Gearing up for the needed reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees international human rights, held a comprehensive hearing to review the law and identify what is working and what needs to be improved.
"No country and few industries are untouched by this pervasive human rights abuse," said Smith, author of the TVPA of 2000, co-chairman of the Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus and a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. "Traffickers use airlines to move their victims, hotels to exploit sex trafficking victims, and unsuspecting buyers to pay for goods that have been made with raw materials tainted by forced and bonded labor. It is estimated that there are anywhere from 12 to 27 million sex and labor trafficking victims in the world at any given time. We know that organized crime, street gangs, and pimps have expanded into sex trafficking at an alarming rate. It is an extremely lucrative undertaking-- a trafficker can make $200,000 a year off of one victim. Unlike drugs or weapons, a human being can be held captive and sold into sexual slavery over and over again."
Efforts by the U.S. State Department, private companies and non-governmental organizations to combat this modern form of slavery were the focus of a hearing entitled "Best Practices and Next Steps: A New Decade in the Fight Against Human Trafficking," before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. The subcommittee also heard of successful private sector initiatives, as well as a new report on the exploitation of women in China as "child brides."
Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S. State Department, was the main witness. He thanked Smith for his leadership on trafficking, and noted the gains since TVPA was enacted over 10 years ago.
"We needed to seek out the victims of modern-day slavery, offer them stronger protections, and bring traffickers to justice," CdeBaca said. "Their voices and their courage helped lead the way to the path-breaking legislation that updated our century-and-a-half old anti-slavery laws and renewed the United States' commitment to the fight against emerging, modern forms of slavery. A decade later, we find ourselves at a point to ask, "What lies ahead?'"
He noted that more than 130 countries have enacted modern anti-trafficking laws.
"More victims are being identified, more prosecutions are taking place, and we have begun to forge effective partnerships among governments, the private sector, and civil society that will improve our ability to prevent and respond to this crime."