New Anti-Sex Trafficking Law a Baby Step in Right Direction

By GAIL SOUTH | Apr 18, 2018

On April 11, President Trump signed legislation aimed at penalizing website operators that facilitate online sex trafficking. The law is intended to make it easier for state prosecutors and sex-trafficking victims to sue social media networks, advertisers and others that keep exploitative material on their platforms.

“This is a momentous day in the fight to help stop online sex trafficking, and a big victory for trafficking victims and survivors who for too long have been denied the opportunity to get the justice they deserve,” said Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a cosponsor of the Senate version of the bill.

This bill took Sens. Portman and Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, two years of hard fighting and bipartisan support to go through the process leading to passage. It is a step forward in the ongoing struggle to free people to live their lives in dignity and freedom.

But it is only a baby step. And it affects only this country, which has a tiny portion of the 46 million enslaved people in the world. In India alone, over 18 million people are forced to work in horrible, life-threatening conditions. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of slaves, 25 million, work in forced labor – in construction, manufacturing, agriculture and fishing. There are nearly five million in sexual exploitation, and 15 million in forced marriage, more than a third of the victims under the age of 18, half younger than 15.

The following story was shared by the International Justice Mission team. IJM is a global organization that protects the poor from violence in the developing world. It includes more than 750 lawyers, investigators, social workers, community activists and other professionals at work through 17 field offices.

Life was already hard before Bhavani was taken from her parents. Her mom and dad had been slaves on a sugarcane farm for a year, trapped to repay a loan they had taken out with the owner of the farm. One day, they worked up the courage to ask the slave owner if they could go home for a bit to celebrate one of the most important festivals in their state in India.

No! he said. He was so angry that he increased their debt. To show them he was serious, he kidnapped Bhavani. He knew they wouldn’t try to escape without her.

This little girl was the love of their lives. To him, she was the ultimate bargaining chip. No money, no child, he said. Work to pay down the debt or you won’t get your daughter back.

Scared, angry and desperate, the two parents made an escape from the sugarcane farm, eventually finding a relative they hoped could help. The relative alerted an IJM-trained organization, which alerted police. Together, they stormed the slave owner’s home and rescued Bhavani before any harm could be done.

For two long months, Bhavani had been held captive and forced to work in the owner’s home. She missed her mother terribly. And her mother missed her, too. She and her husband could not think about anything else while they were apart from their little girl, their heart.

But now they were together. And now, they were free.

The slave owner was arrested and the whole family was given release certificates declaring their freedom. The legal trial for the slave owner is ongoing. His story of abuse and lies is over.

But the story of Bhavani is just beginning. Instead of an uncertain future in slavery, she has a sure future to study to become a teacher when she grows up.

It is our duty as free human beings to help release enslaved and trafficked persons.

Our Congress is already facing pressure to impose significant spending cuts on foreign aid in next year’s budget. We’re grateful to Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker and the majority of our New Jersey congressional delegation for voting in support of the legislation just signed by the president. But we need more.

Calling your senators and representatives is one of the best ways to show them you care and to ensure they use their power to protect funds that will end slavery for good. Right now, foreign aid funding that makes rescue possible is under threat. It’s up to Congress to protect these life-saving funds from cuts. Please call, email or write to Washington to help us move forward.

To call your senator or representative, dial 202-224-3121and ask to speak to your senator or representative.

Here’s a sample script for your call: “Hi, my name is (your name) and I’m calling from (your hometown, state). I’m very concerned about the proposed cuts to foreign aid in 2019 and I am specifically worried about how this would impact anti-slavery efforts internationally. Please ask (senator/representative) to protect these funds to help end human trafficking in our lifetime.”

Thank you, all, very much for your support, prayers and contributions.

Gail South lives in Long Beach Township.



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