This morning, the U.S. Department of State released its 10th annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report), the most comprehensive annual report on trafficking in 177 countries. It’s a huge document (almost 400 pages!), full of facts, figures, and heartbreaking stories from trafficking survivors.
Increasingly, media reports about trafficking focus on sex trafficking to the exclusion of other forms of human trafficking. These same reports often conflate trafficking and prostitution. However, the TIP Report is careful to define its terms. Their list of activities that constitute trafficking situations according to the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act include forced labor, sex trafficking, bonded labor, debt bondage among migrant laborers, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor, and child soldiers.
On page 8 of the report, a sidebar outlines some of the activities that are not trafficking, including prostitution:
Prostitution by willing adults is not human trafficking regardless of whether it is legalized, decriminalized, or criminalized. However, pursuant to the TVPRA of 2008, the definitions of human trafficking underU.S. law are not construed to treat prostitution as a valid form of employment. The TIP Report evaluates the efforts of countries with legalized prostitution to reduce the demand for commecial sex acts as part of its assessment of the countries’ serious and sustained efforts to eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons.
Though I haven’t gotten the chance to dig deeper into the many pages of the report, it’s really interesting to see sex trafficking contextualized with other forms of forced labor. Too often, both sex trafficking and sex work are painted as being mostly about sex. The TIP Report’s deep analysis of human trafficking demonstrates the importance of addressing the economic forces and labor rights violations that are a major piece of the trafficking and sex work puzzle.
Learn more and download the report here.