How the GOP and America’s Arab allies support slavery

Time magazine reports:

Three days before the congressional elections last fall, Hillary Rodham Clinton stood halfway around the world, pledging to young victims of human trafficking at Cambodia’s s Siem Reap Center that they would continue to enjoy the support of the U.S. State Department, which then provided some $336,000 to the shelter. The acclaimed center, situated near the magnificent temples of Angkor Wat, was an oasis of peace for some 50 survivors who, before they were rescued or escaped, had endured slavery in brothels, where they were forced to have sex with as many as 30 men a day. At the shelter, they received counseling, studied hairdressing, learned to sew, and otherwise worked to rebuild their lives and reclaim their humanity. In the evening, they did aerobics together.

On Monday afternoon, some eight months after that visit, as she unveiled the State Department’s 11th annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report to a packed room in the department’s ornate Benjamin Franklin Room, Clinton only hinted that the result of the congressional elections had left the long-term value of her pledge to the survivors in doubt. “Even in these tight economic times, we need to find ways to do better,” Clinton told the overflow crowd.

Clinton’s confidence belied the fact that in April, Congress slashed the grant-making capacity of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. When the Republicans won the House last November, the office’s $21.2 million annual budget to fight the war on slavery was already microscopic. At the time, it was barely equal to the U.S. government’s daily budget to fight the war on drugs. For fiscal year 2012, Congress sliced away nearly a quarter of those antislavery funds, as part of its broader $8 billion State Department budget cuts.

Brian Whitaker writes:

Efforts to combat human rights abuses are easily undermined by politics. Often – and with good reason – the US and other western countries are accused of highlighting abuses by their enemies while turning a blind eye to similar abuses by their friends.

One way of pushing political considerations into the background is to look at the problem comparatively, by considering where each country stands in relation to others. That is what the US state department has been doing for 11 years now, with its global reports on human trafficking.

The result, as seen in the latest report issued on Monday, is a robust critique, which places some of the staunchest US allies – Kuwait and Saudi Arabia – in the same rotten boat as long-time foes such as Cuba, North Korea and Iran.

“Trafficking in persons” covers various forms of exploitation including, in the words of the international Palermo protocol, “sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”.

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