Ambassador Mark Lagon is Director of the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. He says that “from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and countries in between, there are military, civilian, and government officials who are directly involved or complicit in trafficking for sex, forced labor, unlawful conscription of child soldiers, and trafficking-related bribery and fraud.”
At a conference on the impact of human trafficking on economic development, Ambassador Lagon said that precise figures are difficult to obtain. But he said the U.S. estimates that some eight-hundred-thousand people are trafficked transnationally each year and millions more are enslaved in their own countries.
The majority of trafficking victims are women. About two-thirds of all transnational trafficking victims are prostituted, and the victims keep getting younger. Guy Jacobson is the writer and co-producer of a film called “Holly,” which concerns a twelve-year-old Vietnamese girl sold into the sex trade in Cambodia. In an interview with VOA’s A Woman’s World, Mr. Jacobson says that the effect of the sex trade on victims is horrific:
“So, I mean [a] significant percentage of them will not survive. . .because they’ll have HIV/AIDS and die or they’ll get murdered or they’ll commit suicide, and I think the numbers go from thirty to forty percent of them will die.”
“In labor as well as sexual exploitation," said Ambassador Mark Lagon, "illegal or illegitimate debt is increasingly used to keep people in servitude.”
In parts of Afghanistan, girls are often forced to marry against their will in order to settle their family’s debt. Manizha Naderi, director of an Afghan women’s aid organization, says that Afghan women are “treated as commodities.”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that when the U.S. “first began tackling this issue several years ago, the idea of human trafficking was akin to a global family secret.” Today, she said, “millions more people know about human trafficking. . . .and we hope that this greater awareness translates into greater prevention.”