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Obama's U.N. Speech Could Be 'Turning Point' In Fight Against Human Trafficking

“When President Obama made a landmark speech against modern slavery on Tuesday, many of us in the news media shrugged,” but women survivors of human trafficking “noticed,” Nicholas Kristof writes in his New York Times column. “[T]he world often scorns the victims and sees them as criminals: these girls are the lepers of the 21st century,” he says, adding, “So bravo to the president for giving a major speech on human trafficking and, crucially, for promising greater resources to fight pimps and support those who escape the streets. Until recently, the Obama White House hasn’t shown strong leadership on human trafficking, but this could be a breakthrough. The test will be whether Obama continues to press the issue.”

Kristof notes that girls and women who are trafficked are at a greater risk of contracting HIV or other diseases and becoming victims of rape and violence. “Prostituted kids are among the most voiceless of the voiceless around the world, and it will make a difference if the White House speaks up for them — and fights for them,” he writes, adding, “So let’s demand that police officers and prosecutors go after pimps and johns, while treating the teenagers as victims who need comprehensive social services.” He concludes, “[L]et’s make sure that this isn’t just a speech, but a turning point” (9/27).