HUMAN RIGHTS INDEX
The Human Rights Index is prepared three times a year by the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, which keeps a full archive. The Iowa Review is proud to feature the Index on its web site, to suggest the global political and socioeconomic context within which we read and write.
HUMAN RIGHTS INDEX #37
Prepared by The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR)*
Today, worldwide, an estimated 700,000 to 4 million women, children, and men are bought, sold, beaten, and abused as victims of human trafficking mainly for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor, and no region is unaffected. In the United States alone, an estimated 14,500 to 17,500 women and children are trafficked into the U.S. each year, the vast majority in severe ways. According to the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), severe forms of human trafficking include: “(a) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or (b) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.” The TVPA further stipulates that “[a] victim need not be physically transported from one location to another in order for the crime to fall within these definitions.”
To help combat this modern-day form of slavery worldwide, 157 countries, including the United States, have ratified the 2000 Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the 2000 United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Article 2 of the Protocol, anchored in core human rights principles―not regulations concerning the movement of people―states its purpose: “(a) to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, paying particular attention to women and children, (b) to protect and assist the victims of such trafficking, with full respect for their human rights, and (c) to promote cooperation among State Parties in order to meet these objectives.”
Nonetheless, trafficking, especially sex trafficking, remains a large human rights problem, including in the United States where trafficking in sex is second only to drug trafficking as the fastest growing criminal industry in the country. For good reason, President Obama, in 2011, declared January of each year to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Human trafficking, he explained, “ought to concern every person because it’s a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at the social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime.” (U.S. Department of Justice 2013, U.S. Department of State 2013).
6 — Leading sex trafficking venues in the United States: fake massage parlors, Internet links and sites, residential brothels, street prostitution, hostesses and strip clubs, escort services, and truck stops (Polaris Project 2013)
12-14 — Average age of females trafficked into street prostitution in the United States, though cases of girls as young as 9 years are not uncommon―among the most egregious forms of sex slavery and contributing to the79 percent of human trafficking victims worldwide who are trafficked for sexual exploitation, 13% of them minor girls (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes, Women’s Funding Network 2013; (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, 2009)
17 — Number of arrests resulting from a month-long Johnson County, Iowa, trafficking and prostitution investigation in 2012, the suspects arrested having come from 12 different communities as far away as Milwaukee, Wisconsin and ranging from 20 to 58 in age, among them three local medical professionals (including a University of Iowa clinical assistant professor of dentistry), two University of Iowa students, and “a woman charged with selling her younger sister for sex” (ABC News 2012)
20-48 — Times per day an average victim of sex trafficking in the United States may be forced to have sex (Polaris Project, 2009)
25 — Percent of sex tourists worldwide who are from the United States, a phenomenon to which, in April 2003, under pressure from child welfare agencies and other civil society groups, the U.S. Congress passed the PROTECT Act (acronym for “Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today”) forbidding Americans traveling abroad from engaging in illegal sex with minors―and in the process affirmed the United States’ international human rights law obligation, born of its ratification of the 1999 ILO Convention (No 182) Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor and the 2000 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, to help end explicitly the sexual exploitation of children prohibited by each of these instruments (Youth Advocate Program International)
30 — Number of countries, including the United States, considered by the U.S. Department of State to be, as of 2013, “Tier 1” countries in compliance with the “minimum standards” of protection against sex and other human trafficking―in contrast to 92 countries in “Tier 2” countries that fail to meet all the “minimum standards” but are making serious though often failing efforts (44 of them without positive results or actually getting worse) and 21 “Tier 3” countries doing little if anything to deal with this crime (U.S. Department of State 2013)
33 — Estimated percentage of runaway American teens who, within 48 hours of leaving home, will be approached by someone in the sex trade, many of them coerced into the sex trade by men who assault or threaten them through physical or psychological abuse (CNN 2012)