In an editorial appearing in today’s Washington Post, the newspaper called on the US to withhold aid from countries that are not working vigorously enough to curb sex trafficking and sex slavery. The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 establishes global standards for the elimination of sex trafficking and allows the US government to apply pressure to countries found in violation of those standards. Among the biggest offenders, according to the Washington Post, are India, Thailand, and Cambodia. The State Department notes that more than 2.3 million women and girls are forced prostitutes in India. In Thailand, child sex slaves number close to 1 million, and in Cambodia, and estimated 20,000 child sex slaves work out of brothels. The Washington Post reports, however, that these countries were not included on a list developed by the State Department in 2001 of nations found to be too “complacent” about prosecuting and convicting sex traffickers. “There is an internal debate about which countries will be fingered; country specialists within the department, concerned about causing offense that might damage other US interests, tend to want leniency,” explained the Post. “But naming and shaming offending countries is a good way to stimulate the prosecutorial crackdowns that could actually curb sex slavery.” The State Department is now preparing to publish its 2002 list.
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. The United States, itself, is not immune to sex trafficking. According to the 2000 Annual Trafficking in Persons Report issued by the State Department, between 45,000 and 50,000 people – mostly women and children – 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.