President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory. It was not until 1865 in the 13th Amendment, that an effective legal tool was promulgated to destroy slavery in the United States. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution declared that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Formally abolishing slavery in the United States, the 13th Amendment was passed by the Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865.
Yet, this was not the end of slavery in America ….
Criminal, sexual exploitation of children – also called Human Trafficking – is the newest, most profuse and fasting growing form of slavery that the nations of this world have had to combat in nearly a decade.
In 2000, confronted with the unique nature of human trafficking slavery in the U.S., Congress promulgated a new Federal law, The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (“TVPA”), which criminalizes human trafficking. The TVPA has since been reauthorized in 2003, 2005 and 2008 and continues to be a guideline for several State’s enacting their own legislature to prosecute human trafficking violators. The TVPA defines human trafficking as”…the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery” and highlights trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation as when “…a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.”
The TVPA does not just provide legal tools for prosecution of traffickers and those who would aid traffickers, it also provides valuable protection for victims of trafficking. The Act proclaims, “…an alien who is a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons shall be eligible for benefits and services under any Federal or State program or activity funded or administered by any official or agency described in subparagraph (B) to the same extent as an alien who is admitted to the United States as a refugee under section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.”
The State of Florida has taken the initiative to enact its own State laws that criminalize different forms of trafficking. Namely, §787.06, Florida Statutes, generally criminalizes human trafficking in the state. The Statute defines human trafficking as the “transporting, soliciting, recruiting, harboring, providing, or obtaining another person for transport.” The Statute provides for the prosecution of any person who intentionally or knowingly participates or attempts to participate or whose participation in anyway amounts to financial gain, in the human trafficking of a victim into forced labor and/or sexual services.
Sex trafficking of adults is categorized as a second degree felony at §796.045, Florida Statues. However, sex trafficking of minors is categorized as a first degree felony at §796.035, Florida Statutes. Adult trafficking victims must prove force, fraud, or coercion. However, minor sex trafficking victims are exempt from this requirement. Labor trafficking is categorized as second degree felony at §787.05, Florida Statutes. Also, §895.02, Florida Statutes, allows for the prosecution of all human trafficking offenses as Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization (“RICO”) offenses. Prosecution under the RICO statute allows for greater criminal penalties.
In 2000, in Palermo, Italy the United Nations adopted The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (“Protocol”), one of three international protocols attached to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
The Protocol is the first global, legally binding instrument on trafficking and the only internationally-recognized agreed definition of trafficking in persons, that definition is:
… the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;
The purpose of the Protocol is to facilitate convergence of national cooperation with the investigation and prosecution of human traffickers. An additional objective of the Protocol is to protect and assist the victims of trafficking in persons with full respect for their human rights. The Protocol entered into force on 25 December 2003. By June 2010, the Trafficking Protocol had been ratified by 117 countries and 137 parties.
Don’t Just Take Our Word For It …
“…trafficking isn’t just a problem of human bondage; it fuels the epidemic of gender-based violence in so many places-here in our country and around the world.” – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her address of the annual Trafficking in Persons Report 2011.
“Ending this crime so monstrous is not a political issue; it is an American imperative, and a human responsibility. This is why there are still modern-day abolitionists. And this is why the rest of us should join them.” – Richard Holbrooke, 2008.
“I can’t tell you what a problem [trafficking] is in this State,” said Tony Attanasio, a retired U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent who created a human trafficking course for law enforcement. “It’s just an unbelievable problem.”