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Efforts against sex trafficking are advancing, State Department says in annual report

WASHINGTON (BP)–Progress is being made in the campaign to combat sex trafficking and other forms of forced servitude, according to the U.S. State Department’s fifth annual report on the global problem.

The State Department’s latest Trafficking in Persons report provides an analysis of the efforts by 150 countries to deal with an issue that involves prostitution, child sex tourism and forced labor, and is massive in its reach:

— An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders yearly, not including millions who are traded within their own country.

— About 80 percent of these victims are females, and 50 percent are underage.

— At least 14,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year.

— About 12.3 million people are caught in forced labor worldwide, according to the International Labor Organization.

— About $9.5 billion is generated annually by human trafficking, ranking it behind only arms and drugs as a source of profits for organized crime globally, according to the Congressional Research Service.

“Shining through this global tragedy are many rays of hope,” Ambassador John Miller, senior adviser on trafficking in persons, said when the report was released June 3. “In addition to the tremendous efforts of heroic individuals and private organizations, governments around the globe are awakening to this issue and taking action to end this form of modern day slavery.”

New anti-trafficking measures were enacted in 39 countries last year, and there were more than 3,000 convictions worldwide related to trafficking, according to the report, which covers from April 2004 to March 2005.

The report includes a classification by “tiers” of compliance with the 2000 federal anti-trafficking law by countries that have a problem in this area.

There are 14 countries on Tier 3, which is reserved for governments that do not comply with the minimum standards of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act and are not making notable efforts to do so. They are Bolivia, Burma, Cambodia, Cuba, Ecuador, Jamaica, Kuwait, North Korea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Togo, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE qualified for Tier 3 primarily because they have not made significant attempts to halt forced labor trafficking, Miller said. Burma, Cuba, North Korea and Sudan continue to be on Tier 3 because they have not dealt with forced labor, and Cambodia remains on the lowest level because the government is complicit in trafficking, he said.

Under the law, the United States may refuse aid that is not humanitarian or trade-related to governments on Tier 3.

The Tier 2 Watch List is made up of 27 countries, including China, Greece, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine. The watch list is for governments that are seeking to meet the minimum standards but have other problems, such as large numbers of or sizable increases in trafficking victims.

Last year, 46 countries were on the watch list. Of those, 31 improved their standing this year.

Tier 2, which is for governments that have made important attempts to comply, consists of 77 countries, including Afghanistan, Brazil, Egypt, Finland, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Romania, Switzerland and Vietnam.

There are 24 Tier 1 countries that fully comply with the standards, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Nepal, Poland, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

Some of these countries are leaders in combating trafficking. South Korea arrested more than 500 people and rescued more than 1,000 victims last year, while Morocco led attempts to prosecute United Nations peacekeepers who sexually abused minors, Miller said. Sweden’s wide-ranging campaign includes prosecuting clients of prostitutes, protecting women in the sex business and funding anti-trafficking information efforts in Europe, he said.

Trafficking includes such forced activities as prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation; labor in sweatshops and on farms; and child service in the military.

It is believed “sex slavery is the largest category of transnational slavery,” Miller said. “It is intrinsically linked to prostitution, and we find that where prostitution is encouraged, the number of victims increases. That is why to combat sex slavery, we are urging a greater focus on demand, educating and dissuading the so-called customers.”

Sex trafficking includes the abduction or coercion of women for prostitution, as well as the sexual exploitation of minors by “tourists” from other countries. The United States has gained more than a dozen convictions of child sex tourists since a law designed to combat the problem was enacted in 2003.

Last year, the U.S. government provided more than $96 million to other countries to fight trafficking.

Southern Baptist public policy specialist Barrett Duke called the report “an extremely useful tool.”

“If anyone wants to know just how much a country cares about modern-day slavery, he just needs to look at the tier rankings in the report,” said Duke, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s vice president for public policy and research. “Countries that end up on Tier Three deserve to be singled out, criticized and penalized for their total disregard of the thousands of people in their countries who are being treated as property to be bought, sold and traded.”

Duke encouraged individuals and businesses to consider the rankings when making purchasing and commerce decisions.

“Countries that do not even make a serious effort to end trafficking within their borders do not deserve to be rewarded with our dollars,” Duke told Baptist Press. “They deserve to be shamed and penalized. I pray that we Southern Baptists will find ways to work with the [State Department’s] trafficking office to help end the disgrace of human trafficking in our own country and around the world.”

The 2000 anti-trafficking law promoted the prosecution of traffickers in other countries and established an office in the State Department to monitor and battle trafficking. It also provided assistance to victims, including the creation of a new form of visa. About 700 victims have received temporary visas in this country so far, Miller said.

Legislation recently was introduced in Congress in a more thorough attempt to deal with the domestic trafficking problem. The End Demand for Sex Trafficking Act, H.R. 2012 and S. 937, would fund the increased prosecution of purchasers of illegal sex acts and the traffickers who exploit the victims in the United States.

The trafficking report may be accessed at the State Department’s website, www.state.gov/g/tip.