Washington — President Obama has promised that the U.S. government will intensify its fight against human trafficking, inside the United States and around the world.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York September 25, the president said that more than 20 million people have been ensnared in what he called “modern slavery,” which distorts markets, endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime.
“There’s no denying the awful reality. When a man desperate for work finds himself in a factory or on a fishing boat or in a field working, toiling for little or no pay and beaten if he tries to escape, that is slavery. When a woman is locked in a sweatshop or trapped in a home as a domestic servant, alone and abused and incapable of leaving, that’s slavery. When a little girl is sold by her impoverished family — girls my daughters’ age — [or] runs away from home, or is lured by the false promise of a better life and then imprisoned in a brothel and tortured if she resists, that’s slavery. It is barbaric and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world,” he said.
President Obama described human trafficking in the United States as “the migrant worker unable to pay off the debt to his trafficker; the man lured here with the promise of a job, his documents then taken, and forced to work endless hours in a kitchen; the teenage girl, beaten, forced to work the streets.”
To stop the practice in the United States, the president said, the federal government is expanding the number of agencies dealing with the issue and providing them with more resources to detect trafficking networks and strengthen protections for foreign-born workers.
“We’re putting [traffickers] where they belong, behind bars,” he said.
To make sure that they do not engage in trafficking, federal contractors must demonstrate compliance with a number of prohibitions against exploitive labor practices, the president said.
“In short, we’re making clear that American tax dollars must never, ever be used to support the trafficking of human beings. We will have zero tolerance,” he said.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is creating overseas partnerships to give countries incentives to stop the practice and is calling them out when they don’t, he said.
“We’re partnering with groups that help women and children escape from the grip of their abusers. We’re helping other countries step up their own efforts. And we’re seeing results. More nations have passed and more nations are enforcing modern anti-trafficking laws,” he said.
Speaking to the millions of people victimized by trafficking around the world, the president said: “We see you. We hear you. We insist on your dignity. Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time, and the United States will continue to lead it in partnership with you.”