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Section 2423. Transportation of Minors

Section 2423. Transportation of Minors

Legislation

By: United States Congress

Date: January 6, 2003

Source: "Section 2423. Transportation of Minors." Title 18, U.S. Code, Chapter 117, Section 2423, 2003.

About the Author: The 108th Congress passed the legislation that tightened laws against against transporting children out of state for the purpose of sexual activity.

INTRODUCTION

According to the U.S. Department of State, in 2003 between 600,000 and 800,000 children worldwide were transported between countries for the purposes of child labor and/or to be used as sex trade workers. Child trafficking within national borders, according to United Nations estimates, raises that number to 1.2 million.

In regions of the world where child poverty is endemic, as in parts of southeast Asia and Africa, traffickers use children as laborers, often paying parents a bounty to deliver the child to a factory or farm where the child receives food and shelter, but little if anything in wages. In other instances, parents are led to believe their child will be placed in such jobs, but the trafficker instead sells the child into sexual slavery. Child trafficking, according to UNICEF, is a $7 to $10 billion business annually.

International prohibitions on human trafficking date back from the 1910 International Convention for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic. Subsequent agreements included the International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children in 1921, and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women of Full Age in 1933; these conventions led to the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others in 1949, which focused specifically on the prevention of human trafficking for the sex trade.

In December 2003, the United Nations updated its policy against child trafficking with the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. In the same year, the United States Congress updated the U.S. Code to tighten laws against the transportation of minors within the United States for the purpose of sexual activity.

PRIMARY SOURCE

Section 2423. Transportation of Minors

(a) Transportation With Intent To Engage in Criminal Sexual Activity.—A person who knowingly transports an individual who has not attained the age of 18 years in interstate or foreign commerce, or in any commonwealth, territory or possession of the United States, with intent that the individual engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both.

(b) Travel With Intent To Engage in Sexual Act With a Juvenile.—A person who travels in interstate commerce, or conspires to do so, or a United States citizen or an alien admitted for permanent residence in the United States who travels in foreign commerce, or conspires to do so, for the purpose of engaging in any sexual act (as defined in section 2246) with a person under 18 years of age that would be in violation of chapter 109A if the sexual act occurred in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both.

SIGNIFICANCE

In the early twentieth century, China became a popular destination for sex tourism, defined as travel to a location for the sole purpose of engaging a prostitute or to engage in sexual activity. During World War II (1938–1941), the Japanese army captured Chinese, Korean, and Filippino women and forced them to work as sexual slaves for Japanese troops. By the 1950s, Vietnam had developed a large prostitution industry, and the Vietnam War in the 1960s and early 1970s fed the sex trade as well.

By the early 1980s, a new form of sexual tourism emerged: Wealthy Western men seeking children for sex. In countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, foreign operators organized extended vacations with planned activities in brothels; clients could custom-design sexual experiences, asking for a particular age, race, gender, or fetish as part of their itinerary. Eastern bloc countries, including Czechoslovakia, Ukraine, and Poland, are the center of an increasing child sex trade, though Asia remains the primary destination. Ominously, as HIV/AIDS spread, the myth that sex with a virgin could "cure" the disease fueled a bounty for virgins and led to the increased capture of young children.

The 2003 United Nations protocol, along with the U.S. Code tightening restraints on trafficking of minors, were part of a campaign to rein in sexual tourism. Section 2423 was part of the PROTECT (Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today) Act of 2003, which also criminalized commercial sex with anyone under the age of eighteen anywhere in the world, regardless of the age of consent in the country in which the paid sex act takes place. Before the PROTECT Act, commercial sex was only illegal if the sex act involved a child younger than the host country's age of consent.

The transportation of minors within the United States for the purposes of child pornography or sexual activity was the center of a 2005 court case involving international chess star Alex Sherzer, a 32-year-old chess player from Hungary living in Maryland. Sherzer met a fifteen-year-old girl on the Internet and traveled to Alabama to meet her. He was arrested on charges of crossing state lines for a sexual encounter with a minor, but was later acquitted. "Internet predators"—adults who use message boards and chat rooms to find underage boys and girls for meetings involving sex—are targets of laws such as Section 2423.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Books

Barnitz, Laura A. Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: Youth Involved in Prostitution, Pornography & Sex Trafficking. Youth Advocate Program International: 1998.

Periodicals

Dessy, Sylvain E., and Stephane Pallage. "The Economics of Child Trafficking." Centre Interuniversitaire sur le Risques, les Politiques Economiques, et l'Emploi (CIRPEE) [Center for Research on Economic Flucutations and Employment]. Unpublished paper, August 2003.

Estes, Richard J., and Neil Alan Weiner. "The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico." Center for the Study of Youth Policy, Full Report. February 2002.

Web sites

UNICEF. "Child Trafficking Research Hub" 〈http://www.childtrafficking.org〉 (accessed March 27, 2006).

United States Department of Justice. Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS). "Child Prostitution." 〈http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/ceos/prostitution_fedefforts.html〉 (accessed March 27, 2006).

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