Today, millions of men, women, and children are victims of human trafficking. Modern slavery can take many forms. Children are made to be soldiers, young women and teens are beaten and forced into prostitution, and migrants are exploited and compelled to work for little or no pay. Human trafficking is a crime that tears at our social fabric and debases our common humanity.
Modern slavery occurs in countries throughout the world -- and in communities across the United States. To raise awareness of this issue in our country, President Obama proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, culminating in the annual celebration of National Freedom Day on February 1.
We have come a long way in the past 15 years: 166 states are now party to the Palermo Protocol, which introduced a comprehensive approach to combating modern slavery through the“3P” paradigm of prevention, victim protection, and prosecution. More than one hundred countries have passed anti-trafficking laws, and many have established specialized law enforcement units, set up trafficking victim assistance mechanisms, and launched public awareness campaigns aimed at combating this crime. But we still face many hurdles and have a considerable way to go before human trafficking is eradicated around the world.
We know that this crime affects every country in the world. It is estimated that more than 20 million people are victims of human trafficking, generating $150 billion in illegal profits per year. The United States is not exempt and we are the first to acknowledge that all governments, including our own, must do more. The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Office is working collaboratively with governments around the world to understand and address the evolving nature of this crime, which demands a universal respect for human rights, as well as strong rule of law and stable democratic institutions. Partnerships with civil society and survivors of human trafficking are key not only to preventing political crises, but also to enabling States to act quickly and efficiently. We have seen that human trafficking is a clear national security threat as the world witnessed ISIL’s horrific enslavement of Yezidi women and girls in Iraq and Syria, and the kidnapping of women and young girls by Boko Haram from Chibok, Borno State. Both ISIL and Boko Haram have proudly professed practicing slavery, justifying their actions with a perverse interpretation of Islam.
As we fight to end modern slavery, we echo what President Obama said, “we stand with the survivors, advocates, and organizations dedicated to building a world where our people and our children are not for sale. Together, let us recommit to a society where our sense of justice tells us that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, where every person can forge a life equal to their talents and worthy of their dreams.”
Today, every person can take action to help eliminate human trafficking. You can begin by learning about this issue. Watch Under Secretary Sarah Sewall and read our list of 20 ways you can help fight trafficking.
At home and around the globe, we must continue to fight against human trafficking.
About the Author: Kari Johnstone serves as the Acting Director in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
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