U.S. appears in human trafficking report

The growing crisis of human trafficking received greater visibility on June 14 when the U.S. State Department included the U.S. in its 10th annual “Trafficking in Persons” (TIP)  Report. The U.S. is ranked as a “Tier I” country, meaning it fully complies with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards.

The report provides an in-depth analysis of over 177 countries and reprimands 13 countries, including Iran, North Korea, Burma, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and others for not meeting minimum international standards on human trafficking.

Interestingly, the report coincides with the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa, where human rights groups anticipate a surge of between 40,000 and 100,000 adults and children will be trafficked for sexual servitude during the event.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that for the first time the report includes a ranking of the United States, “because we believe it is important to keep the spotlight on ourselves.”

“The United States takes its first-ever ranking not as a reprieve, but as a responsibility to strengthen global efforts against modern slavery, including those within America,” she said. “This human rights abuse is universal, and no one should claim immunity from its reach or from the responsibility to confront it.” 

Linda Smith, president of Shared Hope International, said it’s a good start. “It’s about time that (we) evaluate ourselves,” she said. 

While Smith conceded that the report is good, she also indicated there is much room for improvement, especially in the area of enforcement. “Let it have teeth,” she said. “Make sure that we report the number of both prosecutions and the level of the sentences for those that would buy sex with kids in the United States… When we do that, then we’ll show we’re really serious. 

Clinton appeared to concur with the call for better accountability and enforcement. “All of us have a responsibility to bring this practice to an end,” she said. “Survivors must be supported and their families aided and comforted, but we cannot turn our responsibility for doing that over to nongovernmental organizations or the faith community. Traffickers must be brought to justice. And we can’t just blame international organized crime and rely on law enforcement to pursue them. It is everyone’s responsibility. Businesses that knowingly profit or exhibit reckless disregard about their supply chains, governments that turn a blind eye or do not devote serious resources to addressing the problem, all of us have to speak out and act forcefully.”

Smith said the laws already exist to diminish the problem; however, officials must be willing to take action. “Right now we do not enforce the section that says ‘Those that obtain a traffic victim are traffickers and they should go to jail,'” she said. “Whether it’s the World Cup or it’s your local state, the paper is just nothing. Those laws are just paper until we enforce them.”


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