Experts: Better Enforcement, Attitude Shift Necessary to Combat Human Trafficking

NEW YORK, October 2, 2012 — Asia Society's panel discussion on human trafficking and migration focused on the role of the American and Indian private sectors. Participants Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the State Department, Ruchira Gupta, Founder and President of Apne Aaap, a grassroots organization that tackles issues of human trafficking and women’s rights, Letty Ashworth, General Manager of Global Diversity at Delta Airlines, and Susu Thatun, Child Protection Officer at UNICEF, spoke candidly about the marked differences between migration and trafficking and the need to screen and minimize the latter.

The panelists primarily spoke of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. According to Ambassador Cdebaca, all parties involved in sex labor in America are criminalized, and the average sentence doesn't reflect the crime; prostitution isn't considered rape, warranting fines rather than jail sentences. However, CdeBaca said, prostitution culture in America has improved over the years, having become more taboo. Such normative change has yet to occur in India, where devolution makes policing difficult, despite the country's democratic politics.

Cdebaca and Gupta argued that in order to monitor and combat human trafficking and sex labor, we need to enforce codes of law and conduct — like the 11 minimum standards of anti-trafficking efforts outlined by President Obama and Hillary Clinton in this year's annual U.S. State Department human trafficking report — and instigate normative change, "a shift in the mind" on the demand side of these transactions, as Gupta put it.

Ashworth concluded with a story about a woman who spoke at Delta's speaker series on having been trafficked in Texas by both men and women. Human trafficking occurs all over the world, she said, including right here in America, and whether male or female, we all have a role to play in its eradication.

This program was the first in a planned series of events at Asia Society examining the role of the private sector in protecting migrants, as well as policies aimed at encouraging access of migrants to new markets. Programs will take place across Asia Society's global network of 11 centers in six countries.

Reported by Renny Grinshpan

Video: Watch an excerpt from the program (9 min., 35 sec.)


Related Links:
Watch the complete program
Private-Public Collaboration Key to Better Treatment of Migrant Workers