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May 22, 2014
US House Passes Human Trafficking Bills
    by Robert Kropp

Strong bipartisan support for a package of bills that encourage states to provide social services to victims of forced prostitution and impose additional penalties for those engaged in human trafficking.

In what was described by ECPAT-USA, a network of organizations dedicated to the elimination of the commercial sexual exploitation of children, as “a historic day in Human Trafficking,” the US House of Representatives on Tuesday passed five bills addressing what the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) has called "globalization's darkest secret."

ECPAT-USA was especially pleased with the unanimous passage of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which, the organization stated, “creates victim-centered model block grants that will help States develop comprehensive victim-centered programs that will help restore the lives of victims.” As well as allotting funds to provide services to victims of trafficking, the bill increases penalties for those engaged in the practice.

“The legislation also makes great strides in efforts to reduce demand for human trafficking by clarifying the current law and encouraging police, prosecutors, judges, and juries to hold those who buy children accountable for the abuse and harm they cause,” ECPAT-USA stated.

Also passing on Tuesday was Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act of 2013, which requires states to pass legislation defining minors involved in commercial sex acts as victims of human trafficking. The bill discourages prosecution of such minors while encouraging diversion into child protection services.

US Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has introduced legislation similar to the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act in the Senate. In response to House passage of the legislation, Klobuchar stated, “Today’s action in the House is an important step forward for this legislation and our effort to fight sex trafficking. I’m looking forward to working with the House to produce a strong final bill that will give victims the support they need and help law enforcement fight these heinous crimes.”

Many sustainable investors consider it an essential part of their human rights mandate to hold corporations accountable for policing human trafficking violations in their supply chains. In 2011, ICCR published a Human Trafficking Investor Statement, which noted that many of its members “have been pressing businesses to scrutinize their supply chains and operations to ensure that they are not inadvertently complicit in human rights violations, specifically, violations associated with human trafficking and modern day slavery, including child labor, forced labor and slave labor.”

Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) has been particularly active in engaging with companies in the hospitality industries to ensure that the issue of human trafficking at major sporting events will be addressed. In 2012, CBIS organized a coalition of 39 organizations, including sustainable investment firms with a combined $58 billion in assets under management, to focus attention on human trafficking risks in advance of the London Olympics.


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