Category Archives: Legislation

Child marriage in the United States…girls marrying their rapists

Yes, this happens here. We have been discussing women and the law in class.

What questions does this story raise for you regarding women (and girls) and the law? Further, what are the surrounding and background societal environments that impede on the law and its enforcement (or lack thereof)?

Does anyone have a story from anyone you know that bears any similarities to this?

15-Year-Old Girls May Have Married their Rapists

a boy and a girl sitting on a bench: Shane Stracener of Kennett, Mo., was 15 in 2014 when he married his girlfriend, Christy, who was 17 and pregnant. The couple now have 2-year-old Isaac Lee (left) and 3-year-old Faith Renee.

Human Trafficking and the UK Modern Slavery Bill: Substantive Blog Post #2

With my paper being on human trafficking and the influence that policies can have in the Europe, I have found a piece that specifically looks at a bill proposed by the United Kingdom, a self-proclaimed leader in the fight against modern slavery. Based on notions that assumed that slavery could not be possible in our more modern era, the UK government was reluctant to support the United Nations “Palermo Protocol,” which targeted the prevention, suppression and punishment of trafficking people, especially women and children. It was revealed that there was significant ignorance in the British Parliament about their knowledge of the trafficking. As evidence grew, the United Kingdom began their first real attempt at combating trafficking by creating the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) in order to collect and monitor data to report to the government about the extent of human trafficking. The UKHTC received 3000 referrals that year from First Responders at the location to which victims seek rescue and rehabilitation. Additional organizations contributed to the growing knowledge of human trafficking and enslavement, revealing new forms of slavery within the UK including “the imprisonment of young (often Vietnamese) men by Chinese gangs to manage cannabis “farms”, the severe physical and sometimes sexual exploitation of domestic workers by wealthy businessmen/women and diplomats, forced begging and theft by young children trafficked or smuggled into the UK for this purpose and the suggestion, although as yet unsubstantiated, that some people had been trafficked into the UK for the purposes of organ harvesting.” 


With all of this overwhelming evidence and pressure from prominent organizations, the government finally published a draft Modern Slavery Bill, appearing in December of 2013. The Bill faced intense criticism because of how weak it had been considering the United Kingdoms intent to be the world leader on the issue. After a grueling process of examination from multiple parties, scrutiny and critiques, the final Bill was published and sent on for the process in which it becomes an Act of parliament.


While the awareness of modern slavery continues to grow, the Bill’s primary focus is on human trafficking despite the early debates that made an attempt to create wording that would include all possible offenses. Another key focus of the Bill is on the protection for the children that are impacted and while the focus on trafficking remains the center of the Bill, the main focus has been on sexual exploitation. The biggest concern of the author is the lack of attention paid to the issue of trafficking as a means to use victims for labor exploitation or forced labor. Although forced labor is in itself a criminal offense, the cases of forced labor brought to the courts are low. A case made notable by the author is one that was dismissed by a judge because they argued that if the victims were able to move around freely, they could not be considered slaves. This completely negated the emotional or psychological impacts of victims in the case.


Fortunately, the government has taken steps towards combating forced labor by requiring companies to take responsibility for exploring slavery within their supply chains although the Committee did not take interest in protecting the domestic workers to the same extent. The government has also been pressured to widen the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to extend its focus on just three industrial sectors to more, if not the whole of the labor market.


It is important to observe the ways in which different countries in Europe attempt to combat  human trafficking within their own country and throughout the rest of the world in order to get a better understanding of unforeseen impacts of their methods. While the United Kingdom hopes to be the leader in combating against modern day slavery, it easy to gage from this article how difficult it is for their government to produce legislation that can encompass the broad spectrum of human slavery.


Craig, Gary. 2015. “Human Trafficking and the UK Modern Slavery Bill.” Social


I Am Jane Doe PSA to Amend the CDA


January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and this short video briefly describes the issue of websites that knowingly profit from sex trafficking advertisements of children. It calls viewers to action by asking you to contact you senator to ask that SESTA be passed to close the loophole that allows this heinous criminal activity to continue.

Congress passed the Communications Decency Act (Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996) to protect children from exposure to Internet pornography.  The act included a defense, Section 230, for Internet providers, protecting them from liability for material posted to their sites by third parties. Thus, if pornography or other illicit material is posted to a site by someone not associated with the site operator, the site was to be held harmless.

In Volume 17, Issue 1 of the Berkley Technology Law Journal, Paul Ehrlich discusses the Communications Decency Act in depth and describes the results of Section 230:

“Congress passed the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”)’ in 1996 to address the myriad problems surrounding the regulation of obscene, illegal, or otherwise tortious content found on the Internet. Many of the CDA’s provisions regulating decency have been struck down by the courts as violations of the First Amendment. One of the surviving elements is a congressional grant of immunity from suit to ISPs [Internet service providers] and other interactive computer services for content originating with third parties. The text of the statute relies on terms of art from the law of defamation, formally protecting interactive computer services from treatment as “publisher[s] or speaker[s].’ However, while defamation law recognizes a distinction between liability as a publisher and liability as a distributor, courts have unanimously read Section 230(c)’s grant of ISP immunity as covering both publishing and distribution liabilities. In doing so, courts took Congress’ desired balance between the competing interests of decency and efficiency and tipped the scales decisively towards efficiency. The effect of these rulings has been the emergence of a comprehensive immunity from suit for ISPs so long as the suits are based on content not authored by the ISP. Whether or not Congress intended this result, ISPs and other interactive computer services have used Section 230 as a complete defense against recent suits…”

Ehrlich continues in footnote 5 of this section, “Publishers are presumed to have more control over material disseminated and are therefore subject to strict liability. Distributors are subject to liability under a knowledge or negligence standard.” This interpretation would make it seem that once a distributor of third party information is made aware that there is a problem of defamation or otherwise illegal activity that then the distributor could be held responsible. Conversely, this is not the case.

Amending Section 230 is not an issue of free speech. This is an issue of illegal activity occurring in a public forum. Section 230 was well intentioned, but it has been used by companies as a place to advertise illegal conduct such as sex trafficking of women and children.  Congress likely never intended this result, yet some courts have ruled that the 230 defense provides, in effect, blanket website immunity for all material posted by third parties on the sites.

In The Children’s Legal Right Journal, Abigail Kuzma eloquently explains these issues in her “A Letter to Congress: The Communications Decency Act Promotes Human Trafficking.” Kuzma describes the issue in great detail, provides substantial evidence for the need to amend the CDA, and also proposes possible amendments. She writes, “…it is critical that legislative action be taken to require all hosts of adult services sections to take preventive action against the posting of abusive ads. Such a bill could be drafted as an amendment to the CDA itself, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), or as a state law amendment that could be called the Internet Protection Against Child Trafficking Act (IPACT).” Please refer to her letter to learn more about the issues of human trafficking as a crime and human trafficking via the internet.

Business owners claim that illegal activity on their websites is not their responsibility because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Businesses that profit from these types of advertisements are using ignorance as an excuse so that they can claim they have no role in either prostitution or human trafficking. In order to stop human trafficking, we must take action to make access to this crime more difficult. The ISPs will do nothing to help modern day slaves as long as they believe that they are not an accessory to the crime because they have no liability or legal responsibility. However, if they knowingly profit from crimes such as human trafficking they are in fact aiding and abetting those crimes. Section 230 needs to be amended—not so that free speech is tarnished or diminished in any way, but so that people who are being used and sold can have a voice separate from their abusers.

-Kari C.


Ehrlich, Paul. “Communications Decency Act 230.” Berkeley Technology Law Journal 17.1 (2002). web. 11 Jan. 2016.

Kumez, Abigail L. “A Letter to Congress: The Communications Decency Act Promotes Human Trafficking.” Children’s Legal Right Journal 34.1: 23-58. Web. 2 Feb. 2016.


Europe needs to do more to prevent human trafficking

This snippet highlights another consequence of the migration of refugees from the Middle East and Africa.

According to the article, human traffickers are taking advantage of refugees’ vulnerable state, often smuggling them via “unseaworthy vessels.”

UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, is urging Europe to help trafficked victims through not allowing immigration policies to negatively affect anti-human trafficking laws as this could lead to an increase in human trafficking and exploitation.

Hmong child bride lawsuit in Minnesota

This article is about child brides ie human trafficking of child brides from Laos. In this case, a woman has chosen to speak out and is suing her perpetrator/abuser.

There is apparently a population of Hmong people in St. Paul Minnesota and it is a common occurrence where young girls in Laos are lured with the promise of something like being in a music video or meeting a movie star as was the case with this woman. The community does not openly speak against it because it could mean some sort of physical retaliation.

This woman was taken at the age of 14 (she is now 22) under the promise of an audition to be in a music video. Instead, a relative of the man who initially made the promise to the young girl (and her parents) showed up and raped her. He eventually allowed her to return home, but upon learning she was pregnant, forced her to marry him. Upon bringing her to the US, he kept her passport and immigration documents as well as threatened her with taking their child away if she tried to leave. Eventually, she was able to get a protective order against him and their “cultural” marriage ended.

And now she is suing him “for $450,000, the minimum statutory damages under “Masha’s Law,” a federal law that provides for a civil remedy in the form of monetary compensation in child pornography, child sex tourism, child sex trafficking and other similar cases.”



Federal Plan for addressing sex trafficking in the US

The title of the report is: Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States 2013-2017.

Although it is somewhat lengthy to read, it is worth at least skimming through. Most of our class readings and discussions focus on events in other countries. I believe it is important to keep up on what is going on in the US as well.

This Action Plan, developed by our current administration, delineates strategies and expectations for addressing sex trafficking. It was developed by several governmental agencies and focuses on specific goals to be accomplished over a 5-year period, although the hope is the Plan will be a foundation for long-term goals as well.


does Stand Your Ground protect battered women?

Can Women Stand Their Ground? Depends On the Target.

Marissa Alexander was a battered woman who was trained to use a weapon, had a concealed carry permit, and had a court injunction against her husband. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot at the ceiling – a shot that may have saved her life – and now may face 60 years in prison if prosecutor Angela Corey has her way. George Zimmerman killed a man and went free so why was Marissa Alexander also not allowed to stand her ground?

If SYG doesn’t adequately protect women experiencing intimate partner violence (like many supporters of the law suggest), what can we do to protect them?

– Lindsay

It’s A Girl – Gendercide in India and China

The film, It’s A Girl (available now on Netflix watch instantly), casts a light on the way girls in India and China are discriminated against because of their sex. According to the film’s website, the UN estimates as many as 200 million girls are missing because of female infanticide. The film also explores dowry and domestic violence, sex trafficking, issues of reproductive health and control, female suicide, and forced abortions. The film presents some interesting statistics about men and women, including the estimate that there are 37 million more men than women in China today.

Before posting, I wanted to look up some of the statistics. I found an interesting and thought provoking article that looks at the funding and perspective of the film (you can read the Slate article here). The writer found that the film was actually funded and produced by pro-life ministries, yet is being shown and recommended by many pro-choice groups. The article also accuses the film of looking at the people of China and India as being savages, the girls as being victims, and Americans as the saviors.

This critical perspective is a useful lens for viewing the film. The director interviewed social worker, activists, and mothers to get a picture of the cultural issues that allow such discrimination against women to continue. The stories are powerful and the issues compelling. The film ends by stressing the importance of the changes that must be made both within the minds of the individuals and the culture as a whole in order to end the violence. Still, the film fails to give a tangible solution for how this should happen.

Have you seen the film? What do you think? Pro-choice or pro-life? Does it matter? Is it another product of the “white-savior complex?” What could be done to change cultural ideas that devalue girls, causing violence and discrimination?

– Lindsay Cortright

Egypt’s Brotherhood Blasts UN Women’s Document

Sarah El Deeb’s article discusses the opposition that a UN Women’s document has received from the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt. The group has opposed this document because of clauses within it that they consider incompatible with the tenants of Islam. Actual details of the document have yet to be released pending negotiations. Officials are remaining optimistic that the document will pas, but there is speculation that Egypt will seek the choice to opt out of sections of the document before passing it. Libya has also publicly rejected the document. Egypt has called for an amendment to the document before they would approve it. Issues lie in the differences in interpretations of ideologies of Islamic law. The rise in Fundamentalist groups as a result of protests and political upheavals in the region has led to more traditional interpretations as well as an increase in violence against women. Women activists have responded on both sides, some agreeing with the document and others with those who have challenged it. Issues between differences in interpretations have created contention amongst Politicians and activist who have called for stronger protection and enforcement of rights for women. Shannon


Violence Against Women Act 2013

The senate today passed the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. All of the women senators voted in favor, as did all of the democrats and not surprisingly those who were opposed were republican men. Some very important changes were that Native American women, GLBT women, and immigrant women were all included. I am glad the Senate finally got it together to renew and expand the act. Women across the United States are grateful.

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