An influential U.S. congressman is proposing legislation that would require the United States to take stronger action to combat human trafficking. Republican Congressman Chris Smith says the legislation is designed, among other things, to put pressure on the United Nations to ensure that the world body takes action to prevent and punish human trafficking and sexual exploitation by international peacekeepers.
In his 24 years as a federal lawmaker, Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey has become known as perhaps the strongest campaigner in the House of Representatives against human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
During a visit to VOA headquarters in Washington Friday, Mr. Smith called human trafficking a form of modern day slavery, which he said is only now beginning to receive the recognition it deserves.
"Whether it be the Russian Mafia, the Ukrainian Mafia, or Mafias in the United States, they have linked together in this nefarious enterprise that has subjugated tens-of-thousands of women here in the U.S. and literally millions throughout the world," Congressman Smith said.
Mr. Smith is seeking to reauthorize and update the nation's first law against human trafficking, which he had the lead role in sponsoring five years ago.
The bill would require international bodies such as NATO or the United Nations to assure the U.S. government that they have taken measures against human trafficking, or sexual exploitation by peacekeepers, before the State Department can endorse a peacekeeping mission. Mr. Smith spoke about allegations of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
"We know that deployments of peacekeepers under any banner had from time to time been involved in rape and prostitution and trafficking," he said, " but nowhere did it become so horrible, horrific than in the Congo, where there were hundreds of reports of young girls as young as nine, 10, 12, 13, given a piece of bread, or perhaps a dollar for sex."
The new legislation would also make it easier to prosecute U.S. government employees or military personnel who engage in human trafficking.
Congressman Smith addressed other human rights issues around the world. He criticized, among other things, China's policies in Tibet and its one-child policy, which he said violates the rights of Chinese women. Mr. Smith described China as the biggest human rights abuser in the world today.