Last week, the State Department issued its tenth annual Trafficking in Persons Report under the Trafficking Victim Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). 

The TVPA defines “severe forms of trafficking” as either sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion (or in which the person induced to perform such an act is under age 18); or, the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion” in order to subject the person to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.  Under this definition, a victim need not be physically transported from one location to another to be trafficked.  

The application of the TVPA in contexts that relate to family law may be complex.  According to the State Department, forced marriages may result in cases of trafficking, depending whether the particular facts meet the legal definition.  Specifically: “Trafficking and forced marriage intersect when marriage is used both in conjunction with force, fraud, coercion, or abuse of power and as a means to subject wives to conditions of slavery, often in the form of domestic or sexual servitude.”  Kidnapping or unlawful buying or selling of a child for adoption is a crime, but according to the State Department,  it falls within the statutory definition only if it involves force, fraud or coercion to compel services from someone. Similarly, child pornography is not sex trafficking unless a child is actually induced to perform a commercial sex act for the purpose of producing the pornography.  Prostitution by willing adults does not constitute human trafficking.