By Karen Orlando
Wednesday, May 3, 2000
Bills propose that traffickers in women and children face stiff penalties and offer a limited number of visas to those brought to U.S.
Bills propose that traffickers in women and children face stiff penalties and offer a limited number of visas to those brought to U.S. Legislation, intended to combat the sex trafficking of women and children into the United States, is expected to hit the House floor in late April.
Known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the bill calls for increased penalties for traffickers, permanent visas for a limited numberof victims and a special task force to further study and address sex trafficking as a human rights crime.
"This critical legislation will modify U.S. law to provide for severe punishment, including prison terms, for those convicted of peddling women and children within the United States," said the House bill’s sponsor, Representative Chris Smith (R-New Jersey).
Similar legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota) and the Foreign Relations subcommittee heard testimony in early April by several sex-trafficking victims.
If passed, the legislation may help reduce the number of women forced into prostitution or slave-like conditions. An estimated 50,000 women andchildren are trafficked into the United States annually and perhaps as many as two million women are trafficked internationally, according to aNovember, 1999 report by state department analyst Amy O’Neill Richard.
Approximately 30,000 of the victims brought to the U.S. are from Southeast Asia; about 10,000 arrive from Latin American countries and the rest are transported primarily from newly independent states and Eastern Europe. The majority of women brought to the U.S. are from Thailand, Vietnam, China, Mexico, Russian Ukraine and the Czech Republic, according to Richard's report.
Determining the precise scale of the trafficking victims is a difficult task because trafficking and prostitution are underground industries, often with links to organized crime. Moreover, no U.S.