Committee members and those who addressed them outlined the scope of the human trafficking problem.
Approximately 600,000 to 800,000 victims are trafficked annually across international borders worldwide, with 14,500 to 17,500 of those victims being trafficked into the United States, according to the U.S. Department of State. Many of these victims are exploited for commercial sex, but trafficking also exists in labor exploitation such as migrant agricultural work and sweatshop factories. ecause many of those who are trafficked into the United States do not speak English, they are unable to advocate on their own behalf or communicate with those in law enforcement or social service providers.
The first overture approved today, Overture 11-12 On Preventing the Trafficking of Women, Internationally and Nationally, seeks to speak to the U.S. government. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) called for the creation of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Overture 11-12 is a request for the 218th General Assembly to remind the U.S. government of the provisions of the TVPA, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 2000.
The TVPA is an attempt to prevent human trafficking overseas, to increase prosecution of human traffickers in the U.S., and to protect victims and provide federal and state assistance to victims so they can rebuild their lives in the United States.
Bobby Rueben, elder from the Santa Barbara Presbytery, representing Presbyterian Women, reminded the Peacemaking and International Issues Committee that “too often those caught in human trafficking are still being treated as criminals and not being treated as the victims they are.”
The second, Overture 11-13 A Resolution to Expand the Church’s Ministry with and Advocacy Against Human Trafficking is more internally focused toward the PC)USA). It seeks to extend the ministry and understanding of human trafficking to refer not only to the trafficking of children, but also to include adults, especially women.
Terry Alexander of the Advocacy for Women’s Concerns, reminded the committee that woman are 80% of the trans-national victims of human trafficking. Women and children first, she suggested, has a new meaning in this context. “Women and children are first to be at risk, to be exploited, and to suffer from disease, poverty, and abuse,” said Alexander.