While there is still some misunderstanding and misinterpretation of exactly what constitutes “trafficking,” everyone understands that involuntary servitude is slavery, that raping children and profiting from child labor is despicable, that forced labor is inhumane exploitation, and that all of these victimizations rob people of their freedom as well as their dignity and humanity.
The people who work against these evils are usually called “modern-day abolitionists.” They are also fighting for freedom because, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, “For millions of people entrapped each year in vicious schemes of labor and sex trafficking, freedom is denied.” Clearly, trafficking attacks the universal human right of freedom; efforts against this atrocity advance the cause of freedom for vulnerable girls and women around the world.
With the release of the 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report, the United States renews its commitment to raise global awareness of trafficking and to encourage governments in combating all the various strains of this modern-day slavery. Mandated by legislation, the TIP report is now in its fifth annual edition with each one surpassing the previous one in accuracy and completeness of the descriptions and evaluations of each nation’s efforts, as well as in its emotional impact through pictures, descriptions of heroes and detailing of effective strategies in combating trafficking.
More importantly, the current report reflects the increasingly focused efforts to prosecute criminals, protect victims and prevent trafficking. For instance, we have learned that 80 percent of the 600,000 to 800,000 victims are women and girls and that 50 percent of them are minors. We have also learned that most of these victims are forced into commercial sexual exploitation. Sadly, though, we have learned that these data do NOT include the millions of victims who are trafficked within their own country. When these intra-national victims are included in the estimates, the total skyrockets to over 12 million people.
The 2005 TIP Report includes estimates of the human and social costs of trafficking: increases in human rights abuses, social breakdown and organized crime. These costs also include loss of human capital and inhibition of human development, public health costs, and the erosion of government authority as bribery and other government and law enforcement corruption expands and threatens even law-abiding citizens.
The document is a persuasive, thorough and horrific depiction of an international problem that ought to produce outrage and action.
For some journalists, however, it has produced backlash. Jack Shafer, who wasted everyone’s time a year and a half ago protesting Peter Landesman’s excellent article about the sex trafficking problem in the United States, is back at it again. Apparently, unfounded protest is one of his ways to get in print. He admits that sex slavery in the United States is “real and horrific,” but he objects to quantifying the problem and to calling it an “epidemic.” He argues that because so few people take advantage of the “T-Visa” (which allows victims to live in the U.S. for three years and apply for permanent residency) there are obviously few victims.
Such logic shows his ignorance. Victims generally don’t ask for help. There’s the language barrier, there’s the distrust of authorities, there’s the fear of retribution to relatives, there’s the hopelessness of ever going back to life before the sexual assaults, and the list could go on and on. The victims usually have to be rescued and, as the latest TIP Report indicates, we are making progress on that score. Plus, last year we doubled the number of trafficking convictions of four years ago!
Prostitution is big business and as Gregory Carlin, director of the Irish Anti-Trafficking Coalition points out, “pimping is a growth industry.” The TIP Report is a threat to the pimping industry and the Bush administration’s anti-prostitution policies are a threat to the big business interests of the trafficking networks.
Keep up the good work, Ambassador John Miller and all your hard-working, devoted team of abolitionists who are fighting to free those ensnared by sex slavery!
Janice Shaw Crouse has served on national task forces working against sex trafficking for nearly a decade. She is the point-person on the issue for Concerned Women for America.