Lucy Liu and Others Advocate Against Trafficking Sex, Domestic Workers

Angie and Melissa, both in their teens, were about to perform their duties as “truck-stop girls” one night. In addition to having sex with the driver, they were supposed to steal money from him.

Washington, D.C. – infoZine – Scripps Howard Foundation Wire – Melissa found pictures of her client’s grandchildren in his wallet.

The man could have been their grandfather. Fighting back tears and disgust as she recalls the events, Angie says to the camera, “I wanted to die.”

This is a scene from the documentary on human trafficking, “Not My Life,” directed by Robert Bilheimer, which was part of a discussion on human trafficking sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development on Wednesday at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel.

Although “Not My Life” illustrates many instances of human trafficking across the globe, Angie’s case took place in the United States.

“I think people will be shocked to find this is happening in America, I don’t think they can comprehend it because it won’t make any sense,” said Lucy Liu, actress and UNICEF ambassador. “You don’t recognize that it is that there is a channel between poverty, trafficking and people will always take advantage of children when they can,” said the actress, who also works with MTV on its End Exploitation and Trafficking campaign and is the executive producer of another documentary, “Red Light.”

The daylong symposium looked at the causes and effects of human trafficking and solutions. About 250 guests from government agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector discussed partnerships for preventing and ending human trafficking.

In a speech, Liu noted that 80,000 young women are sexually violated every day. Struggling with her words as she held back tears, Liu called trafficking the “cannibalization of the planet’s youth.”

According to government figures, approximately 800,000 persons are trafficked across borders every year. In the U.S., it’s the largest trade category after drugs. In 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act took effect, leading U.S. agencies start new programs to help in the fight against global trafficking.

Since 2001, the U.S. government has spent more than $528 million on anti-trafficking activities worldwide and USAID alone has provided $123 million to more than 70 countries for anti-trafficking programs.

Speakers at the event discussed the causes and forms of trafficking, which include domestic work and guest worker programs.

“Trafficking goes beyond sex work,” said Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, president of Visayan Forum Foundation. “Forced labor is all around us, we just don’t see it.”

Marilyn Carlson Nelson, chairman of Carlson Companies, said partnerships among organizations is essential to end global trafficking. She said her company is the only travel group that is part of ECPAT International, which stands for End Child Prostitution Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes.

While she championed the State Department’s research on sex trafficking, Carlson Nelson said it was missing one component.

“The three Ps of prevent, protect and prosecute should also include partnership,” Carlson Nelson said. “We are dealing with a universal moral issue, and inaction in the face of this grave issue is unacceptable.”

Diep Vuong, program director of Pacific Links, a foundation that works to prevent sex trafficking of young girls on the border of Vietnam and Cambodia, spoke about prevention and reintegration.

“We target girls who are more vulnerable to traffickers and those that are most likely to drop out,” Vuong said. “We give these girls a chance to gain economic self sufficiency.”

Carol O’Laughlin, vice president of Winrock International, a global non-profit organization, discussed reintegration of victims from Moldova through vocational education.

“We prepare them for the real world by training them in skills development and job attainment,” said O’Laughlin, adding that her organization could use more support from USAID.

Liu said that people can do a lot to fight trafficking, simply by doing research and volunteering.

“There are so many ways to participate if you want – monetarily and financially – and once you do, you can start spreading the word on your own and its kind of amazing what you can learn and you can make a difference,” she said.


Published in: on September 21, 2009 at 9:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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