April 24, 2002
Thank you Madame Chair for convening this hearing
on sex trafficking. Sex trafficking wherever it
occurs is abhorrent. Sex trafficking wherever
it occurs is a concern of the men and women of
this subcommittee, committee, and Congress.
I commend Congressman Smith who has taken a lead
on this issue and all other human rights issues,
too many of which remain overlooked.
Trafficking, particularly sex trafficking and
sexual slavery, has become a global scourge that
until recently has received scant or no attention
from our policymakers. So it is appropriate that
this subcommittee with you and me as its leaders
should convene this hearing on this subject.
Who would have thought that in the year 2002,
almost 200 years after Denmark became the first
of the world's nations to outlaw slavery, we'd
still be here fighting the hideous practices of
buying, selling, and trafficking other human beings?
Probably no one group in this country understands
the horror and cruelty involved in these practices
than the grandsons and granddaughter of slaves.
Even today, for the inheritors of slavery's legacy,
the African-American community, justice has come
slowly and the economic, social, and psychological
wounds of history still have not healed.
One hundred and 39 years after the formal abolition
of the American slave trade, African-Americans
are still waiting to collect on that "bad check"
Dr. King talked about on the steps of the Lincoln
Memorial almost four decades ago. Eight generations
of African-Americans are still waiting to achieve
their rights - compensation and restitution for
the hundreds of years during which they were bought
and sold on the market.
Let me add that the fight against sexual exploitation
and sex-based tyranny - a fight that is as old
as history itself - has particular meaning.
To be denied one's freedom ... To be stripped
of one's human value ... and instead assigned
a market price ... These are no minor things.
They strike at the very heart of what it means
to be free and human. International human rights
activists have for years been alerting us to the
ongoing brutality of human exploitation. Finally,
two years ago, we began to listen.
The passage of the Victims of Trafficking and
Violence Protection Act of 2000 was a great success
for victims of trafficking, exploitation, and
slavery everywhere. The State Department's Trafficking
in Persons Report, issued last year for the first
time, has been a welcome addition to the discourse
on the practices of buying and selling human beings.
The report rightly calls these abominable practices
"a modern-day form of slavery, which has persisted
into the twenty-first century." The State Department's
report helps us to understand that while modern-day
human trafficking may have taken on more sophisticated
and often even subtle forms, the pain, horror,
and exploitation can be very much the same as
it was in the past.
The State Department report also plays another
very key role - it allows for the debate on the
practice of buying, selling, trading, and trafficking
in human beings to be elevated to a level that
goes beyond petty political and ideological concerns.
So while it may be popular in certain political
and ideological circles to single out certain
nations, races, or religions, for selective moral
scrutiny, we know now that the realities are far
more complex and disquieting.
Because among the "rogue nations" and "dictatorships"
of the Tier 3 countries - countries the State
Department views as the world's most egregious
traffickers in human beings - countries like Burma,
Sudan, and Yugoslavia - are those nations that,
in addition to being strong U.S. allies, are also
considered to be thriving democracies.
Yet there is little or no outrage from the usual
circles, either inside or outside the Congress.
The authors of the State Department report ought
to be commended, therefore, for providing us with
an honest and straightforward assessment of these
horrible practices, wherever they occur.
We might have thought - or wished - that such
practices had been relegated to the past. It might
have been easier to bury our heads in the sand
- and for years we did exactly that. But with
the lessons of history still fresh on minds, we
can no longer afford to look the other way.
Someone once said that the most important thing
we learn from history is that we never learn from
history. I hope this time, we will prove them
Thank you all for being with us and I look forward
to hearing from you all.