The U.S. State Department released its annual Trafficking in Persons report June 4. The report covered a record number of countries—one-hundred-seventy—and focused specifically on a number of vulnerable groups, including North Koreans in China, Burmese in Thailand, stateless people, migrant workers and domestic servants particularly in the Gulf.
According to the State Department, an estimated eight-hundred-thousand people are trafficked across international borders annually, with eighty percent of the victims being female and up to fifty percent being children. These figures do not include millions who are trafficked for purposes of labor and sexual exploitation within national borders, as well.
Since the release of the first report seven years ago, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the fight against human trafficking has gained global awareness. This year’s report focused heavily on measuring government efforts to punish offenders and protect victims. Unfortunately, said Dr. Rice, the report’s findings revealed a “disturbing discovery” related to labor trafficking:
“Although more countries are addressing sex trafficking through prosecutions and convictions, the petty tyrants who exploit their laborers rarely receive serious punishment.”
In addition to the weak prosecution of labor trafficking offenses, the report also found weak trafficking victim protection. The report took a fresh look at demand, both for women in commercial sexual exploitation and for forced labor and the cheap goods it produces.
The U.S. has spent over five-hundred-twenty-eight million dollars to implement anti-trafficking programs in one-hundred-twenty countries since 2001. Secretary of State Rice said international cooperation is needed to confront this injustice.
“We hope this report encourages responsible nations across the globe to stand together, to speak with one voice, and to say that freedom and security are non-negotiable demands of human dignity.”