Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Hidden Slavery in America

On Tuesday, President Bush signed into law the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005, stemming from HR 972. The bill includes provisions to incorporate anti-trafficking and protection measures for vulnerable populations, particularly women and children, into their post-conflict and humanitarian emergency assistance and program activities and authorizes the Attorney General to make grants to States and local law enforcement agencies for programs to investigate and prosecute domestic trafficking in persons. The legislation is also intended to reduce demand for sex slaves, although it is not entirely clear how or if this will be effective.

According to a Department of Justice fact sheet:
"The full dimensions of the problem of human trafficking are difficult to measure. We do know, however, that human trafficking is a major source of profit for organized crime syndicates, along with trafficking in drugs and guns. The scope of the problem in the United States is serious: the U.S. Government estimates that approximately 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States annually.

Victims are often lured into trafficking networks through false promises of good working conditions and high pay as domestic workers, factory and farm workers, nannies, waitresses, sales clerks, or models. Once in this country, many suffer extreme physical and mental abuse, including rape, sexual exploitation, torture, beatings, starvation, death threats, and threats to family members. It is believed that most victims who are trafficked are isolated and remain undetected by the public because 1) the strategies used by the perpetrators isolate victims and prevent them from coming forward, and 2) the public and the victim service providers have only recently become aware of this issue and may not be familiar with how to recognize or respond to trafficking victims."
Many offenders are not being brought to justice however. According to another DOJ report,
"In Fiscal Year 2004, DOJ filed 29 human trafficking cases, almost equaling the 33 total that were filed in the three previous years combined. In Fiscal Year 2004, DOJ initiated prosecutions against 59 traffickers, the highest number ever prosecuted in a single year. More than half (32) of those defendants were charged with violations created by the TVPA, and all but one of those cases involved sexual exploitation. In Fiscal Year 2004, DOJ obtained a record number of convictions against 43 traffickers, the highest number ever obtained in a single year."
Resources:
  • How to recognize trafficking victims
  • Trafficking in persons - information from the US Department of Justice, including how to report trafficking
  • HumanTrafficking.com, The Online Research and Training Center
  • Coalition Against Trafficking in Women
  • Concerned Women for America - Sex Trafficking
  • Amnesty International USA - Human Trafficking
  • Human Rights Watch - Trafficking

    PBS show To The Contrary featured a compelling discussion of this issue today. They do not make video available online, but you can order transcripts/videos from the show if you're interested. I was not fully aware of the scope of this problem until viewing this episode, which presents commentary on the issue, causes, and the recent law.

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