There is terrific news to report today.
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA or S.47), which includes the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA or Title XII of S.47).
The House vote was 286 in favor to 138 opposed, showing strong bipartisan support for keeping the federal government’s anti-slavery efforts on track.
The Senate passed the bill earlier this month. It now goes to President Obama, who has indicated he will sign it.
“We strongly applaud the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act by the House and Senate,” says Free the Slaves Executive Director Maurice I. Middleberg. “This legislation is the cornerstone of the American effort to combat the horrors of human slavery and trafficking.”
“This action by the Congress and the president’s signature will send a strong message to people in slavery that help is on the way. It restores America’s reputation as a world leader in combating human trafficking at home and abroad,” Middleberg says.
The TVPA was first passed in 2000 to authorize a wide range of federal action to combat slavery at home and abroad — from prosecuting traffickers, to providing shelter for slavery survivors, to preventing vulnerable people from enslavement in the first place. It must be reauthorized every few years.
The bill had lapsed during the 112th Congress, which adjourned in January. Winning reauthorization for the law in the current 113th Congress has been a top priority for Free the Slaves and other organizations that are members of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST).
Advocacy efforts behind the scenes by ATEST and its member organizations — and an overwhelming display of grassroots support for the TVPRA from people who contacted their congressional representatives this month — were critical.
Members of Congress responded. They attached the TVPRA to VAWA, and then shepherded the combined bill to final approval. Combining the two made sense — many of the factors that spark violence against women also lead to trafficking and modern-day slavery.
“This is an important step toward freedom for the millions of women, men and children around the globe who are trafficked into forced labor and sex slavery each year,” says David Abramowitz, director of ATEST and vice president for policy & government relations, Humanity United.
Thanks to all who took a stand by taking action!