It was an overflow crowd as Senator John Kerry prepared to speak, the room full of activists and interns eager to learn. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had gathered to explore “The Next Ten Years in the Fight Against Human Trafficking: Attacking the Problem with the Right Tools.” Chairman Kerry had invited Jada Pinkett Smith, David Abramowitz from Humanity United, and Holly Burkhalter from International Justice Mission to testify.
Human trafficking is one of the “great moral challenges of our time,” Senator Kerry said, noting that he sees it starkly as “really slavery, modern day slavery.” Jada Pinkett Smith, wife of actor Will Smith and founder of the Don’t Sell Bodies organization, brought three slavery survivors with her from California, underscoring slavery’s continued existence in the United States.
Activists David Abramowitz and Holly Burkhalter, who work with FTS through the ATEST coalition, asked senators to take action on investigating corporate supply chains, increasing law enforcement, and renewing U.S. diplomatic efforts. Kerry declared that U.S. legislation “frankly is too tame, too limited.”
Senator and potential Republican vice presidential candidate Marco Rubio said that better training for police will help officers recognize that sex slaves are victims and not criminals. Rubio noted that he’s against newspapers advertising the services of child sex slaves. “There’s no First Amendment protection…for child trafficking,” he said.
Senator Dick Durbin challenged fellow lawmakers to do more about conflict minerals from the Congo and the global problem of forced marriage- two issues central to Free the Slaves’ current research.
“What can the general public do?” Senator Kerry asked as the hearing closed. The witnesses provided an enthusiastic response: lobby your elected representatives, look out for trafficking in your community, and investigate your own slavery footprint.
Watch the full hearing online to learn more.
- Asia One News: China’s gender gap fueling trafficking: “The gender gap has created a situation where there are not enough women of marrying-age for China’s single men…Chinese police have so far freed 10,621 kidnapped women and 5,896 kidnapped children… Among the women freed were 1,099 foreigners, mostly from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Mongolia, who were sold as brides to Chinese men or forced to work as prostitutes.”
- Change.org: Victory! Bangladeshi labor leaders released from jail: “Victory is sweet for the over 1,000 Change.org readers took action to demand the release of Bangladeshi labor rights advocates Kalpona Akter and Babul Akhter from jail… Kalpona and Babul were put in jail on trumped up charges at a time when garment workers in Bangladesh were protesting for better wages.”
- Senate passes Child Protection Compact Act, an anti-child trafficking bill: Senator Barbara Boxer said, “The trafficking of children is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable. I am so proud that my colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, supported this bill, which will give the State Department new, innovative tools to help protect vulnerable children around the globe.”
The Child Protection Compact Act, if passed into law, would allow the U.S. to give up to $15 million in aid over a three year span to countries who are “eager, but currently unable” to combat slavery and human trafficking. You can learn more about this law at the website of our ATEST colleagues, International Justice Mission.