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Domestic sex trade targeted in bill introduced in Congress

WASHINGTON (BP)–Legislation to combat domestic sex trafficking by targeting the demand side of an illicit trade that primarily victimizes women and children has been introduced by several members of Congress.

The End Demand for Sex Trafficking Act would fund the increased prosecution of purchasers of illegal sex acts and the traffickers who exploit the victims. It would focus on stopping the trafficking of people into the United States for purposes of prostitution and sexual slavery.

Rep. Deborah Pryce, R.-Ohio, is the sponsor of the bill, H.R. 2012, in the House of Representatives. Reps. Carolyn Maloney of New York and Bobby Scott of Virginia lead the Democrat cosponsors of the measure. Sen. John Cornyn, R.-Texas, is the sponsor of the Senate’s companion bill, S. 937.

It is estimated about 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, but Pryce said at an April 28 Capitol Hill news conference the “reality is that human trafficking isn’t an issue that’s isolated to countries far away. Sadly, more and more women and children -– roughly upwards to 17,000 –- are being trafficked over borders and into backyards into” the United States.

Congress began to deal with the international problem by passing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000. It promoted the prosecution of traffickers in other countries, while it also provided new punishment for traffickers in the United States. The law also provided assistance to trafficking victims, including establishment of a new form of visa. The measure created an office in the State Department to monitor and fight trafficking. While it covered all forms of slavery, the law’s prime focus was on the sex trade.

Addressing the sex trade coming into this country is overdue, Southern Baptist public policy specialist Barrett Duke said.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act “has been a powerfully effective tool to help the United States work with other nations to end the brutal practice of sex trafficking throughout the world,” said Duke, vice president for public policy at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Until now, our nation has held others to a higher standard than we have held ourselves. It is inexcusable to require of others more than we require of ourselves. The End Demand Act will help us remove the log from our own eye while we also call on others to address their own sex trafficking problems.”

Duke also said, “For too long, the customers and traffickers involved in prostitution have had it too easy, while the women they abuse and victimize feel the brunt of society’s revulsion of their activity. If there were no demand and no suppliers, there would be very little, if any, prostitution.”

Trafficking in human beings is ranked as the third-largest source of profits for organized crime globally, according to the Congressional Research Service. It follows only arms and drugs. Trafficking produces revenues of about $9.5 billion yearly, according to a federal government estimate.

Last year, the U.S. government committed more than $96 million to efforts to stop trafficking overseas, John Miller, director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, told a House subcommittee April 28.

The State Department is scheduled to release its annual Trafficking in Persons Report June 1.