Out of the Cold: Forced Marriage Trafficking Victims Need to Be Included in U.S. Definition

By USCRI January 25, 2021

The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) was passed into law in October 2000 by Congress and President Clinton. At the time, it was praised as a bipartisan solution to address human trafficking as a distinct crime. Prior to 2000, human trafficking crimes were prosecuted using several different federal and state statutes that often resulted in low prosecutions and scant justice and protection for victims. Since 2000, the law has been reauthorized by every subsequent administration with added provisions.

The TVPA was successful in streamlining trafficking prosecutions under one clear law as well as creating task forces and coordinating agencies to better detect both traffickers and victims. The TVPA divides trafficking into two distinct categories: sex and labor obtained through force, fraud, or coercion. Sex trafficking must arise from a commercial sex act, i.e., for an exchange of money or something of value Labor trafficking must arise from a scheme of involuntary servitude, debt bondage, peonage or slavery.

However, most glaringly absent from the list of forms of human trafficking in the TVPA is forced marriage. As a result, survivors of forced marriage trafficking cannot access the services and justice that other survivors of the defined forms of trafficking can. Instead, they are left in the cold attempting to define themselves as victims of another crime or another form of trafficking in order to receive help, even when they do not fit within such definitions. This means that many survivors never receive the help that they need to escape their trafficking situation, receive social services, and eventually see their trafficker(s) put to justice.

Read the USCRI full report…Whelan_KellyAnn_Forced_Marriage_USCRI_Feb_2020


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