JO - Modern-day fight to abolish slavery
Modern-day fight to abolish slavery
Brenda LaGrange Johnson
Saturday, June 10, 2006
On June 5, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice released the Department of State's fifth annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. The Report puts it bluntly: trafficking in persons is modern-day slavery, and is a crime that affects virtually every country, including the United States. The US government estimates that between 600,000 and 800,000 people - including children and especially women and girls - have been forced into sexual servitude, child soldiering, forced labour and debt bondage.
Along with the more than US$400 million in international anti-trafficking assistance to date, the annual TIP Report is an important part of the US commitment to work with international partners to fight trafficking. The Report, mandated by law, is intended to raise global awareness of the problem, underscore the growing efforts of the international community to combat human trafficking, and encourage nations around the world to take effective actions against this abuse. Again this year, the TIP Report presents "tier assessments" of countries' compliance with what US law has set as minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons. A listing in the lowest "Tier 3" category indicates a country that is not making significant efforts to combat trafficking in persons and can lead to the withholding of US non-humanitarian, non-trade related assistance to that country. This year's report shows that more governments than ever before are taking action against trafficking. However, several are failing to address this assault on freedom and human dignity.
The United States government continues to seek new ways to address America's own trafficking problem. Earlier this year, President George W Bush signed a law reauthorising the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which strengthens provisions designed to combat human trafficking by prosecuting and punishing traffickers, protecting their victims, and preventing future attempts by criminals to perpetrate this scourge against human dignity and freedom.
Critical partners in the fight against trafficking are non-government organisations (NGOs). These civil society leaders press governments to combat trafficking, keep law enforcement officials informed, and assist victims with shelters, counselling and education. For example, Reaching Out, an NGO in Romania, has provided a full year of assistance to victims of trafficking. Tenaganita, an NGO in Malaysia, helps provide legal assistance and shelter for trafficking victims, and has repatriated many back to their home countries. The India-based Bharathi Trust has, over the past decade, helped bring about the release and rehabilitation of hundreds of bonded child and adult labourers among marginalised tribal communities.
Thanks to these and other NGOs - and spurred by the US Department of State's annual Trafficking in Persons Report - more governments have joined a growing international partnership of nations sharing information and cooperating in the fight against human trafficking.
For millions of enslaved people around the world, this new abolitionist movement has come none too soon. As President Bush recently noted, "Our nation is determined to fight and end this modern form of slavery."
Brenda LaGrange Johnson is United States ambassador to Jamaica.