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U.S. reports serious problem with trafficking Linda Bloom, Jul 12, 2010
PHOTO BY KAY CHERNUSH FOR THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Children like this young girl are prized in the carpet industry for their small, fast fingers.
By Linda Bloom United Methodist News Service
Over the past decade, the U.S. government has stepped up its efforts to combat global networks that foster modern-day slavery through forced labor or commercial sex.
But this year’s recognition that the United States itself has “a serious problem with human trafficking” is important, say some United Methodists.
Linda Bales Todd, an executive with the denomination’s General Board of Church and Society, celebrated the fact that the U.S. Department of State “is willing, under the leadership of [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton, to include information on what is happening.”
The “2010 Trafficking in Persons Report,” released in June, ranks the U.S. with those countries fully complying with the minimum standards for protection of trafficking victims and provides information on domestic efforts to combat human trafficking.
“The United States takes its first-ever ranking not as a reprieve, but as a responsibility to strengthen global efforts against modern slavery, including those within America,” Ms. Clinton wrote in the beginning of the report.
“This human rights abuse is universal, and no one should claim immunity from its reach or from the responsibility to confront it.”
This is information that social action coordinators with United Methodist Women can use, added Susie Johnson, staff executive for public policy with the Women’s Division, United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.
Decade of attention
United Methodist Women has been involved with the trafficking issue for more than 10 years, she said, often working ecumenically. In 2008, 70 participants representing 15 denominations attended a conference on human trafficking in New York sponsored by the division and the Justice for Women Working Group of the National Council of Churches.
The next year, United Methodist Women sponsored a national training event on human trafficking in Atlanta.
Now the organization has a network of 25 social action coordinators training other members “who are actively working with their community to bring this crime to the attention . . . [of] everyone in their community,” Ms. Johnson said.
General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative body, first adopted a resolution calling for the abolition of sex trafficking in 2004. The church also has supported “global efforts to end slavery” since 2000, and has long called for the eradication of abusive child labor.
The basis of the current fight against human trafficking was established a decade ago when the U.S. enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and the United Nations adopted the “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children,” also known as the Palermo Protocol.
“Since then, the world has made great strides in combating this ultimate exploitation—both in terms of what we know about this crime and how we respond,” the 2010 report said.
On a global level, the Palermo Protocol was the first international instrument calling for the criminalization of all acts of trafficking. It also promoted a “3P” response by governments—prevention, criminal prosecution and victim protection.
“The crime is less often about the flat-out duping and kidnapping of naïve victims than it is about the coercion and exploitation of people who initially entered a particular form of service voluntarily or migrated willingly,” the introduction to the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report noted.
The report says some 12.3 million adults and children are in forced labor, bonded labor and forced prostitution around the world. Fifty-six percent are women and girls.
In the U.S., people are primarily being trafficked for labor-related situations, the report said, including domestic servitude, agriculture, manufacturing, janitorial services, hotel services, construction, health and elder care, hair and nail salons and strip club dancing.
U.S. citizens, including runaway and homeless youth, are more are likely to be found in sex trafficking, the report said.
One focus of United Methodist Women is working to decriminalize the police response to those runaway youth. “We want to ensure that police departments have adequate training so they can provide care to survivors of human trafficking,” Ms. Johnson said.
Ms. Todd said human trafficking has become a popular topic for workshops offered to denominational groups through the seminar program run by the Board of Church and Society and the Women’s Division.
“In terms of education, local churches are more aware of the issue and are exploring things they might be able to do,” she said.