It is almost impossible to believe, but today millions remain in bondage. The simple and sad truth remains that even in this modern era children are forced to take part in armed conflicts or sold to brothels by their destitute families. Men and women toil for little or no pay, and are threatened and beaten if they try to escape. Women and girls are forced into prostitution. Human slavery tears at our social fabric, fuels violence and organized crime, and debases our common humanity. I want to take this opportunity to renew the U.S. Embassy’s commitment to the Dominican Republic to work with you end this scourge in all its forms.
Modern day slavery is a global tragedy, and like narcotics trafficking combating it requires broad international cooperation. The United States continues to shine a spotlight on the dark corners where it persists. We place sanctions on the worst abusers, work with countries to meet their obligations, and partner with groups that help trafficking victims escape from their abusers’ grip. We are working with other nations as they step up their own efforts to combat this abuse, and we are seeing more countries pass anti-human trafficking laws and improve enforcement. And we are ever vigilant within our own borders, mindful that this terrible crime can occur in any country, including our own.
In October, we partnered with the Government of the Dominican Republic to present the feature film 8 DAYS. The movie, which has received positive reviews as “a powerful and accurate depiction of the crime of sex trafficking and its victims,” was screened as the culmination of our activities promoting citizen security, institution-building, and democratic governance. We met with students from the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo and civil society organizations such as the Walker Education Project, and they were profoundly impacted as we are, that these crimes continue to take place, and as deeply committed to ending them.
Not all slaves are trafficked, but all trafficked persons are victims of slavery. Vulnerability to human trafficking is far-reaching, spanning age, socioeconomic status, nationality, education-level, and gender. Traffickers often prey upon people who are hoping for a better life. They target those who lack employment opportunities, have an unstable home life, or suffer from a history of sexual abuse – tragic conditions that can be present in any sphere of society. The most vulnerable populations include undocumented immigrants, runaway and homeless youth; victims of trauma and abuse; refugees and individuals fleeing conflict; and oppressed, marginalized, and impoverished groups and individuals. Women make up the majority of victims.
As we work together to dismantle trafficking networks and help survivors rebuild their lives, we must also address the inequities and injustices that push so many into bondage. We must develop economies that create legitimate jobs, and do our part to build a global sense of justice that says no child should ever be exploited and that the powerless shall not be preyed upon. We can and must fight human trafficking wherever it exists. Let us all declare as one that slavery and human trafficking has no place in our world. Let us strip away every resource and refuge to those who engage in this practice. Together, let us finally restore to all people their most basic rights of freedom, dignity, and justice.