The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice


Elizabeth Kaigh


Congress should vote to exclude the William Wilberforce Reauthorization Act from the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA).  The William Wilberforce Reauthorization Act concerns prostitution, whereas the VTVPA concerns human trafficking. Lawmakers dealing with sex trafficking and prostitution in the United States wrongly combine them as one unified activity. A significant difference between sex trafficking and prostitution concerns the consent of the women having sex. Nevertheless, it is unfair for states to strengthen prostitution laws on a federal level, which is what the William Wilberforce Reauthorization Act would do. The Act would effectively turn prostitution into a federal crime by equating prostitution with sex trafficking. The William Wilberforce Reauthorization Act, however, did not pass in both chambers. Instead, a third bill was passed to reauthorize VTVPA from 2008 until 2011. The resolution that passed in the House should not be introduced again. VTVPA and its reauthorization plan are too broad. The idea that all women who sell sex are enslaved only perpetuates the objectification of women. Strengthening prostitution laws would only exacerbate discrimination present in state prostitution laws and enforcement. State prostitution laws are still discriminatory against women and strengthening these laws would be more burdensome to equal gender rights. Instead of strengthening prostitution laws, a viable solution may be to decriminalize prostitution. Decriminalizing prostitution could aid enforcement of sex trafficking. This is already happening to some degree in Rhode Island and Nevada. Nonetheless, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2007 should not be reintroduced.

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St. Mary's University School of Law



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