Contact: Shelby Quast, email@example.com, 202-841-5630
Congress Files Bill to Amend Trafficking Victims Protection Act; State Attorneys General Ask Congress to Amend Federal Communications Decency Act
New York, NY / Washington, DC—Today marked a momentous day in the fight to end sex trafficking as U.S. government officials took steps to improve legislation targeting the demand that fuels sex trafficking, and to close gaps that are facilitating sex trafficking via the internet. Both amendments would provide the necessary legal tools to effectively target the buyers of commercial sex that are fueling the demand for sex trafficking.
Senator Cornyn and Representative Poe introduce “Demand bill”
Sponsored in the House of Representatives by Congressman Poe, Congresswoman Granger, Congresswoman Maloney and Congressman Nolan and in the Senate by Senator Cornyn and Senator Klobuchar, this bipartisan bill seeks to clarify the range of conduct punishable under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA, Title 18, United States Code) by including “patronizing and soliciting” commercial sex from trafficking victims. The addition of this language to the U.S.’s most important tool to combat human trafficking, which was reauthorized by President Obama in March, will be a critical clarification of the original intent of the TVPA to reach the full market of sex trafficking—trafficker, facilitator and buyer. It sends a clear signal that the U.S. government is serious about addressing the demand that fuels sex trafficking.
National Association of Attorney’s General propose CDA amendment to Congress
In the effort to fight child sex trafficking, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) endorsed and circulated a letter, signed by an unprecedented 49 Attorneys General, calling on Congress to narrowly amend the Federal Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 to remove the barrier to state prosecution of online businesses in violation of trafficking and prostitution offenses. Section 230 of the CDA, title 47, U.S. Code, has been broadly interpreted to provide criminal and civil immunity to internet content providers, even when they profit from illegal activity. As a result, online classified advertising sites, such as Backpage.com, one of the largest of these sites, have created an online marketplace for prostitution and, consequently, child sex trafficking. NAAG’s proposed amendment seeks to add two words – “or state” – to the existing law to address the gap that precludes state and local governments from investigating whether these organizations are aiding and abetting prostitution or related crimes. This change is particularly timely as sex trafficking has largely moved from the streets to the Internet. For example, “Adult” sections on mainstream classified websites normalize easy, anonymous ways for traffickers and pimps to recruit market and deliver women and girls as commodities for sexual exploitation. In March 2012, Equality Now initiated a campaign against Village Voice Media and Backpage.com because of this; a recent AIM group report estimated that Backpage.com is now making $5 million per month in revenue from sex ads.
“Equality Now has been part of the abolitionist, anti-sex trafficking movement for decades and we know that the most effective way to end sex trafficking is by addressing the demand that fuels it. We welcome these amendments which are critical to ending sex trafficking in this country. We urge Congress to act and hope that the White House will take notice and act accordingly to fight sex trafficking where it really lives,” said Equality Now Senior Policy Advisor, Shelby Quast.
About Equality Now: Founded in 1992, Equality Now is an international human rights organization that works to protect and promote the rights of women and girls around the world through the areas of Discrimination in Law, Sexual Violence, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Trafficking. By combining grassroots activism with international, regional and national legal advocacy, Equality Now works to ensure that governments enact and enforce laws and policies that uphold the rights of women and girls. www.equalitynow.org