October 18, 2000
Many people in this country would be shocked to learn that a modern form of slavery has become one of the fastest-growing criminal enterprises in the world.
According to Theresa Loar, Director of the President's Interagency Council on Women, "Trafficking in women and children is now considered the third largest source of profit for organized crime, behind only drugs and guns."
Trafficking is distinguishable from the smuggling of human beings in one horrific detail: Trafficking moves people for the purpose of placing them in modern-day slavery or servitude.
I'm sure that many Americans assume this is a problem limited to other parts of the globe -- that, surely, it doesn't go on here. But it does. I remember reading with horror the story of 60 Mexican immigrants brought to the United States, enslaved, beaten and forced to peddle trinkets in New York; the Thai women held captive and forced to work as garment workers in California; and the Latvian nationals forced into the sex industry by threats of violence in Chicago.
"Traffickers know that throughout the world they can reap large profits while facing a relatively low risk of prosecution," explains Loar. Between one and two million men and women -- although the victims are predominantly women -- are trafficked annually around the world. Fifty thousand are sent to the United States -- about half for sweatshop labor and domestic positions, the others for sexual servitude.
In 1997, the United States, along with the European Union, formally launched a campaign to combat trafficking in women and girls and to warn potential victims of the risks. I was pleased to speak out publicly on that occasion because I have seen firsthand the horrors visited on victims and their families.
At that event, I urged the world's leaders to take a much stronger stand. Trafficking of women and girls is, after all, nothing less than a human rights violation that will haunt us into the 21st century if we do not take strong measures against the practice now. Women sold as domestics and slaves in illegal sweatshops are sometimes literally worked to death. And young girls trafficked into the sex industry are commonly exposed to deadly diseases such as HIV and AIDS.
In Ukraine, women with tears streaming down their faces told me about young girls in their towns -- children really -- who had disappeared. Poverty and economic desperation led them to answer ads promising a better future in a faraway land. Or, they fell victim to bogus travel agents who deceived them with stories of good jobs in prosperous nations like the U.S. Filled with optimism, they left -- never to be heard from again.
In March of 1998, the President, denouncing trafficking as a fundamental human rights violation and a growing organized crime problem, directed his Interagency Council on Women to coordinate development of a three-part strategy: First, prevention of trafficking; second, protection of and assistance for trafficking victims; and third, prosecution of and enforcement against traffickers.
I'm pleased to report that last week, Congress adopted comprehensive legislation to combat trafficking in this country -- legislation that incorporates and strengthens the President's three-part strategy by providing new tools to protect trafficking victims and punish traffickers. It institutionalizes our response so that future administrations will be able to carry this important work forward. Furthermore, it elevates the buying and selling of human beings to the prominent place on the world's agenda it deserves.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, chair of the President's Interagency Council, has raised the issue of trafficking with leaders around the world, reminding them that "Our goal, ultimately, is to mobilize people everywhere so that trafficking in human beings is met by a stop sign visible around the world.
I congratulate Congress for taking an important first step toward this goal. Working in a bipartisan fashion, they put the victims of trafficking above party politics. Now it is time to turn our attention to winning support for an international protocol on trafficking in women and children that would be part of a global Organized Crime Convention.
Every one of us has a stake in making sure that this new instrument of international cooperation sets the standards for our efforts to prevent trafficking, punish the traffickers and protect their victims. Trafficking is nothing less than a pervasive human rights violation and a transnational crime. It is time for us to lead the way and bring it to an end. With the passage of this new law, we can do just that.
To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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Talking It Over: 2000
December 13, 2000: Column on Trip to Ireland and Vital Voices Announcement
December 6, 2000: Column on Passing Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Bill
November 29, 2000: Column on "An Invitation to the White House: At Home With History"
November 22, 2000: Column on Trip to Vietnam
November 15, 2000: Column on the 200th Anniversary of the White House
November 8, 2000: Column on New York Senate Race
November 1, 2000: Column on the Importance of Voting
October 25, 2000: Column Urging Congress to Pass Legislation Important to the American People
October 11, 2000: Column on Microenterprise for Self-Reliance Act
October 4, 2000: Column on Reauthorization of AmeriCorps National Service Program
September 27, 2000: Column on Reauthorization of VAWA
September 20, 2000: Column on Ritalin
September 13, 2000: Column on Youth Violence and the Entertainment Industry
September 6, 2000: Column on Expanding Healthcare Benefits
August 30, 2000: Column on Making Education Our #1 Priority
August 23, 2000: Column on Pine Ridge, New Markets Tour
August 16, 2000: Column on Decision 2000
August 9, 2000: Column on the Congressional and Presidential Tax Plans
August 2, 2000: Column on Newborn Hearing Screening
July 26, 2000: Column on the 10th Anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act
July 19, 2000 : Column on Treasures Visit to Ellis Island
July 12, 2000: Column on Prescription Drug Coverage for Seniors
July 5, 2000: Column on the Ninth Millennium Evening,
June 27, 2000: Column on Quality Education for Hispanic Youth
June 21, 2000: Column on Save America's Treasures: Val Kil Cottage, New York
June 14, 2000: Column on the Violence Against Women Act
May 31, 2000: Column on National Trails Day
May 24, 2000: Column on National Moment of Remembrance
May 17, 2000: Column on Howard Theater
May 10, 2000: Column on Million Mom March
May 3, 2000: Column on the White House Conference on Teenagers
April 26, 2000: Column on Arbor Day
April 19, 2000: Column on Earth Day
April 12, 2000: Column on International Family Planning
April 5, 2000: Column on Women Entrepreneurs and Microcredit
March 29, 2000: Column on Teen Smoking
March 22, 2000: Column on Pediatric Drugs
March 15, 2000: Column on Child Support
March 8, 2000: Column on Children and Guns
March 1, 2000: Column on Teacher Training, Recruitment and Retention
February 23, 2000: Column on D.C. Campaign to prevent Teen Pregnancy Launch
February 16, 2000: Column on Vital Voices Event at the White House
February 9, 2000: Column on Prescription Drug Coverage
February 2, 2000: Column on Child Care
January 26, 2000: Column on College Opportunity
January 19, 2000: Column on Human Trafficking
January 12, 2000: Column on Housing Vouchers and Affordable Housing
January 5, 2000: Column on the New Millennium
December 20, 2000: Column on Presidential Interagency Council on Women
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