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U.S. must practice what it preaches as it judges others on human trafficking
ATEST's Director Melysa Sperber calls on the United States to step up its efforts to end human trafficking treat trafficking survivors better here at home. This op-ed was published by CNN Freedom Project.
(CNN) - For the past 14 years, the U.S. State Department has used its Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report to judge how well the world is addressing modern slavery.
Each year, the report draws much-needed attention to the horrors of human trafficking that flourish everywhere from fishing boats in Thailand and palm plantations in Malaysia, to brick kilns in India and the sex industry in just about every country worldwide.
Hidden behind the shadows, traffickers prey on men, women and children, luring the vulnerable among us with promises of honest employment that are merely a facade for work conditions that are dangerous, exploitative and sometimes deadly.
To date, the TIP Report’s country-by-country assessment has proven to be a powerful motivator, inspiring governments to improve efforts to reduce modern slavery in order to avoid the report’s lowest Tier 3 ranking - a diplomatic black eye that comes with the threat of U.S. sanctions.
The State Department’s power to influence other countries’ anti-trafficking efforts depends on the TIP Report’s integrity.
We see concrete progress that we attribute to the TIP Report’s influence, and that is why its credibility must be unassailable.
For example, the TIP Report was instrumental in galvanizing political will in Cameroon to pass legislation in 2012 making it a crime to traffic adults and children for sex or labor exploitation.
In the Philippines, the government has make profound reforms, including putting trafficking cases on a fast track for prosecution, in order to avoid a poor TIP ranking.
But how is the U.S. faring at home?
The TIP report has given America a top Tier 1 ranking since the State Department began reporting on U.S. progress in 2010.
Tier 1 status requires that countries make “appreciable progress” in efforts to combat modern slavery, and it is incumbent on the U.S. to use the annual assessment to look hard at its progress and to hold its leaders accountable if they’re not doing enough.
As a rule, “Do as I say, not as I do” is not a productive way to lead, and if we take a hard look at what the U.S. government is doing to fight domestic slavery - with resources that dwarf so many of the governments we critique each year - the honest conclusion is that it can and should do so much bette