It is estimated that as many as 27 million people around the world are victims of modern slavery—human trafficking in the sex trade and other forms of servitude. Wednesday, a human trafficking caucus was formed in the Senate to bring attention to the issue. This is the first Human Trafficking Senate Caucus on the Hill.
Actress Jada Pinkett Smith first learned about the problem of modern slavery in the world from her 12 year old daughter, Willow. Smith was moved to act and has since been a strong advocate for eliminating modern slavery in the world. She joins Soledad O’Brien on “Starting Point” along with trafficking survivor Minh Dang in support of this caucus. Dang was trafficked at age 10 in the Bay Area of California. She is a graduate student at UC Berkeley.
In 2000, trafficking was made illegal in the United States when the Trafficking Victims Protection Act became law. It was up for reauthorization in 2011 but has not been reauthorized. Smith shares her hopes for the caucus. “I’m hoping that we will attack the TVPA and figure out how to get the TVPA passed,” Smith says. “I’m hoping also that we can create an advisory board, advisory council, of survivors that will assist our government in understanding the nuances of human trafficking.”
An advocate of the TVPA, Dang says, “we’re really urging Congress to pass this so that necessary services can be delivered to victims and survivors.” Dang is a victim of rape and incest by her father since when she was three. Her parents abused her as a child, and sold her as a little girl from when she was 10 to 20 years of age. “So for a decade, on the streets, through brothels, through newspapers, that’s where they were selling me,” Dang says. “I did go to college, and my parents also wanted me to be an upstanding student in order to hide their crimes.”
Smith has been working to create a platform for survivors like Dang. “In order to really understand human trafficking,” Smith says, “we have to give a voice to the victims and survivors.”