To spark awareness and vigilance against a growing global human rights crisis, President Barack Obama has proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
Linda Dixon, the Defense Department’s program manager for combating trafficking in persons, told the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service in a recent interview that DOD has strengthened training modules and reporting avenues to combat trafficking in persons, a criminal enterprise that generates roughly $32 billion per year worldwide.
“That’s the second-largest source of revenue for criminal enterprises, and it’s growing,” Dixon said. “Trafficking is a zero-tolerance policy; it’s not only immoral, but it is illegal.”
The United Nations International Labor organization estimates more than 12 million human trafficking victims worldwide, with an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 new victims each year.
Some victims are Americans, Dixon said, but most victims come from elsewhere. “Source countries are usually areas that are poverty-stricken,” she said, “but trafficking is everywhere.”
The Trafficking Victim Protection Act defines trafficking in persons as the use of force, fraud or coercion to compel a person to provide labor or services or commercial sex.
The crime, Dixon explained, can run the gamut of exploitation, and includes elements of recruiting, harboring, transportation, providing or obtaining a person for the purpose of exploitation.
State Department officials said the three most common forms of trafficking are labor trafficking, sex trafficking and child soldiering.
Child soldiering entails the unlawful recruitment of minors who, as young as age 7, are sexually and physically abused and forced to commit atrocities in more than 57 armed conflicts worldwide, according to State Department officials.
DOD’s demand-reduction and prevention program is a mechanism to report violations and thwart offenses, Dixon said.
In addition to a general awareness training module, she added, the program also includes law enforcement, contractor and leadership-specific training modules.
“We have put together training modules … [and] a clause in our contracts to prohibit contractors from being involved in trafficking,” Dixon said. “All of the agencies have a [trafficking in persons] point of contact -- the services, the combatant commands [and] defense agencies.”
Indicators include heavily guarded areas where workers appear intimidated or are being escorted from a facility to their home, or who lack personal documents such as passports or other identification, Dixon explained.
“You should report it to your local authorities; report it through your chain of command,” Dixon said.
If DOD personnel are involved in trafficking offenses, she added, the inspector general investigates the type and scope of the offense to determine a course of action.
Noting that 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Dixon said the year will feature summits, events and conferences to sharpen awareness and eradicate trafficking.
“In DOD, we’re charged with making sure that we protect our country’s security, and trafficking in persons is a threat to that security,” she said.
Dixon said great strides have been made at the highest level to stop this modern-day slavery and restore human dignity.
“There’s an education process that’s taking place, not only with people in general, but with our law enforcement, to recognize it, understand and know that it is a chargeable offense,” Dixon said. “It is a danger to our troops. It’s a danger to national security.”