Late Wednesday night, the Senate passed by unanimous consent the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act that was passed earlier in the day by the House. The Act, H.R. 7311, authorizes appropriations for fiscal years 2008 through 2011 and enhances measures to combat trafficking in persons. The Act includes provisions making it easier for victims to remain in the U.S, provides $7.5 million for victim assistance and an increased focus on combating trafficking in children. “In addition to providing assistance to trafficking victims, this Act further puts the weight of the federal government behind efforts to combat trafficking for labor, sexual exploitation and child labor” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
Strong penalties, from fines up to life imprisonment, are included in the Act for traffickers and for those who benefit financially from trafficking activities carried out by others. Additional measures aimed at preventing and deterring trafficking include technical assistance to foreign governments and working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration to provide “increased protections for refugees…including outreach and education efforts” to combat exploitation of refugees by traffickers.
“If we are serious about protecting and rebuilding the lives of women and girls trapped in the flesh trade, we must target and duly prosecute their traffickers, pimps and all those who exploit them with impunity. The Wilberforce Act will hopefully provide us with tools to protect more effectively the most vulnerable and voiceless among us” Taina Ben-Amie, Executive Director of Equality Now, said about the passage of the bill.