113th Congress and Ending Human Trafficking

There is no question that folks are tired and fed up with this Congress. As lawmakers return to Washington, D.C. after the holidays, the 113th Congress has the lowest ever approval ratings, and there is no relief in sight. The big policy questions of the day continue to be stymied by a do-nothing, deeply divided Congress.

And yet, that’s not exactly the whole story. What is not known to many, is that this past year, significant numbers of Senators and Representatives have powerfully stood up for some of our most hurt, victimized and forgotten girls. This past year Rights4Girls has worked closely with members from both chambers and from both sides of the aisle, to protect our most vulnerable children subject to violence and exploitation in the U.S.

Last June, the “Women of the House” made up of Democratic and Republican women members of the House of Representatives, came together and joined our effort by signing a proclamation that “Our Daughters Are Not for Sale.” They declared a shared a commitment to ending the trafficking and exploitation of American girls. Not to be outdone by the women members, the male members then followed-up with a “Fathers of the Congress” event. They bridged ideological and party differences to give voice and visibility to girls in the U.S. who are being bought and sold for sex.

Together, these members recently introduced a hard-hitting resolution stating that our children are not for sale. The resolution identifies the emerging crisis of child sex trafficking in the U.S., especially of our most vulnerable children in the foster care system, and calls for an end to the culture of impunity that fails to hold buyers accountable for the rape and exploitation of these children.

Senators introduced Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2013, comprehensive domestic trafficking legislation that greatly increases victims’ access to services, seeks to curb the demand that is fueling the child sex trafficking market, and punishes those persons who purchase underage girls for sex.

The Senate Finance Committee approved legislation that improves the child welfare response to trafficked and exploited children and youth. The Supporting At-Risk Children Act of 2013 requires state child welfare agencies to develop policies that identify and screen for domestic child sex trafficking, directs state child welfare agencies to document each case of identified sex trafficking within their system, and to report any missing or abducted children from state care to law enforcement and subsequently the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). The House is currently working on a similar bill.

There is no question that the 113th Congress needs to do so much more. But, let’s give many of its Members the recognition, and praise, for addressing child trafficking in the U.S. and for joining a larger movement to end this form of abuse and rape against our most vulnerable children.

Learn more at Malika Saada Saar’s Huffington Post article: One Good Thing About the 113th Congress: Ending Child Trafficking in the U.S.

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