September 14th, 2011
09:19 AM ET

Opinion: Urge U.S. Congress to re-authorize Trafficking Victims Protection Act

By Jesse Eaves, Special to CNN

Editor’s Note: Jesse Eaves is non-profit World Vision’s policy adviser for children in crisis. He is based in Washington, D.C.

When 16-year-old Kyaw left his home and a life of poverty in Myanmar five years ago, he vowed he would never return. He was on a quest to find a steady job, and he’d heard that he could earn up to $150 a month if he traveled across the border to a fishing port in Thailand.

However, what he discovered would soon make him wish he had never left. Kyaw had been trafficked onto a Thai fishing boat operating illegally in Indonesian waters, and, according to him, the conditions were worse than those on an 18th century slave ship.

“They allowed us to sleep only about one hour per day,” said Kyaw.

Surrounded by a crew with guns, he and his fellow workers were treated as animals.

When we think of trafficking today, images of young girls forced to work in dark, back-alley brothels in Bangkok or Phnom Penh often come to mind.

But the issue of trafficking is much broader than that.

Article 3 of the United Nations’ protocol against trafficking describes it as “the recruitment, transportation…or harboring…of a person…to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation.” (More on how slavery is defined)

And a new report from World Vision in southeast Asia found that for every one person forced to work in the global sex trade, nine are forced to work for little or no wages in dirty, dangerous, and often demeaning jobs. The sale of people into labor has now become the most common form of human trafficking in the world.

In Thailand and Malaysia, the fishing business is a multi-billion dollar industry. Young men and boys are often recruited from poor villages in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar onto boats where they are literally imprisoned at sea. Escapees have reported being drugged to work harder, threatened at gun point, seeing colleagues killed, not receiving a salary, and being beaten, starved, and worked nearly to death.

Ten years after the adoption of the U.N.’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) protocol, many in the international community have taken significant steps to combat trafficking. However, trafficking for labor exploitation is generally still not considered as severe a crime as sex trafficking, and since many of these victims, like Kyaw, do not have access to assistance or justice, their traffickers remain free to exploit others.

In the United States
In the United States, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) is the centerpiece of our country’s policies against modern-day slavery.

It is the largest piece of human rights legislation in U.S. history, creating the first comprehensive federal law to address human trafficking both here in the United States and around the world. The TVPA provides a three-pronged approach to trafficking: prevent vulnerability, protect survivors and prosecute human traffickers.

Because the methods of these perpetrators and the needs of survivors are constantly evolving, the law must evolve with it. The TVPA is currently set to expire September 30, 2011. If Congress does not reauthorize the bill, the United States’ fight against slavery will be weakened and for millions of children and adults trafficked every year, their story might not end the same way Kyaw’s did.

After six months imprisoned on the Thai fishing boat, Kyaw and his friends were desperate to escape. One night, they jumped into the water and tried to huddle together, but the waves separated them. Hours later, Kyaw was picked up by an Indonesian fishing boat and eventually sent to Bali where they waited in immigration detention for a year before World Vision was eventually able to help reunite Kyaw with his family in Myanmar.

The International Labor Organization estimates that every year, at least 1.2 million children like Kyaw are trafficked for labor around the world. The United States can and should do more to help end the illegal sale of children for sex and slave labor; that’s where U.S. citizens come in.

Now, with just a few weeks to go until the TVPA expires, it’s more important than ever that Americans tell the U.S. Congress that fighting trafficking is important to them.

Once their eyes are open to the realities of modern-day slavery, people often ask me: “But what can I do?” It’s actually quite simple; it only takes about 10 calls to a Congressional office to turn an invisible issue into a huge priority for Capitol Hill.

So raise your voices, spread the word, call your Congressional representative now and tell them to support this critical law. It’s up to you to ensure that this fight continues. Protecting children is not a right/left issue; it’s a right/wrong issue.

- The opinions expressed in this guest post are solely those of Jesse Eaves.

Topics: Government • Voices

soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Fred

    Commendable project. And how about probing and exposing the genocide by abortion? More than 1 million per year in US alone, and 42 million yearly worldwide!

    September 14, 2011 at 11:33 am | Reply
    • jnemesh

      Why don't you look up the definition of the word "genocide". Here's a clue...it involves killing off a RACE of people. Since abortions aren't aimed at eliminating an ethnic group, by definition, it is NOT genocide! I don't care how offensive you find abortion, trying to tie this issue to YOUR problem is a reach. Try commenting on topic next time.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Reply
    • Havildar

      Hey Fred why not at the same time highlight the many Millions of women and children killed due to spouse abuse and lack of healthcare or food. These are the "born" people unlike the unborn. Republicans do not care about the living that would have them doing something constructive. It is sure easy and zero cost to them to worry about the unborn. When was the last time you used a condom to prevent an unwanted pregnancy ? Prevention is better than abortion.

      September 17, 2011 at 8:32 am | Reply
      • Kevin

        Probably ought to look at the political platforms before making another stupid comment about republicans. Aritcle is about human trafficking and I'm amazed how you can make a rant about republicans not caring about human life. Prevention IS better than killing an unwanted child, but that IS the republican stand. Why use abortion as a contraceptive? Why use an article about human trafficking to further push your anti-republican agenda? Doesn't CNN do that well enough? Piers Morgan condemns everything US because although we have a firm presence in virually every country in the world, we don't know anything about the people's of the world, and Fareed Zakaria has publically called for the dismissal of the presidential system of the US in favor of a prime minister and a parliament. The US military was given training on combating human trafficking during the last administration. Did you know that? I do, because I received that training, but our current democratic president will not allow us to use that training. Now, who cares about human life???

        September 19, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  2. jose

    Science and logic already proved; No brain, no life. So, abortion is not killing but extraction of a bunch of cells that may form something, but if have no brain it's not life.

    September 14, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Reply
    • Kevin

      Jose, when do you think a brain develops? The day of birth? What about all the little babies born premature as early as 26 weeks? When did their brains develop? Develop yours and use it before making comments next time. By the way, how about you say something about human trafficking, since that's what the article was about. Stay on topic.

      September 19, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Reply
  3. dillinger

    Pimps and traffickers don't pay taxes. That's a good reason for governments to crack down on them. They're short of revenue and seizing the assets of these criminals is a good way to make up for the shortfall. Giving the women involved immunity from prosecution is another good idea, of course.

    September 14, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Reply
  4. todd saed

    THe illegal immigrants from Myanmar do the dirty work like Mexicans in the US, and are looked down on, not trusted,
    capitalism at its ugliest, Arab springs are just the beginning, third wave economies, knowledge based technologies are replacing governments like in Zomia,that is the trend of history , people power to those who make history ,the people, Margaret Mead said a small group of informed people can change the world, they have always been the ones, the conservatives have always made it worse with wars, inequality, anti people ideology, and rip off economies, exploitation, and authoritarianism, hard wired amygdalas seeing threats everywhere, infantile anal retentive personalities, these things cannot last as time is long, and only the positive endures to the end, so here is a chance to do one little thing, a start toward the bigger things that are coming, see the light beyond good and evil on the Tao, accep;t , love, get right with your Self, all else will follow

    September 19, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Reply
  5. M.Rafi

    Kindly,I would like to know if Mr.Ataseed(a Sudanese) is working with you or not.
    But surely,he is somewhere with the CNN.His father is a law lecturer in Nigeria before.
    I was working in Nigeria with him before.
    Please advice me .
    Thanks.
    M.Rafi ( cell phone: 966 540923433) e-mail : mrafi_siddiq@yahoo.com

    September 20, 2011 at 7:50 am | Reply
  6. Alex DeLaRocha

    Come with me into a world of music http://www.youtube.com/user/alexdelarocha
    Peace, love and unity!

    September 22, 2011 at 7:27 am | Reply
  7. MannyHM

    Bribery on corrupted officials and excessive fees to recruiters and agencies make these slaves become heavily indebted before they leave for their jobs. They don't feel that they're slaves because they're paid and they compare their wages with what they have in their village. Naive indeed are these young adults. They are treated like toilet paper to be discarded after use. Again, the best way to fight this modern slavery is to boycott these companies that benefit direct and indirectly from slave labor.

    October 4, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Reply
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