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Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. ROYCE. Madam Speaker, I rise in support of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. This is important legislation to help protect women and families from domestic violence. I have long championed the rights of crime victims, especially women. So I am glad we are passing this legislation today, and that it will soon become law. This will ensure we continue our efforts to address the issue of violence against women from a variety of angles, including prevention, intervention, and prosecution.

Today I want to address specific aspects of Title XII of this Act, entitled ``Trafficking Victims Protection.''

Human trafficking is an egregious offense against human dignity that oppresses tens of millions of people around the world, and disproportionately victimizes women and girls. But even those jarring statistics can obscure the depressing reality: the harm of trafficking is probably most clearly seen in the eyes of a girl who is being robbed of her freedom, her youth, and her hope for the unjust benefit of someone else.

As Chairman of the Committee of primary jurisdiction for the original Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) and the three subsequent reauthorization statutes, I am proud of the strong, bipartisan role that the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Congress have played in the global fight against modern-day slavery over the past 13 years.

Title XII of the bill before us today extends and amends those anti-trafficking authorities with language that was not considered under regular order by House committees. I rise to register my concern with certain sections that normally would fall within Foreign Affairs jurisdiction, because I do not want that language to harm the important work already being done by the Department of State, and particularly its Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, known as the ``TIP Office.''

While our limited resources must be put to their best uses, I don't understand why the Senate has slashed funding for the TIP Office, in contrast to the funding increases elsewhere in Title XII. That is a mistake. I just hope it is not a mistake that is fatal to the integrity and vitality of anti-trafficking efforts at the Department of State. Within State, the TIP Office has been the Congressionally-authorized anchor that has kept trafficking advocacy and the annual tier rankings from being subordinated to the usual pressures of bilateral diplomacy. That is, the frequent temptation for the State Department to compromise our human trafficking concerns for interests perceived, and often misperceived, as being more important than pressing another country on this crime against humanity. This bill weakens the hand of the TIP Office.

Section 1201 of the bill directs the regional bureaus at the State Department to develop annual, country-specific anti-trafficking goals and objectives in cooperation with the TIP Office. With its deep expertise in implementing and assessing interventions to combat modern slavery, the TIP Office has the lead role on such issues within the Department, and should maintain that lead. Section 1201 should not provide the basis for a mechanism that is independent from the work of the TIP Office, or from the recommendations set forth in the annual Trafficking in Persons Report. Rather, it should be used to increase regional bureau support for those priorities at the country level.

Furthermore, the host government consultations contemplated by section 1201 should focus on implementation of Department-set goals and objectives, rather than become a bilateral negotiation on their initial formulation in a way that might subvert the purpose of section 110 of the original TVPA, which mandates actions against governments that fail to meet minimum standards.

Section 1204(5) of the bill would change the TVPA ``minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking'' to include consideration of whether a foreign government has entered into effective partnerships or agreements with other governments, civil society or nongovernmental groups, or others, ``that have resulted in concrete and measurable outcomes.'' I regret that the bill is vague about what those outcomes must be. The numbers of traffickers prosecuted and convicted, and the number of trafficking survivors assisted, should be indispensible components of any concrete, measurable outcomes for purposes of this section. At least the language is clear that such outcomes must already have occurred in order to qualify. This section must not be used to allow a government to avoid a Tier 3 designation by signing a new agreement or MOU promising prospective progress, even if that new agreement is with the U.S. Government. Foreign government promises to take action just don't count.

I appreciate the considerable anti-trafficking work of the TIP Office at the Department of State over the past dozen years, under both Republican and Democrat administrations. During that time, the leadership of the United States has helped to fuel the passage of more than 130 anti-trafficking laws around the world, though much work remains to be done. I hope that the elements of Title XII that I have discussed will not undercut those efforts. The Foreign Affairs Committee will be working to assure that.


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