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Congress approves tough bill to combat human traffickingcomment (0)

January 1, 2009

Congress has approved legislation that supporters believe will strengthen both the domestic and international efforts to combat human trafficking.

Passage by the House of Representatives and Senate on the same day brought an end to a lengthy, contentious debate over competing pieces of legislation. Activists in the anti-trafficking movement strongly favored a measure approved overwhelmingly by the House last December over one proposed in the Senate. In the end, a new bill more closely resembling the House version passed without objection in either chamber.

President Bush is expected to sign the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, H.R. 7311, into law.

The legislation, supporters say, will:

• Significantly increase the ability of the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Office to thwart sexual and other forms of trafficking overseas.

• Enhance protections for trafficking victims in this country.

• Increase punishment for traffickers.

• Strengthen prosecution efforts against trafficking in the United States.

• Empower U.S. attempts to halt the use of children as soldiers in other countries.

• Require the Justice Department to produce a model law for states to use in investigating and prosecuting trafficking.

• Clarify that federal law cannot be interpreted to consider prostitution as an acceptable mode of employment.

• Authorize a presidential award for exceptional efforts in the fight against trafficking.

A majority of those trafficked across international borders are victims of sexual slavery or exploitation, though trafficking also includes forced commercial and domestic labor, as well as coercive recruitment of children by military forces.

Congressional passage of the bill “is a tremendous victory for human rights,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “The trafficking of women and children for sexual purposes and in sexual bondage is a terrible, terrible human tragedy. This is a great step forward in addressing this tragedy successfully. It took a tremendous amount of work by a broad coalition to bring this bill to fruition.”

About 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year, according to the Trafficking in Persons Office. This does not include millions of victims who are trafficked inside their own national borders, the office says. About 80 percent of the transnational victims are females, and as much as 50 percent are minors.

The trafficking office has estimated as many as 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year. (BP)

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