The United States is warning more than a dozen nations, including Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Burma, of possible sanctions for failing to meet minimum international standards to fight human trafficking.
In its annual report on human trafficking, the U.S. State Department designated 13 nations as "Tier 3," meaning their governments are not following international standards to fight trafficking and could face penalties if their records do not improve.
The report says 12.3 million adults and children around the world are currently victims of forced labor, bonded labor or forced prostitution.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the report is a "catalog of tragedies" the world cannot continue to accept. She said human trafficking crosses cultures and continents, and the entire world has a responsibility to bring these crimes to an end.
The report says trafficking in Burma remains a serious concern because the military allegedly engages in unlawful conscription of child soldiers and continues to be the main perpetrator of forced labor.
In North Korea, the report says the most common form of trafficking involves North Korean women and girls forced into marriages or prostitution in China.
The report also says women in Iran are trafficked for forced prostitution and forced marriages. It says Iranian and Afghan children living in Iran are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation.
The 2010 report evaluated 175 countries and ranked them by their anti-trafficking efforts.
Other nations receiving the failing status for their lack of anti-trafficking efforts are the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Kuwait, Mauritania, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Zimbabwe.
For the first time, the report, which is in its 10th year, also includes a ranking of U.S. anti-trafficking efforts. The report says most trafficking in the United States involves foreign victims trafficked primarily for labor. But it also says more U.S. citizens, both adults and children, are victims of sex trafficking.
Some information for this report was provided by AP.