The United Nations reports that over the past decade, trafficking in human beings has reached epidemic proportions. U.S. political and civic leaders are now calling for a more aggressive response to this modern day form of slavery. This report is narrated by Crystal Park.
Human rights organizations say human trafficking has become a huge global problem. The number of victims is staggering, says Gary Haugen, president of International Justice Mission, a non-government organization that promotes human rights.
"National Geographic estimates that all forms of human trafficking combined victimizes about 27 million people in slavery,” he says. “That is more people in slavery in our world today than were extracted from Africa during 400 years of transatlantic slave trade."
Mr. Haugen says sex trafficking is the most brutal form of trafficking. UNICEF reports that, each year, about 1 million children are sold or otherwise recruited into this criminal business.
Sex trafficking is believed to be growing the fastest in Central and Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union. In Asia, girls from villages in Nepal and Bangladesh -- the majority of whom are under 18 -- are sold to brothels in India for $1,000. The European Policy Agency estimates that the industry is now worth several billion dollars a year.
Democratic Party Senator Hillary Clinton says the United States will not tolerate those nations that turn a blind-eye to what she calls "a scourge".
"Any country that does not respect and treat their women and children with dignity is a country that United States is likely to have a problem with."
Mrs. Clinton suggests putting specific conditions within U.S. trade agreements with other nations that would hold those nations accountable for enforcing anti-trafficking laws.
Republican Party Senator Sam Brownback says international reports on human trafficking should determine which countries are targeted for action.
“I think those trafficking reports are significant. If a country is in a tier 3 category [that is, not enforcing anti-trafficking laws] for two years in a row, we should start looking at some sanctions,” said Senator Brownback.
Madeleine Albright, the Secretary of State during Bill Clinton's second term as president, says the war on human trafficking can be won:
"It's definitely winnable. But you really have to join it in order to win it."
Ms. Albright says a number of countries are still not enforcing the anti-trafficking laws they have enacted. She says every country must crack down on trafficking, or it will continue.