Slavery has been a phenomenon that has existed since before written history, yet it is only in the last 200 years that efforts to abolish it have gained traction. Today, increasing mobility, global supply chains, and continued social discrimination have created the environment for ongoing human exploitation, even though the formal practice of chattel slavery, or the legal ownership of one human being by another, is illegal virtually everywhere. Indeed, some estimate that there are more slaves today than at any other time in human history. Most recently, efforts to eliminate severe forms of human exploitation are being made under the banner of ending human trafficking (formally trafficking in persons).
This course will provide students an overview of the multiple legal perspectives on combatting human trafficking and modern day slavery. This will include the definitional tensions between different perspectives, alternative approaches to addressing severe human exploitation, and an overview of the current U.S. legal framework for eradicating human trafficking and modern slavery. Attention will be paid to commonly recognized principles in human rights, criminal and labor law, but also in such areas as international business, international adoption and international humanitarian law. The class will use a range of materials, including international treaties, decisions of international tribunals, congressional testimony, and legislative history (including floor statements, committee reports, and multiple versions of legislation, among others). At the conclusion of the class, students should be able to recognize the pervasive nature of modern day human exploitation and be able to identify risks of human trafficking in most areas of practice they may choose in the future.