As President Bush mentioned in his State of the Union address, human trafficking is one of the great evils of our age. Although the president concentrated on international trafficking in his speech, the sad truth is that trade in human beings is alive and well right here in the United States as well. Every year, thousands of people are brought here and forced into various kinds of slavery, including sexual slavery. This practice would be a disgrace to any nation, let alone a nation that stands for freedom and justice.
But the good news is, after too many years of brushing it under the rug, our government is beginning to face the problem. Although the president may have targeted foreign trafficking in his speech, I know from conversations with him that he is very much aware of trafficking’s presence at home. And in recent months, we have struck several blows against this ghastly evil.
One of those government actions is something we have worked on in the Wilberforce Forum for years: the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, signed now by the president. Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), a great defender of human rights, sponsored the bill. He explained that it “strengthens the nation’s current trafficking law . . . and authorizes new funds for investigation and prosecution of domestic trafficking within the United States. . . . For the first time, programs [aimed at] reducing the demand for commercial sex in the United States and preventing human trafficking of U.S. citizens within our own borders [have been] authorized . . . the Federal Bureau of Investigation [will be funded] to combat both domestic and international trafficking.”
That is no small thing. Never before has the elimination of human trafficking been made such a high priority in this country.
And that isn’t all. A few months ago, the president issued an executive order making it a crime for members of the military to patronize prostitutes. This is a step that we have urged on “BreakPoint,” and it is desperately needed. Until now, prostitution was referred to only vaguely in the military courts-martial manual as an act “of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.” Well, that is true enough, as far as it goes. But now, for the first time, it’s specifically listed as a punishable offense. As many have pointed out, this will go a long way toward destroying the culture of tolerance in the military where prostitution is concerned.
And there’s yet another piece of good news. Last month, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2003 law that prohibits U.S. citizens abroad from patronizing child prostitutes. American Michael Clark was convicted under this law for preying on young boys in Cambodia and was sentenced to more than eight years in prison. In upholding Clark’s conviction, Judge Margaret McKeown wrote that sex with minors “might be immoral and criminal, but it is also commercial.” Therefore, it is permissible to regulate it under the commerce clause of the Constitution. The decision makes it easier to prosecute Americans who commit this heinous crime.
Well, you have often heard people say you can’t “legislate morality.” And there are those who say the culture is so bad that we can’t change it. Well, they are wrong. Here are three strikes that have been called against human trafficking in just a matter of a few months. And while there still plenty of work to be done, for all the victims of human trafficking and for all those who have been fighting for so long to help them, this is truly a reason to rejoice.
For further reading and information:
See BreakPoint’s fact sheet on the problem of sex trafficking.
“Rep. Chris Smith’s Trafficking Bill Passed by House of Representatives Strengthens and Expands Human Trafficking Laws, Combats Domestic Trafficking,” press release from Rep. Smith’s office, printed by Christian Communication Network, 15 December 2005.
Justin Scheck, “9th Circuit Panel: Overseas Sex with Minor Subject to Regulation,” The Recorder, 27 January 2006.
Josh Gerstein, “Sex Overseas May Fall under U.S. Jurisdiction,” New York Sun, 26 January 2006.
Jeff Schogol, “Patronizing a Prostitute is Now a Specific Crime for Servicemembers,” Stars & Stripes, 7 January 2006.
“Executive Order: 2005 Amendments to the Manual for Courts Martial, United States,” White House Office of the Press Secretary, 14 October 2005.
Read President Bush’s 2006 State of the Union address.