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US State Department 2014 Report on Human Trafficking Gets it Right and Wrong

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"There is no greater assault on human dignity than human trafficking."
US Secretary of State John Kerry
June 20, 2014

Moments ago, the US Department of State released it's annual Trafficking In Persons Report. It finally has a strong focus on forced and exploited labor rather than just commercial sexual exploitation which usually gets most of the attention.

Another improvement is that the report finally lists the United States as the primary "source" nation for victims in America. Yes, victims are brought in from other countries, but most American victims of human trafficking are American. If you don't understand that, then you don't understand trafficking.

For instance, the report tells the story of Melissa, who ran away from her home in the northeastern United States. She was quickly found by a man who promised her help, but was actually a pimp who intended to sexually exploit her. He used psychological manipulation and coercion to hold her in prostitution, and advertised her using online sites. Refusal to do what he said was met by beatings and threats. Despite her fear of being found and killed if she ran, Melissa one day managed to escape from a hotel room where he was keeping her. A patron at another hotel nearby helped her reach the police, who arrested her trafficker.

Of course, the report has a few huge problems. For instance, it still rates Nigeria as a Tier 2 Nation in Human Trafficking. The worst rating is Tier 3 (Saudi Arabia, Russia, Thailand are all on the 2014 Tier 3 List). Nigeria's ongoing, unchecked terrors of Boko Haram holding 300 girls with a promise that they will be "sold in the marketplace" illustrates the dreadfully slow pace at which the State Department responds to urgency. The report only mentions Boko Haram once and not in relation to the kidnappings in April, but in a reference to an incident in 2013.

Further, the report makes no mention of the fact that laws against prostitution in Canada were deemed unconstitutional by that nation's Supreme Court. This will dramatically increase the risk factor for current and potential victims of trafficking. As the report states, "that roughly half of identified sex trafficking victims worked as exotic dancers or in clubs at the time of their recruitment" in Canada. This is just one way in which women are at risk while performing legalized sex work.

The entire report is available here. I will be posting more observations in the next few days.

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