WASHINGTON (BP)–The effort to combat sex and labor trafficking is advancing, according to the State Department, but some leaders in the campaign expressed displeasure with the government’s latest report on the global problem.
The State Department’s 2006 Trafficking in Persons report analyzed the work of 149 countries on an issue that involves prostitution, child sex tourism and forced labor. The new report, covering April 2005 to March 2006, showed an increase in convictions worldwide for trafficking-related offenses to more than 4,700, from 3,000 the previous year. It also reported that two more countries had enacted new anti-trafficking legislation, to a total of 41.
There are general indications of the “start of progress” in the battle against trafficking, John Miller, director of the Office for Monitoring and Combating Trafficking in Persons, told reporters.
“[T]his is a long struggle, and it’s a struggle that, just like the struggle [against slavery] centuries ago, is going to take a great deal of perseverance, a great deal of cooperation,” Miller said.
Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., chief sponsor of the original Trafficking Victims Protection Act and two subsequent measures expanding it, said the law “is working as intended -– but more needs to be done.”
Included in the report is a classification by “tiers” of countries based on their compliance with the anti-trafficking law first approved by Congress in 2000. The categories range from Tier 1 for countries that comply fully with the law to Tier 3 for governments that are short of the minimum standards of the measure and are not making notable efforts to reach them.
The report’s classification of some countries elicited criticism from Smith and others. They were especially displeased with the failure to move India to Tier 3 and to drop Germany from Tier 1.
“India’s placement on the Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year, despites its failure to create a national law enforcement response to the crime of trafficking, and its blatant unwillingness to address the massive problems of bonded labor and trafficking-related corruption, reeks of political considerations within the State Department overriding the facts about human trafficking,” Smith said in a written statement. “[The watch list] is not a place to hide our friends who fail to make real improvements.”
Germany, which has legalized prostitution, is hosting this summer’s World Cup soccer tournament and is expecting an influx of 40,000 women, most from Eastern Europe, to be added to the 400,000 prostitutes already in the country. The German sex industry, apparently with the compliance of the government, has constructed a mega-brothel and “sex huts” to meet the expected demand.
“It is unconscionable to give Germany Tier One status when it is blatantly encouraging sex trafficking” during the World Cup, Janice Shaw Crouse of Concerned Women for American said in a written release. “The TIP report will become an international joke if it continues to ignore those nations that promote sex slavery and lets other nations remain year after year on the ‘special watch’ list even though they are making no measurable progress in combating trafficking in their country. Weak links in the worldwide effort to combat sex slavery [keep] the industry alive and [endanger] victims in all nations.”
The 12 countries on Tier 3 are Belize, Burma, Cuba, Iran, Laos, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. 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 for governments that fall short of the minimum standards required by U.S. law, are making significant attempts to achieve them, but have sizable numbers of trafficking victims, have provided no evidence of greater efforts against trafficking or have made commitments to improve their work.
The Watch List consists of 32 countries, including not only India but Brazil, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and Taiwan. Last year, 27 countries were on the Watch List.
Tier 2, which is for governments that have made important attempts to comply, has 79 countries, including Afghanistan, Ecuador, Greece, Japan, Pakistan, Portugal, Romania, Turkey and Vietnam.
There are 26 Tier 1 countries that fully comply with the standards, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Poland, South Korea, Spain and the United Kingdom.
Last year’s report placed 14 countries on Tier 3, 27 on the Tier 2 Watch List, 77 on Tier 2 and 24 on Tier 1.
Trafficking involves such forced activities as prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation; labor in sweatshops and on farms; and child service in the military. Sex trafficking includes the abduction or coercion of women for prostitution as well as the sexual exploitation of minors by “tourists” from other countries.
This year’s TIP report, which was released June 5, gave enhanced emphasis to forced labor.
There are about 600,000 to 800,000 men, women and children trafficked across international borders each year, according to this year’s report. This does not include millions of victims who are trafficked within their own national borders, the report said. About 80 percent of the transnational victims are women and girls; as many as 50 percent are minors. The data show the majority of these are victims of sexual trafficking.
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.
In January, President Bush signed into law a reauthorization of the anti-trafficking measure. The new law included a measure targeting purchasers of illegal sex acts and the traffickers who exploit victims domestically. That provision, the End Demand for Sex Trafficking Act, focused on halting the trafficking of people, primarily women and children, in the United States for purposes of prostitution and sexual slavery.
It is estimated as many as 20,000 people are trafficked into the United States each year. The End Demand measure was designed to aid state and local police in establishing programs to investigate and prosecute sex trafficking cases. It provides funds to assist trafficking victims, including the establishment of residential care centers for under-age children.
The latest trafficking report may be accessed at the State Department’s website, www.state.gov/g/tip.