According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, sex trafficking is defined as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation”. This definition provides a clear understanding of the phenomenon of trafficking in persons. Many would say that slavery no longer exists in the United States, but the way that people are forced, traded, sold, bought and exploited depicts scenery of modern-day slavery in America.
Across the nation, the silent issue is starting to make headlines more often, with prostitution rings busted and information being released to the public. Last year, I noticed a billboard on a major Houston highway that read “Stop Human Trafficking. It’s Happening in Your City.” This definitely caused me to stop and think. At the time, I really had no idea what human trafficking really was. On a day-to-day basis, we fail to realize that major issues like this is not only happening internationally but right here in our own country, state and city.
Sex trafficking in America is a domestic issue that has to be resolved. This issue first came to light during the presidency of President George W. Bush. During his term of presidency, President George W. Bush was determined to stop human trafficking in America by way of the TVPA (Trafficking Victims Protection Act). According to the Smith and Mattar article on this U.S. policy, “the United States Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons was established to implement United States policies per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.” This was the first step in the fight against sex trafficking. It shed little light on the subject and brought it to the attention of the United Nations. Soon, other governments were following our example and creating policies of their own to stop sex trafficking and migrant smuggling. Later on in 2002, the President signed Executive Order 13257, which created a Cabinet-level Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. This allowed for a greater influence of the government on such a policy across the world. But even with a new level of government interaction it still wasn’t enough to put a dent on the situation. In 2003, the President signed a National Security Directive to expand the United States government’s fight against trafficking in persons. This was a major step towards sex trafficking for our own country. With more money being funded towards this issue, more citizens were beginning to pay attention. According to Smith/Matter, “An estimated 27 million people live in slavery today, and between 800,000 and 900,000 people are trafficked annually across international borders, with between 18,000 and 20,000 of these victims trafficked into the United States.” Once those 18,000 to 20,000 people are trafficked into the United States it takes little or no time to multiply that number with more victims of exploitation.