The United States recently released its 10th annual Trafficking in Persons Report. It outlines trends from South America to the Middle East to Southeast Asia and shows the so-called feminization of human trafficking. While trafficking victims include men and boys, today, according to the International Labor Organization, 56% of human trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls -- and that number is growing. These trafficking victims suffer physical, psychological, and sexual abuse the world over.
Ending this global scourge remains an important policy priority for the United States. Since 1998, the United States has advocated a policy that includes prosecution, protection, and prevention.
Trafficking in persons is a crime akin to murder, rape, and kidnapping and must be prosecuted as such. Yet the numbers of prosecutions each year are dismally low in comparison to the scope of the problem. As long as there are only 4,000 trafficking convictions worldwide each year, a message is sent that the injustice suffered by victims is not a national or international priority.
Victims of trafficking deserve to be protected. Just as passage of laws without its enforcement is ineffective, law enforcement alone without victim protections is inadequate. A victim-centered approach does not mean assisting a potential witness just long enough to get his or her testimony; it means meeting needs and fulfilling obligations that extend beyond the confines of a criminal case.
Prevention is the third critical aspect of U.S. anti-trafficking policy. This includes public awareness campaigns, addressing root causes, and conducting law enforcement-related or border security activities. Effective prevention lies in targeted initiatives to protect the rights of marginalized, low-income workers, such as domestic servants, farm workers, miners, and garment workers.
Combating human trafficking also requires a comprehensive response from non-government groups in areas such as human rights, labor and employment, health and services, and in partnership with law enforcement.
"Ending this global scourge," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "is an important policy priority for the United States. This fluid phenomenon continues to affect cultures, communities, and countries spanning the globe. Through partnerships," said Secretary Clinton, "we can confront it head-on and lift its victims from slavery to freedom."