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Russia and China have expressed their objection to being ranked among the worst offenders in the 2013 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, released by the U.S. Department of State on Wednesday. But human rights organizations have said that the assessment is fair.
"The anger of the Chinese government against the TIP Report is misplaced. They should channel their anger toward taking effective action against traffickers, rather than against the exposure to the world of their abysmal record on human trafficking," Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, shared with The Christian Post in an email on Thursday.
The TIP report provides detailed profiles on countries and the state of human trafficking within their borders. It also categorizes nations by the level in which they comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act's minimum standards, separating them in three different tiers, with Tier 3 reserved for the worst offenders – governments that do not comply with those minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
"When we help countries to prosecute traffickers, we are strengthening the rule of law. When we bring victims out of exploitation, we are helping to create more stable and productive communities," Secretary of State John Kerry explained.
"When we stop this crime from happening in the first place, we are preventing the abuse of those who are victimized as well as the ripple effect that caused damage throughout communities into our broader environment and which corrupt our global supply chains," Kerry added.
The 2013 edition of the report lists both Russia and China in Tier 3, up from Tier 2, putting them in the same category as countries like North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria, among others.
The detailed profile for China reminds readers that the country remains a "significant source of girls and women subjected to forced prostitution throughout the world," and explains that many victims are recruited from rural areas, with traffickers luring them out with fake promises of jobs and travel fees.
As for Russia, the Department of State reported that labor trafficking remains the biggest issue: "The Migration Research Center estimates that one million people in Russia are exposed to 'exploitative' labor conditions characteristic of trafficking cases, such as withholding of documents, nonpayment for services, physical abuse, or extremely poor living conditions."
Russian and Chinese officials have strongly objected to this classification, however, with Russian foreign ministry human rights envoy Konstantin Dolgov saying that "the very idea of raising this issue causes indignation," BBC News shared.
Dolgov added that the report had used "unacceptable methodology," and insisted that Russian authorities would never "follow instructions worked out in another country, let alone fulfill conditions presented nearly in the form of an ultimatum."
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, on the other hand, argued that the world's most populous country placed "great importance to fighting all crimes of trafficking."
"We believe that the U.S. side should take an objective and impartial view of China's efforts and stop making unilateral or arbitrary judgments of China," Chunying added.
Jeff Barrows, VP of Education and Advocacy Director at the Abolition International Shelter Association, an organization which works to help survivors of human trafficking, shared with The Christian Post in a phone interview on Thursday that the Department of State had no choice but to relegate China and Russia to Tier 3, because a country is allowed to stay in Tier 2 only for a certain length of time.
The only way for a Tier 2 country to stay in that category is if it is granted a 2-year waiver, but after that it must show clear progress in its efforts to combat human trafficking – something which the report says China and Russia failed to do.
"We at Abolition International are still reviewing the report, but we don't see any reason to disagree with the Trafficking in Persons report at this time," Barrows told CP.
"In General, Abolition International feels that the Trafficking in Persons report is an excellent instrument to help countries guide their efforts to fight human trafficking and to gauge their efforts with other countries, we really are very appreciative of the State Department's efforts in the preparation of this report."
The advocacy director added that he hopes that the report would motivate Russia and China to take extra effort to deal with the extensive trafficking problem within their borders.
Littlejohn, whose group raises awareness and fights against sexual slavery and forced abortion in China, added that Women's Rights Without Frontiers commends the Department of State's report.
"We particularly affirm the connection the TIP report draws between the One Child Policy and human trafficking. The One Child Policy is a major driving force behind sexual slavery, not only within China, but from surrounding countries as well," Littlejohn told CP.
The Women's Rights Without Frontiers president said that the One Child Policy has created a dangerous gender imbalance in China, in which there are an estimated 37 million more men than women living today.
"This gender imbalance is in turn driving sexual slavery. Young women and girls are trafficked within China and from surrounding countries to serve as sex slaves and forced brides," she added.
The "End It" movement, a global anti-slavery campaign, estimates that there are close to 27 million slaves in the world, more than in any other time in human history.