Nothing About Them Without Them
I took a course last semester about violence in St. Louis, looking for a thought-provoking discussion about my school-year city. I started following the local crime section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; thefts, assaults, shootings and drug crimes seemed to dominate criminal activity in the STL. So a January 2012 article identifying St. Louis as a hub for human trafficking came as a surprise.
Human trafficking is not just a foreign problem. In its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, a comprehensive look at more than 180 countries’ efforts to eliminate human trafficking, the U.S. Department of State includes a full investigation of trafficking within our borders—and it does exist. In the United States, trafficking occurs in industries from sex work to agriculture, hospitality to manufacturing, where workers recruited or transported through force, fraud or coercion are considered victims.
The 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report, released June 19, focuses on victim protection. Protection, alongside prevention and prosecution, is part of the “3P Paradigm” to effectively combat trafficking. The 2012 Report stresses victim-centered advocacy, based on individual experiences and needs, as key to effective assistance. The Report summarizes this model as “nothing about them without them.”
The 2012 TIP Report ranks the United States in Tier 1, meaning the government acknowledges and is making efforts to address trafficking according to standards set by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) and the 2000 United Nations Palermo Protocol. Canada, a source, transit and destination country for the sex trade and a destination for forced labor, and Israel, a destination for sex trafficking and forced labor, also received Tier 1 rankings in light of their efforts to combat trafficking.
A country’s ranking increases as it increases efforts to follow the 3P Paradigm and eliminate trafficking. Tier 3 countries, which make no significant effort to fully comply with TVPA standards, are subject to sanctions by the United States, including the withdrawal of non-humanitarian or trade-related assistance.
The 2012 TIP Report celebrates a number of victories. Thirty-three countries earned a Tier 1 ranking, and 29 countries attained a higher ranking than they did in 2011. But countries that fail to comply, that have not increased efforts, or that see a significant or increasing number of victims outnumber their Tier 1 counterparts. And, of course, human trafficking is still rampant. As Laura Germino, honored in 2010 for her efforts to fight trafficking in persons, reminds us, “We are fighting for Tier Zero.”
Rachel Chung is a participant in the Machon Kaplan Summer Social Action Internship Program. She is interning at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
Image courtesy of the NY Daily News.