Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hillary Clinton Comments on Slavery

As we've been following over the past few weeks there have been numerous calls for modern-day slavery to find its way onto the radar of the new administration. From our own wildly successful petition to, New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof's illuminating articles it looks as if our collective voices are beginning to be heard.

During today's confirmation hearing of Secretary of State Designate Hillary Clinton answered a question on human trafficking:

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA):
I don't think we can look away from the plight of women around the world. Nicholas Kristof confronts this issue in a series of compelling articles… Kristof tells us the story of a Vietnamese girl who was kidnapped at age 13. She was sold into sex slavery in Cambodia. When she refused to see customers, she was tortured brutally with electric shocks and locked in a coffin filled with insects. And Kristof details another story in a piece called "If this isn't Slavery than what is?" in which a young Cambodian girl had her eye gouged out by a brothel owner after taking time off to recover from a forced abortion. I'm introducing some legislation—one is a companion piece to Rep. Carolyn Maloney and another is the Afghan Women Empowerment Act. That's just the beginning. Senator I know how deeply you feel about this so I wanted you to take a little more time to talk about your commitment to this particular issue and obviously I would be so pleased if we could work on legislation to fight this immorality.

Secretary of State Designate Hillary Clinton:
As Secretary of State I view these issues as central to our foreign policy, not as adjunct or auxiliary or in any way lesser from all of the other issues that we have to confront. I too have followed the stories…this is not culture, this is not custom, this is criminal. And it will be my goal to persuade more governments as I spoke with Beijing some thirteen years ago that we cannot have a free, prosperous, peaceful, progressive world if women are treated in such a discriminatory and violent way. I've also ready closely Nick Kristof's articles over the last many months on the young women he's both rescued from prostitution and met who have been enslaved, tortured in every way—physically, emotionally, morally and I take very seriously the function of the State Department to lead the US Government through the Office on Human Trafficking to do all that we can to end this modern form of slavery. We have sex slavery. We have wage slavery and it is primarily a slavery of girls and women. I look forward, Senator, to reviewing your legislation and work with you as a continuing partnership on behalf of these issues we care so much about. And finally, the work that the women of the Senate did in connection with First Lady Laura Bush on behalf of the women of Afghanistan has been extremely important. That program started in the State Department. It was assisted by an organization I helped to start in the White House called Vital Voices. Mrs. Bush has been outspoken on behalf of Afghan women…and other women facing oppression around the world… We're going to have a very active Women's Office a very active Office on Human Trafficking. We're going to be speaking out consistently and strongly against the discrimination and oppression of women and slavery in particular because I think that is in keeping with not only our American values but American national security interests as well.

Many thanks to Sara Guderyahn at The Sheridan Group for the transcription.

-Mark Wexler

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