Child, Victim, or Prostitute? Justice Through Immunity for Prostituted Children

34 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2014  

Tessa L. Dysart

Regent University School of Law

Date Written: June 2014

Abstract

Whether minors should be prosecuted for prostitution is a contentious question. Although the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) criminalizes the prostitution of minors under the age of eighteen the anti-trafficking community is split on how best to handle prostituted minors. Those who support immunity note that finding prostituted children delinquent for engaging in prostitution can further victimize them, create inconsistencies between federal and state law, and serve as an obstacle to full rehabilitation by saddling the victim with a record. Those opposed to immunity argue that prosecutors must retain the ability to charge a prostituted child to ensure the child’s cooperation in the prosecution of her traffickers, and that providing immunity to prostituted minors both “leave[s] them at the mercy of pimps and johns and without the judicial system to advocate for their treatment and rehabilitation” and leads to increases in the prostitution of children.

In this article, I will argue that justice requires minors to be immune from prosecution for prostitution. In Part I, I will discuss the history behind efforts to combat sex trafficking and prostitution, including the passage of the TVPA and the controversy surrounding the interplay between prostitution and sex trafficking around the time of the TVPA’s enactment. In Part II, I will discuss the need for states to enact provisions making minors immune from prosecution for prostitution. In Part III, I will look at the objections to prostitution immunity provisions for minors and explain why these objections are not sufficient to overcome the policy preference and justice concerns that favor making a minor immune from prosecution for prostitution.

Keywords: human trafficking; child sex trafficking; human rights; criminal law; sex trafficking

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Dysart, Tessa L., Child, Victim, or Prostitute? Justice Through Immunity for Prostituted Children (June 2014). Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, Vol. 21, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2451238

Tessa Leigh Dysart (Contact Author)

Regent University School of Law ( email )

1000 Regent University Drive
Virginia Beach, VA 23464
United States

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