“It’s Y2K Pimpin” (Online Sex Trafficking)

While I’ve been talking about sex trafficking on a “local” level (within the United States), it is in fact a worldwide problem that deserves recognition in my series of blogs.  Especially because the Internet, which technically has no boundaries, is one of the main facilitators of sex trafficking.

The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime is the main international instrument in the fight against transnational organized crime.  In order to target specific areas and manifestations of organized crime, the Convention is supplemented by different Protocols.  The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children is one of those Protocols, and recognizes that international effort is necessary to combat commercial sex trafficking.  It entered into force on December 25, 2003, and is the “first global legally binding instrument with an agreed definition on trafficking in persons.”  For the purposes of the Protocol, exploitation includes “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, or deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control of another person.”

This definition is intended to “facilitate convergence in national approaches with regard to the establishment of domestic criminal offences that would support efficient international cooperation in investigating and prosecuting trafficking in persons cases.”  In addition, an objective of this Protocol is to protect and assist trafficking victims with full respect for their human rights.

As I’ve discussed in my blogs with regard to U.S. laws, the Protocol also notes that the “consent” of a victim of exploitation is irrelevant, and cannot be used as a defense, and it requires States to criminalize attempted trafficking, accomplice to trafficking, and ordering or directing others to commit a trafficking offense.

It may seem like the UN is doing a good job at combating sex trafficking, yet it has failed to address one of most important issues…the Internet.  The Protocol does not include Internet facilitated sex trafficking, even though it is one of the fastest growing platforms for sex trafficking.  In her article “Sex Trafficking Via the Internet: How International Agreements Address The Problem And Fail To Go Far Enough,” Erin Kunze explains that this is partially because the Council of Europe insists that the term “recruitment,” which is used to define an element of trafficking in the Protocol, is “sufficiently broad enough to include recruitment of trafficking victims via online technology.”  However, it is not broad enough, because as Kunze points out, “a broad interpretation of ‘recruitment’ does not also reach other uses of technology in facilitating sex trafficking, such as offering or advertising a trafficking victim’s sexual servitude online, disseminating sex tourism information online and receiving payments for services resulting from exploitation via the Internet.”

The Council of Europe is one of the oldest international organizations working toward European integration, with “particular emphasis on legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law, and cultural co-operation.”  It is a 47 member state network, distinct from the European Union (EU).  The goal of the Council of Europe is “promoting common and democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other reference texts on the protection of individuals.”

The Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime is the first international treaty seeking to address computer crime and Internet crimes, targeting crimes that harm computer systems and crimes that are committed through computer systems.  It does so by harmonizing national laws, improving investigative techniques and increasing cooperation among nations; and is currently “the only binding legal instrument for international cooperation regarding cybercrime.”

The Council of Europe treaties are open for signature to non-member states, and the United States ratified the Convention on Cybercrime in 2006.  On January 1, 2007, the Convention entered into force in the United States.  As of today, 47 countries have signed the Convention, and 30 have ratified it.  Parties to the Convention agree to assist one another in the investigation, and in some cases, the prosecution of crimes outlined by the Convention.  The Convention has no “dual criminality” provision, meaning that the action or offense only needs to be a crime in the nation in which it is committed.

The 4 major areas of cybercrime the Convention targets includes: (1) “Offences against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems,” (2) “Computer-related offenses,” (3) “Content-related offences,” and (4) “Offenses related to infringements of copyright and related rights.”   Kunze points out that “while assuring respect for privacy and freedom of expression, Article 9 of the Convention explicitly restricts the content of computer information and expression involving child pornography – criminalizing the production, making available, distribution, procurement or possession of child pornography on a computer system.”  The Convention doesn’t, however, specifically address “other morally reprehensible ‘content-based’ crimes” that have become increasingly facilitated by the Internet.  Therefore, the types of online sex trafficking that I have discussed throughout my blog are not addressed in the Convention.

It is clear that there needs to be an international agreement that regulates not only Internet content that promotes the sexual exploitation of trafficked women and children, but also Internet activity that enables traffickers to recruit and sell women for the purposes or sexual exploitation.

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~ by natalielaw on December 13, 2010.

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