A couple from Silver Spring, Maryland received nine years in prison yesterday for enslaving a teenage girl from Cameroon. The couple was also ordered to pay the girl $105,306 as compensation for three years of unpaid labor that the girl was forced to perform in the couple’s home. The couple, originally from Cameroon themselves, brought the victim to the United States from the country in 1996. At the time, the girl believed that she would be able to attend school in the U.S. and would earn money working as a domestic for the couple. Upon arrival, the teenager, whose name has not been released, was denied schooling, forced to perform unpaid domestic work, and was allegedly sexually abused. U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. said the girl was “vulnerable. She was young, uneducated, she had no money, nowhere to go.” The girl is now in the process of applying for legal status in the U.S. and has been placed in foster care.
According to the 2000 Annual Trafficking in Persons Report issued by the State Department, an estimated 700,000 people Ð mostly women and children Ð are victims of trafficking each year. Of these, the State Department estimates that between 45,000 and 50,000 are trafficked to the United States and forced to work in sweatshop like conditions or in the sex industries as prostitutes. The United Nations, however, estimates that between 244,000 and 325,000 women and children are victims of commercial sexual exploitation in the United States. Sex trafficking is the third most lucrative criminal activity in the world after smuggling arms and narcotics according to officials present at the Second World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children held in December 2001.