Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I am here today for two reasons. One is to manage the bill at hand for the next few hours, and the other is to talk a little bit about Loretta Lynch, and how I hope we can resolve both these issues.
I believe when it comes to the human trafficking bill on the floor, as well as my bill, the safe harbor bill--which is not the one on the floor, but it is also a strong bipartisan bill that passed out of the Judiciary Committee with every single person voting for it, 20 to 0. I want to talk a little bit about the bill so people don't forget it. It is expected to be an amendment to the bill on the floor when we get these issues resolved.
I am hopeful that at some point here--and I hope it is today--we are going to turn the corner on some of the language we have been hearing on the floor. I think it is becoming a sad situation, especially sad for the victims of trafficking, and I think we have a moment in time today and tomorrow where we can actually work on this and try to resolve it. I believe this great august body, which has dealt with many large issues in the past--100 people who I think have come to this place with good
will--should be able to resolve it in some way, get through this, and get this bill done.
As we continue to work on the issues with the bill at hand, Senator Cornyn's bill, I also want to talk about the bill I have and why both these bills are important and actually work together.
On trafficking. First, we know the numbers. More than 27 million people around the world are victims of some kind of trafficking each year. It is not always sex trafficking. Sometimes it is labor trafficking and other things. When it comes to sex trafficking, the average age of a victim when she is trafficked is 13 years old. She is not even old enough to go to a high school prom, not even old enough to get a driver's license.
When you look at the statistics around the world, it is the third biggest international criminal enterprise in the world. The first is the illegal trafficking of drugs. I don't think that is a surprise. The second is the illegal trafficking of guns, and the third is the illegal trafficking of children, mostly little girls. But what people don't always realize when they think about trafficking--I think they often think about kids who are found in the bottom of a boat. That does happen, horrible
stories like that. But when it comes to the United States of America, 83 percent of the victims--83 percent of the victims--are from our own country. They are from our own country. They are girls such as Tamara Vandermoon of Minnesota. She was 12 when she was first sold for sex. She was not even a teenager. She was just mad at her mom, and she ran away. A pimp found her and made her all kinds of promises--promises that sounded pretty good when you are a scared kid away from home. It happened when she was the most vulnerable. He took advantage of her before she even had a chance to grow up and be an adult. She has worked to change her life around through services and help in our State.
Our State has been the leader in this area. That is one of the things why I introduced the safe harbor bill, which I hope will be the first amendment to this bill after we resolve these issues. My bill also is sponsored with Senator Cornyn. He and I have worked together on this bill.
Another example--because people always use numbers. I used a bunch of numbers at the beginning of this speech, but I think sometimes people know behind those numbers, every single one of those numbers, is a child.
Two weeks ago, out of the U.S. Attorney's office in Minnesota, our case was charged, and it happened a few months ago. It was a 12-year-old in Rochester, MN, which is an idyllic community, a beautiful place. This little 12-year-old got a text. She was with a girl who was a little older than herself. The text invited them to a party. She thought that was pretty cool. She goes to the McDonald's parking lot. She is at the McDonald's parking lot, and this pimp puts her in the car. She thinks she
is going to a party. She gets carted up to the Twin Cities. She gets raped. He takes sexually explicit pictures of her. He puts them on Craigslist. She gets sold the next day to two other guys, raped by two other guys.
Finally they were able to track down this perpetrator. He has been charged with a very serious crime by the U.S. Attorney's office. This happened in Minnesota. We can ask Senator Heitkamp, who has been involved in this issue. It happens in the oil patches in North Dakota. It happens on the streets of Washington, DC. It happens all over this country.
We may say, why is everyone talking about this now in this day and age? I look at this, as a former prosecutor, as back when people viewed domestic violence as a crime that was behind doors, that no one wanted to talk about it, and no one realized it was a crime. They thought of it as a family issue.
When we start seeing kids who are in situations of domestic violence are multiple times more likely to commit crimes themselves because they grow up seeing it, we realize it is not just an issue between two people. As horrible as the injuries are to the immediate victim, it is also an issue for their entire family and for the entire community. We learned that about domestic violence. We learned that about child abuse. Now we are starting to see this about trafficking.
We can't have a 12-year-old who is a criminal, right? The 12-year-old is a victim of this. The 12-year-old doesn't know what they are doing. They are only 12 years old, but they are a victim, they are not a criminal. That is the focus of the Safe Harbor Act.
I want to thank my colleague, Republican Erik Paulsen in the House, who has taken this bill on. We have worked together on it. A version of it has passed the House. We like ours a little bit better because it has the national sex trafficking strategy in it, and that is the bill we are going to be putting on as an amendment. Erik has been a true leader on this issue, and we just talked yesterday about it. This bill actually now has--a version of it, my safe harbor bill--has passed
the House twice. It doesn't have the issues with the Hyde amendment. Hopefully it will be the first bill, the first amendment, when we resolve these other issues. [Page: S1598]
What does the bill do? What it does is looks at what has been working in States across the country. According to a report by Polaris--a group that is among many groups as a leader on sex trafficking--it shows that 15 States across the country have taken these safe harbor laws. The laws basically say we are not going to treat these kids as criminals. We are going to make sure they are treated as victims, that they get the services they need. And mostly then from a law enforcement perspective--from
someone who was a prosecutor for 8 years, ran an office of 400 people and saw these cases coming in and out of our doors all the time--what it means is these victims will then better testify against the people whom we want to get. Those are the perps. Those are the people running the rings. Those are the johns who are buying the sex. By having this approach, we have a much better chance of going after the people who are doing this.
The Ramsey County attorney's office out of St. Paul, MN, with their leader John Choi, was able to get a 40-year sentence last year of someone who was running one of these rings. We have had numerous prosecutions in Minnesota.
This idea of having a shelter, a place for the victims to go--because otherwise what is going to happen if they don't think they are going to get help or maybe get some job training, have a place to stay, they are going to go right back to the pimp, and then they are not going to be willing to testify and tell their story. That is what has happened through history, and that has enabled the rings to get worse and worse.
The other thing we know that has enabled them to get worse is the Internet. We love the Internet, but it has allowed people to market things on all kinds of Web sites and in all kinds of devious ways. They are able to sell young girls and young boys on these Web sites. They get a text and they show up and think they are going to a party. That is what is happening. It is behind closed doors and it is hidden. That is one of the reasons we are seeing this increase and these problems coming up, in addition to the realization we are not going to tolerate this anymore.
We have 15 States across the country that already have the safe harbor laws. Another 12 States are making good progress in this direction. It is not starting from scratch. As I said, my home State is one of the first ones, but we are seeing them. What our bill does is create incentives for States to adopt these kinds of laws. It is not involving a lot of money. It is taking existing programs and trying to create incentives so that States will adopt these laws.
The other piece of the bill is that it allows victims of these crimes to qualify for certain Federal job programs that they may not qualify for now. It also creates a national strategy, as I mentioned, to combat human trafficking.
I always found when I was a prosecutor that people didn't care who took on the case, whether it was a local prosecutor or the State AG or the U.S. Attorney's office. They just wanted people to get the job done. They didn't actually understand the jurisdictional divisions. By making this national sex trafficking strategy the idea--and I have seen this with the Violence Against Women Act--it may not be that we are mandating people do a certain thing, but we put out there some best practices that local offices can cover. We look at what is working in certain States. Then we put those out there because we have a national sex trafficking strategy, and we give people ideas of what they can do best.
Those are parts of the bill. It is pretty straightforward. Again, it is not the bill on the floor right now which, of course, has an important purpose, to help fund some of the shelters and pay for it by an increase on the fees on perpetrators, but it is a part of the solution.
Another part of the solution we haven't talked too much about over the last few days, because there have been a lot of other things going on, I think we have to also remember the role of the private sector. We certainly have seen this in our State, where Marilyn Carlson Nelson, who is a wonderful business leader, headed up Carlson Companies for many years. Carlson Companies owns the Radisson Hotels. She has made training of her workforce a major part of this because it is the people on the frontline--and
you can see Delta and all the others, American, United, a lot of the airlines are making this a priority as well. They are training their workers because they are on the frontline, and they are going to see this happen. They are going to see the victims.
They are going to figure out something is going on that is wrong, so they can at least report it to their hotel's security or whatever authorities they think they need to; they can stop it right there on the ground floor and report it to the authorities.
We shouldn't forget that. Because unless these private sector entities who see it happening come forward--this isn't in any of our bills. This is something they are doing on their own. Unless they do that, we can have all the laws we want on the books, but it is really hard to catch these things from happening. I am proud of the work they have done.
My good friend Cindy McCain, Heidi Heitkamp, and I went to Mexico last spring with the major focus on sex trafficking. We met with the attorney general of Mexico and met with the head of their law enforcement in Mexico City about this very topic. Because Mexico, along with many other countries, has girls who do come in and are brought in for purposes of sex trafficking. I do want to emphasize, however, this is not just an international problem, but over 83 percent of the victims are
from our country. But they have been coordinating with us on a number of successful prosecutions by giving us information so when the cases come to the United States, we view this. They have their own internal problems with this and other things as well, obviously, in Mexico. We went there not to say you are doing something wrong. We went there to say we have our own problems, and so do you. Let's figure out how we can work together on this issue.
Again, Cindy McCain is an example of someone who on the private side has been very involved with her foundation in working on this issue and helping with shelters and other things. The private sector piece of this, they can be called trafficking facilitators, unknowingly, because they are allowing this to happen. But in a way, they are a major part of the solution. I do not want us to forget that as we go forward and as they work with us to address the needs of the victims, and mostly to be able
to catch these cases and bring them to law enforcement.
That is kind of a tour through what the safe harbor bill does. Again, Senator Cornyn and I have talked about it being the first amendment to the bill. I am very aware that we need to work out the issues on the underlying bill, and I am hopeful after days of acrimony that at some point we are going to be able to work together. I am hoping there will be a different flavor to people's discussions about this issue today.
The Loretta Lynch nomination now has been tied into this. I have a little bit of a different approach because I do not think we should be slowing it down anymore. I understand that we have to work out the issues on the sex trafficking, and there is plenty of blame that can go around. But I think the major focus should be on working it out instead of playing this blame game.
Loretta Lynch, on the other hand--I do not understand why our friends on the other side of the aisle have been delaying this for so long. I understand this is a major job, but this is a woman who has had 900 written questions and an 8-hour job interview, to my mind, where members of the Judiciary Committee could ask her whatever they wanted, in several rounds of questions, if they wanted. She also met with members of that committee. I am sure that anyone who wanted to met with her--I know she
has met with at least 59 Senators to date. That is a pretty major job interview. Twenty-five U.S. Attorneys from Republican and Democratic administrations have approved and suggested that she is more than fit for this job.
How do I come down on this? I come down on this as a perspective of knowing that Attorney General Holder wants to leave. I think he has done some really good things. I know some of my colleagues have not been a big fan of his. This is an opportunity for them to put someone new in. We will start with that.
The second thing is this is someone who is highly qualified. Coming from a State where we have indicted 20 people for criminal activity related to al-Shabaab with their terrorist activities in Somalia, we have recently indicted a number of people who decided they were going to go fight with ISIS, coming out of our State. And I am proud of our communities, our Muslim and Somali communities, that have been working with law enforcement on this. This has been an effort, because no kid should be going over there and no parent wants their kid to go join a terrorist organization.
That being said, to keep our communities safe, we have to be very aggressive about these cases. So given that these cases are going on right in my hometown, I would really like to have the support of an Attorney General in place, and one who is nominated before this body.
And as the nominee, she is someone who is uniquely qualified to handle these kinds of cases that the citizens in my State want to have handled, these terrorism cases. In fact, her office is No. 1 in the country when it comes to how many terrorism cases they have successfully handled in New York. So she is a seasoned U.S. attorney. She is not someone who comes from a political background; she is someone who comes from a prosecutor background and is a former prosecutor and someone who wants to see that kind of commonsense, no-nonsense mentality in the Attorney General's office.
I highly recommend that my colleagues not only vote for her confirmation but just let this come to the floor as soon as possible.
Some of the critiques I have heard against her from some of my colleagues--some have said she has been lawless, and that doesn't quite make sense to me, especially when we look at who has been backing her from the law enforcement community, such as the 25 U.S. attorneys I mentioned. The New York police commissioner has endorsed her, as has the president of the Federal Law Enforcement Association and the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. These people are not exactly known for supporting lawlessness.
The other thing that has been mentioned by many of my colleagues that concerns me as to the reason they gave for blocking her nomination is that she said when she was at a hearing that she would be supportive, as the chief law enforcement person for our country, of the President's policies when it comes to immigration.
Let's start with the law. We know this is now tied up in the courts, and there are different court decisions. One court is upholding the Executive order of the President, and another court has said it is not legal. We have had disputes on it in the courts. All right. But when we look through time, we realize every President since Dwight Eisenhower has done some kind of Executive order of varying degrees. George H.W. Bush did a major Executive order involving many immigrants. When we look at those
through history, we realize those Presidents to some degree or other--I know the Liberian community in Minnesota. They have been for decades on an emergency order, and that is why they are in our State. Every year, they have to come back, and sometimes Congress does something and sometimes the President does something. But year after year, they need this Executive order because of the status under which they came to this country. They are law-abiding citizens. They are working throughout our State and have been here for 15 or 20 years. And that is just one example.
These Executive orders on immigration have been going on since Dwight Eisenhower. I don't really have the time to look back and see what every Attorney General did at the time, but my guess is that the Attorneys General under Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon and both Bushes and Bill Clinton all said: OK, this is legal. You can go ahead and do this Executive order.
I am not saying this one is not of more magnitude. It is. But there was a major Executive order when George Bush was President. We know that. So why we would then somehow take that history and extrapolate it into, OK, well, Loretta Lynch is somehow lawless just because she said the President could issue an Executive order--it just doesn't make any sense to me at all.
We have a woman who has been prosecuting these cases of terrorism for years. We have someone who has significant support from Democratic and Republican U.S. attorneys from many administrations. We have someone who really did pass her senatorial job review. I understand that my colleagues feel strongly about immigration and that they didn't like what the President did, and the President himself said he would like to tear up that piece of paper that contained the Executive action if only this body and the House would pass comprehensive immigration reform.
When I look back through this whole story, one of my proudest moments was when the Senate came together on comprehensive immigration reform. I am on the Judiciary Committee, and I believe that was the best moment for the Judiciary Committee in the last few years. Under Chairman Leahy's leadership, our committee was able to work together across party lines, starting with the Gang of 8 who came up with the base concept, which was half Democrats and half Republicans, including Senator Durbin,
Senator McCain, Senator Schumer, Senator Bennet, Senator Menendez, Senator Flake, and the work of many other Members, which made it possible to get that bill done.
So the Gang of 8 got that done, and from there we went to the committee with a bill, and we spent days voting on amendments. We voted on amendments that stretched over every part of the bill, whether it was the fence at the border or what would happen with undocumented workers or the work Senator Hatch and I did on making sure we had the green card and visa system up to date. We have a situation in our country right now where we have literally unlimited visas for wild hockey players.
We love our hockey team in Minnesota, and they are able to recruit a bunch of Canadians. That is good for us, but doctors from the Mayo Clinic are not able to bring in a spouse if they want to come from another country.
We have to look at this as to the undocumented workers who are here, we have the border issues, and we also have these issues related to agriculture and the innovation economy that make this comprehensive reform so important. Let's remember that when it comes to business issues, we have a case where 200 of our Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants or kids of immigrants. Ninety of our Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants. Thirty percent of our U.S. Nobel laureates were born in other countries.
I neglected to add Marco Rubio to the Gang of 8 as I recall in my mind everyone who was in it.
That is why I was such a fan of the comprehensive immigration reform--because it was so important to look at all parts of the issue.
So now I get to Loretta Lynch. We passed a bill with pretty strong support here--I think it was like 68 votes or something in that neighborhood--and then it went over to the House and it sat there in a deep freeze. That bill sat there for over a year somewhere between the chocolate ice cream and the frozen peas. We were never able to get it out of the House, and that is what led to the President's Executive order, and now somehow--OK, that is fine, it was bad enough that that all happened, and
I am still hopeful we will be able to get this done, but how that story leads to Loretta Lynch's confirmation being held up is beyond belief to me. I think it is time to get her nomination voted on. I don't think it should be related to the present difficulties we are having with this bill that I care so much about and mostly also with my safe harbor legislation, which has been slotted to be the first amendment.
I am hopeful we will be able to work everything out with the bill that is on the floor right now--I truly am--because I don't think it is fitting of the Senate to keep up this fight when there are victims of sex trafficking every single day, such as that 12-year-old girl out of Rochester, MN. How are we going to explain this to that little girl, that we are fighting it out every single day instead of trying to come to a resolution?
I remember when we were down in Mexico--Heidi Heitkamp and Cindy McCain and I--and visited one of the shelters there. We met all the girls who were there. There was one girl there named Paloma. All the other girls had an interpreter and they talked to us through the interpreter, but she spoke a little English. She introduced herself, and then she just started to cry and could not stop crying. As she cried, you just knew that whatever happened to her was so bad, she could not even talk about it.
It reminded me of when Senator Gillibrand, Senator Graham, Senator Hoeven, and I were on a trip and went to a refugee camp in Jordan and met with a group of refugees. One of the women there said that what she had seen happen to her family in Syria was so sad that it would make stones cry. That is what I thought of when I saw Paloma, that what had happened to her--this little, young, beautiful, 12-, 13-year-old girl--what had happened to her was so sad that it would make stones cry.
I hope my colleagues keep this in mind as we work on these two bills. I am tired of talking about how this happened or how we got where we are. There is a way to resolve this problem, and certainly the nomination of the Attorney General of the United States should not be held up because of it.
I yield the floor.
I see my good friend Senator Isakson from Georgia is here.
Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I wanted to clarify something I said when I spoke about the work the Senate did on comprehensive immigration reform in relation to the Loretta Lynch nomination. I mentioned the Gang of 8, and I think I got seven of them right. I wish to clarify exactly who was a Member of the Gang of 8: Senator Schumer, Senator Durbin, Senator Menendez, Senator Bennet, Senator McCain, Senator Flake, Senator Graham, and Senator Rubio. That was the starting-off point for the comprehensive immigration reform that passed through the Senate.
I wish to get back to the matter at hand. As I stand in the Chamber today, I am going to keep reminding people of why we are really here, why the bill is on the floor--which is about sex trafficking--and the reason we want to try to resolve these issues and actually focus on the matter at hand and not on extraneous issues and other issues and other fights. My own Republican Congressman who carries my bill, the safe harbor bill--which of course is not the bill at issue but we hope will be the first amendment--has noted that we just need to move on and get these bills done and not play politics as usual. That is going to be my focus today as I manage this bill.
So I thought I would read on the floor a book that has been a national bestseller by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times and his wife Sheryl WuDunn. It is a book about sex trafficking. It is an incredible book. It focuses more on international sex trafficking. As we know, our bills here--the one that is on the floor and the one I have authored--are about how our own country gets a handle on this, by getting better laws in place and creating incentives and working with the private sector and doings things so our country, I think from my perspective, internationally can be a true leader. We can't be a true leader and tell these states and democracies and countries that aren't even democracies across the world that they need to do a better job if we don't do a better job.
To me, this should be a major tenet of our foreign policy. Once we get women so that they are not treated as slaves and they are not treated as chattel--once we get them to that circumstance--countries always do better. When we have women who can work and own businesses, women who can serve in government, it changes a whole society.
So that is why the sex trafficking bill is on the floor and the one that I have that will be considered as an amendment. The reason we need to get through where we are right now and focus on the real issue at hand is that our country can not only help the victims in our own country, but by shining a light on this, by being a leader on this internationally, it will help us internationally. We want to be able to work with other countries--not saying they are doing something bad when we have our own problem, but saying, Here is what we did and here is how we are handling this and we want to work with you as partners and we want to have women be treated with respect throughout the world.
So this book, as I said, focuses on international sex trafficking. It is called ``Half the Sky.'' I love this name. It is a Chinese proverb. It talks about how women basically are holding up half the sky. That is what it is about. Women are holding up half the sky. We can't forget about half the sky and just let half the sky go and let them be sold into slavery and not be treated equally and expect a society to function.
So this is how the book starts out. It has a great quote from Mark Twain. I like jokes. Listen to this one: ``What would men be without women? Scarce, sir, mighty scarce.''
It is making the point again that women hold up half the sky.
So this is the book and how it starts:
Srey Rath is a self-confident Cambodian teenager whose black hair tumbles over a round, light brown face. She is in a crowded street market, standing beside a pushcart and telling her story calmly, with detachment. The only hint of anxiety or trauma is the way she often pushes her hair in front of her black eyes, perhaps a nervous tic. Then she lowers her hand and her long fingers gesticulate and flutter in the air with incongruous grace as she recounts her odyssey.
Rath is short and small-boned, pretty, vibrant, and bubbly, a wisp of a girl whose negligible stature contrasts with an outsized and outgoing personality. When the skies abruptly release a tropical rain shower that drenches us, she simply laughs and rushes us to cover under a tin roof, and then cheerfully continues her story as the rain drums overhead. But Rath's attractiveness and winning personality are perilous bounties for a rural Cambodian girl, and her trusting nature and optimistic self-assuredness compound the hazard.
When Rath was fifteen, her family ran out of money, so she decided to go work as a dishwasher in Thailand for two months to help pay the bills. Her parents fretted about her safety, but they were reassured when Rath arranged to travel with four friends who had been promised jobs in the same Thai restaurant. The job agent took the girls deep into Thailand and then handed them to gangsters who took them to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Rath was dazzled by her first glimpses of the city's clean avenues and gleaming high-rises, including at the time the world's tallest twin buildings; it seemed safe and welcoming. But then thugs sequestered Rath and two other girls inside a karaoke lounge that operated as a brothel. One gangster in his late thirties, a man known as ``the boss,'' took charge of the girls and explained that he had paid money for them and that they would now be obliged to repay him. ``You must find money to pay off the debt, and then I will send you back home,'' he said, repeatedly reassuring them that if they cooperated they would eventually be released.
Rath was shattered when what was happening dawned on her. The boss locked her up with a customer, who tried to force her to have sex with him. She fought back, enraging the customer. ``So the boss got angry and hit me in the face, first with one hand and then with the other,'' she remembers, telling her story with simple resignation. ``The mark stayed on my face for two weeks.'' Then the boss and the other gangsters raped her and beat her with their fists.
``You have to serve the customers,'' the boss told her as he punched her. ``If not, we will beat you to death. Do you want that?'' Rath stopped protesting, but she sobbed and refused to cooperate actively. The boss forced her to take a pill; the gangsters called it ``the happy drug'' or ``the shake drug.'' She doesn't know exactly what it has, but it made her head shake and induced lethargy, happiness, and compliance for about an hour. When she wasn't drugged, Rath was teary and insufficiently compliant--she was required to beam happily at all customers--so the boss said he would waste no more time on her: She would agree to do as he ordered or he would kill her. Rath then gave in. The girls were forced to work in the brothel seven days a week, fifteen hours a day. They were kept naked to make it more difficult for them to run away or to keep tips or other money, and they were forbidden to ask customers to use condoms. They were battered until they smiled constantly and simulated joy at the sight of customers, because men would not pay as much for sex with girls with reddened eyes and haggard faces. The girls were never allowed out on the street or paid a penny for their work.
``They just gave us food to eat, but they didn't give us much because the customers didn't like fat girls,'' Rath says. The girls were bused, under guard, back and forth between the brothel and a tenth-floor apartment where a dozen of them were housed. The door of the apartment was locked from the outside. However, one night, some of the girls went out onto their balcony and pried loose a long, five-inch-wide board from a rack used for drying clothes.
They balanced it precariously between their balcony and one on the next building, twelve feet away. The board wobbled badly, but Rath was desperate, so she sat astride the board and gradually inched across.
``There were four of us who did that,'' she says. ``The others were too scared, because it was very rickety. I was scared, too, and I couldn't look down, but I was even more scared to stay. We thought that even if we died it would be better than staying behind. If we stayed we would die as well.''
Once on the far balcony, the girls pounded on the window and woke the surprised tenant. They could hardly communicate with him because none of them spoke the language, but the tenant let them into his apartment and then out the front door. The girls took the elevator down and wandered the silent streets until they found a police station and walked inside. The police first tried to shoo them away, then arrested the girls for illegal immigration. Rath served a year in prison under Malaysia's tough anti-immigrant laws, and then she was supposed to be repatriated. She thought a Malaysian policeman was escorting her home when he drove her to the Thai border--but then he sold her to a trafficker, who peddled her to a Thai brothel.
So I say to my colleagues, this is what we are talking about. This story is in another country, but this same story is repeated in our country day in and day out. If we are going to try to lead in Cambodia and try to change the world for these girls, we have to lead in our own country. Certainly we have to lead by focusing on the issue at hand, which is sex trafficking, and what we can do in our country. What can we do? Well, we can have better services for the victims. We can set up our law enforcement system in a way that works by not treating--for so long, these young 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds were thought of as criminals when, in fact, they are victims. How can we say someone is not raped, how can we say the story of this girl, who thought she was going to work to have a better life for herself as a dishwasher, then gets raped--how can we say that is not rape, that it is prostitution or a crime? No. She is a victim.
That is what the safe harbor bill--which I have introduced and which I am hopeful will be the first amendment once we work out these other issues--would do. It would treat these girls and boys as victims.
So I wish to remind my colleagues what we are truly dealing with. This is not supposed to be a fight over abortion. This is a fight about how to help these young girls throughout our country and by virtue of us being a leader throughout the world.
So I am going to continue reading from the book, just so we are all reminded what we are talking about.
Rath's saga offers a glimpse of the brutality inflicted routinely on women and girls in much of the world, a malignancy that is slowly gaining recognition as one of the paramount human rights problems of this century.
The issues involved, however, have barely registered on the global agenda. Indeed, when we began reporting about international affairs in the 1980s--
This is a book by Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl, whose book, ``Half the Sky,'' is a national best seller. The subhead is ``Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.''
Again, why am I reading this? Because this is what we are supposed to be talking about here. This is a bill we are supposed to be getting done and not talking about extraneous issues that I think we should be able to resolve because they have been resolved in the past. To do that, we have to decide that these girls are important enough to do that.
Continuing on, they talked about how these issues have barely registered on the global agenda:
Indeed, when we began reporting about international affairs in the 1980s, we couldn't have imagined writing this book. We assumed that the foreign policy issues that properly furrowed the brow were lofty and complex, like nuclear nonproliferation. It was difficult back then to envision the Council on Foreign Relations fretting about maternal mortality or genital mutilation.
Back then the oppression of women was a fringe issue, the kind of worthy cause the girl scouts might raise money for--
And I hope that is not how we are treating this in the Senate. I hope that is not how we are treating it, and I hope we are not treating it as a political football.
We preferred to probe the recondite ``serious issues.''
So this book is the outgrowth--
The writers write of our own journey of awakening as we worked together as journalists for The New York Times. The first milestone in that journey came in China. Sheryl is a Chinese-American who grew up in New York City, and Nicholas is an Oregonian who grew up on a sheep and cherry farm near Yamhill, Oregon. After we married, we moved to China, where seven months later we found ourselves standing on the edge of Tiananmen Square watching troops fire their automatic weapons at prodemocracy protestors. The massacre claimed between four hundred and eight hundred lives and transfixed the world. It was the human rights story of the world. It was the human rights story of the year, and it seemed just about the most shocking violation imaginable.
Then the following year, we came across an obscure but meticulous demographic study that outlined a human rights violation that had claimed tens of thousands more lives. This study found that thirty-nine thousand baby girls die annually in China because parents don't give them the same medical care and attention that boys receive--and that is just in their first year of life. One Chinese family-planning official, Li Honggui, explained it this way: ``If a boy gets sick, the parents may send him to the hospital at once. But if a girl gets sick, the parents may say to themselves, ``Well, let's see how she is tomorrow.''
..... A similar pattern emerged in other countries, particularly in South Asia and the Muslim world. In India, a ``bride burning''--to punish a woman for an inadequate dowry or to eliminate her so a man can remarry--takes place approximately once every two hours, but these rarely constitute news.
In ..... Pakistan, five thousand women and girls have been doused in kerosene and set alight by family members or in-laws--or, perhaps worse, been seared with acid--for perceived disobedience in the last nine years. Imagine the outcry if the Pakistani or Indian governments were burning women alive at those rates. Yet when the government is not directly involved, people shrug.
Again, how does this apply to the matter at hand? We know there are girls who are victims of trafficking who are put into slavery--sex slavery--every single day in this country. So if we think we can be a leader when it comes to what is going on around the world and we want to hold our Nation up, then we have to be a leader in this Chamber this week and get this bill done and get these extraneous issues behind us that people feel strongly about. But, as I said, somehow we have been able to handle these issues in the past on other bills, and I hope the girls we are talking about here are just as important as those other issues.
When a prominent dissident was arrested in China--
I go back to the book--
we would write a front-page article; when 100,000 girls were routinely kidnapped and trafficked into brothels, we didn't even consider it news. Partly that is because we journalists tend to be good at covering events that happen on a particular day, but we slip at covering events that happen every day--such as the ..... cruelties inflicted on women and girls. We journalists weren't the only ones who dropped the ball on this subject. [A tiny portion] of U.S. foreign aid is specifically targeted to women and girls.
They then go on to quote a Nobel Prize-winning economist who has developed a way to look at gender inequality that is a striking reminder of the stakes involved.
``More than 100 million are missing,'' Sen wrote in a classic essay in 1990 in ``The New York Review of Books,'' spurring a new field of research. Sen noted that in normal circumstances women live longer than men, and so there are more females than males in much of the world. Even poor regions like most of Latin America and much of Africa have more females than males. Yet in places where girls have a deeply unequal status, they vanish. China has 107 males for every 100 females in its overall
population ..... India has 108, and Pakistan has 111.
I remember at the McCain Institute, where Cindy McCain and Heidi Heitkamp and I spoke on a panel, that Senator McCain had just returned from a trip abroad and had been in a country that was experiencing enormous upheaval. He had asked: ``Where are the girls?'' And someone said to him: ``Most of them have been sold.'' They had been sold. So this is really happening, and the people in this Chamber know it is happening. That is why, again, I get back to the fact that if we want
to do something about it here, we need to resolve these issues, we need to do it without going into a blame game, and we need to get this done so we can pass this bill--and not have a dispute [Page: S1603]over abortion--that, in fact, helps the very girls we are supposed to help. Only then can we be a leader in the world.
I will go back to the book:
The worst of these abuses tend to occur in poor nations, but the United States and other western countries are not immune. In America, millions of women and girls face beatings or other violence from their husbands or boyfriends and more than one in six undergo rape or attempted rape at some point in her life, according to the National Violence Against Women survey. Then there is forced prostitution. Teenage runaways are beaten, threatened and branded (with tattoos) by pimps in American cities, and thousands of foreign women are trafficked into the United States as well. Still, in poor countries gender discrimination is often lethal in a way that is usually not in America. In India, for example, mothers are less likely to take their daughters to be vaccinated than their sons--that alone accounts for one fifth of India's missing females--while studies have found that, on average, girls are brought to the hospital only when they are sicker than boys taken to the hospital. All told, girls in India from 1 to 5 years of age are 50 percent more likely to die than boys the same age. The best estimate is that a little Indian girl dies from discrimination every four minutes.
A big, bearded Afghan ..... once told us that his wife and son were sick. He wanted both to survive, he said, but his priorities were clear: A son is an indispensable treasure, while a wife is replaceable. He had purchased medication for the boy alone. ``She is always sick,'' he gruffly said of his wife, ``so it's not worth buying medicine for her.''
Again, why is this relevant to the matter at hand? I think these young girls and women in our own country and across the world deserve to be treated seriously. They deserve not to be treated as a political football on extraneous issues this Chamber likes to debate.
This bill needs to be treated just as seriously--and my safe harbor bill--as any other bill. Somehow, the people in charge of these institutions have been able to work out the differences.
Modernization and technology can aggravate the discrimination. Since the 1990s, the spread of ultrasound machines has allowed pregnant women to find out the sex of their fetuses--and then get abortions if they are female.
Again, we are talking about China.
``We don't have to have daughters anymore!'' someone said in China.
To prevent sex-selective abortion, China and India now bar doctors and ultrasound technicians from telling a pregnant woman the sex of her fetus. Yet that is a flawed solution.
According to the book:
Research shows that when parents are banned from selectively aborting female fetuses, more of their daughters die as infants. Mothers do not deliberately dispatch infant girls they are obligated to give birth to, but they are lackadaisical about caring for them. A development economist at Brown University ..... quantified the wrenching trade-off: On average, the deaths of fifteen infant girls can be avoided by allowing 100 female fetuses to [die].
This is what is going on around the world right now.
The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century. More girls are killed in this routine ``gendercide'' in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century. In the nineteenth century, the central moral challenge was slavery. In the twentieth century, it was the battle against totalitarianism.
We believe that in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality around the world.
That will be the struggle to help these girls.
Maybe this is the battle we are having right now. Maybe this institution has to come up to speed. We have 20 Senators who are women. Twenty percent of the Senate are women. That is pretty good. It is the best we have ever gotten. But when you look at the numbers, the numbers aren't frequent when you look back through history. Maybe that is what we are going to have to do to have people take these bills seriously and not play king of the hill with a bill as serious as this one.
I will continue to read ``Half the Sky'' by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
The owners of the Thai brothel to which Rath was sold did not beat her and did not constantly guard her. So two months later, she was able to escape and make her way back to Cambodia.
Upon her return, Rath met a social worker who put her in touch with an aid group that helps girls who have been trafficked start new lives. The group, American Assistance for Cambodia, used $400 in donated funds to buy a small cart and a starter selection of goods so that Rath could become a street peddler. She found a good spot in the open area between the Thai and Cambodian customs offices. ..... Travelers crossing between Thailand and Cambodia walk along this strip, the size of a football field, and it is lined with peddlers selling drinks, snacks and souvenirs.
Rath outfitted her cart with shirts and hats, costume jewelry, notebooks, pens and small toys. Now her good looks and outgoing personality began to work in her favor, turning her into an effective saleswoman. She saved and invested in new merchandise, her business thrived, and she was able to support her parents and two younger sisters. She married and had a son, and she began saving for his education.
In 2008, Rath turned her cart into a stall, and then also acquired the stall next door. She also started a ``public phone'' business by charging people to use her cell phone. So if you ever cross from Thailand into Cambodia at Poipet, look for a shop on your left, halfway down the strip, where a teenage girl will call out to you, smile, and try to sell you a souvenir cap. She'll laugh and claim she's giving you a special price, and she's so bubbly and appealing she'll probably make the sale.
Rath's eventual triumph--
If you remember from the first part of the book that I read, she was sold into slavery when she simply thought she was going to work as a dishwasher; she was sold into sex and repeatedly raped—
is a reminder that if girls get a chance, in the form of an education or a microloan, they can be more than baubles or slaves; many of them can run businesses. Talk to Rath today--after you've purchased that cap--and you'll find that she exudes confidence as she earns a solid income that will provide a better future for her sisters and for her young son.
Many of the stories in this book are wrenching, but keep in mind this central truth: Women aren't the problem but the solution. The plight of girls is no more a tragedy than an opportunity.
I will repeat that:
Women aren't the problem but the solution. The plight of girls is no more a tragedy than an opportunity.
That was a lesson we absorbed in Sheryl's ancestral village, at the end of a dirt road amid the rice paddies of southern China. For many years we have regularly trod the mud paths of the Taishan region to ..... the hamlet in which Sheryl's paternal grandfather grew up. China traditionally has been one of the most oppressive and smothering places for girls, and we could see hints of this in Sheryl's own family history. Indeed, on our first visit, we accidentally uncovered a family secret: a long-lost stepgrandmother. Sheryl's grandfather had traveled to America with his first wife, but she had given birth only to daughters. So Sheryl's grandfather gave up on her and returned her to Shunshui, where he married a younger woman as a second wife and took her to America. This was Sheryl's grandmother, who duly gave birth to a son--Sheryl's dad. The previous wife and daughters were then wiped out of the family memory.
Something bothered us each time we explored [the town] and the surrounding villages: Where were the young women?
This is, by the way, what Senator McCain said when he returned from a country that was repressed.
Young men were toiling industriously in the paddies or fanning themselves in the shade, but young women and girls were scarce. We finally discovered them and we stopped in the factories that were then spreading throughout the [Guangdong] Province, the epicenter of China's economic eruption. These factories produced the shoes, toys, and shirts that filled America's shopping malls, generating economic growth rates almost unprecedented in the history of the world--and creating the most effective antipoverty program ever recorded. The factories turned out to be cacophonous hives of distaff bees.
Eighty percent of the employees on the assembly lines in coastal China are female, and the proportion across the manufacturing belt of East Asia is at least 70 percent. The economic explosion in Asia was, in large part, an outgrowth of the economic empowerment of women. ``They have small fingers, so they're better at stitching,'' the manager of a purse factory explained to us. ``They're obedient and work harder than men,'' said the head of a toy factory. ``And we can pay them less.'' Women are indeed the linchpin of the region's development strategy.
Economists who scrutinized East Asia's success noted a common pattern. These countries took young women who previously had contributed negligibly to the gross national product and injected them into the formal economy, hugely increasing the labor force. The basic formula was to ease repression, educate girls as well as boys, give the girls the freedom to move to the cities and take factory jobs, and then benefit from a demographic dividend as they delayed marriage and reduced childbearing. The women meanwhile financed the education of younger relatives, and saved enough of their pay to boost national savings rates. This pattern has been ``the girl effect.'' In a nod to the female chromosomes, it could also be called ``the double X solution.''
Evidence has mounted that helping women can be a successful poverty-fighting strategy anywhere in the world, not just in the booming economies of East Asia. The Self Employed Women's Association was founded in India in 1972 and ever since has supported the poorest women in starting businesses--raising living standards in ways that have dazzled scholars and foundations. In Bangladesh, Muhammad Yunus developed microfinance at the Grameen Bank and targeted women borrowers--eventually winning a Nobel Peace Prize for the economic and social impact of his work.
I would note here--just a little sidenote, as I am reading through Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's book, to make everyone in this Chamber remember why we are here. We are here to help girls, not just in the United States, but in the world. We are here to hold up ``Half the Sky.'' We are here to show that this Chamber, at its best, can actually help the people we are supposed to help, the most vulnerable in our society, instead of debating extraneous issues that we are unable to resolve on this bill but that we seem able to resolve on other bills that just must be more important than the girls and the women of this world. That is all I can figure out.
But I would like to note, as I read about one of their suggestions for things that help girls and women around the world, this idea of microcredit. My dad, who is kind of an adventurer and goes around the world, actually wrote a book on microcredit called ``The Miracles of Barefoot Capitalism''--in case he is watching on C-Span, I thought he would like that note--with his wife Susan Wilkes. They are big believers in helping women around the world with microcredit.
So then they go on in the book to talk about helping people through microcredit.
In the early 1990s, the United Nations and the World Bank began to appreciate the potential resource that women and girls represent. Investment in girls' education may well be the highest return investment available in the developing world.
I think it is something that we need to remember in the United States as we look at the low numbers of girls that go into science and technology and head up companies, because for some reason they do not have the confidence to go into those fields or they are not encouraged to go into those fields. If we in the Senate cannot even say they should not be trafficked and we cannot do anything to help them, I do not think we are helping that cause very much.
Larry Summers wrote, when he was the chief economist of the World Bank: ``The question is not whether countries can afford this investment, but whether countries can afford not to educate more girls.''
In 2001, the World Bank produced an influential study, Engendering Development Through Gender Equality in Rights, Resources, and Voice, arguing that promoting gender equality is crucial to combat global poverty. UNICEF issued a major report arguing that gender equality yields a ``double dividend'' by elevating not only women but also their children and communities. The United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) summed up the mounting research this way: ``Women's empowerment helps raise economic productivity and reduce infant mortality. It contributes to improved health and nutrition. It increases the chances of education for the next generation.''
More and more, the most influential scholars of development and public health--including Sen and Summers, Joseph Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs, and Dr. Paul Farmer--are calling for much greater attention to women and development.
Private aid groups and foundations have shifted gears as well. ``Women are the key to ending hunger in Africa,'' declared the Hunger Project. French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, who founded Doctors Without Borders, bluntly declared of development: ``Progress is achieved through women.'' The Center for Global Development issued a major report explaining ``why and how to put girls at the center of development.'' CARE is taking women and girls as the centerpiece of its antipoverty efforts.
The Nike Foundation and the NoVo Foundation are both focusing on building opportunities for girls in the developing world. ``Gender inequality hurts economic growth,'' Goldman Sachs concluded in a 2008 research report that emphasized how much developing countries could improve their economic performance by educating girls. Partly as a result of that research, Goldman Sachs committed $100 million to a ``10,000Women'' campaign meant to give that many women a business education.
I think this is actually a really good book. I just plan to keep reading it whenever I can over the next few days until we get a resolution to this problem.
I am going to take a look at how many pages it is. Well, if you include the notes, it is 296 pages. I will obviously take breaks when our colleagues come down here. But I do think it is really important that we keep the pressure on, that the women and girls of this country demand that this get resolved, because as I said, we have somehow been able to resolve it on other bills. I think this bill and the bill that I have, the safe harbor bill, are just as important. I think our colleagues, in my discussions with them, know several ways we could resolve this problem, including just eliminating this extraneous provision. But there might be other ways as well. We know what they are. I hope they keep working on them.
Concerns about terrorism after the 9/11 attacks triggered interest in these issues as an unlikely constituency: the military and counterterrorism agencies. Some security experts noted that the countries that nurture terrorists are disproportionately those where woman are marginalized. The reason that there are so many Muslim terrorists, they argued, has little to do with the Koran but a great deal to do with the lack of robust female participation in the economy and society of many Islamic
countries. As the Pentagon gained a deeper understanding of counterterrorism ..... it became increasingly interested in grassroots projects such as girls' education. Empowering girls, some in the military argued, would disempower terrorists. When the Joint Chiefs of Staff hold discussions of girls' education in Pakistan and Afghanistan ..... you know that gender is a serious topic on the international affairs agenda. That's evident also in the Council on Foreign Relations. The wood-paneled halls that have been used for discussions of MIRV warheads ..... are now employed as well to host well-attended sessions on maternal mortality.
This is now Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn speaking in their book, which has been a national best seller, ``Half the Sky.'' It is about sex trafficking and how important it is to take this issue on--not just in our own country but the world.
We will try to lay out an agenda for the world's women focusing on three particular abuses: sex trafficking and forced prostitution; gender-based violence, including honor killings and mass rape; and maternal mortality, which still needlessly claims one woman a minute. We will lay out solutions such as girls' education and microfinance, which are working right now.
While the most urgent needs are in the developing world, wealthy countries also need to clear up their own neighborhoods. If we are to lead the way we must show greater resolution in cracking down on domestic violence and sex trafficking in our own neighborhoods, rather than just sputter about abuses far away.
It is true that there are many injustices in the world, many worthy causes competing for attention and support, and we all have divided allegiances.
This sounds kind of like us, right? There are a lot of different topics and things that we have to take on, and there are many worthy causes that are calling for our attention and support. We all have divided allegiances. I think that is kind of what is going on in this Chamber. But why do we need to focus on this? Well, I will go back to the book.
We focus on this topic because, to us, this kind of oppression feels transcendent--and so does the opportunity. We have seen that outsiders can truly make a significant difference.
Consider Rath once more.
Now, remember, this was the girl that was sold into sex trafficking in Malaysia.
We had been so shaken by her story that we wanted to locate that brothel in Malaysia, interview its owners, and try to free the girls still imprisoned there. Unfortunately, we could not determine the brothel's name or address. (Rath didn't know English or even the Roman alphabet, so she hadn't been able to read signs when she was there.) When we asked her if she would be willing to return to Kuala Lumpur and help us find the brothel, she turned ashen. ``I don't know,'' she said. ``I don't want to face that again.'' She wavered, talked it over with her family, and ultimately agreed to go back in the hope of rescuing her girlfriends.
Rath voyaged back to Kuala Lumpur with the protection of an interpreter and a local antitrafficking activist. Nonetheless, she trembled in the red light district upon seeing the cheerful neon signs that she associated with so much pain. But since her escape, Malaysia has been embarrassed by public criticism about trafficking, so the police had cracked down on the worst brothels that imprisoned girls against their will. One of those was Rath's. A modest amount of international scolding had led a government to take action, resulting in an observable improvement in the lives of girls at the bottom of the power pyramid. The outcome underscores that this is a hopeful cause, not a bleak one.
Honor killings, sexual slavery, and genital cutting may seem to Western readers to be tragic but inevitable in a world far, far away. In much the same way, slavery was once widely viewed by many decent Europeans and Americans as a regrettable but ineluctable feature of human life. It was just one more horror that has existed for thousands of years. But then in the 1780s a few indignant Britons, led by William Wilberforce, decided that slavery was so offensive that they had to abolish it. And they did. Today, we see the seed of something similar, a global movement to emancipate women and girls.
By the way, later in the book--since I have read it already, but now I will be able to read it again--they talk about how, in fact, it was the evidence of that brutality of the slavery, of the stench of the people who were slaves who were in the bottom of that ship that really drove action. Yes, the activists and William Wilberforce understandably get a lot of the attention and well-deserved credit for what happened, but it was the evidence that led to Britain, the people and their society, long before many other countries had even thought about abolishing slavery--it was the evidence of the brutality that led them to make a change.
That is one of the things that we need to talk about and why I am talking about this here today. We have to get back on what really matters here, such as the story of the 12-year-old girl in Rochester, MN--a 12-year-old girl who just got a text message and went to a McDonald's parking lot and was shoved into a car and then brought to the Twin Cities and then raped. Then her pictures were taken--sexually explicit pictures--and put on Craigslist. Then she was sold the next day and raped by two men.
That is what this is really about. It is not about these extraneous fights and what has been going on, dragging this Chamber down, and even stopping us from confirming a well-qualified person for the Attorney General of the United States. That is what they are talking about here. It is the evidence that the American people see. They start demanding change. I hope that is happening today.
So let's be clear about this up front. We hope to recruit you to join--
These are the authors.
--an incipient movement to emancipate women and fight global poverty by unlocking women's power as economic catalysts. That is the process underway--not a drama of victimization but of empowerment, the kind that transforms bubbly teenage girls from brothel slaves into successful businesswomen.
This is a story of transformation. It has change that is already taking place, and change that can accelerate if you will just open your heart and join in.
I think we need some opening of hearts here in the Chamber. I am going to take one break to talk to our staff, and then I will be back.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I am reading the book ``Half the Sky,'' by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I think it is a beautiful book. It is on sex trafficking around the world and what has been happening around the world. A part of this is that I think we need to make the point that we can lead in our country when it comes to sex trafficking.
We have Senator Cornyn's bill, and we know there is an issue with one of the provisions that needs to be resolved--and I don't think it is a provision that is related to this topic--but we are hopeful people of good will can come together and resolve this issue. The easiest way would be to take it out. We can have other discussions. Somehow, through history, the Senate has been able to come together and take care of this issue with the Hyde amendment and other bills.
I think the point I am trying to make today is this bill is just as important as those bills and that these girls who are victims of sex trafficking are just as important as anyone else in this country.
I am going to continue reading this book. I am hopeful--as I mentioned, it is very long, and I will obviously pause for my colleagues who come to the floor, but I am going to continue reading it until we get this resolved.
We are now on chapter 1, ``Emancipating Twenty-First-Century Slaves.'' The quote on this is actually from Christopher Buckley, one of my favorite authors, from ``Florence of Arabia,'' from the beginning of the chapter: ``Women might just have something to contribute to civilization other than their vaginas.''
That might not have been said on this floor that many times, but he is a humorous writer. Now, let's go on with the book:
The red-light district in the town of Forbesgunge does not actually have any red lights. Indeed, there is no electricity. The brothels are simply mud-walled family compounds along a dirt path, with thatch-roof shacks set aside for customers.
Children play and scurry along the dirt paths, and a one-room shop on the corner sells cooking oil, rice, and bits of candy. Here, in the impoverished northern Indian state of Bihar near the Nepalese border, there's not much else available commercially--except sex.
As Meena Hasina walks down the path, the children pause and stare at her. The adults stop as well, some glowering and the tension rises. Meena is a lovely, dark-skinned Indian woman in her thirties with warm, crinkly eyes and a stud in her left nostril. She wears a sari and ties her black hair back, and she seems utterly relaxed as she strolls among people who despise her.
Meena is an Indian Muslim who for years was prostituted in a brothel run by the Nutt, a low-caste tribe that controls the local sex trade. The Nutt have traditionally engaged in prostitution and petty crime, and theirs is the world of intergenerational prostitution, in which mothers sell sex and raise their daughters to do the same.
Meena strolls through the brothels to a larger hut that functions as a part-time school, sits down, and makes herself comfortable. Behind her, the villagers gradually resume their activities.
``I was eight or nine years old when I was kidnapped and trafficked,'' Meena begins. She is from a poor family on the Nepal border and was sold to a Nutt clan, then taken to a rural house where the brothel owner kept prepubescent girls until they were mature enough to attract customers. When she was twelve--she remembers that it was five months before her first period--she was taken to the brothel.
``They brought in the first client, and they'd taken lots of money from him,'' Meena recounted, speaking clinically and without emotion. The induction was similar to that endured by Rath in Malaysia, for sex trafficking operates on the same business model worldwide, and the same methods are used to break girls everywhere. ``I started fighting and crying out, so that he couldn't succeed,'' Meena said. ``I resisted so much that they had to return the money to him. And they beat me mercilessly, with a belt, with sticks, with iron rods. The beating was tremendous.'' She shook her head to clear the memory. ``But even then I resisted. They showed me swords and said they would kill me if I didn't agree. Four or five times, they brought customers in, and I still resisted, and they kept beating me. Finally they drugged me: They gave me wine in my drink and got me completely drunk.'' Then one of the brothel owners raped her. She awoke, hungover and hurting, and realized what had happened. ``Now I am wasted,'' she thought, and so she gave in and stopped fighting customers.
In Meena's brothel, the tyrant was a family matriarch, Ainul Bibi. Sometimes Ainul would beat the girls herself, and sometimes she would delegate the task to her daughter-in-law or her sons, who were brutal in inflicting punishment.
``I wasn't even allowed to cry,'' Meena remembers. ``If even one tear fell, they would beat me. I used to think that it was better to die than to live like this. Once I jumped from the balcony, but nothing happened. I didn't even break a leg.''
Meena and the others girls were never allowed out of the brothel and were never paid. They typically had ten or more customers a day, seven days a week. If a girl fell asleep or complained about a stomachache, the issue was resolved with a beating. And when a girl showed any hint of resistance, all the girls would be summoned to watch as the recalcitrant one was tied up and savagely beaten.
``They turned the stereo up loud to cover the screams,'' Meena said dryly.
India almost certainly has more modern slaves, in conditions like these, than any other country. There are 2 to 3 million prostitutes in India, and although many of them now sell sex to some degree willingly, and are paid, a significant share of them entered the sex industry unwillingly. One 2008 study of Indian brothels found that of Indian and Nepali prostitutes who started as teenagers, about half said they had been coerced into the brothels; women who began working in their twenties were more likely to have made the choice themselves, often to feed their children. Those who start out enslaved often accept their fate eventually and sell sex willingly, because they know nothing else and are too stigmatized to hold other jobs.
China has more prostitutes than India--some estimates are as high as 10 million or more--but fewer of them are forced into brothels against their will. Indeed, China has few brothels as such. Many of the prostitutes are freelancers working as ding-dong xiaojie (so called because they ring hotel rooms looking for business), and even those working in massage parlors and saunas are typically there on commission and can leave if they want to.
Paradoxically, it is the countries with the most straightlaced and sexually conservative societies, such as India, Pakistan, and Iran, that have disproportionately large numbers of forced prostitutes. Since young men in those societies rarely sleep with their girlfriends, it has become acceptable for them to relieve their sexual frustrations with prostitutes.
The implicit social contract is that upper-class girls will keep their virtue, while young men will find satisfaction in the brothels. And the brothels will be staffed with slave girls trafficked from Nepal or Bangladesh or poor Indian villages. As long as the girls are uneducated, low-caste peasants like Meena, society will look the other way--just as many antebellum Americans turned away from the horrors of slavery because the people being lashed looked different from them.
In Meena's brothel, no one used condoms. Meena is healthy for now, but she has never had an AIDS test. (While HIV prevalence is low in India, prostitutes are at particular risk because of their large number of customers.) Because Meena didn't use condoms, she became pregnant, and this filled her with despair.
``I used to think that I never wanted to be a mother, because my life had been wasted, and I didn't want to waste another life,'' Meena said. But Ainul's brothel, like many in India, welcomed the pregnancy as a chance to breed a new generation of victims. Girls are raised to be prostitutes, and boys become servants to do the laundry and cooking.
In the brothel, without medical help, Meena gave birth to a baby girl, whom she named Naina.
But soon afterward, Ainul took the baby away from Meena, partly to stop her from breast-feeding--customers dislike prostitutes who are lactating--and partly to keep the baby as a hostage to ensure that Meena would not try to flee.
``We will not let Naina stay with you,'' Ainul told her. ``You are a prostitute, and you have no honor. So you might run away.'' Later a son, Vivek, followed, and the owners also took him away. So both of Meena's children were raised by others in the brothel, mostly in sections of the compound where she was not allowed to go.
``They held my children captive, so they thought I would never try to escape,'' she said. To some degree, this strategy worked. Meena once helped thirteen of the girls escape, but didn't flee herself because she couldn't bear to leave her children. The penalty for staying behind was a brutal beating for complicity in the escape.
Ainul had herself been a prostitute when she was young, so she was unsympathetic to the younger girls. ``If my own daughters can be prostituted, then you can be, too,'' Ainul would tell the girls. And it was true that she had prostituted her own two daughters. (``They had to be beaten up to agree to it,'' Meena explained. ``No one wants to go into this.'')
That is a good place to stop and talk a little about what we are doing on the floor. No one wants to go into this. That is what these bills are about. These bills are about having a victims fund. These bills are about creating a safe harbor so we don't treat these young victims as criminals, like we have in Minnesota with the safe harbor law. And it is about trying to get something done.
We know an extraneous provision is on this bill and that we need to resolve this one way or another. As I have noted, we have been able to resolve this in the past, and I welcome my colleagues to come and speak about this issue. I hope this blame game is behind us, and that we won't be making accusations but instead we will actually work on getting this bill done. Because lost in all of this is the fact this isn't just some game people can play. These are actual young girls.
As I said, why is this international prostitution relevant to what we are talking about? It is relevant because our country can actually become a leader in this area. We can be a leader. We can actually do something in America to show we are taking this on. Our bill, the safe harbor bill I am leading, which we hope will be the first amendment to this bill, sets up a national sex trafficking strategy. We don't have one right now.
As a former prosecutor, I know when we work between Federal and State and local authorities, and we take on these cases and do it in a smart way, we actually are able to get things done. We did it with the Violence Against Women Act, when everyone thought that was just a situation where you can beat your wife and no one is going to notice. It happened behind closed doors. But we took it on as a country and we changed things and changed things for women in this country. Now we can do this with prostitution.
We can no longer see this as a victimless crime. There is a victim. The victim is 12 years old. She is someone in your State right now. So that is why these bills are so serious and why we need to continue to get them done. I am going to keep talking about this issue because I think at some point we have to realize why we are here and what we are talking about, instead of using it as a political football.
So the story goes on:
Meena estimates that in the dozen years she was in the brothel, she was beaten on average five days a week. Most girls were quickly broken and cowed, but Meena never quite gave in. Her distinguishing characteristic is obstinacy. She can be dogged and mulish, and that is one reason the villagers find her so unpleasant. She breaches the pattern of femininity in rural India by talking back--and fighting back.
The police seemed unlikely saviors to girls in the brothels because police officers regularly visited the brothels and were serviced free. But Meena was so desperate that she once slipped out and went to the police station to demand help.
``I was forced into prostitution by a brothel in town,'' Meena told the astonished officer at the police station. ``The pimps beat me up, and they're holding my children hostage.'' Other policemen came out to see this unusual sight, and they mocked her and told her to go back.
``You have great audacity to come here!'' one policeman scolded her. In the end, the police sent her back after extracting a promise from the brothel not to beat her. The brothel owners did not immediately punish her. But a friendly neighbor warned Meena that the brothel owners had decided to murder her. That doesn't happen often in red-light districts, any more than farmers kill producing assets such as good milk cows, but from time to time a prostitute becomes so nettlesome that the owners kill her as a warning to the other girls.
Fearing for her life, Meena abandoned her children and fled the brothel. She traveled several hours by train to Forbesgunge. Someone there told one of Ainul's sons, Manooj, of her whereabouts, and he soon arrived to beat up Meena. Manooj didn't want her causing trouble in his brothel again, so he told her that she could live on her own in Forbesgunge and prostitute herself, but she would have to give him the money. Not knowing how she could survive otherwise, Meena agreed.
Whenever Manooj returned to Forbesgunge to collect money, he was dissatisfied with the amount Meena gave him and beat her. Once Manooj threw Meena to the ground and was beating her furiously with a belt when a respectful local man intervened.
``You're already pimping her, you're already taking her lifeblood,'' remonstrated her saviour, a pharmacist named Kuduz. ``Why beat her to death as well?''
It wasn't the same as leaping on Manooj to pull him off, but for a woman like Meena, who was scorned by society, it was startling to have anyone speak up for her.
To have anyone speak up for her. That is what I hope we are going to be doing in this Chamber in the next few days, that we are going to speak up for these victims and show that we want to actually get something done and that they have value outside of being a political football.
Manooj backed off, and Kuduz helped her up. Meena and Kuduz lived near each other in Forbesgunge, and the incident created a bond between them. Soon Kuduz and Meena were chatting regularly, and then he offered to marry her. Thrilled, she accepted.
Manooj was furious when he heard about the marriage, and he offered Kuduz 100,000 rupees ($2,500) to give Meena up--a sum that perhaps reflected his concern that she might use her new respectability as a married woman to cause trouble for the brothel. Kuduz wasn't interested in a deal.
``Even if you offered me two hundred fifty thousand rupees, I will not give her up,'' Kuduz said. ``Love has no price.''
After they were married, Meena bore two daughters with Kuduz, and she went back to her native village to look for her parents. Her mother had died--neighbors said she had cried constantly after Meena disappeared, then had gone mad--but her father was stunned and thrilled to see his daughter resurrected.
Life was clearly better, but Meena couldn't forget her first two children left behind in the brothel. So she began making journeys back--five hours by bus--to Ainul Bibi's brothel. There she would stand outside and plead for Naina and Vivek.
``As many times as I could, I would go back to fight for my children,'' she remembered. ``I knew they would not let me take my children. I knew they would beat me up. But I thought I had to keep trying.''
It didn't work. Ainul and Manooj didn't let Meena in the brothel; they whipped her and drove her away. The police wouldn't listen to her. The brothel owners not only threatened to kill her, they also threatened to kidnap her two young daughters with Kuduz and sell them to a brothel. Once a couple of gangsters showed up at Meena's house in Forbesgunge to steal the two little girls, but Kuduz grabbed a knife and warned: ``If you even try to steal them, I'll cut you into pieces.''
Meena was terrified for her two younger girls, but she couldn't forget Naina. She knew that Naina was approaching puberty and would soon be on the market. But what could she do?
So these stories are pretty raw, and they are stories we usually don't tell on the floor of the United States Senate. But I think we need to, because maybe it is the only way people will remember why we are here and what we are supposed to be doing right now, which is to get these bills done and then hopefully confirm an Attorney General of the United States, which is something else we need to do that seems completely unrelated to these sex trafficking stories of these girls, except for one reason, and that is that we would want to have an attorney general in place so they can enforce the law.
Some of these cases are actually Federal, such as the one we had in Minnesota involving the little girl from Rochester, or the case in Senator Heitkamp's State of North Dakota involving the incident of a sex trafficking ring in the oil patch. This is going on right now in this country. So what could an Attorney General do? I would ask: What can we do? What we can do is to get this bill done.
Again, I welcome my colleagues to come and talk about this issue, but I hope when they talk about it we will actually focus on the matter at hand--not blame anyone anymore, not talk about the things we disagree on but what we agree on. And then, hopefully, that will lead to the discussions I know are going on to resolve this bill because we can get this resolved.
Continuing to read, this is the writers talking now:
Interviewing women like Meena over the years has led us to change our own views on sex trafficking. Growing up in the United States and then living in China and Japan, we thought of prostitution as something women may turn to opportunistically or out of economic desperation. In Hong Kong, we knew an Australian prostitute who slipped Sheryl into the locker room of her ``men's club'' to meet the local girls, who were there because they saw a chance to enrich themselves. We certainly didn't think of prostitutes as slaves, forced to do what they do, for most prostitutes in America, China, and Japan aren't truly enslaved.
Yet it's hyperbole to say that millions of women and girls are actually enslaved today. (The biggest difference from nineteenth-century slavery is that many die of AIDS by their late twenties.) The term that is usually used for this phenomenon, ``sex trafficking,'' is a misnomer. The problem isn't sex, nor is it prostitution as such. In many countries--China, Brazil, and most of sub-Saharan Africa--prostitution is widespread but mostly voluntary (in the sense it is driven by economic pressure rather than physical compulsion). In those places, brothels do not lock up women, and many women work on their own without pimps or brothels. Nor is the problem exactly ``trafficking'' since forced prostitution doesn't always depend on a girl's being transported over a great distance by a middleman.
The story I told, by the way, of the girl in Rochester, she just went about an hour-and-a-half drive. So this idea the trafficking is just about going from one nation to another or being in the hold of a boat or something like that is not necessarily always the case. So we use the words sex trafficking because people have to understand this is more than just one pimp and one prostitute, that these are usually rings and these girls are usually brought someplace where they do not want to be. But it doesn't necessarily mean they are brought long distances.
So when we talk about the bills on the floor, let's remember that, and I think this is a good reminder from this book.
And, by the way, if I ever mispronounce names or words, my apology to the authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I have to say it is kind of small print, and I am trying my best. I know the Presiding Officer has a good command of English and will help me out or correct me if I make a mistake.
The horror of sex trafficking can more properly be labeled slavery.
The total number of modern slaves is difficult to estimate. The International Labour Organization, a UN agency, estimates that at any one time there are 12.3 million people engaged in forced labor of all kinds, not just sexual servitude. A UN report estimated that 1 million children in Asia alone are held in conditions indistinguishable from slavery. The Lancet, a prominent medical journal in Britain, calculated that ``1 million children are forced into prostitution every year and the total number of prostituted children could be as high as 10 million.''
Antitrafficking campaigners tend to use higher numbers, such as 27 million modern slaves. That figure originated in research by Kevin Bales, who runs a fine organization called Free the Slaves. Numbers are difficult to calculate in part because sex workers can't be divided neatly into categories of those working voluntarily and those working involuntarily. Some commentators look at prostitutes and see only sex slaves; others see only entrepreneurs. But in reality there are some in each category and many other women who inhabit a gray zone between freedom and slavery.
I will note this number--I have always tried to get the right number of how many victims we are talking about--but as I noted at the beginning of my remarks this morning, the 27 million modern slaves includes victims of not just sex trafficking but also labor trafficking.
Back to the book.
An essential part of the brothel business model is to break the spirit of girls through humiliation, rape, threats and violence. We met a 15-year-old Thai girl whose initiation consisted of being forced to eat dog droppings so as to shatter her self-esteem. Once a girl is broken and terrified, all hope of escape squeezed out of her, force may no longer be necessary to control her. She may smile and laugh at passersby, and try to grab them and tug them into the brothel. Many a foreigner would assume that she is there voluntarily, but in that situation complying with the will of the brothel owner does not signify consent.
Our own estimate is that there are 3 million women and girls (and a very small number of boys) worldwide who can be fairly termed enslaved in the sex trade. That is a conservative estimate that does not include many others who are manipulated and intimidated into prostitution. Nor does it include millions more who are under eighteen and cannot meaningfully consent to work in brothels. We are talking about 3 million people who in effect are the property of another person and in many cases could be killed by their owner with impunity.
Technically, trafficking is often defined as taking someone (by force or deception) across an international border. The U.S. State Department has estimated that between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, 80 percent of them women and girls, mostly for sexual exploitation. Since Meena didn't cross a border, she wasn't trafficked in the traditional sense. That's also true of most people who are enslaved in brothels. As the U.S. State Department notes, its estimate doesn't include ``millions of victims around the world who are trafficked within their own national borders.''
The bills that we have--the one before us and my bill, the safe harbor bill, which we would like to see as the first amendment, which passed the Judiciary Committee with 20 votes on a bipartisan basis--these bills are focused on sex trafficking within our own borders, although some of the victims will be brought in from other countries. This book, ``Half the Sky,'' is so good because it really is about what is going on all around the world and all these victims around the world. Every country has their own problems. Despite all of the political machinations and extraneous provisions and other things, what we are trying to get done today is to do something real to help the victims of sex trafficking through the fund Senator Cornyn has in his bill and then in my safe harbor bill, which is also a strong bipartisan bill, to make it clear there is a good model we can use across the country that has been used in 15 States and others, and one dozen more are working on them, where Minnesota has been one of the States leading the way to view these girls as victims and not as criminals, when the average age is 12 years old, not even old enough to go to a high school prom, not even old enough to drive the car.
Again I welcome my colleagues to come down and talk about this issue. I am just going to keep filling in reading this book when no one is on the floor. I only hope that when we talk about this bill and this issue, we do it with some respect for the victims of these crimes and the respect they deserve.
Technically, trafficking is often defined as taking someone (by force or deception) across an international border. The U.S. State Department has estimated that between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, 80 percent of them women and girls, mostly for sexual exploitation. Since Meena didn't cross a border, she wasn't trafficked in the traditional sense. That's also true of most people who are enslaved in brothels. As the U.S. State Department notes, its estimate doesn't include ``millions of victims around the world who are trafficked within their own national borders.''
Again, as I have noted, 83 percent of the victims in the United States are from the United States, and I don't think that is what we think of when we first think about sex trafficking, but those are facts.
In contrast, in the peak decade of the transatlantic slave trade, the 1780s, an average of just under eighty thousand slaves were shipped annually across the Atlantic from Africa to the New World. The average then dropped to a bit more than fifty thousand between 1811 and 1850. In other words, far more women and girls are shipped into brothels each year in the early twenty-first century than African slaves were shipped into slave plantations each year in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries--although the overall population was of course far smaller then. As the journal Foreign Affairs observed: ``Whatever the exact number is, it seems almost certain that the modern global slave trade is larger in absolute terms than the Atlantic slave trade in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was.''
As on slave plantations two centuries ago, there are few practical restraints on slave owners. In 1791, North Carolina decreed that killing a slave amounted to ``murder,'' and Georgia later established that killing or maiming a slave was legally the same as killing or maiming a white person. But those doctrines existed more on paper than on plantations, just as Pakistani laws exist in the statute books but don't impede brothel owners who choose to eliminate troublesome girls.
While there has been progress in addressing many humanitarian issues in the last few decades, sex slavery has actually worsened. One reason for that is the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and Indochina. In Romania and other countries, the immediate result was economic distress, and everywhere criminal gangs arose and filled the power vacuum. Capitalism created new markets for rice and potatoes, but also for female flesh.
A second reason for the growth of trafficking is globalization. A generation ago, people stayed at home; now it is easier and cheaper to set out for the city or a distant country. A Nigerian girl whose mother never left her tribal area may now find herself in a brothel in Italy. In rural Moldolva, it is possible to drive from village to village and not find a female between the ages of sixteen and thirty.
I believe this is one of the countries that Senator McCain visited, when I talked to him after he came back last Easter, where he simply didn't see the girls. He asked: Where are the girls? And they said: Well, the girls--many of them have been sold into sex. So these are things that are happening right now in this world and in our own country.
A third reason for the worsening situation is AIDS. Being sold to a brothel was always a hideous fate, but not usually a death sentence. Now it often is. And because of the fear of AIDS, customers prefer younger girls whom they believe are less likely to be infected. In both Asia and Africa, there is also a legend that AIDS can be cured by sex with a virgin, and that has nurtured demand for young girls kidnapped from their villages.
These factors explain our emphasis on sex slaves as opposed to other kinds of forced labor. Anybody who has spent time in Indian brothels and also, say, at Indian brick kilns knows that it is better to be enslaved working a kiln. Kiln workers most likely live together with their families, and their work does not expose them to the risk of AIDS, so there's always hope of escape down the road.
Inside the brothel, Naina and Vivek were beaten, starved, and abused. They were also confused about their parentage. Naina grew up calling Ainul [the brothel's owner] Grandma, and Ainul's son Vinod, Father. Naina sometimes was told that Vinod's wife, Pinky, was her mother; at other times she was told her mother had died and that Pinky was her stepmother. But when Naina asked to go to school, Vinod refused and described the relationship in blunter terms.
``You must obey me,'' he told Naina, ``because I am your owner.''
The neighbors tried to advise the children. ``People used to say that they could not be my real parents, because they tortured me so much,'' Naina recalled. Occasionally, the children heard or even saw Meena coming to the door and calling out to them. Once Meena saw Naina and told her, ``I am your mother.''
``No,'' Naina replied. ``Pinky is my mother.''
Vivek remembers Meena's visits as well. ``I used to see her being beaten up and driven away,'' he says. ``They told me that my mother was dead, but the neighbors told me that she was my mother after all, and I saw her coming back to try to fight for me.''
Naina and Vivek never went to a day of school, never saw a doctor, and were rarely allowed out. They were assigned chores such as sweeping floors and washing clothes, and they had only rags to wear--and no shoes, for that might encourage them to run away. Then, when Naina was twelve, she was paraded before an older man in a way that left her feeling uncomfortable. ``When I asked `Mother' about the man,'' Naina recalled, ``she beat me up and sent me to bed without dinner.''
A couple of days later, ``Mother'' told Naina to bathe and took her to the market, where she bought her nice clothes and a nose ring. ``When I asked her why she was buying me all these things, she started scolding me. She told me that I had to listen to everything the man says. She also told me, `Your father has taken money from the man for you.' I started crying out loudly.''
Pinky told Naina to wear the clothes, but the girl threw them away, crying inconsolably. Vivek was only eleven, a short boy with a meek manner. But he had inherited his mother's incomprehension of surrender. So he pleaded with his ``parents'' and his ``grandma'' to let his sister go, or to find a husband for her. Each appeal brought him only another beating--administered with scorn. ``You don't earn any income,'' ``Father'' told him mockingly, ``so how do you think you can look after your sister?''
Yet Vivek found the courage to confront his tormenters again and again, begging for his sister's freedom. In a town where police officers, government officials, Hindu priests, and respectable middle-class citizens all averted their eyes from forced prostitution, the only audible voice of conscience belonged to an eleven-year-old boy who was battered each time he spoke up. His outspokenness gained him nothing, though. Vinod and Pinky locked him up, forced Naina into the new clothes, and the girl's career as a prostitute began.
So I think that is a pretty good place to break for a minute as we talk about ``the only audible voice of conscience belonged to an eleven-year-old boy.'' I think we have an opportunity in the Senate to be an audible voice of conscience and to move on this bill.
When I came to the floor today, my job was to just manage the bill for 4 hours; then I just decided, after being somewhat disgusted by all of the anger that I have heard in this Chamber, that maybe I would just start reading from this book. I had no plan to do it. I happened to have it with me because I have used it when I have given speeches. This isn't an official filibuster, as I guess we have been asked. I am just going to keep reading from the book. When my colleagues want to come down,
I welcome them. But I only ask them one thing--if maybe they could just focus on the issue at hand and stop all of this vengeance and anger, and then maybe we will have an opportunity, if we stop throwing darts, to get this done--and then also to confirm the next Attorney General of the United States, which is completely unrelated to this.
So let me continue on with this story, as we have an 11-year-old boy in the story whose voice was the only voice of conscience.
``My `mother' was telling me not to get scared, as he is a nice man,'' Naina remembered. ``Then they locked me inside the room with the man. The man told me to lock the room from the inside. I slapped him. ..... Then that man forced me. He raped me.''
Once a customer gave Naina a tip, and she secretly passed on the money to Vivek. They thought that perhaps Vivek could use a phone, a technology that they had no experience with, to track down the mysterious woman who claimed to be their real mother and seek help from her. But when Vivek tried to use the telephone, the brothel owners found out and both children were flogged.
Ainul thought that Vivek could be distracted with girls, and so he was told to try to have sex with the prostitutes. He was overwhelmed and intimidated at the thought, and when he balked, Pinky beat him up. Seething and fearful of what would become of his sister, Vivek decided that their only hope would be for him to run away and try to find the person who claimed to be their mother. Somewhere Vivek had heard that the woman's name was Meena and that she lived in Forbesgunge, so he fled to the train station one morning and used Naina's tip to buy a ticket.
``I was trembling because I thought that they would come after me and cut me into pieces,'' he recalled. After arriving in Forbesgunge, he asked directions to the brothel district. He trudged down the road to the red-light area and then asked one passerby after another: Where is Meena? Where does she live?
Finally, after a long walk and many missed turns, he knew he was close to her home, and he called out: Meena! Meena! A woman came out of one little home--Vivek's lip quivered as he recounted this part of the story--and looked him over wonderingly. The boy and the woman gazed at each other for a long moment, and then the woman finally said in astonishment: ``Are you Vivek?'
The reunion was sublime. It was a blessed few weeks of giddy, unadulterated joy, the first happiness that Vivek had known in his life. Meena is a warm and emotional woman, and Vivek was thrilled to feel a mother's love for the first time. Yet now that Meena had news about Naina, her doggedness came to the surface again: She was determined to recover her daughter.
``I gave birth to her, and so I can never forget her,'' Meena said. ``I must fight for her as long as I breathe. Every day without Naina feels like a year.''
Meena had noticed that Apne Aap Women Worldwide, an organization that fights sex slavery in India, had opened an office in Forbesgunge. Apne Aap is based in Kolkata, the city formerly known as Calcutta, but its founder--a determined former journalist named Ruchira Gupta--grew up partly in Forbesgunge. Other aid groups are reluctant to work in rural Bihar because of the widespread criminality, but Ruchira knew the area and thought it was worth the risk to open a branch office. One of the first people to drop in was Meena. ``Please, please,'' Meena begged Ruchira, ``help me get my daughter back!''
There had never been a police raid on a brothel in Bihar State, as far as anyone knew, but Ruchira decided that this could be the first. While Ainul Bibi's brothel had warm ties with the local police, Ruchira had strong connections with national police officials. And Ruchira can be every bit as intimidating as any brothel owner.
So Apne Aap harangued the local police into raiding the brothel to rescue Naina. The police burst in, found Naina, and took her to the police station. But the girl had been so drugged and broken that at the station she looked at Meena and declared numbly: ``I'm not your daughter.'' Meena was shattered.
Naina explained later that she had felt alone and terrified, partly because Ainul Bibi had told her that Vivek had died. But after an hour in the police station, Naina began to realize that maybe she could escape the brothel, and she finally whispered, ``Yes, you're my mother.''
So Apne Aap whisked Naina off to a hospital in Kolkata, where she was treated for severe injuries and a morphine addiction. The brothel had drugged Naina constantly to render her compliant, and the morphine withdrawal was brutal to watch. In Forbesgunge, life became more difficult and dangerous for Meena and her family. Some of the brothel owners there are related to Ainul and Manooj, and they were furious at Meena. Even those in the Nutt community who didn't like prostitution disapproved of the police raid, and so the townspeople shunned Apne Aap's school and shelter. Meena and her children were stigmatized, and a young man working with Apne Aap was stabbed. Threats were made against Meena's two daughters with Kuduz. Yet Meena was serene as she walked about the streets. She laughed at the idea that she should feel cowed.
``They think that good is bad,'' she scoffed, speaking of the local villagers. ``They may not speak to me, but I know what is right and I will stick to it. I will never accept prostitution of myself or my children as long as I breathe.'' Meena is working as a community organizer in Forbesgunge, trying to discourage parents from prostituting their daughters and urging them to educate their sons and daughters alike. Over time the resentment against her has diminished a bit, but she is still seen as pushy and unfeminine.
Apne Aap later started a boarding school in Bihar, partly with donations from American supporters, and Meena's children were placed there. The school has a guard and is a much safer place for them. Naina now studies at that boarding school and hopes to become a teacher, and in particular to help disadvantaged children.
One afternoon, Meena was singing to her two young daughters, teaching them a song.
This is how it went:
India will not be free,
Until its women are free.
What about the girls in this country?
If girls are insulted and abused and enslaved in this country,
Put your hand on your heart and ask,
Is this country truly independent?
The next part of the chapter: ``Fighting Slavery from Seattle.'' This is a book, ``Half the Sky,'' by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It is about sex trafficking, and I am reading it, one, because it is a really good book and so people understand the issue, two, so people will refocus on why we have these bills on the floor and work together. We all know some potential ways to resolve this on both sides of the aisle so we can pass this bill and resolve this Hyde amendment provision which should not be on this bill. But there are ways to resolve this, and we know what they are, and then, also, hopefully, pass my safe harbor bill which was the bill that in addition to Senator Cornyn's bill passed through our Committee on the Judiciary unanimously. Every single person voted for it. It is slated to be the first amendment vote on this bill, and it establishes safe harbor incentives so that other States will do what Minnesota and about 15 States have done, which is not to consider these victims as criminals but to consider them as victims. Then not only do we help these girls so they have a chance of turning their lives around but also so that we actually make better criminal cases.
I know as a former prosecutor, running an office of 400 people for 8 years--seeing some of these major cases come in our doors--the best way to make these cases, if you have victims who feel that they are protected, who feel they have another life they can lead, who feel they can do something with their lives between going back to their pimp and going back to the person who has beaten them up and gotten them hooked on drugs, is by doing something like that. So those are two worthy bills that are on the floor.
Again, my colleagues are welcome to come down here and join me. I think it would be nice for a change if people focused on the issue at hand instead of a partisan fight that has been going on, because I think this institution is better than what we have seen in the last week.
The next part of the chapter: ``Fighting Slavery from Seattle.'' This is a book, ‘‘Half the Sky,’’ by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It is about sex trafficking, and I am reading it, one, because it is a really good book and so people understand the issue, two, so people will refocus on why we have these bills on the floor and work together. We all know some potential ways to resolve this on both sides of the aisle so we can pass this bill and resolve this Hyde amendment provision which should not be on this bill. But there are ways to resolve this, and we know what they are, and then, also, hopefully, pass my safe harbor bill which was the bill that in addition to Senator CORNYN’s bill passed through our Committee on the Judiciary unanimously. Every single person voted for it. It is slated to be the first amendment vote on this bill, and it establishes safe harbor incentives so that other States will do what Minnesota and about 15 States have done, which is not to consider these victims as criminals but to consider them as victims. Then not only do we help these girls so they have a chance of turning their lives around but also so that we actually make better criminal cases.
I know as a former prosecutor, running an office of 400 people for 8 years—seeing some of these major cases come in our doors—the best way to make these cases, if you have victims who feel that they are protected, who feel they have another life they can lead, who feel they can do something with their lives between going back to their pimp and going back to the person who has beaten them up and gotten them hooked on drugs, is by doing something like that. So those are two worthy bills that are on the floor.
Again, my colleagues are welcome to come down here and join me. I think it would be nice for a change if people focused on the issue at hand instead of a partisan fight that has been going on, because I think this institution is better than what we have seen in the last week.
The next part of the chapter: ‘‘Fighting Slavery from Seattle.’’
People always ask how they can help. Given concerns about corruption, waste, and mismanagement, how can one actually help women like Meena and defeat modern slavery? Is there anything an ordinary person can do?
That is a good question. I finally decided to start reading this book because I was sick of what was going on here. I think ordinary people around the country can do something about sex slavery by supporting strong laws and making sure Congress gets its job done but also doing work on their local and State level.
The authors say:
A starting point is to be brutally realistic about the complexities of achieving change. To be blunt, humanitarians sometimes exaggerate and oversell, eliding pitfalls. They sometimes torture frail data until it yields the demanded ``proof'' of success. Partly this is because the causes are worthy and inspiring; those who study education for girls, for example, naturally believe in it. As we'll see, the result is that the research isn't often conducted with the same rigor as is found in, say, examinations of the effectiveness of toothpaste. Aid groups are also reluctant to acknowledge mistakes, partly because frank discussion of blunders is an impediment in soliciting contributions.
The reality is that past efforts to assist girls have sometimes backfired. In 1993, Senator Tom Harkin wanted to help Bangladeshi girls laboring in sweatshops, so he introduced legislation that would ban imports made by workers under the age of fourteen. Bangladeshi factories promptly fired tens of thousands of young girls, and many of them ended up in brothels and are presumably now dead of AIDS.
Again, I am reading from the book ``Half the Sky,'' by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, which is a great book about sex trafficking in order to refocus this Chamber on what we should be doing, which is getting these bills done and coming up with a way to resolve timeworn disputes which we somehow have been able do with other bills.
I am trying to make the case here that these girls, as reflected in some of these stories, are just as important as some of the other work that we do in the Senate and deserve our greatest efforts.
Yet many forms of assistance--particularly in health and education--have an excellent record. Consider the work of Frank Grijalva, the principal of the Overlake School in Redmond, Washington, a fine private school with 450 students in grades five through twelve. Annual tuition hovers around $22,000, and most of the kids are raised in a sheltered upper-middle class environment. Grijalva was looking for a way to teach his students about how the other half lives.
``It became clear that we, as a very privileged community, needed to be a bigger, more positive force in the world,'' Grijalva recalled. Frank heard about Bernard Krisher, a former Newsweek correspondent who was so appalled by poverty in Cambodia that he formed an aid group, American Assistance for Cambodia. Rescuing girls from brothels is important, Krisher believes, but the best way to save them is to prevent them from being trafficked in the first place--which means keeping them in school.
So American Assistance for Cambodia focuses on educating rural children, especially girls. Bernie Krisher's signature program is the Rural School Project. For $13,000, a donor can establish a school in a Cambodian village. The donation is matched by funds from the World Bank and again by the Asian Development Bank.
Grijalva had a brainstorm. His students could sponsor a school in Cambodia and use it as a way of emphasizing the importance of public service. Initially the response from students and parents was polite but cautious, but then the attacks of 9/11 took place, and suddenly the community was passionately concerned with the larger world and engaged in this project. The students conducted bake sales, car washes, and talent shows, and also educated themselves about Cambodia's history of war and genocide. The school was built in Pailin, a Cambodian town on the Thai border that is notorious for cheap brothels that cater to Thai men.
In February 2003, the school construction was completed, and Grijalva led a delegation of nineteen students from Overlake School to Cambodia for the opening. A cynic might say that the money for the visit would have been better spent on building another Cambodian school, but in fact that visit was an essential field trip and a learning opportunity for those American students. They lugged along boxes of school supplies, but as they approached Pailin by car, they realized that Cambodia's needs were greater than they ever could have imagined. The dirt-and-gravel road to Pailin was so deeply rutted that it was barely passable, and they saw a bulldozer overturned beside a crater--it had hit a land mine.
When the Americans reached the Cambodian school, they saw a sign declaring it the OVERLAKE SCHOOL in English and Kmer script. At the ribbon cutting, the Americans were welcomed by a sea of excited Cambodians--led by a principal who was missing a leg, a land-mine victim himself. Cambodian men then had an average of only 2.6 years of education, and Cambodian women averaged just 1.7 years, so a new school was appreciated in a way the Americans could barely fathom.
The school dedication--and the full week in Cambodia--left an indelible impression on the American students. So Overlake students and parents decided to forge an ongoing relationship with its namesake in Cambodia. The Americans funded an English teacher at the school and arranged for an Internet connection for e-mail. They built a playground and sent books. Then, in 2006, the American school decided to send delegations annually, dispatching students and teachers during spring vacation to teach
English and arts to the Cambodian pupils. And in 2007, the group decided to assist a school in Ghana as well, and to send a delegation there.
``This project is simply the most meaningful and worthwhile initiative that I have undertaken in my thirty-six years in education,'' Frank Grijalva said. The Overlake School in Cambodia is indeed an extraordinary place. A bridge has washed out, so you have to walk across a stream to reach it, but it looks nothing like the dilapidated buildings that you see in much of the developing world. There are 270 students, ranging in age from six to fifteen. The English teacher is university educated and speaks good English. Most stunning of all, when we dropped by, the sixth graders were busy sending e-mails from their Yahoo accounts--to the kids at Overlake School in America.
One of those writing an e-mail was Kun Sokkea, a thirteen-year-old girl who would soon be the first in her family ever to graduate from elementary school. Her father had died of AIDS, and her mother was sick with the same disease and needed to be nursed constantly. Kun Sokkea is rail-thin, a bit gangly, with long, stringy black hair. She is reserved, and her shoulders sag with the burdens of poverty.
``My mom encourages me to stay in school, but sometimes I think I should go out and earn money,'' Kun Sokkea explained. ``I have no dad to support Mom, so maybe I should provide for her. In one day, I could earn seventy baht, [a bit more than two dollars] cutting hay or planting corn.''
To address these financial pressures, American Assistance for Cambodia started a program called Girls Be Ambitious, which in effect bribes families to keep girls in school. If a girl has perfect attendance in school for one month, her family gets $10. A similar approach has been used very effectively and cheaply to increase education for girls in Mexico and other countries. Kun Sokkea's family is now getting the stipend. For donors who can't afford to fund an entire school, it's a way to fight trafficking at a cost of $120 per year per girl. The approach helps because it is typically girls like Kun Sokkea who end up trafficked. Their families are desperate for money, the girls are poorly educated, and a trafficker promises them a great job selling fruit in a distant city.
Kun Sokkea showed us her home, a rickety shack built on stilts--to guard against flooding and vermin--in a field near the school. The house has no electricity, and her possessions were in one small bag. She never has to worry about choosing what to wear: She has just one shirt, and no shoes other than a pair of flip-flops. Kun Sokkea has never been to a dentist and to a doctor only once, and she gets the family's drinking water from the nearby creek. That's the same creek in which Kun Sokkea washes the family clothes (she borrows someone else's shirt to wear when she has to wash her own). She shares a mattress on the floor with her brother, as three other family members sleep a few feet way. Kun Sokkea has never touched a phone, ridden in a car, or had a soft drink; when she was asked if she ever drank milk, she looked confused and said as a baby she had drunk her mother's milk.
Yet one thing Kun Sokkea has beside her bed is a photo of the American Overlake students on their campus. In the evenings before she goes to sleep, she sometimes picks up the photo and studies the smiling families and neat lawns and modern buildings. In her own shack, with her mother sick and often crying, her siblings hungry, it is a window into a magical land where people have plenty to eat and get cured when they fall ill. In such a place, she thinks, everybody must be happy all the time
For one thing, we know that is not quite true in our country. As we know, we have these same crimes occurring in our country every single day. Every single day, we have thousands of girls who are victims of sex trafficking. We had it happen in Minnesota. We have had it happen across the country. We have it happen when some girls are brought in from other countries. We know it is going on every day in our own Nation. We have an opportunity to do something about it, to tell the rest of the world that this place is a place where good things get done. But somehow we have gotten bogged down in a political game again with blame going back and forth and back and forth, and I just don’t think that is dignified for the Senate.
While we can battle it out--and we should--on issues such as the budget and on issues where we don't have an agreement when it comes to our country's international affairs, this is an issue on which we actually agree, but somehow we found a way to not agree, and I think we need to find our way back. That is why I am going to continue to read from this book.
Someone asked me if this is a filibuster. It is not a filibuster because obviously I don't mind if my colleagues come down. I would like them to come down and talk about this important topic. But I will point out that at least when it comes to this issue of sex trafficking, we can stop going back and forth on who is to blame and who knew what when and what people did wrong and instead just focus on resolving this issue and getting a bill passed and certainly not attaching it to the Attorney General of the United States.
I will say that it is attached to the Attorney General in one way, and that is when it comes to Federal sex trafficking cases. Most of these cases are on the local level, county level, State level, the DA's office, but there are cases that are handled federally. I know from talking to the nominated Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, that she cares very much about these cases. It would be good to have her in place so we can start working on this national sex trafficking strategy. So in that way they are connected, but they certainly are not connected, in my mind, procedurally.
I know some of my colleagues have addressed this. I have spoken out for her several times. Not everyone knows about Loretta Lynch's background. Loretta Lynch is someone who grew up in a neighborhood--her family didn't have a lot of money. Her dad was a pastor at the church.
When she was in elementary school, she took a test and did really well on that test. The teacher came to her and said: You know what, we don't really know if that was really you who took that test or if that was really your score. So she took the test again, and she scored even higher the second time.
When Loretta Lynch graduated from high school, she was actually the valedictorian. The principal of that school came up to Loretta Lynch and said: You know what, it is a bit controversial to have you as our valedictorian, so you will have to share it with a White student. That happened to Loretta Lynn, and she just waited it out, and that is what she is going to do with this Chamber. She is going wait it out, and in the end she will be confirmed as the next Attorney General.
Why is this relevant? Because some of our friends on the other side of the aisle are attaching it to the sex trafficking issue, and I don't think it should be attached to the sex trafficking issue. I think we should get her confirmed.
But most importantly and the reason I am here on the floor reading from this book is just to say, can we just stop going back and forth and the vengeance and get this bill done?
From the very beginning, Senator Cornyn and I have worked on my bill, the safe harbor bill--which is not the bill on the floor--together. While I was not involved in the beginning of the drafting of his bill, I believe that idea of helping victims in some way with some kind of funding with shelters is a really good idea as well.
I hope we can resolve the issue on his bill, the Hyde amendment provision, and that we can then go on to pass my bill as the amendment. As we know, there is significant support in the House for these bills, and they are very important bills.
I will continue with the book:
Kun Sokkea and her family are not the only beneficiaries. The Americans themselves have been transformed as much as the Cambodians. And that is something you see routinely: Aid projects have a mixed record in helping people abroad, but a superb record in inspiring and educating the donors. Sometimes the lessons are confusing, as Overlake found when it tried to help Kun Sokkea get to middle school after graduating from elementary school. She needed transport because the middle school was far away, and young men in the area often harassed girls on their way to school.
So, at the teacher's suggestion, Overlake bought Kun Sokkea a bicycle, and for several months that worked very well. Then an older woman, a neighbor, asked to borrow Kun Sokkea's bicycle; the girl felt she couldn't say no to an older person. The woman then sold the bicycle and kept the money she received for it. Frank Grijalva and the American students were beside themselves, but they learned an important lesson about how defeating poverty is more difficult than it seems at first. The Americans decided they couldn't just buy Kun Sokkea another bicycle, so the girl returned to walking an hour each way to school and back. Perhaps in part because of the distance involved and the risks of getting to school, Kun Sokkea began to miss a fair number of days. Her grades suffered. In early 2009, she dropped out of school.
America's schools rarely convey much understanding of the 2.7 billion people (40 percent of the world's population) who today live on less than $2 a day. So while the primary purpose of a new movement on behalf of women is to stop slavery and honor killings, another is to expose young Americans to life abroad so that they, too, can learn and grow and blossom--and then continue to tackle the problems as adults.
``After going to Cambodia, my plans for the future have changed,'' said Natalie Hammerquist, a seventeen-year-old at Overlake who regularly e-mails two Cambodian students. ``This year I'm taking three foreign languages, and I plan on picking up more in college.''
Natalie's Cambodian girlfriend wants to be a doctor but can't afford to go to university. That grates on Natalie: A girl just like me has to abandon her dreams because they're unaffordable. Now Natalie plans on a career empowering young people around the world: ``All anyone should do is to use their gifts in what way they can, and this is how I can use mine. That is the weight of how valuable seeing Cambodia was for me.''
This is now chapter 2 of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's book ``Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.'' And I noted that really most of the book is about sex trafficking and prostitution and why this is such a major problem worldwide.
Look at what happened that night when those girls were doing nothing but learning at a school and Boko Haram came in and broke into that school and took those girls away. Their parents had nothing but motorcycles and bicycles and bows and arrows to try to chase them. They were never able to get their daughters back, and now Boko Haram said they sold many of those children into sex slavery.
This should not be happening, but it is going on right now--and not just internationally. It is going on everywhere in this country, and that is why it is important. It is important not just for the victims in America, it is also important because of the victims internationally. We have an opportunity in this country to actually stand up and say: We want to be a leader on this internationally. We are going to cast this dysfunction aside and actually get this done and show the world we can be a leader when it comes to elevating girls and young women, when it comes to holding up half the sky.
Chapter 2, ``Prohibition and Prostitution.'' It starts with a quote by Abraham Lincoln:
Although volume upon volume is written to prove slavery a good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes to take the good of it, by being a slave himself.
After visiting Meena Hasina and Ruchira Gupta in Bihar, Nick crossed from India into Nepal at a border village with stalls selling clothing, snacks, and more sinister wares. That border crossing is the one through which thousands of Nepali girls are trafficked into India on their way to the brothels of Kolkata. There they are valued for their light skin, good looks, docility, and inability to speak the local language. As Nick filled out some required paperwork at the border post, Nepalis streamed into India, without filling out a form.
While sitting in the border shack, Nick began talking to one Indian officer who spoke excellent English. The man said he had been dispatched by the intelligence bureau to monitor the border.
``So what exactly are you monitoring?'' Nick asked.
``We're looking for terrorists, or terror supplies,'' said the man, who wasn't monitoring anything very closely, since one truck after another was driving past. ``After 9/11, we've tightened things up here. And we're also looking for smuggled or pirated goods. If we find them, we will confiscate them.''
``What about trafficked girls?'' Nick asked. ``Are you keeping an eye out for them? There must be a lot.''
``Oh, a lot. But we don't worry about them. There's nothing that we can do about them.''
``Well, you could arrest the traffickers. Isn't trafficking girls as important as pirating DVDs?''
The intelligence officer laughed genially and threw up his hands. ``Prostitution is inevitable.'' He chuckled. ``There has always been prostitution in every country. And what's a young man going to do from the time he turns eighteen until he gets married at thirty?''
``Well, is the best solution really to kidnap Nepali girls and imprison them in Indian brothels?''
The officer shrugged, unperturbed. ``These girls are sacrificed so we can have harmony in society. So that good girls can be safe.''
It is unfortunate. I hope that is not what we are going to be saying in this body--from the Senate to the rest of the world and to trafficked girls and to those groups who are advocating so hard, especially over the last 2 years, in trying to get this done. I hope we will not say: It is unfortunate. We were not able to resolve this. These are major fights, and this person did this, and this person knew about this, and this person didn't know about that.
That is what has been going on over this past week, and we are better than that. People keep backstabbing and going after each other, but personally I have had it. So if anyone wants to join me here--I know the women in the Senate have always worked together--and at least talk about this issue instead of simply fighting with each other, I think we would really improve our chances of getting it done.
``But many of the Nepali girls being trafficked are good girls, too.''
``Oh, yes, but those are peasant girls. They can't even read. They're from the countryside. The good Indian middle-class girls are safe.''
Nick, who had been gritting his teeth, offered an explosive suggestion: ``I've got it! You know, in the United States we have a lot of problems with harmony in society. So we should start kidnapping Indian middle-class girls and forcing them to work in brothels in the United States! Then young American men could have fun, too, don't you think? That would improve our harmony in society!''
There was an ominous silence, but finally the police officer roared with laughter.
``You are joking!'' the officer said beaming. ``That's very funny!''
Nick gave up.
People get away with enslaving village girls for the same reason that people got away with enslaving blacks 200 years ago: The victims are perceived as discounted humans. India had delegated an intelligence officer to look for pirated goods because it knew that the United States cares about intellectual property. When India feels that the West cares as much about slavery as it does about pirated DVDs, it will dispatch people to the borders to stop traffickers.
The tools to crush modern slavery exist, but the political will is lacking. That must be the starting point of any abolitionist movement. We're not arguing that Westerners should take up this cause because it is the fault of the West; Western men do not play a central role in prostitution in most poor countries. True, American and European sex tourists are part of the problem in Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Belize, but they are still only a small percentage of the johns. The vast majority are local men. Moreover, Western men usually go with girls who are more or less voluntary prostitutes, because they want to take the girls back to their hotel rooms, while forced prostitutes are not normally allowed out of the brothels. So this is not a case where we in the West have a responsibility to lead because we are the source of the problem. Rather, we single out the West because even though we are peripheral to the slavery, our action is necessary to overcome a horrific evil.
One reason the modern abolitionist movement has not been more effective is the divisive politics of prostitution. In the 1990s, the American left and right collaborated and achieved the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which was a milestone in raising awareness of international trafficking in the global agenda. The anti-trafficking movement then was unusually bipartisan, strongly backed by some liberal Democrats, such as the late senator Paul Wellstone, and by some conservative Republicans, such as Senator Sam Brownback.
I do want to pause from this book for a second to note that when I was at the McCain Institute out in Arizona, Cindy McCain and HEIDI HEITKAMP and I spoke about this issue to all of those gathered. At the end, a guy came up to me and said that he was with the State Department under a Republican administration, and he talked to me about how when Paul Wellstone died, they put forward some kind of a scholarship in his honor for students who wanted to work in the area of combating sex trafficking and trying to eliminate sex trafficking.
It was at that moment last spring that I actually found out that Paul Wellstone, the Senator from Minnesota, whom we miss so dearly, who died in that tragic plane crash, had taken on this issue. He had taken on so many other issues, speaking for the voiceless, from mental health to domestic violence, that I did not know—and I think this shows how sometimes this issue gets second shrift—that he was such a hero when it came to sex trafficking.
I think part of that was Paul always believed that there were a lot of causes around this building that had people advocating for them, that keep people busy at meetings all day or that they get called up for that are so important, but, in fact, those who can’t afford that kind of help—the victims of domestic violence or those with mental illness or victims of sex trafficking—they don’t have a lot of lobbyists coming over here to meet with people and they need someone to stand up for them, and they should not be forgotten or dismissed or marginalized in becoming a political football, that maybe they need someone advocating on their behalf.
The other thing about Paul is he always embraced that immigrant experience. He believed that no matter where one comes from in this country, or no matter what one’s roots were, they should be able to rise up. He also believed that everyone should be treated with dignity.
I will never forget when I first came to the Senate, Darrell, the train driver who recently retired, came up to me and I told him I am a Senator from Minnesota, and all he said was, ‘‘Paul Wellstone,’’ because he remembered him. Whether it was the cops at the front desk or the secretaries, they remember Paul. So it is no surprise that Paul Wellstone, along with conservative Republican Sam Brownback, actually took this issue on.
In this book, ‘‘Half the Sky,’’ Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn continue talking about who worked on this when people were actually working together. They say:
Hillary Rodham Clinton was also a leader on this issue, and no one has been a greater champion than Carolyn Maloney, a Democratic Congresswoman from New York.
In fact, Congresswoman MALONEY, in conjunction with Congressman POE, a Republican Congressman, are sponsoring a bill that is not exactly the same as Senator CORNYN’s bill, but similar. They are also cosponsors of the bill I am carrying, the safe harbor bill that ERIK PAULSEN is carrying in the House. So we can see this work has continued. Some of the people are the same, but somehow back then, we were able to reach some kind of an agreement, and this was treated as a serious issue and a serious bill which we need to do.
They go on to talk about who else worked on this.
. . . Paul Wellstone, Sam Brownback, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Carolyn Maloney, a Democratic Congresswoman from New York. Likewise, one of George W. Bush’s few positive international legacies was a big push against trafficking. Vital Voices and other liberal groups were stalwart on sex trafficking, as were International Justice Mission, and other conservative evangelical groups. Yet, while the left and the right each do important work fighting trafficking, they mostly do it separately. The abolitionist movement would be far more effective if it forged unity in its own rank.
Now we get back to something I always remember MIKE ENZI talking about, about how we can have disagreement on something like 20 percent of the things, but we have agreement on 80 percent. Maybe that is what we have to remember with this bill. We know how Senator ENZI always worked well with Ted Kennedy, as did Senator HATCH, even with how different they were politically. But they were able to find some common ground.
Certainly this bill should not be devolving into a fight over abortion. There is so much we agree on in this bill. There is also so much we agree on in the safe harbor bill which doesn’t contain the Hyde provision.
So this idea that we are going back and forth and dwelling on whose fault this was and how it happened—frankly, I think: Enough. I think we need to resolve this. I know there are ways to resolve this. I hope that is continuing to go on today. We have a lot of things, in addition to passing this bill, we need to get done. We need to get the vote on the next Attorney General of the United States. We have a major budget that we need to get done. The budget needs to be approved. I am looking at our staff and I know they are looking forward to one of those nights where we are going until 3 or 4 in the morning. Maybe we wouldn’t have to do that if we could stop these kinds of fights.
This is kind of a practical argument for getting this done, I know that, but one has to be slightly practical as we look at the fights before us on important matters that we need to resolve. One of the fights shouldn’t be this. This is a fight against evil. This is a fight against those who are trafficking in little girls. It shouldn’t be a fight across the aisle.
The authors talk about the groups that have worked on it and how we would be more effective if we forged unity.
One reason for discord is a dispute about how to regard prostitution. The left often refers nonjudgmentally to ‘‘sex workers’’ andtends to be tolerant of transactions among consenting adults. The right . . . refers to ‘‘prostitutes’’ or ‘‘prostituted women’’.
Do my colleagues know what is so interesting about this—let me see when this book was written: 2009. So even since that time, what is sort of a cool thing is that we have gotten some agreement now on the fact that when we see a Republican House of Representatives being able to pass the safe harbor bill—the bill I wrote in the Senate, the bill that is not yet on the floor, to make clear, but the bill that would be considered as the first amendment—we have gotten some agreement here in these two Houses that these younger victims are, in fact, victims. I think that is really important for our country to hear that. Because when we do things such as that—such as when we pass the Violence Against Women Act, it changes the whole way people think about these crimes. Who is committing the crime? It is the people running the ring. It is the johns. It is not the victims.
So I think that is why as we move forward, trying to get these bills passed, it is so important beyond the immediate bills.
OK. So they are talking about this debate. I don’t think we should dwell on debate. We have had enough of them in this Chamber, but that is what this part of the book is about.
What policy should we pursue to try to eliminate that slavery? Originally, we sympathized with the view that a prohibition won’t work any better in prostitution today than it did against alcohol in America in the 1920s. Instead of trying fruitlessly to ban prostitution, we believed it would be preferable to legalize and regulate it. That pragmatic ‘‘harm reduction’’ model is preferred by many aid groups because it allows aid workers to pass out condoms and it permits access to brothels so that they can be more easily checked for underage girls.
Over time, we’ve changed our minds. That legalize-and-regulate model simply hasn’t worked very well in countries where prostitution is often coerced.
This is a change. I think we remember back decades ago where people were talking about legalizing prostitution. I think what we have realized, those of us who have worked as prosecutors, is that so often prostitution is not consensual. So often there are reasons—either the pimp is keeping someone hooked on drugs to keep someone being a prostitute or they are threatening their lives or threatening their family lives—and this is something that we don’t want to have be legal.
I am going to finish this paragraph, and then I see we have been joined by the great Senator from New Jersey who I am really happy has come so I can sit down and drink some water.
That legalize-and-regulate model simply hasn’t worked very well in countries where prostitution is often coerced. Partly, that is because governance is often poor so the regulation is ineffective, and partly it is because the legal brothels tend to attract a parallel illegal business in young girls and forced prostitution. In contrast, there’s empirical evidence that crackdowns can succeed, when combined with social services such as job retraining and drug rehabilitation, and that is the approach we have come to favor. In countries with widespread trafficking, we favor a law enforcement strategy that pushes for fundamental change in police attitudes and regular police inspections to check for underage girls or anyone being held against their will. That means holding governments accountable not just to pass laws but also to enforce them, and monitoring how many brothels are raided and pimps are arrested. Jail-like brothels should be closed down, sting operations should be mounted against buyers of virgin girls, and national police chiefs must be under pressure to crack down on corruption as it relates to trafficking. The idea is to reduce the brothel owners’ profit.
With that, I will take a pause from this book. I will say that Senator BOOKER has done not only an amazing job as a Senator, but he also knows a little bit about being a mayor. He knows the struggle of poverty and also understands that to govern, we have to have a change of tone. I have always appreciated the work he has done across the aisle and the tone he brings to the Senate. We are really trying to push today as we try to come together to work on this bill.
I yield the floor.
Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I was here for nearly 3 hours this morning when there was some spare time on the floor to get us refocused on the issue at hand, which is the issue of the victims of sex trafficking.
As I noted this morning, this is now the third biggest criminal enterprise in the world. The first is illegal drugs, the second illegal guns, and the third is the illegal sale of children. The average age of a victim of sex trafficking is 12 years old--not even old enough to go to their first prom or not even old enough to get a driver's license. That is what we are talking about here.
As I said, we have seen it in every part of the country. Just last week, there was a case out of Rochester, MN, of a 12-year-old girl who was charged by the U.S. Attorney's office. She got a text and went to a McDonald's parking lot. She thought she was going to go to a party. She got shoved in a car and got brought up to the Twin Cities, got raped. Sexually explicit pictures were taken and posted on Craigslist by the pimp. She was sold for sex to two men, raped by two men. Finally, the guys got caught and they have charged the case. So that is what we are talking about here.
I know there are disagreements on the issues of our time, whether they are the issues of our economy and the budget fight that is going to be coming up next week, or whether it is the issues of foreign relations, but there shouldn't be a disagreement about this. This is a bipartisan bill. There is a provision in this bill that I don't believe needs to be in this bill. There are some potential solutions here and I hope my colleagues are talking about them.
We have to refocus our efforts on what matters. That is what we have to remember. I am tired of looking back at who is blaming who and whose fault it is and now, somehow, it has gotten tied to the confirmation of the next Attorney General of the United States. This makes no sense at all. If these issues are connected at all, it is simply because the Attorney General of the United States helps to enforce the sex trafficking laws. Their office sometimes takes on Federal cases such as we saw in the oil patch of North Dakota. They enforce our other laws, such as what we care about right now in Minnesota where we have had a number of people indicted for going to help ISIS, or we have had 20 people indicted and 9 convictions for helping al-Shabaab, and here we have an Attorney General who is immensely qualified and who literally has the highest number out of her office of terrorism prosecutions in the Nation. So let's just get Loretta Lynch confirmed. That is for starters.
As to this bill, I would like to see a different tone as we discuss it. I would like to see people on both sides of the aisle talk about solutions and remember what we are dealing with here. We have been able to deal with this issue on other bills. I don't understand why we can't deal with it on this bill. Are these girls less important? Is this something that can just be a political football back and forth? I don't think so.
I want to remind people that in addition to the bill that is on the floor, Senator Cornyn's bill, which sets up a victims fund, there is another bill, and that is the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act. That is my bill. Senator Cornyn is the cosponsor. There are 19 bipartisan cosponsors. It is a bill that went through the Judiciary Committee a few weeks ago--unanimously on the vote. Every single Senator voted for it. A similar version led by Representative Erik Paulsen of Minnesota has gone through the House. I like ours a little better because it includes a national sex trafficking strategy. Those two bills will be easily resolved to get this done.
My hope is--my bill is supposed to be the first amendment once we can go on to this bill, once we get the fix of the bill--the provision of the bill that is in controversy. I want to remind people that this bill is equally important. It sets a standard--the safe harbor bill--so other States will start looking at Minnesota and what about 15 other States have done. It says these 12-year-olds are not criminals; they are victims.
How can you say a 12-year-old is a criminal? They are victims. Once you start thinking like that, it changes the way you handle the cases. As a former prosecutor, what matters to me is that when you change the way you look at the case, you have a better case because then you have a victim who feels they have some place to go--a shelter. They can get a job. They can get an education. They are much more likely to turn on the pimp and to turn on the perpetrator that is running the sex ring.
In Minnesota, last year we got a 40-year sentence against a guy. John Choi, the chief attorney for Ramsey County, got a guy that was running one of these rings. That is what is going on here when we talk about this bill and the importance of passing this bill.
We have the 20 women Senators who came together and asked for a hearing on sex trafficking. We got that done. Now is the time where I hope we can come together and resolve this.
So one of the things I have taken to doing is reading Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's great book ``Half the Sky.''
``Half the Sky'' refers to women holding up half the sky. It refers to the fact that we have countries and systems that marginalize women and don't treat them as equal. This is not good for our world.
We have seen countries that do it the worst, that treat them as sex slaves, that allow that to happen. Those countries tend to have very poor human rights records. They tend not to be good partners for our country. If we want to lead the way for the world, we have to start on our own turf, where 86 percent of the victims in sex trafficking in the United States are from the United States.
If we are going to reach out to other countries, such as Heidi Heitkamp, Cindy McCain, and I did last spring--we went down to Mexico to work with them on some of the issues of cases on which they have actually helped in the United States with the U.S. attorney's office. We need to be able to show that our country is doing the right thing, and this is an opportunity to do that.
So I have been reading from this book in part in the hope that we can change the tone and remember who we are here to protect. It is also a great book. They have actually written another book as well that is focused on domestic sex trafficking that I will be reading from tomorrow as well.
I note this is not an official filibuster, but whenever I have time and there is time on the floor, I am simply going to come down here to remind people of the importance of getting this bill done.
So we are talking in the book--I was in the chapter on ``Prohibition and Prostitution.'' I talked about the fact that ``the tools to crush modern slavery''--I am reading from the book--``but the political will is lacking.''
That seems to be what is going on in this Chamber when extraneous bills are in the way of getting this done. When my Republican coauthor over in the House has said that these kinds of politics don't belong on these bills, I agree.
The tools to crush modern slavery exist, but the political will is lacking. That must be the starting point of any abolitionist movement. We're not arguing that Westerners should take up this cause because it's the fault of the West; Western men do not play a central role in prostitution in most poor countries. True, American and European sex tourists are part of the problem in Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Belize, but they are still only a small percentage of the johns. The vast majority are local men. Moreover, Western men usually go with girls who are more or less voluntary prostitutes, because they want to take the girls back to their hotel rooms, while forced prostitutes are not normally allowed out of the brothels. So this is not a case where we in the West have a responsibility to lead because we're the source of the problem. Rather, we single out the West because, even though we're peripheral to the slavery, our action is necessary to overcome a horrific evil.
So that is my argument here, that by doing something here in this Chamber and by showing that we care about these girls in the United States, then we show we care internationally and it should be a major tenet of our foreign policy.
One reason the modern abolitionist movement hasn't been more effective is the divisive politics of prostitution.
I talked about this earlier today. The issue that we have is that a number of people way back--including the late great Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, Senator Brownback of Kansas, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Carolyn Maloney, whom I just left on the Joint Economic Committee, and George W. Bush--showed great leadership in this area. So we have seen time and again people being able to come together across party lines to get this done.
So they talk about how things have changed, and they say that ``over time, we've changed our minds'' about how we look at this. They talk about the fact that it used to be: Well, let's legalize prostitution and regulate. That will really work. I think we have learned that it will never really work. It doesn't work in those countries that have tried it, and it certainly doesn't work for these young girls who are victims of the sex trade. So they talk about how we, in fact, through law enforcement, need to go after the profits and we have to take this on. That is what the bills we are considering help to do. They give State and local prosecutors and shelters the tools that they need.
We won't eliminate prostitution. In Iran, brothels are strictly banned, and the mayor of Tehran was a law-and-order hard-liner until, according to Iranian news accounts, he was arrested in a police raid on a brothel where he was in the company of six naked prostitutes. So crackdowns don't work perfectly, but they tend to lead nervous police to demand higher bribes, which reduces profitability for the pimps. Or the police will close down at least those brothels that aren't managed by other police officers. With such methods, we can almost certainly reduce the number of fourteen-year-old girls who are held in cages until they die of AIDS.
This is happening in our world.
``It's pretty doable,'' says Gary Haugen, who runs International Justice Mission. ``You don't have to arrest everybody. You just have to get enough that it sends a ripple effect and changes the calculations. That changes the pimps' behavior. You can drive traffickers of virgin village girls to fence stolen radios instead.''
Many liberals and feminists are taken aback by the big stick approach we advocate, arguing that it just drives sex establishments underground. They argue instead for a legalize-and-regulate model based on empowerment of sex workers, and they cite a success: The Sonagachi Project.
Sonagachi, which means ``golden tree,'' is a sprawling red-light district in Kolkata. In the 1700s and 1800s, it had been a legendary locale for concubines. Today it has hundreds of multistory brothels built along narrow alleys, housing more than six thousand prostitutes. In the early 1990s, health experts were deeply concerned about the spread of AIDS in India, and in 1992 they started [this project]. ..... A key element was to nurture a union of sex workers ..... which would encourage condom use and thus reduce the spread of AIDS through prostitution.
DMSC seemed successful in encouraging the use of condoms. It publicized its role as a pragmatic solution to the public health problems of prostitution. One study found [this project] increased .....condom use by 25 percent.
They go on to explain it.
But then they say--and this is key to our approach to trying not to allow prostitution to continue:
As we probed the numbers, however, we saw that they were flimsier than they at first appeared. HIV prevalence was inexplicably high among new arrivals ..... 27.7 percent among sex workers aged twenty or younger. Research had also shown that, initially, all sex workers interviewed ..... claimed to use condoms nearly all the time. But when pressed, they admitted lower rates. .....
This goes on and they talk about the problem with this. What we are talking about here is underage girls and what is really going on.
I am going to quote from one story they told when they went to this brothel.
While the madam spoke with others in the room, gushing about the group's success, the three of us on the bed asked the prostitute in Hindi to tell us if those things were true. Afraid and timid, the prostitute remained silent until we assured her that we wouldn't get her in trouble. Barely audible, she told us that almost none of the prostitutes ..... came with aspirations of being a sex worker. Most of them like herself were trafficked. ..... When I asked her if she wanted to leave Sonagachi, her eyes lit up; before she could say anything, the DMSC official put her hand on my back and said that it was time to move on. .....
These are stories about how it doesn't really work to have this model of allowing the prostitution to continue and regulate.
In the developing world, however, this difficult, polarizing debate is mostly just a distraction. In India, for example, brothels are technically illegal--but, as we said earlier, they are ubiquitous--the same is true in Cambodia. In poor countries, the law is often irrelevant, particularly outside the capital. Our focus has to be on changing reality, not changing laws.
Congress took an important step in that direction in 2000 by requiring the State Department to put out an annual Trafficking in Persons report--the TIP report.
I will remind again that this was done on a bipartisan basis. We didn't see the kind of fights we are having now because people decided that here is one thing that we could agree on--from Paul Wellstone to Sam Brownback--and that perhaps without having outside political debates, we can agree that we do not want young girls aged 12 to be sex trafficked.
What did this report do?
The report ranks countries according to how they tackle trafficking, and those in the lowest tier are sanctioned. This meant that for the first time U.S. embassies abroad had to gather information on trafficking. American diplomats began holding discussions with their foreign ministry counterparts, who then had to add trafficking to the list of major concerns such as proliferation and terrorism. As a result, the foreign ministries made inquiries of the national police agencies.
Simply asking questions put the issue on the agenda. Countries began passing laws, staging crackdowns, and compiling fact sheets. Pimps found that the cost of bribing police went up, eroding their profit margins.
This approach can be taken further. Within the State Department, the trafficking office has been marginalized, even relegated to another building. If the secretary of state publicly and actively embraced the trafficking office--
I think we see this has happened since this book was written--since 2009 under Secretary Clinton and Secretary Kerry.
..... that would elevate the issue's profile. The President could visit a shelter .....
And, by the way, that is something that Heidi Heitkamp, Cindy McCain, and I did when we went to Mexico.
Europe should have made trafficking an issue in negotiating the accession of Eastern European countries wishing to enter the European Union, and it can still make this an issue for Turkey in that regard.
The big-stick approach should focus in particular on the sale of virgins. Such transactions, particularly in Asia, account for a disproportionate share of trafficker profits and kidnappings of young teenagers. And the girls, once raped, frequently resign themselves to being prostitutes until they die. It is often rich Asians, particularly overseas Chinese, who are doing the buying--put a few of them in jail, and good things will happen: The market for virgins will quickly shrink, their price will drop, gangs will shift to less risky and more profitable lines of business, the average age of prostitutes will rise somewhat, and the degree of compulsion in prostitution will diminish as well.
This is from ``Half the Sky,'' written by New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. They have a more recent book that they have written called ``A Path Appears,'' and this is about domestic prostitution, which I will also be reading from. But I thought I would start that tomorrow, as we continue to focus on this, so people understand what we are really talking about.
As we all know, the bills before the Senate today are about domestic trafficking. They are about what is happening in the United States right now in every town in this country.
We talked earlier this morning about why this is happening, why we are seeing this kind of increase, and we are talking about it more. The reason is that more and more because of the Internet people can anonymously advertise. They can send instant messages and texts. It is just more hidden, and it is harder to track down for law enforcement. That is part of why we are seeing this going on right now and why this is such a major issue in our country.
I would tie it into our international theme, because, again, first of all, we have a percentage of these victims--mostly girls--who come from foreign countries. So it matters to us what goes on in foreign countries with their law, which is the focus of ``Half the Sky.''
But it also matters to us because we want a better world, and we want these countries to do better. We don't want to put all our money in military spending. We want these countries to become democracies, to become trading partners, to become places that we can work with. Instead, if we allow these girls to be subjugated and we allow them to be chattel and we allow them to be treated like slaves, they are never going to get the kind of democracy that we want them to get to and that will allow for a better country. You are not going to have a woman elected to the Senate in one of these countries if they believe that women can be treated as chattel, as we are seeing in so many of these places.
So I am going to go to the next part of the chapter, which is called ``Rescuing Girls Is the Easy Part.''
We became slave owners in the twenty-first century the old-fashioned way: We paid cash in exchange for two slave girls and a couple of receipts. The girls were then ours to do with as we liked.
Rescuing girls from brothels is the easy part, however. The challenge is keeping them from returning. The stigma that the girls feel in their communities after being freed, coupled with drug dependencies or threats from pimps, often lead them to return to the red-light district. It's emotionally dispiriting for well-meaning aid workers who oversee a brothel raid to take the girls back to a shelter and give them food and medical care, only to see the girls climb over the back wall.
That is what I talked about earlier. That is why, when we look at it from a U.S. perspective, what these bills focus on is trying to turn these girls' lives around and trying to set that standard. We are not mandating it in other States; we are simply creating some incentives and giving them some funding so that States can start doing these cases in a different way and start seeing them as victims and making it easier to go after the people who are running the ring.
Back to the book:
Our unusual purchase came about when Nick--
Referring here to Nick Kristof--
traveled with Naka Nathaniel, then a New York Times videographer, to an area in northwestern Cambodia notorious for its criminality. Nick and Naka arrived at the town of Poipet and checked into an $8-a-night guest house that doubled as a brothel. They focused their interviews on two teenage girls, Srey Neth and Srey Momm, each in a different brothel.
Neth was very pretty, short and light-skinned. She looked fourteen or fifteen, but she thought she was older than that; she had no idea of her actual birth date. A woman pimp brought her to Nick's room, and she sat on the bed, quivering with fear. She had been in the brothel only a month, and Nick would have been her first foreign customer. Nick needed his interpreter present in the room as well, and this puzzled the pimp, who nevertheless accommodated.
Black hair fell over Neth's shoulders and onto her tight pink T-shirt. Below, she wore equally tight blue jeans, and sandals. Neth had plump cheeks, but the best of her was thin and fragile; thick makeup caked her face in a way that seemed incongruous, as if she were a child who had played with her mother's cosmetics.
After some awkward conversation through the interpreter, as Nick asked Neth about how she had grown up and about her family, she began to calm down. She stopped trembling and mostly looked in the direction of the television in the corner of the room, which Nick had put on to muffle the sound of their voices. She responded to questions briefly and without interest.
Now we have been joined--I am going to stop reading from the book for a while. Senator Feinstein has come to the floor. Senator Feinstein has been a true leader on this issue of sex trafficking. She is a senior member of the Judiciary Committee--the only other woman on the Judiciary Committee besides me, with, I think, 20-some guys. She knows how important this issue is. I know she is going to talk a little bit about that as well as some other things. I welcome her to the floor.
I yield the floor.