Speech by Ambassador Mr. Mark P. Lagon on Demand for Forced Labor and Sexual Exploitation - How and Why it Fuels Human Trafficking

Mr. Mark P. Lagon, Director, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S.Human trafficking is a dehumanizing crime which turns people into mere commodities. U.S policy draws a direct connection between prostitution and human trafficking. Moreover, globalization fuels not only sex trafficking but also slave labor. Goods enter the global market place while consumers have little or no knowledge of the supply chains and work conditions that resulted in their production.

On the supply side, criminal networks, corruption, lack of education and misinformation about employment opportunities and the degrading nature of work promised, and poverty make people vulnerable to the lures of trafficking-this is true of both sex trafficking and slave labor. Significant efforts are being made to address these "push" factors, but they alone are not the cause. Importantly, today's discussion will focus on the voracious demand which fuels this dark trade in human beings.

As for sex trafficking, any effort to successfully combat it must confront not only the supply of vulnerable women and children, but also the demand which perpetuates it. In December 2002, President Bush signed the National Security Policy Directive 22 (NSPD-22) which says that prostitution is inherently harmful and dehumanizing and serves as a magnet for human trafficking. Normalized, tolerated, or regulated prostitution is a clear driver for sex trafficking. And as this market flourishes, the most hideous acts of brutality are occurring. In 2005, the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women adopted the U.S. resolution Eliminating Demand for Trafficked Women and Girls for All Forms of Exploitation. This was the first resolution of a U.N. body to focus on the demand side of human trafficking-the goal being to protect women and girls by drying up the "market" for victims, particularly for commercial sexual exploitation.

Professor Donna Hughes, a pioneer in the human trafficking abolitionist movement in the United States, reports having interviewed pimps and police from organized crime units and finding that when the pimps need new women and girls, they simply contact someone who can deliver them-thereby setting in motion the chain of events that perpetuates sex trafficking. Hughes writes, "Where prostitution is flourishing, pimps can not recruit enough local women to fill up the brothels, so they have to bring in victims from other places." It is telling that the vast majority of prostituted people in the Netherlands are foreign born.

Let me mention just one true story, that typifies the horror we find in case after case after case sex trafficking.

A girl like a 15-year-old Lithuanian I'll call Ilka. Ilka was promised a holiday job in England, and she was flown from Vilnius to London, accompanied by a Kosovar who had befriended her. As soon as she arrived, the Kosovar turned her over to a Macedonian living in England who raped and then sold her to an Albanian for 4,000 pounds. Ilka was enslaved in a series of brothels and re-sold seven times. Thankfully, she escaped and ran, half-dressed, to a police station in Sheffield. The first three traffickers were found guilty of trafficking for sexual exploitation, and sentenced to 18, 15, and 7 years. It was the first case to be tried under an anti-trafficking law in England passed just two years ago.

It's a sign of progress that the criminals got so much jail time. But it is repulsive that hundreds of johns-the sex buyers who constitute demand-raped this poor girl and walked away.

There are things that government can and should do to counter demand. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently created "Rescue and Restore regional programs" that will raise awareness about reducing the demand that contributes to trafficking exploitation. HHS is galvanizing local communities and providing victim services and training while focusing on consumer demand reduction. The Department operates a public awareness campaign, called Rescue and Restore, which I've taken part in, that distributes tens of thousands educational materials, and provides a national toll-free referral hotline, training and technical assistance through its National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

Local authorities in the United States have implemented a variety of measures to deter prospective 'johns.' In November 2006, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin launched, a "Dear John" public education campaign aimed eliminating commercial sexual exploitation of children and putting "Johns" on notice that there are strict penalties associated with this crime. Several U.S. cities, such as San Francisco, Brooklyn, and Tacoma, operate a "john school" that educates first offenders arrested for buying sex. These programs sensitize men to the legal, health and other risks and effects of prostitution, and reinforce the message that prostitution is not a victimless crime. The programs make it clear that many prostituted women are victims not volunteers, caught in a life they want to leave, regularly under duress and subject to violence by pimps and their so-called "clients." A fascinating recent assessment of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking demand reduction, commissioned by the U.S Department of Justice demonstrates that these programs-the John Schools-are phenomenally successful. Quite simply, once informed, these sex buyers don't buy again.

We have also taken steps abroad to fight the demand which fuels sex trafficking. In 2003, the United States strengthened its ability to fight child sex tourism (CST) by passing the Prosecutorial Remedies and other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today (PROTECT) Act which increased penalties to a maximum of 30 years in prison for engaging in CST. Since the passage of the PROTECT Act, there have been approximately 62 indictments and some 64 convictions of child sex tourists.

I recently returned from a two week trip to three regions of Africa. In coastal Kenya, a buzzing hive of customers for child prostitution, I spoke for one hour with a girl, a minor, who claimed she was 17, but looked no more than 15. She told me how she was moved from 90 miles away to make money in the burgeoning sex industry, taking customers to the basement of a club. We gave her contact information for a shelter that the U.S. helps underwrite.

In Mombasa, Kenya and Cape Town, South Africa I met with the hotel and tourism industry leaders about expanding efforts to reduce the presence of sex tourists. While in that region I witnessed high numbers of non-U.S. offenders. However, I made it clear to the officials and industry leaders with whom I met that the U.S. will aggressively investigate and prosecute American citizens for crimes committed as predators while abroad.

It is important to note that our international programming, too, reflects demand as a priority. With G/TIP funding, World Vision completed a remarkable public awareness campaign that addressed the demand for child sex tourism. Deterrence messages were placed at every step along the way for prospective child sex tourists including in U.S. airports, on television, in magazines, on the Internet and in airline in-flight videos. The campaign culminated in the destination countries. For example, when tourists left the airport in Phnom Pehn, they were confronted with a billboard message in English: "Abuse a child in this country, go to jail in yours."

Demand is of course also a factor in labor trafficking. Most consumers would be horrified to know that their clothes or jewelry or even food are the end product of tainted supply chains marked by the use of forced child labor or debt bondage.

Denying products made with forced labor access to markets reduces incentives for exploitative employers and encourages ethical business behavior. This is only possible when governments share information on export products and production chains.

I was in Cote d'Ivoire a few days ago. I engaged Ministers and other senior officials about the exploitative child labor involved in the country's production of approximately 40 percent of the world's cocoa. Based on the Harkin-Engel Protocol, the Ivorian government has completed a pilot certification survey of its cocoa growing areas to determine the extent of the problem and to assess where remediation efforts are needed. The government will continue its survey this summer to cover 50 percent of its cocoa producing regions. If the survey finds children working in hazardous conditions instead of attending school, this type of child labor exploitation is clearly condemned under various international conventions, irrespective of any migration being involved. The Ivorian government seeks to give children education as an alternative to work and a ladder for opportunity. But that will be a long-term process. Ultimately, the Ivorian government and the business community must give consumers confidence that the chocolate they buy and eat is not underwriting the exploitation of children.

The U.S. Congress launched another initiative aimed at limiting U.S. market access to forced labor-made goods when it reauthorized our Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2005. This law requires that the U.S. Department of Labor develop and make available to the public a list of goods from countries that the Department has reason to believe are produced by forced labor or child labor in violation of international standards. The list should be published in 2009. Goods on the list are not automatically prohibited from importation into the U.S., but the list will serve as an awareness-raising tool for U.S. enforcement agencies, for the public, for governments, and for the business community.

I was in Cote D'Ivoire a few days ago. I engaged Ministers and other senior officials about the exploitative child labor involved in Cote D'Ivoire's production of approximately 40 percent of the world's cocoa. Based on the Harkin-Engel Protocol, the Ivorian government has completed a pilot survey of its cocoa growing areas to determine the extent of the problem and examine ways to implement a certification program. The government will continue its survey this summer to cover 50 percent of its cocoa producing regions. It is clear under international law that child labor exploitation is a form of human trafficking irrespective of any migration being involved. The Ivorian government seeks to give children education as an alternative to work and a ladder for opportunity. But that will be a long-term process. Ultimately, the Ivorian government and the business community must give consumers confidence that the chocolate they buy and eat does not underwrite the exploitation of children.

U.S. Government efforts are aimed at denying specific items produced, in part or wholly, by forced labor access to the U.S. market. The 2005 reauthorization of our Trafficking Victims Protection Act requires that the U.S. Department of Labor make available to the American public a list of goods from countries where we have reason to believe they are produced by forced labor and child labor in violation of international standards. The list should be published in 2009.

Demand in labor trafficking can also be addressed in more subtle ways. For many countries in the Middle East, local economies and households thrive on the immigration of foreign laborers. Men and women from South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and East Asia come to this region for work as domestic servants, construction workers, and laborers in other low-skilled progressions. Despite the demand that exists for these foreign laborers, stringent immigration provisions combined with a bias against foreign workers create a situation conducive to trafficking in persons.

"Sponsorship laws" tie foreign workers to the sponsors who employ them in the destination country, giving employers the authority to provide legal identity cards for foreign workers and allowing them to control whether workers can leave their work sites, or jobs, or even exit the country.

Take Nour Miyati, an Indonesian woman who sought a brighter future for her nine-year old daughter. Nour worked as a domestic for four years in a Middle East state. She was treated fairly and was able to send money back home so that her daughter could stay in school. Her fate took a turn when a new employer confined her to his house, denied her pay, and tortured her. Injuries she suffered to her hands and feet resulted in gangrene that required the amputation of her fingers and toes.

Tragically Nour was twice victimized. Despite having escaped these horrific circumstances, she was arrested for 'running away' under the country's sponsorship laws.

Realistically, the demand for this work-force will not subside, so in the context of this demand we must confront the incentive structures which lend themselves to exploitation.

Ultimately, demand is an under-addressed but vitally important component to ending the exploitation of children, women and men and I look forward to today's panel discussion.