From Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s op-ed in The New York Times today:
Around the world, millions of people are living in bondage. They labor in fields and factories under threat of violence if they try to escape. They work in homes for families that keep them virtually imprisoned. They are forced to work as prostitutes or to beg in the streets. Women, men and children of all ages are often held far from home with no money, no connections and no way to ask for help. They discover too late that they’ve entered a trap of forced labor, sexual exploitation and brutal violence. The United Nations estimates that at least 12 million people worldwide are victims of trafficking. Because they often live and work out of sight, that number is almost certainly too low. More than half of all victims of forced labor are women and girls, compelled into servitude as domestics or sweatshop workers or…forced into prostitution. They face not only the loss of their freedom but also sexual assaults and physical abuses.
To some, human trafficking may seem like a problem limited to other parts of the world. In fact, it occurs in every country, including the United States, and we have a responsibility to fight it just as others do. The destructive effects of trafficking have an impact on all of us. Trafficking weakens legitimate economies, breaks up families, fuels violence, threatens public health and safety, and shreds the social fabric that is necessary for progress. It undermines our long-term efforts to promote peace and prosperity worldwide. And it is an affront to our values and our commitment to human rights. [emphasis mine]
Clinton also makes the point that trafficking is especially prevalent in economic downturns, as the incentive to turn to exploitation only increases. With seemingly every other op-ed in the world opining on the Iranian elections, it’s comforting to see that the U.S. State Department still focuses on priorities (beyond ensuring that Iranians can still use Twitter) that fewer people are paying attention to.