Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post today emphasizing the importance of combating human trafficking.
"To some, human trafficking may seem like a problem limited to other parts of the world. In fact, it occurs in every country, including the United States, and we have a responsibility to fight it just as others do," writes Clinton.
The op-ed follows the State Department's release yesterday of the ninth annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP).
Clinton describes a young Russian female, Oxana, who was forced into prostitution and killed after trying to escape. The secretary explains that victims of trafficking are people who are manipulated into leaving their families and moving abroad, after which they are sold into manual and/or sexual labor.
"They labor in fields and factories under threat of violence if they try to escape. They work in homes for families that keep them virtually imprisoned," Clinton explains.
According to Clinton, the victims are often held very far from home, with no money or connections in order to prevent cries for help. Because human trafficking is so discreet, the secretary further warns that there are more than the estimated 12 million worldwide victims.
Ambassador Luis C. de Baca, Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, echoed the same themes in a statement accompanying the report.
"When the trafficking report first began, it was a relatively modest undertaking with about 82 countries. Now the report is up to 175 nations and is truly becoming the global snapshot of the modern slavery problem," said de Baca.
Citing the economic crisis, Clinton acknowledged that the current hardships faced by families make them even more vulnerable to trafficking predators.
"The problem is particularly urgent now, as local economies around the world reel from the global financial crisis. People are increasingly desperate for the chance to support their families, making them more susceptible to the tricks of ruthless criminals," writes Clinton
Clinton said the Obama administration has placed a high priority on the problem. The U.S. currently funds 140 anti-trafficking programs in almost 70 countries and 42 domestic task forces, all aimed at fighting modern day slavery.
The TIP was released by the U.S. State Department on Tuesday and covers nations that are currently on human trafficking watchlist, showing an increase in number of countries facing modern slavery.