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United States - Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination - Sex Trafficking - May 2022

The Advocates for Human Rights submitted a suggested List of Themes Report relating to sex trafficking and transactional sex markets in the United States of America for the 107th Session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Information in this report is excerpted in parts from the Safe Harbor for All Strategic Planning Process Report (Safe Harbor Report) (2018). Research has demonstrated that the marketplace for sex is deeply intertwined with intersecting oppressions related to race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability, further complicating the lines between trafficking, exploitation, choice, and force. Force, manipulation, violence, coercion, stigma, trauma, poverty and lack of options pose significant barriers to escaping trafficking or exiting transactional sex, making a framework of "choice" seem cruel. For Indigenous and African American communities, racialized patterns, practices, and degradations in the purchase of sex are a direct extension of colonization and enslavement practices. The United States fails to uphold its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination ("CERD") to combat racial disparities in access to healthcare, to protect migrant and immigrant workers from exploitation, to address violence against women, and to protect the rights of Indigenous people.

The Advocates recommends that the Committee pose the following questions to the United States:

         What measures will the state commit to eliminating stigma and discrimination, whether in policy or practice, for people of color, indigenous people, transgender individuals, and the LGBT community when accessing health care?

         What is the state doing to address drivers for immigrant and refugee populations vulnerable to trafficking and transactional sex, including but not limited to lack of immigration status and employment authorization, fear of detention and deportation, language and cultural barriers, and fear for safety of family members back home?

         What steps is the state taking to reduce the burden of criminal liability on people with lived experience via other remedies, such as expungement, vacatur, diversion, and crime victims' rights?

         What steps will the state undertake to review relevant legislation to identify needed revisions to decriminalize the sale of sex in tandem with access to housing, services, and supports that are culturally appropriate and take into account historical traumas and racial discrimination?

         What is the state undertaking to address potential jurisdictional challenges, including recognizing tribal sovereignty, engaging with each tribal nation individually, on a government-to-government level, to develop a plan for an effective legal response to sex trafficking, working with each tribal nation to identify how specific jurisdictional issues in the criminal and civil legal systems impact people with lived experience and funding each tribal nation to support this process and implement recommendations?

         What is the state undertaking to reform longstanding harmful multi-systemic practices that disproportionately impact indigenous people that are linked to violence and transactional sex, including decreasing the disproportionate number of American Indian children who experience out-of-home placement compared to white children?