Evidence of Prior Sexual Activity or Prostitution Convictions

Drafters should review the rules of evidence where the sex trafficking law will be implemented. Rules of evidence related to the impeachment of witnesses must not be based on a gendered concept that sexual virtue is equivalent to credibility. 

Drafters must carefully guard against laws and rules, which allow impeachment based on evidence of prostitution convictions reasoning that prostitution is a crime involving “dishonesty” or “moral turpitude.” This reasoning is flawed and based on discriminatory attitudes and double-standards for women and men, which promote the view that a woman’s honor and therefore her truthfulness and credibility depend on her chastity, whereas a man’s honor and therefore his truthfulness and credibility depend on his sworn statement regardless of whether or not he is chaste. 

Drafters must ensure that evidence of prior sexual conduct, including prostitution, is not used to impeach sex trafficking victim’s testimony.  Neither a reputation for nor specific acts of prostitution should be admitted as evidence to impeach the trafficking victim’s credibility. (See: Julia Simon-Kerr,, “Unchaste and Incredible: The Use of Gendered Conceptions of Honor in Impeachment,” Yale Law Journal, June 2008)