- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 23, 2003

From 700,000 to 4 million women and children are trafficked annually into places such as Jamaica, Saudi Arabia, France and the United States for prostitution and labor, according to the United Nations. This year, there are fresh efforts being put into the fight against this $7 billion business.
The U.S. State Department, in conjunction with the War Against Trafficking Alliance, will sponsor a conference starting today and ending Wednesday, and devoted to discussions of strategies for fighting sex trafficking and victim rehabilitation. Representatives from 113 nations, including border guards to judges to vice presidents, are expected to participate.
Speeches will be made by victims of sex trafficking and by Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
The War Against Trafficking Alliance, founded by former congresswoman Linda Smith of Washington, is composed of Shared Hope International, the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies Protection Project, International Justice Mission and the Salvation Army.
In the past years of studying the problem, these groups have learned the ins and outs of the trade, such as the tricks traffickers use to lure young children into the brothels.
Victims are promised a mythical job, which makes them believe there will be an end to the prostitution they are forced to endure. Some traffickers stake out train depots and look for lost children to abduct.
Most girls initially refuse to cooperate, but starvation, beatings and humiliation can kill their will to resist. Those who get pregnant are often forced to abort or told to put the baby in a box underneath their bed; some women are reported to be forced to take clients within hours of the birth. Babies are sometimes sold to clients.
Shared Hope International was created more than three years ago, after Mrs. Smith visited Falkland Road, in India, an area known for heavy sex trafficking. The organization now has outreaches in India, Nepal, Jamaica and the United States, and joins other groups in the effort to fight trafficking.
The rescue process is daunting, Mrs. Smith said. Sometimes mobile medical clinics are taken into the middle of the brothel to administer care to the girls. The workers, many of whom are former victims, know how to get information about the girls' identities discreetly.
Once the women and girls are liberated, they retreat to a Home of Hope or a Safe House managed or funded by Shared Hope International, where the women and children receive medical treatment, tutoring and counseling, she said.
Sex trafficking does not exist only in Third World countries. According to the Protection Project, an estimated 50,000 women and children are brought into the United States each year.
Brothels pop up in places such as San Francisco and Chicago to trailer parks to hotels. In September, a trafficking ring was broken, Mrs. Smith said, that took Asian girls to a pre-determined house or apartment building where the traffickers then brought clients to the girls every 15 minutes to 30 minutes.
Mrs. Smith says that working aggressively to save the girls is a dream career.
"I think that this is the fullest life I could ever have," she said. "Can you think of anything greater to spend your life on than knowing when you wake up each morning that someone else has life? I can't imagine a better life than that."

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