Under the legislation, sponsored by Senators Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) and Sandra Bolden Cunningham (D-Hudson) and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), the designation would promote ongoing education about the signs and consequences of human trafficking, to work to end human trafficking, and to encourage support for the victims of human trafficking throughout New Jersey and across the world.
The designated month would coincide with the annual-anniversary of President Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation which occurred on Jan. 1, 1863 as well as his signing of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution – outlawing slavery – which occurred on Feb. 1, 1865.
The United Nation estimates there are at least 12.3 million adults and children worldwide who are forced into labor or prostitution. According to the U.S. Department of State, between 600,000 and 800,000 women, men and children are trafficked annually across international borders with between 14,500 and 17,500 of them occurring in the United States. Human trafficking disproportionately affects women and young girls.
Human trafficking involves the coercive recruitment, transfer, harboring or sale of a person for the purpose of prostitution or sexual exploitation, forced labor and slavery or the removal of organs.
“Human trafficking is a horrific offense that affects millions of people throughout the world. Human traffickers often prey on the poor and destitute, and disproportionately attack the world’s women and children,” Buono said. “These captors instill fear in their victims to keep them enslaved, often for prostitution. It is our moral obligation to educate our citizens about human trafficking so that we can put an end to this human tragedy.”
“It has been nearly 150 years since the passage of the 13th Amendment ending slavery, yet there are tens of thousands of Americans who each day are forced into labor or as sex slaves,” Cunningham said. “Unfortunately, many of these Americans are being forced to live in fear, coerced by their captors who threaten them with violence, captivity, isolation, a control over their money. By designating January as ‘Human Trafficking Prevention Month’ we can shed light on these horrible crimes and provide hope for victims who are too frightened to come forward and report the abuses against them.”
“The sad reality is that human trafficking flourishes in the shadows, overlooked by most of us because we’re so accustomed to our government-protected freedom,” Vainieri Huttle said. “But throughout the world there are millions who are forced into modern slavery, under deplorable circumstances, and many of them are predominantly women and children. It’s time we start raising our consciousness and doing all we can to fight the proliferation of this practice.”
January 2012 marked the first National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, proclaimed by President Obama.