DNA Applications in Human Rights and Human Trafficking
DNA and Human Rights and Wrongs:
Social and Political Uses of DNA for Human Protections
At Duke, we are exploring the ethics and practicalities of DNA collection in immigration for protection of human rights, with a focus on identifying victims of human trafficking.
Collection of DNA from immigrants and refugees is routine practice in some countries and under consideration in the U.S., primarily to combat reported cases of immigration fraud. Technological advances in DNA identification, combined with reports of child trafficking and adoption fraud, have led to proposals to initiate DNA collection to detect victims of human trafficking.
The collection of DNA by governments, law enforcement, and courts raises profound justice, civil, social, and ethical questions. Developing successful models to use DNA to protect human rights is complicated by concerns of privacy and abuse of power. Yet, the use of DNA to identify human trafficking victims is a powerful notion worthy of exploration.
The Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation has awarded funding for a series of Duke-based workshops to exchange scientific, policy and human rights expertise. In conjunction with the sessions, we are hosting Independent Study students to examine the ethical and social issues of these DNA applications and identify stakeholders relevant to such programs. The project will culminate in a final symposium presenting the research and roundtable outcomes.
Three interdisciplinary centers at Duke are partnering on this initiative:
- Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy – Sara Huston Katsanis and Robert Cook-Deegan
- Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute – Robin Kirk and William Chafe
- The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University – Suzanne Shanahan
Contact Sara Katsanis for more information.
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Governments cannot idly wait for victims to come forward on their own to seek protection. – 2012 USDOS TIP Report