An Anti-Trafficking Legislative Round-Up

Trafficking Victims Protection Act Reauthorization

Every few years, funding for anti-trafficking efforts needs to be re-authorized before the government can spend it. That means that every few years, there’s another opportunity to change the direction of anti-trafficking work done by the United States federal government. Last year, that latest authorization bill was introduced in the House as HR 5150, or the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2021. The bill has a range of different sections which range from promising to terrible to “ok, I see what you were thinking but no”. Just a few of the high and low lights below.

Empowering Law Enforcement To Fight Sex Trafficking Demand Act of 2021 (HR 3996)

Introduced in June of last year, this bill offers some insight into why it’s so hard to both turn the tide on policing of anti-trafficking efforts, and to track anti-trafficking funding. The bill is meant to amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 by allowing those funds to be used for anti-trafficking efforts, and specifically “including programs to reduce the demand for trafficked persons.” So it specifically authorizes the use of these grants to cops for John stings.

What’s Coming

But the Congressional session goes through the end of this year, so there are more things to watch for in the coming weeks:

SAFE SEX Workers Study Act (SSWSA)

Introduced last session by Rep. Khanna and Sen. Warren, this bill has only become more needed in the last few years and is coming back for the 21–22 session. In the wake of FOSTA/SESTA passing and the closure of Backpage, people who trade sex lost many of the digital platforms where they found clients, harm reduction options, and community. Community knowledge and research told us everything we had predicted all along — that losing platforms meant economic instability, more risk, and isolation. The SAFE SEX Workers Study Act (SSWSA) asks the government to do extensive and in-depth research that the impact of FOSTA/SESTA has had on the community. The study, which will be rooted in public health, asks law makers to do their due diligence — that before we make more legislative decisions that regulate sex workers off digital platforms, we have to understand the impact first.

EARN IT

Introduced in 2020, EARN IT looks to take the tactics of FOSTA/SESTA and apply them even more broadly, posing grave threat to people who trade sex. FOSTA/SESTA took the approach of expanding liability for digital platforms which might host information related to commercial sex. The language was opaque and mostly undefined, and platforms immediately took action to shut down their sites in order to avoid civil suits which could bankrupt them. EARN IT looks to create a mostly-law enforcement centered commission to create rules for the internet related to child sexual exploitation — a broad and also undefined mandate. These rules would be fast tracked through congress and websites would have to certify that they observe them or lose all liability protection for what happens on their site. The commission lacks voices from public health or impacted communities, and there are no requirements about the efficacy or accountability of their decisions. There may have been re-writes between last session and now, but we’re watching closely to see what’s coming. Sex workers spoke to the Daily Dot in 2020 about its potential impact and the growing concerns about the bill.

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Reframe Health and Justice

Reframe Health and Justice

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A collective of individuals dedicated to reframing the sociopolitical paradigms through which we understand race, gender, health, and justice.