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Slavery Today

As originally written, the Constitution of the United States not only countenanced slavery, it protected it.  On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery in areas of the United States engaged in rebellion against the government, but this was a war measure, subject to reversal by any subsequent statute or court ruling.  Lincoln led the fight for the enactment of the 13th Amendment which provides:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. 
But slavery has not disappeared from the Earth - it persists today, even within the United States.
On June 16, 2009, in issuing the annual Trafficking in Persons Report, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made these remarks:

Around the world, millions of people are living in bondage. They labor in fields and factories under brutal employers who threaten them with violence if they try to escape. They work in homes for families that keep them virtually imprisoned. They are forced to work as prostitutes or to beg in the streets, fearful of the consequences if they fail to earn their daily quota. They are women, men, and children of all ages, and they are often held far from home with no money, no connections, and no way to ask for help.

This is modern slavery, a crime that spans the globe, providing ruthless employers with an endless supply of people to abuse for financial gain. Human trafficking is a crime with many victims: not only those who are trafficked, but also the families they leave behind, some of whom never see their loved ones again.

Trafficking has a broad global impact as well. It weakens legitimate economies, fuels violence, threatens public health and safety, shatters families, and shreds the social fabric that is necessary for progress. And it is an affront to our basic values and our fundamental belief that all people everywhere deserve to live and work in safety and dignity.

     Here are three studies and reports describing the extent of these practices internationally and in the United States.

U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report 2009.  The linked page contains links to the various portions of the report.  I recommend first visiting the maps to learn which countries have the highest incidence and most serious forms of slavery and human trafficking.  The report also contains a section describing U.S. Government Domestic Anti-Trafficking Efforts, as well as a list of nine Relevant International Conventions prohibiting various forms of human trafficking. 

June 2009 Attorney General's Annual Report to Congress and Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons Fiscal Year 2008, making eight general and several specific recommendations for improving the United States' response to human trafficking, mainly regarding improved coordination among public agencies and increased awareness of the problem within law enforcement and the larger community.

January 2009 Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, 2007-2008, showing that authorities investigated over 1200 incidents of human trafficking, and confirmed the incident in over 100 cases in the United States.

     The federal government has enacted a number of laws against slavery and human trafficking, including the following:

Peonage, Slavery, and Trafficking in Persons, 18 U.S.C. 1581 et seq., making slavery, the slave trade, and related activities a crime.

Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), 22 U.S.C. 7101 et seq.  The introductory section to this law states:

The purposes of this chapter are to combat trafficking in persons, a contemporary manifestation of slavery whose victims are predominantly women and children, to ensure just and effective punishment of traffickers, and to protect their victims.

Sex Trafficking of Children by Force, Fraud, or Coercion, 18 U.S.C. 1591, making sex trafficking of children a crime.

Prevention of Domestic Trafficking in Persons, 42 U.S.C. 14044, requiring the Attorney General to hold an annual conference and issue an annual report on human trafficking.

     And here is a link to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a national, toll-free hotline for reporting incidents of slavery and human trafficking.  The number is 1-888-3737-888.