The practice of slavery in the US is something most people think ended with the 13th Amendment in 1865, but in recent years it has returned in an even more virulent form. Fueled by the collapse of the Soviet Union and other eastern European countries, new technologies like the internet, and sieve-like borders, the traffic in human beings has become an epidemic of colossal dimensions. The State Department estimates that as many as 800,000 people are trafficked over international frontiers each year, largely for sexual exploitation. Eighty percent are female and over fifty percent are minors. Many people in this country push this atrocity out of their minds, believing that it only occurs in faraway countries like Thailand, Cambodia, the Ukraine and Bosnia. The truth is that the United States has become a large-scale importer of sex slaves. Free the Slaves, America’s largest anti-slavery organization estimates that at least 10,000 people a year are smuggled or duped into this country by sex traffickers.
If you need evidence that Trade is based on real events, you can watch this extremely alarming and explicit news report.
Both links via Heart, who says:
We document and document and document the enslavement of girls and women for the purposes of rape. Below is a news video made of men in the act of this rape. It goes on and on and on anyway, day in, day out, and has for thousands of years. Undoubtedly the rapists in the film below would say they went to”prostitutes”and”paid for sex,”although, in fact, they have raped enslaved, kidnapped girls or women. Undoubtedly the rapists and pimps depicted here have mothers, wives, girlfriends, daughters, sisters, granddaughters, yet, they rape and brutalize and torture. Undoubtedly these men, if confronted, would say,”What? They got paid for it.” Because in their disordered, messed up minds, paying a woman means she can not be raped or tortured or brutalized. She sold whatever human rights she might have had, so far as they are concerned, for twenty bucks, thirty without a condom.
It won’t even begin to solve everything, but one step that will offer help rather than arrest to trafficked women, and will increase resources to combat trafficking of all varieties, is passage of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3887).
It is being opposed by the Bush Justice Department, which has a particularized objection to”wasting money”on the adult victims of sex trafficking, who are seen as less worthy of help than victims forced to work in other industries, due to the sexualized nature of their servitude.
As I also blogged earlier, when (now SLED Chief) Reggie Lloyd took over as South Carolina’s US Attorney, he began investigating whether women arrested for prostitution in South Carolina had been trafficked, and if there was evidence that they had been, they were neither jailed not deported. If H.R. 3387 was passed, every state would be required to adopt the same, far more humane approach. Bringing federal law enforcement into the mix will lead to better and more consistent application of trafficking laws, and hopefully reduce the number of “freebies” that local police often demand from prostituted women.
All trafficked women deserve humane treatment; working as coerced prostitutes does not”contaminate”people or make them less worthy of compassion or assistance. Those who would consign trafficked people to sex slavery, arrest and/or deportation should be challenged vigorously. As a recent NYT article noted in pertinent part:
The legislation provides federal funds to local trafficking task forces made up of prosecutors, law enforcement officials and social service groups. The social service groups are supposed to help identify victims and then provide them with the guidance and support they need to rebuild their lives.
According to federal estimates as many as 17,000 people : most of them women and children : are brought into this country and forced to work in brutal and inhumane conditions, often as prostitutes. The 42 federally funded task forces that have been set up have only been able to identify a small fraction of those victims.
There are many reasons for this. Traffickers are experts at moving people around without being detected. They also train the women they exploit to fear the police. The task forces are often understaffed, with too few investigators to do the job effectively. That needs to change if the country is going to get at this problem.
Prosecutors are also having a hard time making cases against traffickers and pimps. Even victims who are not too terrified to testify, must meet a very difficult standard. They must prove that they did not consent to become prostitutes and did so because of”force, fraud or coercion.”
The House reauthorization would help prosecutions by adding the Mann Act’s somewhat easier-to-prove standards that calls for prosecution of pimps who”persuade, induce, entice”women into prostitution. The Senate should add that language as well.
I’ve done legal work for women who were forced into prostitution by poverty and substance abuse. They have really hard lives, and the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act will not be a panacea, but it will help some women, and it will not harm any unless they are pimps. See also.