President George W. Bush has called on the United Nations to step up efforts to deal with a hidden humanitarian crisis:
"Each year, an estimated eight-hundred thousand to nine-hundred thousand human beings are bought, sold, or forced across the world's borders. Among them are hundreds of thousands of teenage girls, and others as young as five, who fall victim to the sex trade. This commerce in human life generates billions of dollars each year -- much of which is used to finance organized crime."
Human trafficking is a worldwide scourge. Many nations are touched by it, serving as source, transit, or destination countries where human beings are procured, transported, and enslaved through sexual exploitation or forced labor.
Many of the victims are impoverished young women lured by promises of employment as maids, seamstresses, nannies, or waitresses. On arrival in a foreign country, they are sexually abused or exploited. The story of Uzma is typical and reflects the pervasiveness of this problem around the globe. She was trafficked through job recruitment to another country to work as a maid. Her employer never paid her. Instead, he took her immigration papers, beat and starved her, and kept her locked up. The employer's male relatives sexually abused her and forced her to prostitute herself. She escaped. Police returned her to the employer and ordered him to return her to her own country. He did so only after prostituting her for three more days.
President Bush said this kind of abuse must stop:
"There's a special evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent and vulnerable. The victims of sex trade see little of life before they see the very worst of life -- an underground of brutality and lonely fear. Those who create these victims and profit from their suffering must be severely punished."
The United States is taking additional steps to end this horrific international traffic. A new U.S. law, referred to as the "Protect Act," calls for up to thirty years in prison for those convicted of entering the U.S. or traveling abroad from it for the purpose of sexually exploiting children. Human trafficking is a human rights violation and an international crime that demands an international response. As President Bush said, "governments that tolerate this trade are tolerating a form of slavery."