Monday, January 12, 2009

Dear State Department

Below is a copy of an email I just sent to Mr. Mark P. Lagon - U.S. Ambassador-at-Large and Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
A few words of explanation before I post the letter:
Two things are mentioned in the email with which most people are unfamiliar: 1) The Trafficking Victims Protection Act and 2) the Trafficking in Person's Report.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) was first passed in 2000. For budgetary reasons, it has to be reauthorized every two years, which is why the years 2005 and 2008 are mentioned in my email. TVPA is important legislation that creates laws and standards around the fight against human trafficking. Section 108 of the TVPA lists minimum standards for fighting and preventing human trafficking. Each year, these standards are used to create the U.S. State Department's Trafficking in Person's report, or TIP, which is a country-by-country breakdown of human trafficking activities and preventions. Each country is ranked based on their adherance to the mininum standards listed in the TVPA. The rankings are simple - Tiers 1 through 3, with Tier 1 countries fully complying with all the minimum standards, Tier 2 not fully compliant but moving in that direction, and Tier 3 not compliant and not moving in that direction.

As I've read these acts and reports, some questions have been raised in my mind. I've submitted those questions to Ambassador Lagon, and also to the Vice-President of Government Relations at International Justice Mission. I'll let you know if I receive any response. I also encourage you pose these questions yourself, either to Ambassador Lagon or to the House Representatives members who sponsored the ammendments to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. I'll include links with contact information at the bottom of this post.

Here is the email:


"Ambassador Lagon,

About six months ago, I was made aware of the appalling prevalence of human trafficking around the world. Needless to say, I was shocked.

I've spent the last several months reading as much information as I can find on human trafficking and what ours and other countries are doing to fight it. My questions center around the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and the State Department's Trafficking in Person's 2008 report.

Last night, I read the Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Acts from 2005 and 2008. I noticed that in 2005, an amendment was made to add "measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts and for participation in international sex tourism..." as part of the minimum standards countries must adhere to in combating human trafficking. I also noticed that an amendment to strike this standard was made to the 2008 reauthorization act.

I'm trying to understand 2 things: 1)why this standard was removed and 2) why countries like Australia and the Netherlands, where prostitution is legal, were given a Tier 1 status in the 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report. The TIP report itself states, on page 23, that "Sex trafficking would not exist without the demand for commercial sex flourishing around the world", and "turning people into dehumanized commodities creates an enabling environment for human trafficking." How is it then, that countries in which it's legal to turn people into dehumanized commodities through a commercial sex industry are said to "fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking"?

Perhaps the simple answer to these questions is "politics"; that the U.S. can't be too hard on friendly countries. And perhaps the questions themselves are naive and idealistic. Still, if you or someone on your staff has time, I'd appreciate a response. I know you're all extremely busy, so I'm not expecting a speedy reply. But if I don't put the questions out there, they will just roll around in my brain like a pesky fly that won't leave me alone.

Thank you for your time.
Best Regards,
Stefanie Hamilton"


Sponsors of the 2008 Trafficking Victims Reauthorization
Contact page for Ambassador Mark P. Lagon


  1. Really great questions! Let us know if he responds, and what he says.


  2. Good questions.. It makes you think..