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Overview of Legal Definitions

As defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 minor sex trafficking is “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act where the person is a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident under age 18.” Following passage of this act by the U.S. Congress, 22 U.S.C. 7102(8), U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who are under the age of 18 and trading sex in any capacity are now considered domestic minor victims of sex trafficking (22 U.S.C. 7102(8)).

Under the TVPA’s definition of sex trafficking of domestic minors, there is no need to establish force, fraud or coercion. Likewise, to be considered a trafficking victim young people do not have to have a third party facilitating their sex trades, or be moved from one location to another The TVPA firmly endorse a victim-centered approach to young people involved in the sex trade.

Despite being classified as victims at the federal level, most states still consider young people’s involvement in the sex trade a criminal offense. Consequently, youth in most states are still being arrested for prostitution related offenses.

Trafficking vs. Smuggling

Part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign, this two-sided tip card provides a definition and explains the difference between human trafficking and human smuggling. A checklist of indicators for trafficking is also included with contact details to support suspicious activity. Tip cards are available here: http://www.safehorizon.org/images/uploads/misc/1359734878_ATP_tipcard.pdf.


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