What Is Sex Trafficking?

Here in Alaska we are operating under four or five different legal definitions of sex trafficking, and none of them are the popular definition of someone being kidnapped and forced into prostitution. From micro to macro:

The Municipality of Anchorage has a variety of codes which make it illegal to transport someone for unlawful purposes, have a place of prostitution, remain in a place of prostitution, coerce another to become a prostitute, accept money from a prostitute, and much more! Under MoA Code 8.65 someone who coerces someone into prostitution commits the same level of crime as someone who happens to be the landlord or babysitter of a prostitute.

Under Alaska Statute 11.66.100-135</a> sex trafficking means anything from forcing someone into prostitution to an independent sex worker aiding or facilitating their own prostitution. The law is long and seems to have a special emphasis on things sex workers do for safety, like working indoors or working together. It does not include the use of fraud or coercion as the federal law does.

Under federal CRIMINAL law, sex trafficking is the use of force, fraud, or coercion in the recruitment, harboring, inducing, etc, of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act OR a commercial sex act involving a minor even if there is no force, fraud, or coercion.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) additionally defines sex trafficking victims as minors who are engaged in commercial sexual activity independently or minors who are not engaged in commercial sex acts but are having “survival sex” in exchange for shelter or other survival resources. While there is no one to charge criminally for the victimization of these children, they are by far our largest group of sex trafficking victims and those who agencies that work with sex trafficked youth are the most concerned about.

When discussing policies addressing sex trafficking, it is essential to include sex workers and sex trafficking survivors in the conversation. People in the sex industry possess key insights from firsthand experience. It is imperative to stop conflating all forms of sex work with forced labor. By listening to the perspectives of actual sex workers and trafficking survivors, those who say they care about sex trafficking can create effective strategies to prevent trafficking and support survivors with out stripping sex workers or trafficking survivors of rights.