Tagged: sex trafficking

International Megan’s Law (H.R. 515): Necessary? Constitutional?

Virtually unnoticed, on February 8, President Obama signed a new bill (H.R. 515), International Megan’s Law, requiring  that 1) the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency notify foreign officials when a convicted child sex offender is traveling to their country; and 2) the State Department put a “unique identifier” on the passports of persons who have been convicted of a sex crime involving a child (even if they were children at the time themselves and no matter when the conviction arose) who have been listed on a public sex offender registry. A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of this law has been filed by California Reform Sex Offender Laws (CA RSOL). The plaintiffs include CEOs of major international companies who travel extensively – and innocently – for business.

The bill was signed eight days after it left Congress and four days after it was received by the White House. Supporters say that the law will help prevent sex trafficking by making it more difficult for sex offenders to “[plan] their trips around locations where the most vulnerable children can be found,” in the words of Congresswoman Ann Wagner, who co-sponsored the bill. Critics  assert that there has been no connection established between people on sex registries and international sex trafficking; that the branding passports will do nothing to protect the United States from its own sex offenders who, indeed, will be limited in traveling, even for innocuous purposes; that such limitations are unconstitutional; and that the “unique identifier” endangers the safety of such tourists and anyone flying with them. Moreover, a large percentage of people on the registry for child sex offenses were themselves minors when they were convicted, usually of engaging in sexual conduct as with a minor incapable of consent only because of age. Significantly, many Americans use their passports not for travel but simply for identification purposes – and those people will be unfairly subjected to all of the negative consequences of such identification.

A personal observation:  Is there no limit to the US urge to stigmatize and punish the other? Is the urge to punish and stigmatize really justified by the desire to help prevent sex crimes in other countries? Shouldn’t that be done by the legislatures of other countries, who might want to restrict the entry of various people and are fully capable of doing so?  Reciprocal international efforts to limit sex trafficking are legitimate, but this Act is overbroad, unhealthy, and probably unconstitutional.

Related Readings:

Attacking Prostitution Through Legal Reforms

POST WRITTEN BY: Jessica Mlinar (’16), J.D. Pace Law School

Northern Ireland passed a law on June 1, 2015 making “buying sex” a criminal activity. “If convicted, a person could be fined, sentenced to a maximum of one year’s imprisonment, or both. It remains an offense to keep or manage a brothel, but the new law removes criminality from soliciting in the street or public place.” The efforts stem from the idea that the correct way to minimize prostitution and other activities of that nature is to decrease the demand for them rather than punish the prostitute. Andrea Matolcsi, a spokeswoman for Equality Now, which is an international women’s rights group, wholeheartedly supports these efforts. In her opinion, “the legalization and decriminalization approach is not benefiting anyone.”

By the same token, other countries believe that the best approach is to legalize both the selling and buying of sex, largely due to the fear that passing laws turning purchasing sex into a criminal activity will cause more harm than good. Buying sex is not a novel idea; it has been around for decades and any controversial move may consequently drive the activity underground. Additionally, it is feared that  strict laws outlawing these activities will increase violence against women.One sex worker, Katie McGrew, explains a concern that this new law will lead to “situations where more women are competing for fewer clients [which] has dangerous consequences, including charging less, offering services they wouldn’t have previously, and agreeing to unsafe sex.”

Further, the migration of the newly criminalized activity presents another problem. The Immigrant Council of Ireland stated that there was no doubt that men would “make the short journey over the border in order to escape the law.” Some believe that this movement has already begun and is evidenced by the increase in advertisements in the over-the-border areas.

Nonetheless, other countries such as France and Irish Republic are considering enacting similar legislation that criminalizes the conduct of a client, while protecting women who are in the business of providing sex. “ The Nordic Model” (social and economic model of the Nordic countries which makes purchasing sex a criminal activity) has been adopted in Canadaand Sweden, as well as Norway. Only time will tell which one of the two mainstream routes proves to be more successful.

In my view, this worldwide issue does not have a single solution. It is clear that authorities themselves struggle to figure out which approach works the best. This is because no one model has proven to be one hundred percent effective. Nonetheless, I believe that adopting the Nordic model is the right way to go. Passing a law criminalizing this undesirable activity shows just how important it is for Northern Ireland to manage and limit prostitution, or rather criminalize purchasing sexual services. Decriminalization can often be perceived as giving up, rather than as a way of taking control and fighting harder.

Related Readings:

Human Trafficking – Articles of Interest – Learn More


Pace Criminal Justice Center hosted a program on Monday, January 28, 2013 that addressed the legal framework for human trafficking and social services and other needs of victims, as well as a horrific evaluation of the scope of the problem, internationally, nationally and locally. For more information on the subject, see the articles below.

Related Readings:
Compiled by Anthony DiPietro

Vacating Prostitution Convictions

People v. Gonzalez, Docket No.:93N022568 (NY County 2011) (vacating the defendant’s  prostitution convictions as a result of  the 2010 amendments to CPL 440.10 which allow for the vacating prostitution convictions where the defendant can show she was the victim of sex trafficking).

Kevin Deutsch, Woman Forced Into Sex Trade Has Prostitution Convictions Thrown Out Under New Sex-Trafficking Law, NY Daily News (Sept. 22, 2011).

Sex Workers ProjectVacating Criminal Convictions for Trafficked Persons.

News Articles on Human Trafficking

Louis P. Masur, How Many Slaves Work for You?, NY Times (Dec. 31, 2012).

Marjorie Elizabeth Wood, Christmas Ornaments, Child LaborNY Times (Dec. 24, 2012).

Mark McDonald, Buy, Sell, Adopt: Child Trafficking in ChinaNY Times (Dec. 26, 2012).

Don GoldenThe Fight Against Human Trafficking in the United States, Huffington Post Blog (Oct. 29, 2012).

Nicholas D. Kristof, Where Pimps Peddle Their GoodsNY Times (March 17, 2012).

Fran Berkman, Hofstra Study Shows Thousands of Human Trafficking Victims in N.Y., Long Island Report (Nov. 15, 2011).

Gidon Belmaker, New York City: Point of Entry for Human Trafficking in US, Epoch Times (March 23, 2011).

William Finnegan, The Counter-TraffickersThe New Yorker (May 5, 2008).

Nicholas D. Kristof, The 21st-Century Slave TradeNY Times (Apr. 22, 2007).

Julia C. Mead, A Slow War on Human TraffickingNY Times (May 28, 2006).

NY Office of Mental Health, New York State Response to Labor and Sex Trafficking: Human Trafficking: A Violation of Human Rights.

New York State’s Response to Labor & Human Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Response to Labor and Sex Trafficking Brochure .

Law Review Articles

Marisa Nack, The Next Step: The Future of New York State’s Human Trafficking Law, 18 J.L. & Pol’y 817 (2010). [available via HeinOnline]

Eileen Overbaugh, Human Trafficking: The Need for Federal Prosecution of Accused Traffickers, 39 Seton Hall L. Rev. 635 (2009). [available via HeinOnline]

Luz Estella Nagle, Selling Souls: The Effect of Globalization on Human Trafficking and Forced Servitude, 26 Wis. Int’l L.J. 131 (2008).

Jayashri Srikantiah, Perfect Victims and Real Survivors: The Iconic Victim in Domestic Human Trafficking Law, 87 B.U. L. Rev. 157 (2007). [available via HeinOnline]

Kathleen Kim, Psychological Coercion in the Context of Modern-Day Involuntary Labor: Revisiting United States v. Kozminski and Understanding Human Trafficking, 38 U. Tol. L. Rev. 941 (2007).  

Kevin Bales, et. al., Hidden Slaves Forced Labor in the United States, 23 Berkeley J. Int’l L. 47 (2005).