Many of us thought slavery ended a long time ago. But it did not. So, to update ourselves on the modern horror of human trafficking, HMHI invited Teresa Downing-Matibag, PhD to update us at our fall all-staff inservice day. Representing the Network against Human Trafficking, Teresa presented “Human Trafficking: Local Solutions to Global Slavery,” a presentation that informed and generated lots of discussion.
As we discussed, sharing from our own personal experience, it became increasingly evident that trafficking of persons is happening–not just somewhere far away–but in our own area, affecting our own lives. It was a sobering reality to consider, but this consideration raises awareness. Awareness and the knowledge of how to respond are effective tools in the battle to eliminate modern slavery.
Last week, the U.S. Senate passed legislation to add the End Human Trafficking in Government Contracting Act to the NDAA act of 2013, largely through the efforts of U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal of Conneticut and Rob Portman of Ohio who co-chair the bipartisan Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking.
Reflecting on the effort, Blumenthal stated:
“Current law prohibiting human trafficking is insufficient and ineffective, failing to prevent or punish abuses. By increasing preventative scrutiny, investigation, and prosecution, this legislation will stop egregious human rights abuses on U.S military bases, increasing security for our troops, and preventing waste of taxpayer dollars.”
This recent legislative move was a major boost for trafficking rights advocates. They’ve been working toward a replacement to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the United States’ main anti-trafficking law, which expired last year and has yet to be reauthorized.
Nevertheless, Teresa asserted while she instructed us that human trafficking is not an issue that will be solved merely by legislation and/or by punitive enforcement of law. We need to work toward a culture that grants dignity to all and does not allow humans to be bought and sold.