, implicit threats, immigration abuse, and other methods to control their victims. A trafficker might, for example, lure a victim to the United States with a fraudulent job offer, take away the victim’s passport and money, surround the victim with accomplices who appear physically menacing, and threaten to report the victim to the police unless he or she follows orders. For a victim who has no resources and is terrified by the prospect of contact with an unfamiliar police force in an unknown country, such conduct might be enough to ensure the victim’s compliance so that the trafficker can exploit the victim in a brutal - and highly profitable - manner. The misdemeanor penalties for offenses such as promoting prostitution are too low to create adequate deterrence against a criminal enterprise in which the potential profits are huge, driven by the extensive demand for commercial sex or cheap labor. And these low-level penalties fail to address the highly abusive and harmful behavior that is specific to trafficking, or the devastating after-effects for victims.

Q: Isn't trafficking a federal offense? Why isn't the federal law enough?

A: With trafficking (as with other crime categories), federal authorities pick and choose which cases to investigate and prosecute. Typically they choose larger-scale cases, which might involve multiple defendants, multiple victims, and an extensive criminal enterprise with significant assets. This is in no way intended as a criticism of federal anti-trafficking enforcement; it is simply the nature of federal efforts against all types of crimes, including narcotics, weapons, and stalking, that federal law enforcement leaves many untouched cases for state authorities to pursue. As to narcotics, weapons, and stalking, there are strong state laws complementing federal laws; states need strong anti-trafficking laws as well. Moreover, it is often state and local police officers - not federal agents - who come into contact with trafficking victims during local operations such as brothel raids. Without a state anti-trafficking law, these officers are less likely to consider the possibility that the women they arrest for prostitution may in fact be crime victims rather than criminals. State legislatures are quickly realizing that anti-trafficking laws are needed at the state level: twenty-two states have enacted anti-trafficking laws as of 2006.

Q: What would an effective anti-trafficking law include?

A: An effective anti-trafficking bill would: 
1. Define trafficking with reference to the typical kinds of fraud and coercion that traffickers commonly use on their victims, rather than the narrow doctrine of "imminent threat of force." 
2. Create strong penalties for the traffickers-enough to provide meaningful deterrence to an enormously profitable criminal activity. 
3. Address those who patronize the sex industry, as they create the demand that makes the industry so profitable and creates the motive for trafficking. 
4. Clarify existing law on sex tourism in order to stop the sex tour operators who conduct business in New York State, promoting sex tours that drive trafficking in poorer countries, where victims have no recourse against those who profit from their suffering.
5. Create remedies for victims of trafficking, including a defense for trafficked individuals who are sometimes arrested for the very acts of prostitution that they are coerced to perform; allow victims to recover restitution and damages from traffickers. 
6. Provide services to assist trafficking victims in rehabilitating their lives.

- from www.stophumantraffickingny.org/FAQ.html

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