National & International Anti-Trafficking Laws in Place
As of 2018, human trafficking is illegal in all 50 United States (starting with Washington in 2003), and is recognized as a global crime. A number of national and international laws are in place that have been instrumental in criminalizing the act of trafficking by penalizing traffickers, and even recently, those who purchase victims.
“No one should have to confront the trauma of their experiences alone.”
-UN Secretary-General António Guterres
In a September 2017 UN General Assembly, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated that, “We must strengthen support to victims, particularly through the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, which provides crucial assistance to survivors. No one should have to confront the trauma of their experiences alone. A survivor-centered approach is critical.” Just as many nonprofits have learned in their efforts to combat human trafficking, it’s not enough to simply attempt to prosecute criminals - we must create survivor services, legal protections and benefits.
The United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons (UNVTF) is the first global legislature put in place that focuses specifically on the protection of survivors of human trafficking. Partnering with NGOs since 2010, UNVTF has worked to, “enhance the psychological recovery and social reintegration of victims and empower survivors to reclaim their rights to justice and fair compensation”.
In 2000, arguably one of the most important anti-trafficking laws was passed in the U.S.: The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). The TVPA aims to combat trafficking by focusing on three main goals: prosecution, protection and prevention. It is an in-depth act, but some of the most notable provisions are that it defines a “human trafficking victim as a person induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion,” and enables victims to become certified and therefore have access to benefits and services. In subsequent years, it has been referred to as The Trafficking Victims Protection Re-authorization Act, and has been re-authorized with additional provisions in 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2013, with the most recent re-authorization being in 2017. The Abolish Human Trafficking Act of 2017 is meant to work in tandem with the TVPA, providing an essential component that allows Human Trafficking Justice Coordinators to extend their abilities to prosecute perpetrators.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) aims to combat trafficking by focusing on: prosecution, protection & prevention.
It’s worth noting that individual country laws outside the U.S. are somewhat dependent on which Tier the country holds according to the standard set forth in the TVPA. There are three tiers based on each country’s compliance to TVPA’s standards. Tier 1 represents countries whose governments are fully compliant with minimum standards. Tier 2 represents countries who aren’t fully compliant, but are making significant efforts to be. Tier 2 Watch List represents countries who aren’t fully compliant and are at risk of falling to Tier 3 compliancy standards. Tier 3 represents countries that aren’t fully compliant, and are not making significant efforts to be.
Tier 1 countries have been actively working on updating their laws with both prosecution and victims services and protections. In 2015, the United Kingdom introduced the Modern Slavery Act of 2015, with some of the most notable elements being that those who commit these crimes are scrutinized unforgivingly to recover their assets, which are then seized to compensate victims. Taiwan’s Human Trafficking Prevention and Control Act (HTPCA) criminalizes labor trafficking and prostitution with up to seven years imprisonment, and provides a system to identify and assist victims with medical services, legal counseling and financial restitution among other things. New Zealand has a Plan of Action to prevent “people trafficking” working collaboratively with their various agencies to provide restitution, immigration and publicly-funded health services to victims.
While reading the Tier reports for even the Tier 1 countries, I found that although there are many excellent laws in place to prosecute, protect and prevent, there are often disparities in the respective governments’ ability to utilize them. However, it’s important to recognize the strides that we’ve made in the last 15-plus years. Globally, we are expanding our knowledge of victims’ needs as survivors, and we are still learning best practices. The best thing we can do on a personal level is to be aware of our local laws and support our representatives who create the revisions and implementations of these laws.
The best thing we can do on a personal level is to be aware of our local laws and support our representatives who create the revisions and implementations of these laws.
About the Author
Stephanie Ramos (formerly Stephanie Elwell) is a film school graduate who spent a year overseas in Tanzania as a missionary and has spent the last four years working in the nonprofit sector with at-risk kids and teens. She is passionate about minimalism, experiencing different cultures, cooking, writing and finding new ways to advocate in the fight against human trafficking. She lives with her husband Eddy in Naples, Florida and looks to the future with anticipation and excitement.