Human trafficking is a problem that ails our world in the 21st century. Potentially millions of women and children have been sold or forced into sex and labor trafficking worldwide with just over 40,000 cases collected by the United States’ National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2017 alone (Polaris Project 1). Statistics show that men, women, and children are trafficked due to poverty and immigration (Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons 33). Sex trafficking often occurs in escort services and massage parlors (Hughes 8) while labor trafficking frequently occurs in jobs like construction and housekeeping (Polaris Project 2). Human trafficking can occur within countries as well as transnationally.
Many countries have already begun combatting human trafficking. In 2000, The United Nations convened to address the issue of international human trafficking with its member countries. The convention resulted in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, also known as the Palermo Protocol. The Protocol has served as a “universal instrument that addresses all aspects of trafficking in persons” (United Nations 1). The Protocol also formed the foundation for the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) in the United States as well as similar legislation in other member countries.
Both the TVPA and the Palermo Protocol provide 4 tenets to serve as a skeleton for governments to construct a focused approach in their pursuits to end human trafficking at home and abroad. The first of these tenets is Prosecution. Both documents emphasize the importance of law enforcement in “deter the crime and adequately [reflect] the heinous nature” of human trafficking acts (Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons 1). Through this tenet, governments create new legislation to equally hold traffickers criminally accountable. The next tenet is Protection. The Palermo Protocol states that governments should provide medical assistance, legal aid and “the possibility of obtaining compensation for damage suffered” (United Nations 3-4). Supporting rescued victims and identifying current victims is seen as a key component to robust anti-trafficking programs. The third tenet recommended by the TVPA and the Palermo Protocol is Prevention. According to the TVPA, preventing human trafficking from occurring includes more economic opportunities for potential victims as well as increasing public awareness (United States Congress div. a, sec. 106). The final tenet is Partnership. Partnership serves as a tool with which governments can support each other as well as the efforts of nonprofit organizations like Polaris Project and The Wayne Foundation. Since the enacting the TVPA, the United States has formed agencies like the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office) to act as a liaison between the United States and its allied countries to help form comprehensive anti-trafficking strategies.
Texas has been an active part of the national anti-trafficking strategy. Texas was one of the first states to adopt anti-trafficking legislation in 2003 (Polaris Project 1) with the remaining states adopting similar laws soon after. The Office of the Inspector General and the Department of Public Safety have both submitted reports on the state of trafficking in Texas and the Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force, the first of its kind, was formed in 2009 (Texas Office of the Attorney General 6). The Texas government was even among the highest rated states in 2013 (Texas Office of the Attorney General 3) for its actions. The State of Texas can further curb human trafficking by providing more training opportunities to police officers and citizens, by partnering with nonprofit organizations and major businesses more closely, by increasing public awareness efforts statewide, and by better assisting human trafficking victims.