Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Human Trafficking : Spread the Word

Over this semester I have told you about human trafficking in other countries, some cultural reasons that have led certain groups of people to become vulnerable to being trafficked, and what some organizations and governments are doing and have done to stop human trafficking. If these facts and anecdotes have left you wondering why you should care about an issue in other countries, I hope this blog will answer your questions.
In this globalized world we live in, you can talk to anyone in the world through a variety of technologies and our clothes, food, and most of our remaining material possessions are made, grown, or mined in wide variety of foreign countries. This globalization has come with the consequence that our actions and desires as a United States society can have effects on the rest of the world. On the Ivory Coast in Africa, half of the world’s supply of cocoa is grown and harvested. When the World Bank made the governments along the Ivory Coast get rid of the price guarantee for cocoa, the price of cocoa greatly decreased. This led many cocoa farmers to use slavery as a way to cut costs for their workers. Many young men from Mali have been kidnapped and taken to the plantations where they are unpaid, overworked, beaten, and even trapped inside a shed to prevent their escape during the night. According to Deabi den Baily, a senator in Mali who used to work for the Malian Association, “at least 90% of cocoa plantations along the Ivory Coast involve slavery”. This is just one example of how the desire for luxuries such as chocolate affects the lives of people in other countries. There are many other industries that have used and continue to use slave labor. Such industries include cotton, especially during the harvesting, woven rugs, and brick kilns. These last two industries have caused kidnappings of young children in rural India, to use them to weave the rugs and make the bricks.
Our lifestyle’s contribution to slave labor and human trafficking are not the only reasons a United States citizen should care about human trafficking; the United States has its own problems with human trafficking. When the World Bank wanted representatives of other countries to move to the United States, the United States offered a reward for those World Bank employees; they could bring domestic servants with them. These workers have been treated as slaves since they have not been paid, have been forced to work long hours, and have been treated cruelly by their employers in many other ways. Some workers were forced to kiss their employer’s feet, wear a dog collar, forced to sleep outside, and called bad names by their employers. Many of these workers have been young women, 14 to 16 years old who were tricked into coming to United States with the promise that their employer would provide them with an education and a high paying job(). This situation is, in many ways, very similar to that of other victims of human trafficking; these workers were tricked with false promises and once they entered the US they were controlled through fear and violence. What is most striking about these examples of human trafficking is the fact that these workers were working in the homes of people with high paying jobs who did not have to use forced labor to cut costs of employment and these were homes in a suburban area of upscale Washington DC – the last place one would think to look for signs of human trafficking. Human trafficking is recently used to obtain cheap workers for the agricultural work in the rural parts of the United States. These agricultural workers are tricked into debt bondage, the form of modern day slavery in which a person is most often offered a way into another country and a job opportunity in return for money , when that person reaches their destination they are told the debt is much higher than they were originally told. In fact the debt is so high that the person would have to work many years for their trafficker, versus the months they were told they could work off the debt in, or the person could never work it off. This situation then forces the person to continuously work without pay for many years or even for the rest of their lives. One way that these traffickers keep the victims in this situation is the fact that these victims are illegal and thus if they try to get help from the police they could be arrested themselves and taken back to their original country that they had paid to leave. Sex trafficking is also a very big problem in the United States. According to the US Department of State, “an estimated 200,000 American children are at risk for trafficking into the sex industry”.
In the past, the United States government has shown its concern for the issue of human trafficking by passing legislature to help law enforcement fight better against human trafficking. One such law was the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, which provided victims of human trafficking and domestic violence with shelter and other basic necessities. This law was reformed in 2008, which gave the Department of State’s Global Trafficking in Persons office more funding and granted benefits to human trafficking and domestic violence victims regardless if they agreed to help law enforcement or not. This meant that all victims could be helped even those who were afraid to testify against their traffickers.
Currently, there is a bill in committees of the United States Senate and House of Representatives that would allow the United States to help foreign countries fight against human trafficking. This bill is called the Child Protection Compact Act of 2009.Its purpose is to give the Secretary of State the ability to offer assistance to countries who have the highest rates of human trafficking in order to decrease the rates of trafficking, increase the number of prosecutions against traffickers, and to help the victims rebuild their lives. I believe this bill should become law because it addresses some of the main methods of preventing human trafficking that have been the most successful. It mentions prosecutions against traffickers, thus it involves helping the local law enforcement to make the traffickers pay for their actions. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, this has been very successful in Nigeria, where it was used to stop parents from abandoning their children which had been making children vulnerable to human trafficking, and in the Philippines where the help the local law enforcement received from the International Justice Mission, led to a dramatic decrease in the rates of human trafficking- it decreased by 70% within 2 years. As I mentioned before, the prosecution of people who do not follow these laws, means people who might otherwise be involved in human trafficking have a very good reason not to be. This bill also mentions helping the victims rebuild their lives. As I talked about in an earlier blog post, it is not enough to free someone from slavery; you must find a way to make sure that person does not have to return to that same situation in order to live. By providing funding for assistance for victims of human trafficking, this bill could help people escape the dangers of having to fall back into their previous situations.
So now that you know more about why you should care about the issue of human trafficking, your daily life affects it and it is happening within your own country, I hope that you have decided that the fight against human trafficking is a worthy cause. If indeed this is your decision I suggest that you put this into action by emailing the senators and members of the House of Representatives committees for Foreign Affairs to let them know you want them to support the Child Protection Compact Act of 2009. The committees for Foreign Affairs in House of Representatives and the Senate are currently looking over this bill to decide whether it should be voted on by Congress or not. By emailing them about your interest in this bill you can help them make that decision. Now I have to be honest with you, they are probably not going to respond or even personally read your email. However, the people who work for these senators and representatives will read your email, and such emails are used to figure out how interested the citizens of the United States are in certain bills. So I encourage you to email these senators and representatives to do your part in helping to stop human trafficking and help its victims.
For more information about the Child Protection Compact Act of 2009 and where it is in Congress please go to: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=s111-3184
To contact the House of Representatives Committee for Foreign Relations please go to: http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/contact.asp
To contact the members of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate please email the following senators:*
*The best way to get the most impact in your email to email a senator that corresponds with your state, if none of these senators is from your state , email the Committee for Foreign Relations in the House of Representatives
Sen. John Barrasso [R-WY]
Sen. Barbara Boxer [D-CA]
South Carolina
Sen. Jim DeMint [R-SC]
Sen. Russell Feingold [D-WI]
New York
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [D-NY]
Sen. James Inhofe [R-OK]
Sen. Edward Kaufman [D-DE]
Richard G. Lugar
New Jersey
Sen. Robert Menéndez [D-NJ]

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