Yesterday (September 8, 2010), a delegation representing a large anti-trafficking coalition met with Ambassador Luis CdeBaca and members of his staff in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons in the U.S. State Department.
At the top of the agenda was the letter from the New York Anti-Trafficking Coalition which criticized the 2010 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. (See attached.)
Taina Bien-Aime from Equality Now opened the discussion by saying that she was “profoundly disappointed in the TIP Report.” As stated in the NY Anti-Trafficking Coalition letter, she challenged the statistic used in the TIP Report that stated that 90 percent of human trafficking was for forced labor. Taina insisted that this incorrect or highly biased statistic be removed from the TIP Office web site and publications.
Norma Ramos from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) followed up by saying that CATW’s 400 partners around the world were dismayed with this years TIP Report, particularly the statement that 90 percent of human trafficking was for forced labor. Many groups are wondering if this is what President Obama really thinks. Norma believes that the 2010 TIP Report has been “a retreat on all the ground that has been gained” in the last 10 years of the TIP Reports.
Following a discussion, Ambassador CdeBaca said that the challenged statistic came from the International Labor Organization (ILO). The authors of this year’s report chose to use ILO’s figure over other organizations’ estimates that differ greatly. Mark Taylor, the staff member in charge of overseeing the drafting of the TIP Report for the past five years, sat quietly at the end of the table. The ILO has a long history of treating prostitution as a form of work for women. Over 10 years ago, ILO released a report, entitled The Sex Sector, which called on governments to treat the sex industry as a legitimate economic sector. Members of the delegation expressed their dismay that this organization’s biased figure would be featured in the TIP Report.
***Ambassador CdeBaca then announced that the figure had been removed from the TIP Office’s Fact Sheet on Human Trafficking. A newly printed version was shown to the delegation.
Further discussion of the statistics on sex trafficking and forced labor led to the consensus that neither type of trafficking should be emphasized more than the other. Dorchen Leidholdt from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women stressed that there should not be a competition between the two types of trafficking. Both are egregious and need to be combated. Dorchen suggested that a gendered dimension of all types of trafficking should be substituted for attempts to determine which type of trafficking had more victims. Ambassador CdeBaca pointed out that most victims of forced labor are women. And many victims of forced labor, particularly children, are sexually abused while being enslaved and later become victims of sex trafficking. Everyone agreed that discussion of the multiple ways victims are abused and trafficked is a better approach that attempts to determine which type of trafficking has the most victims. This competition furthers ideological divides in the anti-trafficking movement.
The next item that was discussed was the lack of focus on “the demand” for commercial sex acts in the 2010 TIP Report. In 2008, Congress passed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The new law called for the TIP Office to prioritize “demand reduction” in the TIP Report’s evaluation of each country’s performance in meeting minimum standards to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, and thereby reduce the amount of sex trafficking. The Wilberforce Act created a “stand-alone minimum standard” by which a country’s rating will be based on whether it is making “serious and sustained efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex.” It is to be applied without regard to whether prostitution is legal or not under the laws of the country being rated.
Donna Hughes from Citizens Against Trafficking said she was disappointed that this new standard did not have a prominent place in the 2010 TIP Report. Comments on a country’s efforts to reduce demand for prostitution were relegated to the bottom of the last section of each country’s evaluation. We strongly suggested that a new section or subsection be created in future TIP Reports so that evaluation of demand reduction is prioritized as intended by the Wilberforce Act.
Taina Bien-Aime also pointed out that the 2010 TIP Report had little mention of sex tourism, an important factor in creating a demand for victims.
A discussion of Craigslist and other public advertising of prostitution followed. Sonia Ossorio from New York NOW quoted a report that stated that prostitution ads are the “bread and butter” of many neighborhood publications. Sonio insisted that we must find a way to address this marketing of women.
***Ambassador CdeBaca said that all businesses, including publications, should “scrub their product chain” to remove reliance on exploitation and human trafficking for their profits. CdeBaca said he has initiated a policy of only granting interviews to outlets that do not carry prostitution ads when he is in foreign countries where prostitution is legal (and openly advertise prostitution services).
Donna Hughes suggested that Ambassador CdeBaca should find a way to address the fact that Craigslist is continuing to run the “adult services” section in countries outside the U.S. That means that a U.S. company is assisting the exploitation of women and children in foreign countries.
Lisa Thompson from The Salvation Army said that the TIP Report is the United States most important policy and moral statement on human trafficking. And compared to past reports, the 2010 TIP Report seemed to be devoid of moral indignation about the demand for commercial sex acts.
Finally, Donna Hughes presented Ambassador CdeBaca with a detailed set of questions about enforcement of provisions from the 2008 (and 2005) Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Acts. The document outlines many deficiencies in fulfilling provisions from these laws. A number of them refer to the Department of Justices lack of compliance with the law. Ambassador CdeBaca is the head of the Senior Policy Operating Group (SPOG), a body composed of top administration officials from each governmental department. As the head of the SPOG, he is responsible for overseeing all other departments completion of reports, enforcement of the law, and compliance with grant procedures. We have asked CdeBaca to reply to this set of questions by October 15, 2010. (A copy of the set of questions is attached.)
The 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report can be found at the following web site http://www.state.gov/g/tip Fact sheets and other information on human trafficking can be found there as well.