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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 > Other Releases > 2004

Child Sex Trafficking in Cambodia

Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Washington, DC
January 28, 2004

[Comment on NBC’s "Dateline" January 28, 2004, broadcast segment on child sex trafficking in Cambodia.]

News media coverage about human trafficking is helping shine light on the reality of the modern-day slave trade. Human trafficking denies hundreds of thousands of people their basic human rights, poses a serious public health risk, and fuels organized crime around the world. It is a dark and uncomfortable subject, but one that must be illuminated.

The United States has taken significant action to combat trafficking in persons, including trafficking for commercial, sexual exploitation.

In 2003, the "PROTECT Act" was signed into law by President Bush. This bill serves as a historic milestone for protecting children while severely punishing those who victimize young people. The PROTECT Act allows law enforcement officers to use existing legal tools for the full range of serious sexual crimes against children. Under prior law for instance, wiretaps are authorized for a range of crimes, but not for many crimes associated with using the internet to lure children for sexual abuse and sex trafficking. This bill also makes clear there is no statute of limitations for crimes involving the abduction or physical or sexual abuse of a child -- in virtually all cases. Furthermore, the bill also strengthens laws punishing offenders who travel abroad to prey on children ("sex tourism"). These U.S. "tourists" are now subject to domestic child abuse/child exploitation laws even if their crimes are committed abroad, and they face up to 30 years imprisonment for such crimes, from a previous maximum of 15 years.

Additionally, in December 2003, President Bush signed the reauthorization of the "Trafficking Victims Protection Act" which will accelerate our work globally against modern-day slavery in a number of ways:

  • The U.S. can now require better statistical monitoring, giving us access to critical law enforcement data related to trafficking.

  • We can factor convictions and sentences into evaluations instead of just arrests.

  • The bill gives us new tools for addressing destination countries that may be turning a blind eye to trafficking, especially the abuse of foreign women.

President Bush has made the fight against slavery an American priority. In a speech President Bush made to the United Nations, he called this, "a special evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent…" declaring, "those who patronize this industry debase themselves and deepen the misery of others. Governments that tolerate this trade are tolerating a form of slavery." He also committed $50 million to support the global fight against human trafficking.

And our progress is real. In recent months, the Justice Department has indicted eight U.S. citizens including an American man for trafficking Estonian women to Boston to work in his massage parlors. The Department of Health and Human Services is developing an advertising campaign to boost awareness of trafficking and the assistance available to victims. The State Department has gained excellent cooperation from 10 countries poorly rated in the 2003 TIP [Trafficking in Persons] report. And the Department of Labor’s Secretary Elaine Chao is in Africa this week, January 23, 2004, meeting with victims of child trafficking. The tour highlights continuing efforts to end the worst forms of child labor.

The U.S. is actively partnering with other nations to combat this transnational crime, providing assistance to trafficking victims and striving to highlight the dangers of sex tourism and trafficking.

For more information on sex trafficking and other forms of modern-day slavery, a pressing human rights issue of the 21st century, please contact the State Department’s "Trafficking in Persons" office at (202) 312-9672.

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