Modern Slavery; U.S. Must Battle Countries Participating in Human trafficking.(OPED)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 18, 2002 | Go to article overview

Modern Slavery; U.S. Must Battle Countries Participating in Human trafficking.(OPED)


Byline: Christopher H. Smith, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The United States abolished legalized slavery nearly 140 years ago, but today a new scourge of human slavery remains and thrives throughout the world. Americans need to know the reality of human trafficking and our government needs to exert its fullest strength to end this appalling human rights abuse.

An estimated 700,000 to 4 million victims of human trafficking are bought, sold, transported and held against their will in slave-like conditions each year. Most victims are women and children.

Many are lured from their homes with promises of a better life by cunning traffickers who force them to work in brothels as sex slaves or as forced laborers in sweatshops, as domestic servants, or beggars, to name just a few scenarios. Violence is commonly used to control victims and maintain their servitude. In cases of forced prostitution, victims are repeatedly raped every day and are forced to cope in subhuman conditions.

Recently, the State Department released its second annual "Trafficking in Persons" (TIP) report, which evaluates the efforts of 89 countries in combating the modern-day slavery of human trafficking. The TIP report is a tool created by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a law that I sponsored to assess the progress made in combating the scourge of trafficking in human beings around the world. The law requires the State Department to rank countries' efforts to meet minimum standards to combat trafficking and whether those countries are making "significant efforts" to bring itself into compliance with those standards.

When the law was enacted in 2000, many in Congress and the administration did not want to publicly name offending countries. Other policymakers, myself included, argued that some countries only get serious about addressing their failures to combat slavery if their deficiencies are publicly identified. My two year's experience with the TIP report supports that argument: During the year between the first and the second reports, the governments of more than two dozen countries improved their behavior and policies enough to merit an improved mark. Only two countries - Cambodia and the Kyrgyz Republic - dropped in ranking from the first year to the second.

It is clear the Bush administration devoted substantial time, effort and personnel to prepare the 2002 TIP report. The report will continue to serve as a useful tool for diplomats and members of Congress as we engage our foreign counterparts regarding their efforts to combat human trafficking.

Nonetheless, the TIP report is not flawless. India, Thailand and Vietnam, among others, received better rankings than they deserved despite credible reports indicating their efforts to combat trafficking were clearly insignificant in light of the enormity of the human trafficking problems in those countries. …

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