|Modern Slavery: People for Sale|
During 2001, at least 700,000 and potentially as many as 4 million men, women and children worldwide were bought, sold, transported and held against their will in slave-like conditions, according to the U.S. State Department.
In it's Second Annual Trafficking in Persons Report, the Department of State finds that modern slave traders, or "person-traffickers" use threats, intimidation and violence to force victims to engage in sex acts or to work under conditions comparable to slavery for the traffickers financial gain.
According to the report, women and children make up the overwhelming majority of victims, typically being sold into the international sex trade for prostitution, sex tourism and other commercial sexual services, and into forced labor situations in sweatshops, construction sites and agricultural settings. In other forms of servitude, children are abducted and forced to fight for government military forces or rebel armies, and to act as domestic servants and street beggars.
"Traffickers prey on the most vulnerable members of our human family, violating their most basic rights, subjecting them to degradation and misery," stated Secretary of State Colin Powell in presenting the report he said displayed "the resolve of the entire US Government to stop this appalling assault on the dignity of men, women and children."
While the report focuses on person-trafficking in eighty-nine other countries, Secretary Powell reported that some 50,000 women and children are trafficked annually for sexual exploitation into the United States. "Here and abroad," said Powell, "the victims of trafficking toil under inhuman conditions -- in brothels, sweatshops, fields and even in private homes."
Once traffickers move them from their homes to other locations within their country or to foreign countries victims typically find themselves isolated and unable to speak the language or understand the culture. The victims rarely have immigration papers or have been given fraudulent identification documents by the traffickers. Victims also may be exposed to a range of health concerns, including domestic violence, alcoholism, psychological problems, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Causes of person-trafficking
Countries suffering from depressed economies and instable governments are more likely to become havens for person-traffickers. Promises of better pay and working conditions in foreign countries are powerful lures. In some countries, civil wars and natural disasters tend to disorient and displace people, increasing their vulnerability. Certain cultural or social practices also contribute to trafficking.
How traffickers operate
Traffickers tempt their victims by advertising good jobs for high pay in exciting cities or by setting up bogus employment, travel, modeling and matchmaking agencies to lure unsuspecting young men and women into the trafficking networks. In many cases, traffickers trick parents into believing their children will be taught a useful skill or trade once removed from the home. The children, of course, end up enslaved. In the most violent cases, victims are forcefully kidnapped or abducted.
What is being done to stop this?
Secretary of State Powell reported that under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, President Bush had, "directed all relevant United States agencies to combine forces to eradicate trafficking and help rehabilitate its victims."
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act was enacted in October 2000, to combat trafficking, to "combat trafficking of persons, especially into the sex trade, slavery, and slavery-like conditions in the United States and countries around the world through prevention, through prosecution and enforcement against traffickers, and through protection and assistance to victims of trafficking." The Act defined new crimes, strengthened criminal penalties, and afforded new protections and benefits to trafficking victims. The Act also requires several federal government agencies, including the Departments of State, Justice, Labor, Health and Human Services and the U.S. Agency for International Development to work in any way possible to fight person-trafficking. The State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons assists in the coordination of anti-trafficking efforts.
"Countries that make a serious effort to address the problem will find a partner in the United States, ready to help them design and implement effective programs." said Secretary of State Powell. "Countries that do not make such an effort, however, will be subject to sanctions under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act beginning next year."
Victims can get help
Sexual and labor exploitation are against the law in the United States. Federal laws prohibit slavery. Victims of person-trafficking can ask the U.S. Government for help regardless of immigration status by calling this toll-free hotline number: 1-800-428-7581.