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Looking Back: the TVPA
October 31, 2019

This week marks the 19th anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Enacted in 2000, this piece of legislation introduced the U.S.’s legal definition of sex and labor trafficking, and signaled a change in approach to formally treating it as a crime.

TVPA Trafficking Definitions

It defined sex trafficking as:

“the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age”

and labor trafficking is defined as:

“the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.”

The law, and its iterations and reauthorizations, provides for protections for victims, prosecutions of suspected traffickers, and prevention in the form of support in research and programs to implement effective investigations.

The TIP Report

The TVPA outlines a set of standards by which we can measure how effectively countries are combatting trafficking, out of which comes the annual Trafficking in Persons report.

The Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) publishes the findings and assessments for each country. While there are critics of the report–namely that its creation is U.S. centric and may reflect that perspective–it has nevertheless become an important tool in keeping track of the nature of the problem globally.

In the report:

The State Department is tasked with evaluating the efforts of foreign governments to combat human trafficking by ranking them every year and placing countries in one of four categories. Tier 1 countries are those that meet the TVPA’s minimum standards of fighting human trafficking. Tier 2 countries are those states that, while not fully complying with the TVPA’s minimum standards, are making significant efforts to comply. Tier 2 Watch List countries are Tier 2 countries with significant trafficking problems and/or a slippage in their most recent efforts. Tier 3 countries are those that not only do not meet TVPA minimum standards, but also are failing to do much to combat trafficking. (Source: Fight Slavery Now!)

It has been nearly two decades and the anti-trafficking world is still trying to come to grips with getting better data in identifying cases and tracking the root sources, the perpetrators, and figuring out how effective the attempts to combat it are.

Although many believe trafficking continues to grow, it is also believed that at least part of the rising numbers come from getting better at identifying trafficking cases and bringing them to light. The TVPA has played an instrumental role in making this possible.

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