WASHINGTON President Bush signed a human trafficking bill into law Tuesday, stirring applause from congressional officials and faith leaders alike.
"We're attacking this problem aggressively," said Bush just before signing the bill in front of an audience of religious heads and congressmen advocating human rights. "America has a particular duty to fight this horror because human trafficking is an affront to the defining promise of our country."
The renewed bill (H.R. 972) of the landmark 2000 human trafficking law toughens law enforcement abilities to prosecute traffickers and bring an end to the exploitation of women and children, especially within America. Grants are also included to assist victims and help reduce demand in sex trafficking.
"Our nation is determined to fight and end this modern form of slavery," said Bush.
Anti-trafficking advocates and religious leaders praised the strengthened bill as hundreds of thousands of people continue to be victimized each year.
"Everyone who is concerned about the sexual victimization of children and women should applaud the enactment of this legislation," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, according to the Baptist Press. "It significantly increases the ability of authorities to go after the pimps and the customers who exploit these young women and children sexually and in such horrific ways. The so-called End Demand aspects of this legislation are pioneering in many ways and hopefully will go a long way toward helping to end the terrible sexual exploitation going on in our nation."
Other advocates present at the signing of the measure included U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Sen. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.).
Smith said in a written statement, "With this new law, the victims of this terrible crime know they are not forgotten."
With partnered efforts between the Department of Health and Human Services and faith-based and community organizations, anti-trafficking coalitions are to be established in 17 major cities across the country, said Bush.
The renewed bill also calls other nations to combat sex trafficking and have zero tolerance for the crime.
"The trade in human beings continues in our time and we are called by conscience and compassion to bring this cruel practice to an end," stated Bush.