Monday, November 26, 2007
University of Iowa CrimProf Mark Sidel says that a variety of new legal tactics used against human traffickers will help determine whether modern-day slavery can be wiped out in the United States.
"Progress on this front, particularly in the areas of federal and state enforcement, civil remedies for trafficking victims, and the reform of labor law, will go a long way toward determining whether we can in fact make rapid progress in locating, prosecuting and eradicating human trafficking and forced labor in the United States," said CrimProf Sidel, who teaches courses on human trafficking and is writing a book on the issue, spoke on "New Directions in the Struggle against Human Trafficking" earlier this month as the Richard B. Lillich Memorial Lecture at Florida State University.
Between 600,000 and 800,000 persons are victims of human trafficking worldwide each year. They are taken against their will and forced to work in the sex industry or at jobs that pay little or no wages. The U.S. State Department estimates between 14,500 and 17,500 of those victims are trafficked into and within the United States, where they are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion -- all for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor.
In his lecture, Sidel said that new "expressive" state laws have been adopted by more than 30 states seeking to combat human trafficking by criminalizing sex trafficking, labor trafficking or both. The laws may provide protection to trafficking victims while they attempt to prevent future offenses. He said that because most of the laws are new, enforcement has barely begun in many states, although the federal government has been actively prosecuting trafficking since the mid-1990s.
Sidel said that in 2006 Iowa enacted a trafficking law, spearheaded by then-State Senator Maggie Tinsman and supported by a statewide coalition of anti-trafficking activists and a student group at the University of Iowa. In addition, an anti-trafficking legal movement is growing that allows private lawsuits by trafficking victims to be brought against their traffickers, providing victims the ability to sue their traffickers for civil compensation, he said.
Sidel also said that American labor law needs to address human trafficking more comprehensively and forced labor far more often than at present, adding that the root cause of human trafficking needs to be researched more fully by policy researchers and scholars. [Mark Godsey]