Mann Act

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Mann Act

The Mann Act (18 U.S.C.A. § 2421 et seq.), also known as the White Slave Traffic Act, is a federal criminal statute that deals with prostitution and Child Pornography. Enacted in 1910 and named for its sponsor, Representative james r. mann, of Illinois, it also was used to prosecute men who took women across state lines for consensual sex.

Representative Mann introduced the act in December 1909 at the request of Chicago prosecutors who claimed that girls and women were being forced into prostitution by unscrupulous pimps and procurers. The term white slavery became popular to describe the predicament these females faced. It was alleged that men were tricking, coercing, and drugging females to get them involved in prostitution and then forcing them to stay in brothels.

The legislation was intended to stop the interstate trafficking of women. Though federal criminal statutes were rare in 1910, and seen as an attack on state police powers, the legislation encountered little opposition. The act made it a felony to transport knowingly any woman or girl in interstate commerce or foreign commerce for prostitution, debauchery, or any other immoral purpose. It also made it a felony to coerce a woman or a girl into such immoral acts. President william h. taft signed the bill in June 1910.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Mann Act in Hoke v. United States, 227 U.S. 308, 33 S. Ct. 281, 57 L. Ed. 523 (1913). The Court broadened the scope of the act in Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470, 37 S. Ct. 192, 61 L. Ed. 442 (1917), when it ruled that the act applied to noncommercial acts of immorality. In Caminetti the Court seized on the phrase "any other immoral purpose," concluding that Congress intended to prevent the use of interstate commerce to promote sexual immorality. This interpretation radically changed the scope of the act.

The Mann Act was used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to curtail commercialized vice. It was also often used to prosecute prominent persons who did not conform to conventional morality. Jack Johnson, a heavyweight boxing champion, was charged with and convicted of a Mann Act violation in 1912, for taking his mistress across state lines. Over the years, similar charges were leveled against the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the actor Charlie Chaplin, and the rock and roll singer Chuck Berry. Of these three, only Berry was convicted of a Mann Act violation.

Congress amended the act in 1978 to attack the problem of child Pornography. The amendments made the act's provisions regarding this issue gender neutral, so that both boys and girls who were sexually exploited were now protected (Pub. L. No. 95-225, 92 Stat. 8–9). In 1986 the law was further amended. The new amendments made the entire act gender neutral as to victims of sexual exploitation. More important, all references to debauchery and any other immoral purpose were replaced by the phrase "any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense" (Pub. L. No. 99-628, 100 Stat. 3511–3512.) This change took the federal government out of the business of defining immoral. Because most states have repealed criminal laws against fornication and Adultery, noncommercial, consensual sexual activity no longer is subject to prosecution.

Further readings

Grittner, Frederick K. 1990. White Slavery: Myth, Ideology, and American Law. New York: Garland.

Langum, David J. 1994. Crossing over the Line: Legislating Morality and the Mann Act. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

Mann Act

n. a federal statute making it a crime to transport a woman across state lines for "immoral" purposes. The Mann Act was intended to prevent the movement of prostitutes from one state to another or in and out of the country in the so-called "white slave" trade. However, it also applies to a male taking his under-age girlfriend to a love-nest in a neighboring state, or a female transporting an underage boy across the state line for such purposes. Maximum term is five years in a federal prison.

References in periodicals archive ?
These movements culminated in the passage of the Mann Act.
When, in 1917, the Supreme Court upheld a broad interpretation of "any immoral purpose," to include noncommercial and consensual sex acts ranging from adultery to seduction, the FBI became empowered to enforce the Mann Act "as a bulwark in defense of traditional gender"--and, we could add, racial--"roles," writes Pliley.
officials charged a group of defendants with Mann Act violations,
By the time it was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935', the agency had investigated tens of thousands of Americans for alleged violation of the Mann Act.
Senator John McCain, the Republican candidate for the US presidency in 2008, has given public voice to the call for Jack Johnson to be given a presidential pardon for the offence of violating the Mann Act, for which he could not be held guilty, and on 29 July 2009, Congress passed a resolution calling on President Obama to that effect.
But by assuming that a large portion of cases raises a culpability inference as to age, we can view the standard interpretation of the Mann Act that Jones represents as resting on an expectation (in most cases) of a rough proportionality between punishment and culpability, even without required proof of mens rea and despite the court's exclusively instrumental reasoning.
In addition to eliding race and class differences between prostitutes, legislation such as the Mann Act attempted to eradicate white slavery in part by drawing clear distinctions between women who worked as prostitutes and women who did not--a distinction that was not always clear.
Didn't he remember the stuff I taught him about how crossing state lines and using phone wires turn things into federal crimes, about the aptly named Mann Act, which makes prostitution a federal offense when you cross state lines to do it?
Again, from Love's story: "In June 1910, the month Congress unanimously passed the Mann Act, known as the White Slavery Act, the American yogi Pierre Bernard was jailed for abducting two young women in New York City; a week of sensational press coverage, in which he was forever branded the Omnipotent Oom, the Loving Guru of the Tantriks, ensued.
In the context of the Immigration Act and the Mann Act, judges and lawmakers confronted the content and contours of illicit sex not, as in Lawrence, to determine what forms of intimate behavior lay beyond the reach of state regulation, but rather to determine what forms of intimate behavior lay within the reach of federal regulation.
Known as the White Slave Act, the Mann Act made it illegal to transport a woman across state lines for "immoral purposes"--a term that invited various interpretations and was used as yet another way to prevent the races from "mixing.