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 You are in: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons > Releases and Remarks > Op-Eds and Articles

A Modern Slave Trade

John R. Miller, Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
New York Post Online Edition
May 22, 2005

If you believed something contributed to hundreds of thousands of people being trapped in slavery, you would do everything in your power to stop it.

Government should act no differently. That's why the U.S. Government has taken a stand against legalized prostitution. A growing body of research is showing that prostitution is not only inherently harmful and dehumanizing to women and children -- but it also fuels the growth of trafficking in persons, or modern-day slavery.

Consider recent trafficking cases right here in America.

In April, three Mexican defendants pled guilty to 27 counts of running a sex-trafficking ring between Mexican villages and New York City. Between 1991 and 2004, the Carreto family smuggled dozens of young, poor women into the U.S., promising them jobs and better lives, selling them the American dream. Instead, they sold them into sexual slavery and only the Carreto family profited.

Earlier this spring, a New Jersey man was sentenced to prison for luring Russian women into the U.S. as "cultural dancers." The women ended up being forced to work in New Jersey strip clubs. Noncompliance meant a severe beating or worse.

American women and girls are victims of sex trafficking too. In February of this year, a father-son team in Kansas pled guilty to trafficking girls ages 13 to 16 into prostitution by luring them with false promises of out-of-town day trips.

There is big money in prostitution, but only for those who traffic. Victims of trafficking, particularly young or foreign victims, often don't know their destinies, and they are vulnerable. They believe they are leaving their homes for babysitting or waitressing jobs, or for agricultural work, or simply for an escape from bad circumstances. Instead, as real life cases illustrate, when victims are trafficked, they are very often forced, defrauded, or coerced into prostitution.

And few activities are as brutal and damaging as prostitution. Field research in the U.S., Canada, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and Zambia conducted by eight specialists, led by Dr. Melissa Farley, concluded that 89 percent of people used in prostitution wanted to "escape." Sixty-eight percent met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, and some 80 percent had been physically assaulted.

Government attempts to regulate prostitution by introducing medical check-ups or licenses don't address the core problem: the routine abuse and violence that form the prostitution experience. Sweden has found that much of the vast profit generated by the global prostitution industry goes into the pockets of human traffickers. In response, to fight human trafficking and promote gender equality, Sweden has aggressively prosecuted sex buyers, pimps, and brothel owners since 1999. Two years into innovative focus on punishing the traffickers and buyers, rather than the female victims, Sweden has seen a 50 percent drop in women used in prostitution and a 75 percent decline in sex buying.

Talking to trafficking survivors here and abroad -- in California, in New York, and even the American heartland -- is a heartbreaking experience. And it has convinced me that this is not only a tremendous human rights issue, but also a national-security concern because the vast transnational criminal networks engaged in trafficking perpetuate government corruption and threaten the rule of law. There is much at stake.

President Bush and Congress -- working closely with faith-based, community and feminist organizations -- are aggressively pursuing freedom for all victims of modern-day slavery.

For all victims of sex trafficking to be free, however, we as citizens must examine our own cultural attitudes and behaviors to ensure that we do not contribute to the "market" for vulnerable women trafficked into prostitution.

Ambassador John R. Miller is the director of the U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

For more information on prostitution and sex trafficking, please see

Released on June 27, 2005

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