Decoding the Trafficking in Persons Report
On June 27, 2011 the U.S. Department of State released this year’s Trafficking in Persons Report. The objective of the TIP Report is to discuss various aspects of human trafficking, report on new findings and data, and rank 184 different countries on governmental efforts to combat human trafficking. In short, it is a summary of what trafficking in persons is, what is actually being done about it on a political and governmental basis, and what needs to be done in the future.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defines trafficking in persons to include “all of the conduct involved in forced labor as well as the trafficking of adults and children for commercial sexual exploitation.” There are several different types of trafficking that are identified which include forced labor, sex trafficking, bonded labor, debt bondage among migrant laborers, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor, child soldiers, and what The SOLD Project seeks to prevent: child sex trafficking. The U.S. Department of State estimates that as many as 2 million children are subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade.
In discussion about the demand for commercial sexual exploitation of children, the TIP Report recognizes Thailand to be a country in which this crime is prevalent. Some of the new findings included in this year’s report deals with the popular perception that it is foreigners and Westerners who are the main source of the demand for child sex tourism. However, the 2011 Report notes this perception often leads to a lack of recognition of the significant local demand for child prostitution in many countries. Because of this lack of understanding, law enforcement efforts often do not focus on what is most need: addressing the major local demand and local offenders that fuel child sexual exploitation.
The Department of State uses a 3-Tier ranking system to rate the governments of various countries on their involvement in the fight against modern-day slavery. Tier 1 status is assigned to countries whose governments fully comply with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which is described in full at the end of the TIP Report. While Tier 1 is the highest ranking available, it does not mean that a human trafficking problem does not exist within that country. Tier 1 means that the government has recognized the existence of trafficking, has taken steps to address the problem, and meets the minimum requirements of the TVPA. The United States has Tier 1 status, however, the U.S. remains a major destination for trafficking victims from Thailand, India, Mexico, Haiti, and many other countries as well. Furthermore, the TIP Report finds that its very own U.S. citizens, both adults and children, make up the majority of sex trafficking victims within the U.S.
The second tier is broken down into two subsections: Tier 2 and Tier 2 Watch List. Assigned to countries that do not yet meet the TVPA minimum standards , Tier 2 status indicates that the government is making efforts to combat trafficking. The Tier 2 Watch List is for governments that do not meet the TVPA, have a significant number of victims or significantly increasing number, do not provide evidence regarding efforts against trafficking, but commits itself to take more serious efforts in the future to come into compliance with the minimum standards. If a country has received Tier 2 Watch List status for two consecutive years and has not improved its efforts by the following year, it will be placed under Tier 3 which is for governments that are not taking any steps to comply with the TVPA. This is Thailand’s second consecutive year placed on Tier 2 Watch List. Although the Thai government has recently organized meetings regarding anti-trafficking efforts, the U.S. Department of State has not been provided with significant evidence that adequate measures have actually been taken by the government to fight trafficking in Thailand.
The TIP Report notes that the Thai government has taken some steps to combat trafficking through prevention by collaborating with NGOs and international organizations. The Thai government has also made some effort to raise awareness about trafficking and child sex tourism through a few campaigns that were supposedly aimed at high-risk groups. Unfortunately because of the corruption found throughout the government and the current political turmoil not much progress has been made to prevent trafficking, prosecute traffickers, or protect victims. Some of the new programs and processes that the government of Thailand has recently initiated concerning migrants and gaining legal status will actually increase the vulnerability of at-risk, poor, or stateless men, women, and children of being trafficked or held in debt bondage.
In regards to what needs to be done in Thailand in order to combat the issue of trafficking more effectively, the TIP Report simply suggests that stronger efforts be made by the Thai government to prevent trafficking, prosecute lawbreakers, and protect victims.
Unfortunately, like many things, this is easier said than done. If there is one thing that the TIP Report communicates well it is that trafficking in persons is a very complex issue. It takes many forms, runs deep within societies, fuels economies, and involves many different factors and people. Therefore while laws and governmental programs are powerful and necessary, they often fall short. This means countless vulnerable and valuable children slip through the finger tips of organized justice systems and are scooped up by the exploiting hands of others. Will you help us prevent this injustice? The 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report is a great resource in the fight against child sex trafficking. But it is you who are the best resource. Will you step up and join The SOLD Project to prevent child trafficking? Will you commit to Stand4FREEDOM?
Written by Emily O’Connor, SOLD’s summer intern