Trafficking in persons is modern-day slavery. It involves victims who are exploited for labor or sex through force, coercion, or fraud. Men, women, and children are being trafficked into forced labor. Children are being trafficked into war as child soldiers. And, as President George W. Bush says, women and girls –- and boys -- are being trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation:
“Hundreds of thousands of teenage girls, and others as young as five, 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. There's a special evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent and vulnerable.”
According to a new U.S. State Department report on worldwide human trafficking, more than six-hundred-thousand people are trafficked across national borders each year. And this figure does not include the millions trafficked within their own borders.
Trafficking is linked to international crime syndicates that also peddle drugs, guns, and false documents. It is a global public health threat that contributes to the spread of H-I-V/AIDs and other diseases. And trafficking is a security threat because the profits from trafficking finance more crime and violence. President Bush says that stopping human trafficking is a very high priority for the United States -- and must be for the entire world:
“Those who create these victims and profit from their suffering must be severely punished. Those who patronize this industry debase themselves and deepen the misery of others. And governments that tolerate this trade are tolerating a form of slavery.”
International covenants and national laws condemn and outlaw trafficking. But stopping this crime requires transnational cooperation, and that cooperation is still wanting. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the U.S. “calls upon all states to work harder and more closely together to close down trafficking routes, prosecute and convict traffickers, and protect and reintegrate victims.” In the words of President Bush, “The trade in human beings for any purpose must not be allowed to thrive.”