Ms. Magazine Weighs in on Federal Actions to End Human Trafficking
Monday, August 13, 2007 9:31 AM

Ms. Magazine recently undertook an investigation into the federal response to sex and labor trafficking in the United States; their conclusions found room for improvement. Some of the areas the research pointed to as deficient were enforcement of punishments for the crime, and in the lack of sufficient funding being put towards what is being portrayed as a high priority to the Federal Government.

Kevin Bales, the president of a non-profit working against trafficking, had a lot to say about the lack of enforcement of anti-trafficking laws.  Bales told Ms. Magazine “Think of it this way: Roughly 17,000 people were murdered in America last year- about the same number as the State Department claims were trafficked.  Imagine if we prosecuted, as we do with slavery, a little over 100 of those cases.”  Bales’ organization, Free the Slaves, as well as many other advocacy organizations, believe that there are a lot of positive things being said about ending human trafficking, but not a lot of actions are coming out of those discussions. 

Furthermore, the research of Ms. Magazine points to some troubling aspects of current Federal funding systems which are intended to provide aid to victims of trafficking.  According to their report, “over half the federal money available for victim services no longer goes directly to nonprofit service providers, but instead is given to intermediaries.  [The intermediaries] only guarantee these funds… for a few months at a time before they must reapply, thus hindering long-term service plans.”  There are also many restrictions placed on the nonprofit service providers by intermediaries as to exactly how they can and cannot spend the money they receive.  One example of such a restriction is from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which will not provide funding unless providers “stipulate that they won’t hand out condoms or provide referral for abortion.”

Within the next year, it is likely that Congress will look to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  Ms. Magazine points to this as a prime time to correct any inefficiencies in the current Act, and to refocus the legislation on the victims, and how we can best aid them in their recovery.

Compiled from: The Invisible Ones, Rebecca Clarren, Ms. Magazine, Summer 2007.