Here’s How I Plan to End Modern Slavery
Here’s How I Plan to End Modern Slavery
In 2012, I visited a shelter in Kolkata, India. There, I met a 10-year-old girl who had been born in a brothel. Her mother had been held there after she was sold into prostitution. Miraculously, they escaped, and now lived in a shelter for survivors of human trafficking.
Theirs was an inspiring story. That day, the little girl exuded confidence and energy. She even asked if I wanted to see her karate moves. (I did!) She and her mother were safe and on a better path.
But their story was also a harsh reminder that slavery still exists in our world, and we have to stop it.
Today, more than 20 million men, women and children are trapped in modern slavery. They’re trapped in prostitution… in fields and factories under the threat of violence… and in the homes they clean and serve. It’s one of the great evils of our world. And it happens just about everywhere on Earth — including in big cities and small towns across America. So it’s not a remote problem. It’s part of our lives, our economy, our communities.
Ending modern slavery is one of the great challenges of our time. And it can’t be done without American leadership. It also can’t be done by America alone. We have to partner with governments, businesses, civil society, faith communities, universities, student groups and so many others. That’s the only way this problem gets solved.
Make no mistake — this is the moral thing to do, but it’s also about our own self-interests. Human trafficking fuels other criminal activities. Its profits fund terrorism. We can’t afford to close our eyes to this, or hope it goes away.
My commitment to this issue runs deep. As First Lady, I championed this issue, raising it in my Beijing speech, and supported the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which increased support for survivors and gave prosecutors better tools for going after traffickers. As Secretary of State, I oversaw nearly 170 anti-trafficking programs in 70 countries, and pressed foreign leaders to step up their efforts. I insisted that the United States be included in the annual Trafficking in Persons Report, because we should hold ourselves to the same standard as the rest of the world. And I strongly supported President Obama’s initiatives ensuring that American tax dollars don’t fuel demand for forced labor, government agencies collaborate more closely to bring traffickers to justice, and we offer comprehensive services for survivors.
But there is still much more to do.
As President, I will make this issue a moral and strategic priority. My plan will do three things: put survivors at the center; strengthen our government’s response and increase our resources; and launch a global alliance.
Put survivors at the center: One of our greatest responsibilities is to those who have survived trafficking. We’ve got to make sure that they’re safe and have the tools they need to rebuild their lives. That means devoting more time, energy and dollars toward health and legal services, mental health counseling, shelter beds and job training. And it means increasing our support to the most vulnerable people, including children, migrants, runaway kids and LGBT youth. Police and juvenile courts must understand once and for all that children found in prostitution are not criminals, they are victims of a crime, and must be treated with compassion.
It’s just a fact: we won’t end modern slavery without the leadership and participation of survivors. They deserve a seat and voice at the table, whether that’s creating or improving programs and policies, enhancing law enforcement efforts, or making decisions about resources. This isn’t how we’ve always operated, and that’s got to change
Strengthen our government’s response and resources: We’ve got to significantly step up our efforts to prevent and deter human trafficking here at home. That means knowing more about how and where trafficking networks operate. We must create and support anti-trafficking law enforcement units in high-risk areas… increase training of law enforcement and transportation security officials, so they can spot signs of trafficking… and make sure we’re sharing data, so people in different agencies or different states are all on the same page.
I’ll be relentless in making sure federal purchasing doesn’t contribute to the problem. We have to be really careful that American tax dollars don’t make it worse. And we must start enforcing import bans on goods made with forced labor and go after recruitment schemes that make workers vulnerable to exploitation.
It’s a huge challenge, requiring smart strategies and enough resources to do the job. As President, I’ll work with Congress to make sure our resources meet the scope and scale of the challenge. I’m optimistic that progress is possible, because trafficking has long been a bipartisan issue. This is one problem that Republicans and Democrats are fighting together.
Launch a global alliance: Modern slavery is a global problem, so we need a global solution. And the truth is, the world is falling short. Despite millions of cases of human trafficking around the globe, there are fewer than 5,000 convictions a year worldwide. That’s unconscionable, and it points to a lack of concern and commitment by too many countries.
Meanwhile, because trafficking networks are often linked to other criminal activities, anti-trafficking efforts belong high on our diplomatic and security agenda. So as President, I’ll call on every country on the planet to join together in an alliance to end modern slavery. That means committing to certain policies and programs, tailored to each country and region, based on best practices and rigorous analysis.
It also means governments coordinating with their countries’ private sectors and civil societies, which have a critical role to play. The banking sector can help track and stop illicit dollars. And we need leadership from industries that are rife with trafficking, like agriculture, manufacturing and construction. Technology can be leveraged to identify traffickers online, in the dark web.
Citizens need to do our part, too. Here’s one way you can help. In 2011, the State Department helped with the creation of Slavery Footprint. You input data about your spending, and it tells you how many slaves “work” for you — that is, how much slave labor helped created the products you buy and services you use. Organizations like the Issara Institute do great work, too — they bring together global retail companies with civil society organizations and technical experts to identify and address the risks of human trafficking and labor abuses. For example, Issara documented evidence of torture and abuse in shrimp peeling sheds in Thailand, then worked with suppliers to respond. Many Americans were unknowingly buying and eating shrimp produced with slave labor. With such dedicated activists and persistent journalists around the world, more of these crimes can be identified and addressed.
Together, we can go a long way toward ending modern slavery. But it will take all of us. And it starts with leadership at the top. This will be a priority for me as President. I’ll do everything I can to make sure we meet this challenge. The people being enslaved here at home and around the world — and the survivors putting their lives back together — deserve nothing less than our full commitment. That’s what I plan to give.