The purposes of this chapter are to combat trafficking in
persons, a contemporary manifestation of slavery whose victims are
predominantly women and children, to ensure just and effective
punishment of traffickers, and to protect their victims.
Congress finds that:
(1) As the 21st century begins, the degrading institution of
slavery continues throughout the world. Trafficking in persons is
a modern form of slavery, and it is the largest manifestation of
slavery today. At least 700,000 persons annually, primarily women
and children, are trafficked within or across international
borders. Approximately 50,000 women and children are trafficked
into the United States each year.
(2) Many of these persons are trafficked into the international
sex trade, often by force, fraud, or coercion. The sex industry
has rapidly expanded over the past several decades. It involves
sexual exploitation of persons, predominantly women and girls,
involving activities related to prostitution, pornography, sex
tourism, and other commercial sexual services. The low status of
women in many parts of the world has contributed to a burgeoning
of the trafficking industry.
(3) Trafficking in persons is not limited to the sex industry.
This growing transnational crime also includes forced labor and
involves significant violations of labor, public health, and
human rights standards worldwide.
(4) Traffickers primarily target women and girls, who are
disproportionately affected by poverty, the lack of access to
education, chronic unemployment, discrimination, and the lack of
economic opportunities in countries of origin. Traffickers lure
women and girls into their networks through false promises of
decent working conditions at relatively good pay as nannies,
maids, dancers, factory workers, restaurant workers, sales
clerks, or models. Traffickers also buy children from poor
families and sell them into prostitution or into various types of
forced or bonded labor.
(5) Traffickers often transport victims from their home
communities to unfamiliar destinations, including foreign
countries away from family and friends, religious institutions,
and other sources of protection and support, leaving the victims
defenseless and vulnerable.
(6) Victims are often forced through physical violence to
engage in sex acts or perform slavery-like labor. Such force
includes rape and other forms of sexual abuse, torture,
starvation, imprisonment, threats, psychological abuse, and
(7) Traffickers often make representations to their victims
that physical harm may occur to them or others should the victim
escape or attempt to escape. Such representations can have the
same coercive effects on victims as direct threats to inflict
(8) Trafficking in persons is increasingly perpetrated by
organized, sophisticated criminal enterprises. Such trafficking
is the fastest growing source of profits for organized criminal
enterprises worldwide. Profits from the trafficking industry
contribute to the expansion of organized crime in the United
States and worldwide. Trafficking in persons is often aided by
official corruption in countries of origin, transit, and
destination, thereby threatening the rule of law.
(9) Trafficking includes all the elements of the crime of
forcible rape when it involves the involuntary participation of
another person in sex acts by means of fraud, force, or coercion.
(10) Trafficking also involves violations of other laws,
including labor and immigration codes and laws against
kidnapping, slavery, false imprisonment, assault, battery,
pandering, fraud, and extortion.
(11) Trafficking exposes victims to serious health risks. Women
and children trafficked in the sex industry are exposed to deadly
diseases, including HIV and AIDS. Trafficking victims are
sometimes worked or physically brutalized to death.
(12) Trafficking in persons substantially affects interstate
and foreign commerce. Trafficking for such purposes as
involuntary servitude, peonage, and other forms of forced labor
has an impact on the nationwide employment network and labor
market. Within the context of slavery, servitude, and labor or
services which are obtained or maintained through coercive
conduct that amounts to a condition of servitude, victims are
subjected to a range of violations.
(13) Involuntary servitude statutes are intended to reach cases
in which persons are held in a condition of servitude through
nonviolent coercion. In United States v. Kozminski, 487 U.S. 931
(1988), the Supreme Court found that section 1584 of title 18,
should be narrowly interpreted, absent a definition of
involuntary servitude by Congress. As a result, that section was
interpreted to criminalize only servitude that is brought about
through use or threatened use of physical or legal coercion, and
to exclude other conduct that can have the same purpose and
(14) Existing legislation and law enforcement in the United
States and other countries are inadequate to deter trafficking
and bring traffickers to justice, failing to reflect the gravity
of the offenses involved. No comprehensive law exists in the
United States that penalizes the range of offenses involved in
the trafficking scheme. Instead, even the most brutal instances
of trafficking in the sex industry are often punished under laws
that also apply to lesser offenses, so that traffickers typically
escape deserved punishment.
(15) In the United States, the seriousness of this crime and
its components is not reflected in current sentencing guidelines,
resulting in weak penalties for convicted traffickers.
(16) In some countries, enforcement against traffickers is also
hindered by official indifference, by corruption, and sometimes
even by official participation in trafficking.
(17) Existing laws often fail to protect victims of
trafficking, and because victims are often illegal immigrants in
the destination country, they are repeatedly punished more
harshly than the traffickers themselves.
(18) Additionally, adequate services and facilities do not
exist to meet victims' needs regarding health care, housing,
education, and legal assistance, which safely reintegrate
trafficking victims into their home countries.
(19) Victims of severe forms of trafficking should not be
inappropriately incarcerated, fined, or otherwise penalized
solely for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being
trafficked, such as using false documents, entering the country
without documentation, or working without documentation.
(20) Because victims of trafficking are frequently unfamiliar
with the laws, cultures, and languages of the countries into
which they have been trafficked, because they are often subjected
to coercion and intimidation including physical detention and
debt bondage, and because they often fear retribution and
forcible removal to countries in which they will face retribution
or other hardship, these victims often find it difficult or
impossible to report the crimes committed against them or to
assist in the investigation and prosecution of such crimes.
(21) Trafficking of persons is an evil requiring concerted and
vigorous action by countries of origin, transit or destination,
and by international organizations.
(22) One of the founding documents of the United States, the
Declaration of Independence, recognizes the inherent dignity and
worth of all people. It states that all men are created equal and
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable
rights. The right to be free from slavery and involuntary
servitude is among those unalienable rights. Acknowledging this
fact, the United States outlawed slavery and involuntary
servitude in 1865, recognizing them as evil institutions that
must be abolished. Current practices of sexual slavery and
trafficking of women and children are similarly abhorrent to the
principles upon which the United States was founded.
(23) The United States and the international community agree
that trafficking in persons involves grave violations of human
rights and is a matter of pressing international concern. The
international community has repeatedly condemned slavery and
involuntary servitude, violence against women, and other elements
of trafficking, through declarations, treaties, and United
Nations resolutions and reports, including the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights; the 1956 Supplementary Convention on
the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and
Practices Similar to Slavery; the 1948 American Declaration on
the Rights and Duties of Man; the 1957 Abolition of Forced Labor
Convention; the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights; the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; United Nations General
Assembly Resolutions 50/167, 51/66, and 52/98; the Final Report
of the World Congress against Sexual Exploitation of Children
(Stockholm, 1996); the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing,
1995); and the 1991 Moscow Document of the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe.
(24) Trafficking in persons is a transnational crime with
national implications. To deter international trafficking and
bring its perpetrators to justice, nations including the United
States must recognize that trafficking is a serious offense. This
is done by prescribing appropriate punishment, giving priority to
the prosecution of trafficking offenses, and protecting rather
than punishing the victims of such offenses. The United States
must work bilaterally and multilaterally to abolish the
trafficking industry by taking steps to promote cooperation among
countries linked together by international trafficking routes.
The United States must also urge the international community to
take strong action in multilateral fora to engage recalcitrant
countries in serious and sustained efforts to eliminate
trafficking and protect trafficking victims.