The case of In the Matter of B.W. has forced the Supreme Court of Texas consider the question of whether a child prostitute is an offender or a victim. Although legal terms such as "statutory construction," "due process," and "prosecutorial discretion" adorn the parties’ briefs and arguments, the core issue in the case is the protection of victims of human trafficking.
The terms “trafficking in persons” and “modern-day slavery” are other names for the phenomenon of human trafficking. Through a search for “human trafficking” or “trafficking in persons” in the United Nations Multilingual Terminology Database (UNTERM), we can locate translations from English into French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and Arabic under the subject of human rights [http://unterm.un.org/dgaacs/unterm.nsf/Welcome?OpenPage (accessed April 6, 2010)].
As we observed in our first look at In the Matter of B.W., human trafficking and the tragedy of child prostitution not just local or state problems; they are national and global problems. The chronology below will help us understand how the case fits into the broader context of events that have taken place in the global fight against human trafficking during the life of B.W., the child prostitute whom the Harris County District Attorney chose to punish rather than protect.
We can see that Houston, Harris County, Texas, the United States, and the global community have taken significant steps forward toward the identification and protection of trafficking victims. In some parts of the United States and the world, legislatures have even enacted laws that protect victims from prosecution.
The case of In the Matter of B.W., however, reminds us that this progress is fragile and that much remains to be done. Many victims still go unidentified, and they are often treated as criminals. Will the Supreme Court of Texas take a step backward and allow the prosecution of child victims of prostitution? Or will it take a step forward and remind district attorneys in Texas that they should protect victims and prosecute traffickers?
April 1993 – B.W. was born. We can find many of the facts of In the Matter of B.W. in the electronic briefs that the parties have filed in Case Number 08-1044. Through its website, the Supreme Court of Texas has made those briefs available at http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/ebriefs/files/20081044.htm (accessed April 4, 2010). We can also find a brief account of the factual and procedural background of the case in the written opinion that the Court of Appeals for the First Appellate District of Texas issued on October 2, 2008 [http://www.1stcoa.courts.state.tx.us/opinions/HTMLopinion.asp?OpinionID=85879 (accessed April 4, 2010)].
December 20, 1993 -- Resolution 48/141 of the General Assembly of the United Nations created the post of High Commissioner for Human Rights. To view Resolution 48/141, we may select it from the list of “Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly at its 48th session” that the UN’s Dag Hammarskjöld Library provides at http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/res/resa48.htm (accessed April 2, 2010). We can learn more about the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Pages/WelcomePage.aspx (accessed April 2, 2010).
February 16, 1995 -- The United States signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but the US has not yet ratified the Convention. The status of ratification by the US and other nations is available through the United Nations Treaty Collection (http://treaties.un.org/Pages/Home.aspx?lang=en) at http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-11&chapter=4&lang=en (accessed April 2, 2010). Through the website of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, we can view the Convention at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm (accessed April 5, 2010). For more information on the prospects for ratification by the US, see Luisa Blanchfield, “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: Background and Policy Issues,” Congressional Research Service, http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/134266.pdf (accessed April 2, 2010).
August 27-31, 1996 – The first World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children was held in Stockholm, Sweden. The World Congress against CSEC offers more information at http://www.csecworldcongress.org/en/stockholm/index.htm (accessed April 2, 2010).
June 17, 1999 – At its 87th Session, the General Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted the Convention Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (Convention 182). The ILO’s website is located at http://www.ilo.org/global/lang--en/index.htm (accessed April 2, 2010). Through that website, we can find Convention 182 at http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/relm/ilc/ilc87/com-chic.htm (accessed April 2, 2010).
October 28, 2000 --The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), H.R.3244 in the 106th Congress, became Public Law 106-386. Through the Thomas website (http://thomas.loc.gov/) of the Library of Congress, we can locate details of the legislation at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d106:HR03244:@@@S|TOM:/bss/d106query.html| (accessed April 2, 2010). The Office of the Law Revision Counsel [http://uscode.house.gov/lawrevisioncounsel.shtml (accessed April 2, 2010)], furthermore, offers a search function through which we can locate the TVPA, which begins with 22 U.S.C. § 7101, at http://uscode.house.gov/uscode-cgi/fastweb.exe?getdoc+uscview+t21t25+3823+0++%28%29%20%20A (accessed April 2, 2010).
November 15, 2000 -- The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the United Nations Convention against Transnational Crime and its Protocols, which included the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. On its website, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [ http://www.unodc.org/unodc/index.html?ref=menutop (accessed April 2, 2010)] has provided links to the lists of signatories to the Convention and the Protocols at http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CTOC/signatures.html (accessed April 2, 2010). We can find the full text of the Convention and the Protocols by following the links on UNODC’s website at http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CTOC/index.html#Fulltext (accessed April 2, 2010). The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children emphasizes the “three P's”: the prevention of trafficking in persons, the punishment of traffickers, and the protection of victims of trafficking. In Article 3, the Protocol gives the meaning of the term “trafficking in persons,” defines a child as “any person under eighteen years of age,” and establishes the irrelevance of consent on the part of victims.
December 7, 2000 -- The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union was signed at the meeting of the European Council in Nice, France. Through its website [http://www.europarl.europa.eu/ (accessed April 2, 2010)], the European Parliament provides information about the Charter and links to the text at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/charter/default_en.htm (accessed April 2, 2010).
December 17-20, 2001 – The Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children was held in Yokohama, Japan. The World Congress offers more information at http://www.csecworldcongress.org/en/yokohama/index.htm (accessed April 2, 2010).
December 23, 2002 – The United States ratified the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, one of the optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The website of the High Commissioner for Human Rights allows us to view the text of the Protocol at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc-sale.htm (accessed April 5, 2010). The status of ratification by the US and other nations is available from the United Nations Treaty Collection at http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-11-c&chapter=4&lang=en (accessed April 5, 2010).
June 2003 – The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the US Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children launched the Innocence Lost National Initiative to address the problem of domestic sex trafficking of children in the US. More information about the Innocence Lost National Initiative is available on the FBI’s website at http://www.fbi.gov/innolost/innolost.htm (accessed April 2, 2010).
September 1, 2003 – The first law that criminalized human trafficking in Texas, HB 2096 of the 78th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature, went into effect. The history of HB 2096 is available from the Texas Legislature Online [http://www.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx (accessed April 2, 2010)] at http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=78R&Bill=HB2096 (accessed April 2, 2010). HB 2096 added Chapter 20A to the Texas Penal Code. Through an online search of the Texas Constitution and Statutes (http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Index.aspx), Chapter 20A is available at http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/PE/htm/PE.20A.htm (accessed April 2, 2010).
December 19, 2003 – The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003 became Public Law 108-193. A search in the Thomas website for Public Law 108-193 of the 108th Congress will lead to information about HR 2620 at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d108:HR02620:|TOM:/bss/d108query.html| (accessed April 2, 2010).
August 2004 – The Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA) was created in Harris County, Texas, with a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) [ http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/index.html (accessed April 2, 2010)], which is part of the Office of Justice Programs [http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/flash.htm (accessed April 2, 2010)] in the US Department of Justice. In a December 2008 report from Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice [http://www.irj.neu.edu/index.php (accessed April 2, 2010)], the history and activities of the HTRA were summarized by Dr. Vincent Webb beginning at page 232 [Amy Farrell, Jack McDevitt, and Stephanie Fahy, “Understanding and Improving Law Enforcement Responses to Human Trafficking,” http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/222752.pdf (accessed April 2, 2010)]. We can learn more about the BJA’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force Initiative at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/grant/httf.html (accessed April 2, 2010).
July 16, 2004 – President George W. Bush participated in the US Justice Department’s first-ever national training conference on human trafficking. The topics included steps to help trafficking victims and a draft of a model anti-trafficking statute for states. For details of the conference, see the Justice Department’s July 16, 2004, news release at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2004/July/04_ag_489.htm (accessed April 4, 2010). In the online archives of the White House during the Bush Administration [http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/index.html (accessed April 4, 2010)], we can find information about efforts to fight human trafficking at http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/infocus/traffic/ (accessed April 4, 2010). The Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force [http://www.justice.gov/crt/crim/tpwetf.php (April 4, 2010)] offers a links to the Model State Anti-Trafficking Criminal Statute and other special topics at http://www.justice.gov/crt/spec_top.php (accessed April 4, 2010). The Task Force is part of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division [http://www.justice.gov/crt/ (accessed April 4, 2010)].
November 2004 -- When she was eleven years old, B.W. was placed in the custody of Child Protective Services (CPS) [http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Child_Protection/About_Child_Protective_Services/ (accessed April 2, 2010)] a state agency that is part of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services [http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/ (accessed April 2, 2010)] .
October 2005 -- B.W. ran away from a group-home facility; CPS did not know where B.W. was for the next fourteen months.
November 3, 2005 – The United States ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Through the United Nations Treaty Collection, we can locate the ratification status for the Convention at http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=XVIII-12&chapter=18&lang=en (accessed April 2, 2010) and for the Protocol at http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=XVIII-12-a&chapter=18&lang=en (accessed April 2, 2010).
January 10, 2006 -- The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 became Public Law 109-164. A search in the Thomas website for Public Law 109-164 of the 109th Congress will lead to information about HR 972 at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:HR00972:|TOM:/bss/d109query.html| (accessed April 2, 2010).
March 15, 2006 – Resolution 60/251 of the General Assembly of the United Nations created the Human Rights Council to replace the Commission on Human Rights. Details about the Human Rights Council are available online at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/ (accessed April 2, 2010).
January 11 or 12, 2007 -- B.W. was 13 years old when an undercover officer from the Houston Police Department arrested her after she offered to perform oral sex on him for $20; although B.W. claimed that she was 19, her true age was revealed when she was booked into the adult system as a prostitute. In a psychological screening, B.W. claimed that she had a history of sexual and that she had been living with a 32-year-old boyfriend with whom she had had sexual relations. Although the Office of the Harris County District Attorney chose to charge B.W. with prostitution, it did not prosecute the 32-year-old boyfriend. We can learn more about the Office of the Harris County District Attorney on its website at http://app.dao.hctx.net/ (accessed April 6, 2010).
February 28, 2007 -- The 314th District Court of Harris County found that B.W. had engaged in delinquent conduct and that she was in need of rehabilitation. We can find information about the 314th District Court, which deals with juvenile matters, on the website of the Harris County District Courts at http://www.justex.net/Default.aspx (accessed April 2, 2010).
March 2007 -- The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime launched the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT). We can learn more about UN.GIFT at http://www.ungift.org/ungift/en/about/index.html (accessed April 2, 2010).
June 15, 2007 – The Governor of Texas signed House Bill 1121 (HB 1121), which became effective immediately. The history of HB No. 1121 is available from the Texas Legislature Online at http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=80R&Bill=HB1121 (accessed April 2, 2010). A link on the Text page for HB No. 1121 [http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=80R&Bill=HB1121# (accessed April 2, 2010)] will lead us to the Enrolled Bill Summary [http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/BillSummary.aspx?LegSess=80R&Bill=HB1121 (accessed April 2, 2010)], which reveals more details of the legislation. The 80th Texas Legislature also passed Senate Bill 11 (SB 11), the history of which is available through the Texas Legislature Online at http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=80R&Bill=SB11 (accessed April 2, 2010).
January 2, 2008 – The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings entered into force. The Treaty Office of the Council of Europe [http://conventions.coe.int/ (accessed April 2, 2010)] has an online list of treaties, along with the dates of entry into force, at http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/Commun/ListeTraites.asp?CM=8&CL=ENG (accessed April 2, 2010). We can find more details about the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings at http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/Commun/QueVoulezVous.asp?NT=197&CM=8&DF=27/03/2010&CL=ENG (accessed April 2, 2010). Among the notable features of the Convention is the non-punishment provision in Article 26.
June 2008 – Operation Cross Country resulted in the 389 arrests and the rescue of 21 child victims of sex trafficking. For details, see the FBI press release dated June 25, 2008, at http://www.fbi.gov/page2/june08/innocence_lost062508.html (accessed April 2, 2010).
June 25, 2008 – The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued its concluding observations regarding the United States. The page for the US is located at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/USIndex.aspx (accessed April 2, 2010) on the website of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights [http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Pages/WelcomePage.aspx (accessed April 2, 2010)]; the page for the US offers links to the concluding observations concerning the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography [http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/docs/co/CRC.C.OPSC.USA.CO.1.pdf (accessed April 2, 2010)] and other instruments.
October 2, 2008 – The Court of Appeals for the First Appellate District of Texas vacated its first judgment in Case Number 01-07-00274 but again affirmed the 314th District Court’s order against B.W. We can learn more about the Court of Appeals for the First Appellate District of Texas on its website at http://www.1stcoa.courts.state.tx.us/ (accessed April 7, 2010).
October 2008 -- Operation Cross Country II resulted in 642 arrests and the rescue of 49 children from the sex trade. To learn more, see the FBI press release dated October 27, 2008 at http://www.fbi.gov/page2/oct08/innocencelost_102708.html (accessed April 2, 2010).
November 25-28, 2008 – The World Congress III against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We can learn more about World Congress III at http://www.iiicongressomundial.net/index.php?pg=home&inicial=2&id_pg=21&sid=5d6831607ab842ff89d9cae930782204&id_sistema=2&id_idioma=2 (accessed April 2, 2010).
December 23, 2008 – The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, HR7311, became Public Law 110-457 during the 110th Congress. The Thomas website offers the history of HR 7311 at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:HR07311:@@@X|TOM:/bss/d110query.html| (accessed April 2, 2010).
January 13, 2009 – The Regular Session of the 81st Texas Legislature began. The 81st Legislature considered several legislative measures that dealt with human trafficking. To prepare the 81st Legislature, both the Office of the Attorney General of Texas [http://www.oag.state.tx.us/index.shtml (accessed April 4, 2010)] and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission [http://www.hhsc.state.tx.us/index.shtml (accessed April 4, 2010)] had prepared reports titled “The Texas Response to Human Trafficking.” The Office of the Attorney General of Texas has made its report available through a link on the Publications page [http://www.oag.state.tx.us/newspubs/publications.shtml (accessed April 4, 2010)] of its website; the Texas Health and Human Services Commission has made its report available online through the lists of reports by date or title [http://www.hhsc.state.tx.us/about_hhsc/reports/search/Search_Reports.asp (accessed April 4, 2010)]. After the 81st Legislature concluded its work, Children at Risk, the non-governmental organization that filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court of Texas, prepared a report on the legislation that affects children. We may download the report, “81st Texas Legislature: Report on Legislation Impacting Children,” through a link at http://www.childrenatrisk.org/childrenatrisk.cfm?a=cms,c,874,1 (accessed April 4, 2010)].
February 12, 2009 -- The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime launched the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. We can find links to the Global Report at http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/global-report-on-trafficking-in-persons.html and http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/publications.html (accessed April 2, 2010).
February 2009 – Operation Cross Country III resulted in the arrest of 571 criminals and the rescue of 48 child victims of prostitution. For more details, see the February 23, 2009, press release from the FBI at http://www.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel09/crosscountry_022309.htm (accessed April 2, 2010).
March 12, 2009 – The Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children presented her annual report to the Human Rights Council. Through the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, we can learn more about the Special Rapporteur at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/trafficking/index.htm (accessed April 2, 2010). A link to the annual report is available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/trafficking/annual.htm (accessed April 2, 2010).
April 14-15 2009 – The Working Group on Trafficking in Persons met for the first time. More information is available on UNODC’s website at http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CTOC/working-group-on-trafficking-in-persons-protocol.html (accessed April 2, 2010).
June 16, 2009 -- The US State Department released the Trafficking in Persons Report 2009. For details about the release, see http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2009/index.htm (accessed April 2, 2010) on the State Department’s website. The Trafficking in Persons Reports for the years 2001-2009 are available online at http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/index.htm (accessed April 2, 2010). According to the Introduction to the 2009 Report, a victim-centered approach to trafficking must go beyond the “three P’s” (prosecution, protection, and prevention) to address the “three R’s” (rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration).
June 30, 2009 -- The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) launched its Model Law against Trafficking in Persons. For details, see the News and Events page at http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/news-and-events.html (accessed April 2, 2010). UNODC offers links to the Model Law against Trafficking in Persons and other model instruments at http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/legal-tools/Model.html (accessed April 4, 2010). Article 10 of the Model Law addresses the non-liability, non-punishment, or non-prosecution of victims of trafficking in persons.
July 8, 2009 – As part of the US Justice Department’s Project Safe Childhood [http://www.projectsafechildhood.gov/ (accessed April 2, 2010)], an indictment in Houston’s US District Court charged 33-year-old Barry Lernard Davis (case number 4:09-cr-00390) with forcing a 16-year-old girl to work as a prostitute beginning in 2006. We can find more details in the July 13, 2009, press release the FBI’s Houston Division [http://houston.fbi.gov/dojpressrel/pressrel09/ho071309a.htm (accessed April 2, 2010)]. The circumstances of the Davis case invite a comparison to the arrest of B.W. for prostitution.
August 28, 2009 -- Ambassador Luis CdeBaca launched the United Nations Anti-Human Trafficking Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners, which is available on UNODC’s website at http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/anti-human-trafficking-manual.html (accessed April 2, 2010). UNODC offers more details about the launch at http://www.unodc.org/eastasiaandpacific/en/2009/08/Anti-Trafficking-Manual/story.html (accessed April 2, 2010). Ambassador Luis CdeBaca is the leader of the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons [http://www.state.gov/g/tip/index.htm (accessed April 2, 2010)].
September 1, 2009 -- Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 43.02(d) went into effect. Through an online search of Texas Constitution and Statutes, we can locate § 43.02 at http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/PE/htm/PE.43.htm#43.02 (accessed April 2, 2010). For prostitutes who are victims of human trafficking, subsection 43.02(d) provides a defense to prosecution.
October 9, 2009 -- The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and other organizations launched the International Framework for Action to Implement the Trafficking in Persons Protocol in New York. For details about that launch and the subsequent Vienna launch, see http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/vienna-launch-of-the-framework-for-action-on-trafficking.html (accessed April 2, 2010). LInks to the Framework are available at that location and on UNODC's Tools and Publications page [http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/publications.html (accessed April 2, 2010)].
October 2009 -- Operation Cross Country IV resulted in hundreds of arrests and the recovery of 52 child victims of prostitution. The FBI press release of October 26, 2009, provides details at http://www.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel09/crosscountry_102609.htm (accessed April 2, 2010).
January 4, 2010 – In the Presidential Proclamation for National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, President Barack Obama emphasized that the fight against modern slavery and human trafficking is a shared responsibility and that the US and the global community must join together to protect victims and prosecute traffickers. The Proclamation appears on the website of the White House [http://www.whitehouse.gov/ (accessed April 3, 2010)] at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/presidential-proclamation-national-slavery-and-human-trafficking-prevention-month (accessed April 3, 2010).
January 12, 2010 – The Houston Division of the FBI presented the YMCA of Greater Houston, International Services with the FBI Director’s 2009 Community Leadership Award for its work with the Houston Human Trafficking Alliance to identify and serve victims of human trafficking. More details are offered in the Houston FBI’s January 12, 2010, press release at http://houston.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel10/ho011210.htm (accessed April 3, 2010). On March 19, 2010, FBI Director Robert Mueller presented the Award to the YMCA of Greater Houston; the FBI’s website offers more information at http://www.fbi.gov/hq/ood/dcla09/recipients.htm and http://www.fbi.gov/hq/ood/dcla09/houston.htm (accessed April 3, 2010). For more information about YMCA International Services, see http://www.ymcahouston.org/ymca-international/ (accessed April 3, 2010).
January 20, 2010 – The Supreme Court of Texas heard oral arguments for the case of In the Matter of B.W. Links to the audio and video of the oral argument are available on the page for Case Number 08-1044 at http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/opinions/Case.asp?FilingID=30007 (accessed April 4, 2010). Among other things, the oral argument revealed after the 48:00 mark that B.W. had been civilly committed due to her mental retardation. Another notable moment came after the 35:18 mark when the Office of the Harris County District Attorney claimed that it can prosecute a 10-year-old child for prostitution. The District Attorney's Office also insisted that B.W. is an offender and that a 13-year-old child can consent to sex.
January 21, 2010 – The Attorney General of Texas, legislators, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and non-governmental organizations gathered at the Texas Capitol to formally launch the Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force. A news release from the Attorney General’s office provides more details at http://www.oag.state.tx.us/oagNews/release.php?id=3202 (accessed April 3, 2010).
January 22, 2010 – The United States submitted its First Periodic Report Concerning the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, along with the Response to the Committee’s Concluding Observations of June 25, 2008. Links to the Periodic Report, the Response, and related documents are available on the US State Department’s website at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/c35141.htm (accessed April 3, 2010). We can find more information about the Committee on the Rights of the Child at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/ (accessed April 3, 2010).
January 27-29, 2010 – At the Second Meeting of the Working Group on Trafficking in Persons in Vienna, Austria, delegations from some 200 countries discussed, among other things, the non-punishment and non-prosecution of victims of trafficking. UNODC’s website offers details and links at http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CTOC/working-group-on-trafficking-jan-2010.html and http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/expert-panelists-address-working-group-on-human-trafficking.html (accessed April 3, 2010).
February 24, 2010 – “Child Prostitution and Sex Trafficking within the United States” was the title of a hearing before the Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, which is part of the US Senate Judiciary Committee. The witnesses for the hearing included Rachel Lloyd, the founder of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS), and Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, the leader of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. The Judiciary Committee’s website [http://judiciary.senate.gov/ (accessed March 31, 2010)] offers details of the hearing and links to the testimony of the witness at http://judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/hearing.cfm?id=4389 (accessed April 3, 2010). During her testimony, Ms. Lloyd alluded to a 13- year-old girl who had been charged with prostitution in Texas although “the adult man who had recruited and sold her was set free.” Ambassador CdeBaca emphasized that “[n]o child can consent to being sold into commercial sex and that “[i]f a pimp used a child for commercial sex that child should be treated as a victim, not a criminal.” At the conclusion of his testimony, Ambassador CdeBaca assured trafficking victims “that we will not turn a blind eye to their abuse.”
March 15, 2010 – In the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development introduced the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill, 2010, Bill 7. The website of the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa is located at http://www.parliament.gov.za/live/index.php (accessed April 3, 2010), where we can search the bills before Parliament and locate the “Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill (B7 - 2010)” at http://www.parliament.gov.za/live/content.php?Item_ID=216&DocumentNumber=207056 (accessed April 3, 2010). We can also find the Bill through a search of the South African Government Information website [http://www.info.gov.za/ (accessed April 3, 2010)] provided by the Government Communication and Information System of the Republic of South Africa. After we search the documents for the bills of 2010 and locate the link to the text of the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill [http://www.info.gov.za/view/DownloadFileAction?id=118892 (accessed April 3, 2010)] we will learn that Section 16 would, under some circumstances, prohibit the criminal prosecution of a child who is found to be a victim of human trafficking; the proposed bill would also impose affirmative obligations on prosecutors who have reason to that a child is a victim of trafficking.
March 24, 2010 – A jury in Houston’s US District Court found Barry Lernard Davis guilty on three charges: sex trafficking of children, transportation of minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and coercion and enticement. We can find more details in the Houston FBI’s press release dated March 24, 2010, at http://houston.fbi.gov/dojpressrel/pressrel10/ho032410.htm (accessed April 3, 2010). Although the facts of the Davis case were similar to the facts of In the Matter of B.W., the trafficker went to jail instead of the victim.
March 29, 2010 – The European Commission adopted a proposal for a directive on preventing and combating human trafficking and protecting victims. We can locate the proposal by entering the series (COM), year (2010), and number (95) in a standard search on the European Union’s Prelex website at http://ec.europa.eu/prelex/apcnet.cfm?CL=en (accessed April 3, 2010). If we follow the link to COM(2010)95 final, we will discover that, along with the proposed special protective measures for child victims (Articles 12 through 14), Article 7 of the proposal calls for the non-prosecution or non-application of penalties to victims for crimes that they have been compelled to commit as a direct consequence of human trafficking. Another notable feature is Article 17, which would repeal Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA. We can learn more about the European Union’s approach to trafficking in human beings at http://ec.europa.eu/justice_home/fsj/crime/trafficking/wai/fsj_crime_human_trafficking_en.htm (accessed April 3, 2010).
April 1, 2010 – The Safe Harbour for Exploited Children Act (Title 8-A, sections 447-a and 447-b of the Social Services Law) went into effect in the State of New York. The New York State Legislature provides a website [http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/frmload.cgi?MENU-39822211 (accessed March 31, 2010) that allows us to search the Laws of New York for the relevant title and sections (Title 8-A, sections 447-a and 447-b of the Social Services Law). If we visit the Polaris Project’s Action Center [http://www.actioncenter.polarisproject.org/ (accessed April 3, 2010)], there is a summary of the Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act (the spelling of “harbour” varies) at http://actioncenter.polarisproject.org/take-action/advocate-for-policy/227 (accessed April 3, 2010). The summary explains that the Act creates a presumption that children under 16 years of age who are charged as juvenile delinquents for prostitution offenses are severely trafficked persons. As a result, those children can avoid criminal charges of prostitution. The Polaris Project’s U.S. Policy Program [http://www.polarisproject.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=50&Itemid=69 (accessed April 4, 2010)] offers information about state and federal legislation that addresses the problem of human trafficking.
April 15, 2010 – The Texas Summit on the Trafficking and Exploitation of Children will be held at the United Way of Greater Houston. For details, see http://voices.convio.net/site/Calendar/1460958088?view=Detail&id=100821 (accessed April 4, 2010) or the website of Children at Risk [http://www.childrenatrisk.org/childrenatrisk.cfm?a=cms,c,916 (accessed April 4, 2010).
Special thanks to Dottie Laster of the nonprofit organization Million Kids [http://www.millionkids.org/trafficking.html (accessed April 4, 2010)], who alerted the author to the case of In the Matter of B.W. In addition to its amicus curiae brief, Children at Risk has provided valuable information on its website [http://www.childrenatrisk.org/childrenatrisk.cfm (accessed April 4, 2010)] and in its 2009 book, The State of Human Trafficking in Texas, edited by Robert Sanborn, Mandi Sheridan Kimball, Olga Sinitsyn, and Jennifer Michel Solak. The author would also like to express his appreciation for the contributions that the following books have made to his understanding of the phenomenon of trafficking in persons:
Aronowitz, Alexis A. Human Trafficking, Human Misery: The Global Trade in Human Beings. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. 2009.
Bales, Kevin. Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves. Berkeley, Cal.: University of California Press, 2007.
Scarpa, Silvia. Trafficking in Human Beings: Modern Slavery. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.