Saturday, July 30, 2005

Trafficking Policy Scrutinized

BY ANTHONY M. DESTEFANO
STAFF WRITER

July 24, 2005

Mix sex with the Bush administration and controversy is bound to follow.

Such is the case with the emotional issue of human trafficking - the migration of people to work in forced or fraudulent labor conditions often involving prostitution, or as farm and domestic workers.

The United States has been at the forefront of anti-trafficking efforts since the passage of a federal law in the closing days of the Clinton administration in 2000. Since then, American prosecutors have initiated scores of criminal cases in New York City and elsewhere. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent to address what many human-rights advocates see as modern-day slavery.

Earlier this month, the Department of State started the clock ticking on 14 nations, including allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have until Oct. 1 to do more to combat trafficking as defined under American law or lose certain U.S. aid.

But critics believe the administration is using worldwide concern about trafficking to push a misguided effort aimed at abolishing prostitution to curry favor with conservative religious elements in the United States. That effort is based on half-baked research or no research at all, the critics maintain. The result, according to some human-rights activists, has been too much attention on sex trafficking and not enough on labor trafficking.

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