Monday, February 25, 2013

Washington leading the fight against human trafficking

We tend to think that human trafficking and modern-day slavery happen only in distant third-world countries, not here in America.

But they do, more than any of us can imagine. Consider Susana Blackwell, from the Philippines, who was killed by her husband right outside Seattle's King County courtroom in 1995. And Anastasia King, from the former Soviet Republic of Kyrgyztan, who was murdered just north of Seattle in 2000, also by her husband. Both women came to Washington believing they had found happiness.
Human trafficking is happening right here, right now. A recent story comes from a survivor, Yasmin Christopher, born in Bangladesh, who endured childhood hardship and abuse when members of her family were held captive on a remote farm by her father. Read her story in this February 16 Seattle Times report.
According to a 2009 United Nations study, it is very difficult to assess the real size of human trafficking because it takes place underground, and is often not even identified. But a conservative estimate puts the number of victims at any one time at 2.5 million. Sexual exploitation is the most commonly identified form of human trafficking (79%), followed by forced labor (18%).
Human trafficking is an enormous and widespread problem, but Washington and other states have taken important steps to prevent it. In fact, Washington passed 28 laws from 2002 to 2012 to fight human trafficking, modern-day slavery and sexual exploitation of children, making us the leader among all states in addressing this issue. Some of those laws:
To learn more about these and the rest of the 28 laws passed in our state so far, please click here.

All those laws took a lot of time, work and collaboration among lawmakers, law enforcement agencies and stakeholders, but they are making a difference. We’re far from done, however, so in this legislative session, Rep. Tina Orwall is working on two new measures to continue helping victims of human trafficking:
  • HB 1291 builds on last year’s HB 2692. Under this year’s legislation, fees from impounded vehicles involved in prostitution-related offenses would be directed to local governments to reduce the commercial sale of sex through more enforcement and rehab services for victims.
  • HB 1292 would allow victims of trafficking forced into prostitution to clear their records of related convictions. This legislation passed the House today on a  91-1 vote. 
Watch the January 31st public hearing on these two bills:
Read this story in Spanish.