Lured with the promise of a well-paying job or the chance at a better life, victims of modern day slavery and human trafficking often go unnoticed, but can be found just about anywhere. It’s a pervasive, widespread problem that affects 165 countries around the world, including the United States.
More than 40 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2016, according to the International Labour Organization. Of those 40 million people, nearly 25 million were trapped in forced labor and more than 15 million were in forced marriages.
Women and girls are especially vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation. Not only do they account for 71 percent of human trafficking victims worldwide, but they make up 99 percent of victims in the commercial sex industry. Not even children are immune – an estimated 152 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 are victims of forced child labor.
Ridding the world of modern slavery and human trafficking will require a coordinated and sustained global effort – an effort that has already attracted an unlikely cast of champions – from Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate to West Wing advisors and Hollywood celebrities.
Below is a snapshot of what Ivanka Trump, Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Chris Coons (D-DE), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and actor Ashton Kutcher have said on the issue they all get behind.
Calling modern slavery “the greatest human rights issue of our time,” Ivanka Trump announced “ending human trafficking is a major policy priority for the Trump Administration” in remarks at the State Department last year.
And while speaking on a panel at the United Nations General Assembly last September, Ivanka spelled out the economic repercussions and security implications of modern slavery and trafficking, explaining that it “splinters families, distorts global markets, undermines the rule of law, strengthens transnational organized criminal networks, and threatens national security everywhere.”
Senators Bob Corker and Chris Coons
As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Corker has long been a key ally in the fight against modern slavery and human trafficking. Under his leadership Congress passed the bipartisan End Modern Slavery Initiative Act. And as a key democrat on the Committee, Senator Chris Coons played a crucial role in the bill’s passage, which established the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery in order to better leverage public funds with private sector resources.
When the State Department awarded $25 million to the fund last year, the United States became the first country to contribute toward the fund – which Corker called a “game changer in this fight.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy
As the number two Republican in the House, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has singled out modern slavery and human trafficking as a priority issue for the House. Not only did he help usher through legislation aimed at protecting victims of exploitation and bolstering law enforcement’s ability to crack down on domestic and international trafficking, but he penned an op-ed for CNN.com on the subject.
Calling modern slavery and human trafficking “an affront to our human dignity, our basic freedoms and our common call to care for…those who are vulnerable and in need,” he made clear that the House is committed to playing an active role in this fight. And though he acknowledged that “No single piece of legislation will end human trafficking and exploitation,” he maintained that “with each one, we are closer to ending this terrible wrong and giving victims the chance to live the normal lives that were stolen from them.”
While he may be best known for his work as an actor, Ashton Kutcher has taken on a lesser known role, that of advocate. Through an anti-trafficking nonprofit he co-founded called Thorn, Kutcher has become a persuasive and frequent voice in the fight against modern slavery and human trafficking.
It was in his capacity as an advocate that he was called upon to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year, during which he noted that “This is a bipartisan effort and in a country that is riddled with bipartisan separation on so many things, slavery seems to come up as one of these issues that we can all agree upon.”