By Lisa Anderson
NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - U.S. senators have proposed legislation calling for the creation of a $1.5 billion fund to combat modern-day slavery around the world through more aggressive law enforcement and prosecution of human traffickers.
The bipartisan End Modern Slavery Initiative Act of 2015 was introduced on Tuesday by senators Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, and Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee.
Slavery and human trafficking are estimated to generate about $150 billion in annual profits from the exploitation of some 30 million people.
The bill aims for a measurable 50 percent reduction in slavery over a seven-year period in countries where the crime is most prevalent and there is political will for reform.
"Modern slavery... thrives where enforcement is weak, so raising the risk of prosecution can achieve significant results", Corker said in a statement.
"U.S. leadership is critical in the effort to combat this grave injustice", Menendez added.
The International Justice Mission (IJM), a Washington-based nonprofit that combats slavery and sex trafficking, said it has documented substantial reductions in trafficking after modest investments in law enforcement.
Holly Burkhalter, IJM's vice president of government relations, said the lawmakers had put "a very bold vision out there that slavery can be eradicated".
The legislation would authorize the establishment of a nonprofit foundation that would administer grants to assist victims, create slavery prevention programs, and strengthen law enforcement.
The United States would contribute $251 million in seed money over eight years, an additional $500 million would come from foreign governments and $750 million from the private sector.
(Reporting by Lisa Anderson, Editing by Alisa Tang)