The first question many people ask when they hear about modern sex slavery and the evil of the sex-trafficking industry is: “What is being done? Somebody has to stop these atrocities!” I am always pleased to say that the United States has stepped up to the plate. I am even more pleased to add that I am on the frontlines of the battle and that our organization, Concerned Women for America (CWA), is firmly committed to the “abolition” effort.
Millions of Americans are like I was almost a decade ago when I was asked to join a national task force to combat sex trafficking; at the time, I had no idea what sex trafficking meant! Since then, the problem has seared my heart. I have spoken about this issue across the country and through a variety of print and broadcast media in an effort to bring awareness, to help the victims and to end this evil.
What is Trafficking?
Before looking at the efforts to abolish modern-day slavery, we must answer the question, “What is trafficking?”
Trafficking is modern-day slavery. The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, defines it as: “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms, of coercion, of abduction, of frauds, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”
Sex traffickers lure victims from their poverty-stricken homes with the promise of good jobs, but then force them into slave labor or prostitution. Others are sold by their parents or spouses looking for compensation. Once transported to the destination country, the victims are imprisoned, beaten, raped and convinced they have nowhere to flee. Their passports are confiscated; usually, they don’t speak the language and have no idea where they are located.
The United Nations estimates that human trafficking is a $9.5 billion industry, which is among the top three revenue sources for organized crime.
The effects of trafficking reach beyond the victims’ suffering. Trafficking undermines the social order of countries. It results in the breakdown of families, human dignity and public health. It also fuels organized crime and deprives countries of human capital.
In 2003, I was an official United States delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, where the major issue confronting that worldwide body was the increase in sexual trafficking of women and girls. There representatives from around the world confronted the fact that millions of women and children are forced into sex slavery by evil criminals who make billions of dollars every year by using human beings as slaves. Sex trafficking is worldwide in scope with nearly a million people – mostly women and children – kidnapped, coerced, cajoled, trapped, seduced into taking a chance with a stranger and going from a poor nation to a more developed one. The victims think that they will work as a waitress, model, actress, nanny or in some other respectable occupation. They end up being prostitutes – beaten and abused repeatedly until they are totally brainwashed and subservient.
Current estimates say that between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States annually. Up to 600,000 to 800,000 people are transported internationally and forced to work as slaves, and an estimated 2-4 million men, women and children are trafficked within countries. The majority of these victims are women and children. Women compose 80 percent of the victims and 50 percent are children; 70 percent of these women and children are used for sexual exploitation.
Strategies for Abolishing Sex Slavery
The United States is targeting all aspects of trafficking in an effort to end the trade in human beings. Various agencies within the U.S. government are working together to stop the supply, find and prosecute the traffickers, and end the demand for prostitutes, which feeds the whole sex-trafficking industry.
(1) Stop the Supply – Awareness Campaigns
To end the supply, programs are implemented that alert communities to the dangers of trafficking, improve educational opportunities, and educate targeted communities on their legal rights. Public attention drawn to the problem of modern-day slavery is the key to ending the demand of human traffickers. Programs are implemented to bring awareness to the problem, making it harder to conceal or ignore trafficking.
(2) Find and Prosecute the Traffickers
Local, state, national and international cooperation and coordination is forming in an effort to recruit volunteers to fight against slavery. Law enforcement programs identify and prohibit trafficking routes, forcefully prosecute traffickers and those who aid and abet them, and fight public corruption. CWA was at the forefront of enacting the anti-trafficking bills in Congress – bills like the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and the Domestic Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2004.
Each year CWA helps to shape the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report by offering suggestions for greater effectiveness in presenting the information and in helping to collect it. The TIP document now evaluates nations within three tiers, depending upon their compliance with the legislation and effectiveness in combating trafficking. The report presents profiles of heroes who help trafficking victims, protecting them or helping them to restore their lives after the abuse and horrific crimes against them.
This year, the Department of Justice is making significant progress in both prosecuting criminals and protecting victims in the United States.
(3) End the Demand for Prostitutes
CWA also works to eliminate federal funding for organizations that claim to be working against human trafficking but then support the legalization of prostitution, a leading cause of trafficking. Now, no nation can get funding from the U.S. government if it promotes prostitution. The Bush administration has committed $50 million to support organizations that are rescuing women and children from exploitation, and giving them shelter and medical treatment and the hope of the new life. Criminals face up to 30 years in prison and countries face sanctions when they turn a blind eye to sex trafficking. Through the Protect Act of 2003, American pedophiles who prey on foreign children can be prosecuted in the United States.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “We intend to combat the trafficking of persons around the globe through improved laws, regulation, monitoring, enforcement, and the protection of victims.” President Bush called this problem “a special kind of evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent and vulnerable.” He added, “We must show new energy in fighting back an old evil. Nearly two centuries after the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and more than a century after slavery was officially ended in its last strongholds, the trade in human beings for any purpose must not be allowed to thrive in our time.”
Unless we care for these precious women and children, no one will do something about their tragedy. Except for us, they will be abused until they are used up – and then they will be discarded – their lives destroyed and their futures hopeless. How can we offer them less than a full rescue – not just a way out, but a way of transcending the evil that has imprisoned them?