U.S. Legislation on Trafficking
Through the years Equality Now has consistently advocated for strengthening provisions under the U.S. federal trafficking law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which was adopted in 2000 and has been reauthorized every few years since. One of the key drawbacks to the TVPA is its requirement to prove “force fraud and coercion,” which remains a difficult burden of proof for victims of trafficking and federal prosecutors; as a result only 137 sex trafficking cases were prosecuted under the TVPA from 2001 to 2008.
Prior to the reauthorization of the TVPA in 2008, Equality Now, in collaboration with a national coalition of organizations, advocated for strengthening the U.S. Senate’s version of the Wilberforce Act or Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), passed in the House of Representatives.
Despite these efforts, the Senate version of the TVPRA remained without key provisions we support and passed into law in December 2008. The federal trafficking law was somewhat strengthened through a number of revised provisions that address demand and facilitate the prosecution of traffickers. Equality Now will continue to advocate for a more effective federal anti-trafficking law in the U.S., during future reauthorizations of the TVPA.
For further information, see:
- Executive Director Taina Bien-Aimé’s Huffington Post columns on the TVPRA, July  and September  2008 (English only)
- Former President Jessica Neuwirth’s testimony before the New York City Council , June 2008 (English only)
- Equality Now’s Urgent Alert to U.S. members, July 2008 (English only)
- “Taking on the Traffickers ,” New York Times editorial, 22 August 2008 (English only)
International Legislation on Trafficking
United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children
In 2000, Equality Now actively campaigned for the passage of a United Nations Protocol  as well as U.S. legislation  on trafficking in women, both of which were adopted in 2000. Equality Now convened and represented a coalition of U.S.-based women’s groups, including the National Organization for Women  and The Feminist Majority , to engage in a dialogue with the State Department and Congress members on the definition of trafficking in both international and domestic law, to ensure that it would be broad enough to protect all victims of trafficking, and facilitate the prosecution of all traffickers. As a result of these initiatives, both the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children , and the U.S. federal anti-trafficking legislation , include a definition of trafficking that includes all victims and perpetrators of trafficking.
New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition
|New York City Councilman John Liu speaks at the first Albany Watch rally in downtown New York City|
On 6 June 2007, the Human Trafficking Law , the strongest state anti-trafficking legislation in the U.S., was signed into law in New York State. As convener of the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition, a state-wide alliance of 80 organizations, Equality Now played a key role in ensuring the passage of this comprehensive legislation.
Although New York has long been a prominent port of entry, transit and destination for trafficking victims, it did not have a specific law to address the crime of trafficking. In 2007, we undertook systematic outreach to politicians and key players in the legislative process, reached out to the media and launched “Albany Watch,” a series of weekly rallies designed to draw attention to the lack of an anti-trafficking law in New York and to maintain pressure on the state legislature to address the deficiency.
|Dorotea Mendoza from GABRIELA Network speaks at final Albany Watch rally in June 2007|
As a result of these efforts, New York became the state with the strongest anti-trafficking law in the U.S. Among its many features, the Human Trafficking Law has a broad definition of trafficking, strong penalties for traffickers and buyers of sex, provides for closing down sex tour operators and prioritizes protection, remedies and services for victims. Equality Now and the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition continue to work with local law enforcement to ensure that the law is implemented.
Amicus Curiae Brief on Prostitution
Equality Now was involved in a US Supreme Court case relating to HIV/AIDS government funding and the government's anti-prostitution and trafficking policy. The Court issued an opinion in United States in Agency for International Development, et al. v. Alliance for Open Society, Inc. et al. in June 2013. Equality Now was involved in the case from its initial filing in 2005 in the lower courts and followed the case to the US Supreme Court where we submitted an amicus curiae brief  along with the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and supported by forty-six other partners around the world. The brief clarified that policies opposing the legalization and practice of prostitution and sex trafficking do not stigmatize persons in prostitution. The Court issued an opinion that did not address our arguments and struck down USAID’s anti-prostitution policy mandate. The Court (in a 6-2 decision) found the policy unconstitutional because it violated free speech.