Slavery in the United States did not end with the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution. It still exists. Today, we call it human trafficking.
Human trafficking is modern day slavery that touches every corner of the globe; including where we live. This multi-billion-dollar criminal enterprise is the fastest growing crime in the world. Human trafficking involves both commercial sexual exploitation and labor servitude. The average age of entry for victims is between 12-14 years old.
The victims include some of the most vulnerable in society; children transported from other countries, abused children who have run away from home, women with few or no job skills, and illegal immigrants who fear deportation if they speak out.
SEX TRAFFICKING – The use of force, coercion or deception to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain, or maintain, another person for the purpose of commercial sexual activities. If the victim is a minor under age 18, force, coercion and deception not required in cases of sex trafficking. Human trafficking, in the case of a minor is recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, or maintaining another person for the purpose of commercial sexual activities.
LABOR TRAFFICKING – The use of force, fraud or coercion to recruit, harbor, transport, obtain or employ a person for labor or services in involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery. Force, fraud or coercion must be present in cases of labor trafficking involving a minor.
In 2011, the Office of the Attorney General joined forces with Senator Renee Unterman and Representative Edward Lindsey to advocate for a stronger human trafficking law in Georgia. HB 200 went into effect on July 1, 2011. It provides:
- Substantial increases in the punishment for human trafficking from a possible one-year sentence to a minimum of ten years. If the trafficking causes a minor to commit sex acts by coercion or deception, human traffickers now face 25 years to life in prison, up from maximum sentence of 20 years. Offenders can also be fined up to $100,000.00;
- Taking the important step of no longer allowing the age of consent (16) or the lack of knowledge of the age of the victim to be used as a defense;
- Broadening the definition of coercion to recognize and encompass additional ways that victims are coerced into exploitation;
- Authorizing asset forfeiture for property derived from or used in trafficking
- More training for law enforcement;
- Increasing punishments for pimping, pandering and keeping a house of prostitution, when the victim is under 16 years of age from five to 25 to 10 to 30 years; and
- Making victims of human trafficking eligible for victim compensation for the serious mental and emotional trauma they experience.
On April 2, 2015 a new law passed that makes convicted traffickers register as sex offenders and pay into a state fund called New Safe Harbor to help victims of sex trafficking with physical, mental health, education, job training and legal help.
Earlier this month, First Lady Marty Kemp, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, and other state officials announced a grant for $153 million to fight human trafficking in Georgia.
- Approximately $4.3 million will assist law enforcement officials and victim services providers in prosecuting human traffickers and aiding survivors.
- Along with Kemp and Carr, other officials joining in on this initiative are GRACE Commission members, the U.S. Department of Justice officials, and U.S. Attorneys B.J. Pak and Charlie Peeler.
However, even though human trafficking awareness is at an all-time high and Georgia, the federal government, and non-profit groups have mobilized forces to prosecute traffickers and help victims, winning this war will be a great challenge.
The main reason that it is a crime that oftentimes takes place across borders. The international nature of the crime is not only difficult to comprehend and complicated, the source of the crime oftentimes takes place in uncooperative foreign countries.
The only international response to human trafficking that I am aware of (there could be more) was in 2000 when the United Nations (U.N.) ratified a protocol on the trafficking of persons. This protocol was an attempt to create international guidelines for how human trafficking should be handled throughout the world. It called for the countries who ratified the protocol to pass laws prohibiting human trafficking in their countries.
Like most U.N. protocols and declarations that try to tell sovereign countries what to do and how to do it, this protocol was ignored; particularly by countries that are the largest suppliers of victims.
The only way to win this war is to continue to elect strong public servants who are totally dedicated to enforcing strict penalties, working with other like-minded countries, and utilizing larger human trafficking task forces to arrest and prosecute offenders.
The United States and Georgia are the premier leaders in the world. If we do not continue to escalate this fight, no one will.