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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/21/10

Hillary Raises the Stakes on Human Trafficking

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Unfortunately, slavery is not a thing of the past. Human beings are still being bought and sold for sex and labor. Only these days it's called human trafficking.

Fortunately, the Obama administration is aware of the problem and appears to be making a solid effort to address it.

To that end, on June 14, the U.S. State Department issued its 10th annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. The report reflects the findings of the Department's work over the past year with embassies, analysts, NGOs, and activists in the field.

Upon the report's release, Maria Otero, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, issued the following encouraging remarks:

"The TIP report is a fair and transparent diagnosis of the impact of human trafficking, and it offers an assessment of how we can partner to end this human rights abuse, because human trafficking cuts across policies and sectors. We are challenged to gather our resources and increase our capacity to fight this crime together.

"I'm also proud to say that under Secretary [Hillary] Clinton's leadership, the issue of human trafficking is elevated as never before. Her belief that we must fight human trafficking with every tool has led us to where we are today and motivates us to improve what we are doing in the future. Secretary Clinton's longstanding commitment to this issue has helped make human trafficking a priority under the Obama Administration. Everywhere that I travel, I carry the mandate to address this issue, to raise it with the leaders across the world. I also meet with the advocates, I meet with the victims when I'm on the ground, those who have the real understanding of the impact of the crime."

In what I see as a positive step, the U.S. has rated itself in the report this year. The report gives the U.S. a Tier 1 ranking, meaning that the government complies with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, but notes that the United States is "a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labor, debt bondage, and forced prostitution."

Here are Secretary Clinton's remarks on that:

"The Report, for the first time, includes a ranking of the United States based on the same standards to which we hold other countries. The United States takes its first-ever ranking not as a reprieve but as a responsibility to strengthen global efforts against modern slavery, including those within America. This human rights abuse is universal, and no one should claim immunity from its reach or from the responsibility to confront it."
Fighting the problem, and hopefully eventually ending all forms of slavery, will be a big job. But it's good to know that it's being recognized and addressed at such a high level and on a wide global scale.

In the meantime, we all need to push our elected officials and law enforcement to identify -- and implement -- more and more ways of combatting slavery here in the U.S. and abroad.

Remember: If not for luck, that slave could be you.

The report is available online, along with related information, at: www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2010

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
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