The crime of trafficking in humans, also known as slavery, is a global problem that affects an estimated 12 to 27 million people worldwide. "Human trafficking has become big business, generating billions of dollars each year," said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. "Almost every country in the world is affected, either as a source or a destination for trafficking victims. ... Far too many continue to live in bondage and in fear."
But we are fighting back, said Attorney General Holder. Ten years ago, recognizing that human slavery is alive and thriving, then-President Bill Clinton signed into law the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
In a recent editorial, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that this piece of legislation not only greatly extended the reach of criminal anti-trafficking laws, it also created more tools to bring traffickers to justice, and to provide victims with legal services and other support. "Today, police officers, activists, and governments are coordinating their efforts more effectively. Thousands of victims have been liberated around the world and many remain in America with legal status and work permits," she said.
But the Trafficking Victims Protection Act also helped lead the way for 115 other nations to write laws banning human trafficking, said Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, head of the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Together, these laws have resulted in a global increase in the number of victims rescued and perpetrators brought to justice, he said.
Nonetheless, writes Secretary of State Clinton, we still have a long way to go. According to the most recent Trafficking in Persons report, which is issued annually by the U.S. State Department, 19 countries have curtailed their anti-trafficking efforts in the past year, and 13 countries failed to meet the minimum standards for eliminating trafficking, and are not trying to improve.
"We need to redouble our efforts to fight modern slavery," writes Secretary of State Clinton. "The problem of modern trafficking may be entrenched, but it is solvable. By using every tool at our disposal to put pressure on traffickers, we can set ourselves on a course to eradicate modern slavery."