This week, President Obama issued an executive order meant to work toward the end of human trafficking. The order came in response to a petition with more than 73,000 signatures delivered to the President back in June of this year. (I had the chance and the honor of signing the petition.)
In his speech announcing the executive order, the President said this about modern-day slavery:
Now, I do not use that word, “slavery” lightly. It evokes obviously one of the most painful chapters in our nation’s history. But around the world, there’s no denying the awful reality. When a man, desperate for work, finds himself in a factory or on a fishing boat or in a field, working, toiling, for little or no pay, and beaten if he tries to escape—that is slavery. When a woman is locked in a sweatshop, or trapped in a home as a domestic servant, alone and abused and incapable of leaving—that’s slavery.
When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed—that’s slavery. When a little girl is sold by her impoverished family—girls my daughters’ age—runs away from home, or is lured by the false promises of a better life, and then imprisoned in a brothel and tortured if she resists—that’s slavery. It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.
While the Executive Order is very significant, further steps must be taken in order to fully address the issue of modern slavery within U.S. contracting supply chains. A bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives has passed legislation similar to the Executive Order; however, the legislation still awaits passage in the Senate. “The Executive Order is strong and binding,” explains Gary Haugen, “but it cannot provide for criminal sanctions for those whose exploitive recruitment practices amount to enslavement. I urge the U.S. Senate to finish the job by passing the End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act.”
The executive order comes largely due to the advocacy of groups International Justice Mission and Passion. To find out more about how to support anti-trafficking efforts, have a look at what, for instance, IJM’s justice campaigns are doing.