The 2002 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report

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Analysis of the Congressional Hearing
By Heide Seward and Anne Stover
July 25, 2002

The release of the second annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report on June 5, 2002, was a severe disappointment to many activist groups that worked to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, including the Beverly LaHaye Institute (BLI) and Concerned Women for America (CWA).

One criticism of the report is that it gives Tier 1 rankings to Germany and the Netherlands, two countries that have recently legalized prostitution, increasing the demand for women and child prostitutes. Sex trafficking is a major means of supplying women and child prostitutes to work in these legal brothels. For example, in Germany 75 percent of the estimated 400,000 women prostitutes are foreign. Furthermore, in the Netherlands there is between 4,000 and 15,000 child prostitutes.

“Prostitution may be the oldest profession in the world, but that doesn’t mean the State Department should let it become an acceptable profession in the international community,” said Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, senior fellow of BLI. Crouse continued, “With this erroneous report, the State Department has evaded its responsibility to Congress and abdicated its role in protecting women and children.”

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the legislation requiring the State Department to create this report, was enacted in 2001 with the help of a broad coalition of groups, including BLI. Coalition members have been disappointed by what they see as a too-soft approach to some of the worst offending countries, and they are seeking an explanation from the State Department.

“The purpose of the Act is to put the spotlight on complacent countries with sex trafficking problems, but this inaugural report only provides political ‘cover’ for countries with very bad records on sex trafficking,” said Dr. Crouse. “[Some] countries designated as ‘Tier 2’ states were given the same ranking last year by the State Department. However, they have done nothing to improve their sex trafficking problem and should therefore, we believe, be designated as ‘Tier 3’ states,” Crouse continued.

The State Department insists that countries placed on Tier 2 are not happy with their rankings. “This is certainly not surprising,” Crouse asserted. “No country wants to be singled out as being complicit in such criminal enterprises. But how else can the United States hold these governments accountable?”

“The Trafficking Victims Protection Act committed the United States to an agenda to end trafficking. But if we aren’t even willing to point fingers at the countries that are hurting women and children by supporting trafficking, will we ever use the real teeth that were written into this bill to ensure enforcement?” Crouse added.

The TIP report fails to help the victims of sex trafficking by giving passing grades to countries like India, Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam. These Tier 2 countries are some of the worst offenders. For example, in India it is estimated that 40 percent of the approximately 2.4 million women and children trafficked into the sex industry are children as young as ten. As many as 200,000 Nepali girls, many under the age of 14 are trafficked into India.

In Thailand it is estimated that 80 percent of the 1 million prostitutes trafficked into sexual slavery are children. Brothel owners prize children because they are virgins and they command a premium price from customers.

The coalition groups that worked to pass the Act monitored the State Department’s preparation of this year’s report. Prior to the report’s release, Sandy Rios, CWA president, signed a letter sent to the State Department, which stated, “If the State Department gives a passing grade to the worst offenders, then it has nullified Congressional intent and spoiled a historic opportunity to improve human rights around the world.”

Countries placed on Tier 2 received a passing grade from the State Department. The offenders ranked in Tier 2 will escape United States government-imposed sanctions according to the Act, unless they are demoted to Tier 3 next year. Tier 2 countries are recognized as making “significant efforts” to meet the Act’s minimum standards. But they have been unable to provide data on the number of convictions of sex traffickers or evidence of the dismissal of corrupt government officials who ignore the atrocities of sex trafficking. Many of these countries do not even have shelters that the victims can go to should they escape their sexual slavery. Without such evidence it is difficult to understand how these countries can prove such “significant efforts.”

The House Committee on International Relations held hearings on the TIP report on June 19, 2002. A panel of witnesses from activist groups in the United States, and one from India, emphasized the need for sex trafficking convictions in the countries where the offense is the greatest. Gary Haugen, president of International Justice Mission, stated that it is the complicity of government officials that allows sex trafficking to continue, and he emphasized the importance of dismissing corrupt officers. He suggested that any country not meeting the minimum standards be required to report how many sex traffickers they have put in jail, and how many corrupt officers they have dismissed. All of the witnesses agreed that the sentencing of offenders must be harsh in order to deter sex trafficking, governments must put pressure on the police to make sex trafficking arrests priority, and countries that cannot supply data on convictions must suffer the consequences in the form of sanctions, as required under the 2001 law.

“Activist organizations can help gather data on sex trafficking in order to end it; however, they cannot do it alone,” remarked Dr. Crouse. “The State Department must enforce the Act and put pressure on the governments to cooperate by enforcing anti-trafficking laws.”

Crouse added, “Sex traffickers are the mafia of the new millennium. This multi-billion dollar business captures over 700,000 women and children each year, taking them from home and family to subject them to sexual slavery. If we are not going to enforce this law, groups like ours have wasted our time, and the traffickers can revel in the streets.”

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