That's the question that ran through my mind as I started sifting through the U.S. State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report.
The TIP Report is one of the most comprehensive available on the state of human trafficking around the world. It is a country-by-country assessment of laws, prosecutions, rescues and other efforts being undertaken by the world's governments and NGOs in order combat and end human trafficking.
It's a thick report (over 300 pages) and some of the information is unpleasant. But it's true that knowledge is power, and the more we understand the better equipped we are to fight.
The TIP report ranks countries by Tiers; Tiers 1, 2, and 3, based on requirements laid out in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
Tier 1 countries are doing well. Tier 2 are making a significant effort but aren't quite there yet and, Tier 3 countries are making no effort. In addition, there is a Tier 2 Watch List which indicates that a country appears to be making an effort but still has high instances of trafficking. Or perhaps they're efforts are dwindling.
Though I couldn't find this link myself, Diana Scimone has - on her blog - a link which lists countries by Tier. You can also read through the entire report - section by section - here.
Though I still have a lot of information to sift through, there are a couple of things that I want to comment on right away.
First, there are still - around the world - so many instances of trafficking victims being treated like criminals. Some of them seek help, only to be arrested because they're lacking identification, a passport or visa. Others try to escape and are arrested. They may be returned to their slave owner, or possibly deported, shipped back to their home country where they may or may not have a home to which they can return. And where they certainly won't receive the aftercare necessary for physical, psychological and emotional healing.
The training of law enforcement officials is vital to the effective eradication of human trafficking. Victims need to know that they will be protected and that every effort will be made to help them heal, and live productive lives.
Second, cultural stigma is a significant obstacle which many women and girls must face if they've been victims of sex trafficking. In many countries, women or girls who are raped are not viewed as victims who need help. Instead, they are told they have brought shame on their families, and they are likely to be ostracized by the very communities from which they need support.
These stigmas prevent women and girls from asking for help. Some will not admit that they've been trafficked, as they don't want to face the prospect of returning home. Ambassador DeBaca put it best when he said that "culturally, we need to see through to each individual's humanity and recognize how traffickers exploit their victims..." I don't know how we overcome decades, or centuries, of cultural beliefs, but for the sake of these women and girls we need to figure it out.
In her comments about the Trafficking in Persons Report, Diana closes with the same quote that I had planned to use. Because she posted her comments before I posted mine, I can't say that she stole my ending :)
Rather than trying to write an alternate closing - and because I believe these words are worth repeating - I'm also going to quote Ambassador deBaca:
"This report is their [trafficking victims'] story," he writes. "It is the story of governments, organizations, and individuals who give such survivors a chance for freedom. It is on their behalf, and in the spirit of a common humanity, that we seek a global partnership for the abolition of modern slavery."