Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State and Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons John R. Miller delivered a speech entitled “The Fight to Abolish Modern Day Slavery” to about 30 people on Thursday in the Leavey Center.

“We are engaged in a struggle for souls and lives around the world,” Miller said. “This is a gross violation of human rights.”

Cases are being prosecuted against prostitution rings in Seattle, Houston and Miami. Persons are trafficked from Afghanistan to Pakistan and from Albania to Bosnia-Herzegovenia. Modern day slavery encompasses bondage slavery on farms in India and Pakistan, charcoal camps in Brazil, factories in Uganda and Sri Lanka, forced labor in Mauritania and the islands of the Caribbean.

“A million children – yes, children – are forced into prostitution,” he said. “The fastest growing form of modern day slavery is sex slavery. It is also the most profitable, most consistently linked to organized crime and the third largest trade after drugs and arms.”

He shared the stories of some women who were victims of modern-day sex slavery. The 18-year-old “Maria” from Vera Cruz, for instance, was promised a restaurant job in New exico only to be forced into a brothel. An expose in Catholic agazine revealed the story of “Sasha,” taken from her Czech town to an Amsterdam brothel, raising over $70,000 for her captors. In Nigeria, a woman named “Mercy” was promised a job in Italy. Later, Mercy was told that she must pay off a $50,000 debt by becoming a prostitute. When she refused, her captors raped her and threatened her family. A 14-year-old girl was persuaded by traffickers to leave Burma for Thailand, only to be raped by over a dozen men in one night, and among those who enslaved her was a member of the Thai police force. Those enslaved are subjected to gang rapes, beatings, forced abortions, imprisonment and, in some cases, death.

Miller outlined a variety of ways in which the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons seeks to battle modern day slavery. Women and children can be educated about the false promises that they may be offered by traffickers posing as travel agencies. The construction and support of shelters can help rehabilitate the victims. Governments can prosecute those who profit from these slaves, crack down on trafficking rings and pass tougher laws to punish users of trafficking advertised as “tourist attractions.”

The Office supports faith-based groups, nongovernmental organizations and hosts conferences to educate leaders and promote information between organizations. The Office has spent $60,000 to $70,000 to combat slavery, a vast majority sent to organizations such as International Justice Organization and Catholic Relief Services.

According to Miller, the publication of a report ranking nations based on violations of human rights spurred progress in the battle against modern day slavery. The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons reports that the United Arab Emirates, ranked as having one of the worst records of human rights violations, instituted border controls, prosecutions and heightened protections for victims as a result of the report.

Miller also emphasized the importance of educating and bringing the issue of modern-day slavery to the forefront of politics. “I encourage you to keep raising this issue,” he said. “This is a cause in which all people of the world should be involved. This is truly a struggle we must win.”

Students and teachers that attended the lecture said that they support the work of Miller and the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

“This is a problem largely ignored, especially in the United States. Slavery from the South is the only slavery we think of. It is an enormous problem on the east and west coast . The most important thing is to educate people about this issue,” Lili Mathis (COL ’04) said.

Founded in October 2000 under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons identifies the forcing individuals to engage in prostitution, pornography or work in exploitative labor conditions in fields or factories as a type of modern day slavery. The Office estimates that each year 50,000 people, mostly comprised of women and children, are trafficked into the United States and 70,000 are trafficked around the world.

John R. Miller was recently appointed by Secretary of State Colin Powell to his position in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons under the auspices of the State Department. Prior to this appointment, Miller served as a Republican Congressman for the first district in the state of Washington and a member of the House Committee for International Relations. For the past three years, he was a chair of the Seattle Discovery Institute.

Miller’s speech was sponsored by the Lecture Fund, Women in Politics and the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service.

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