Governor of Virginia Robert F. McDonnell declared, “Unfortunately, the subjugation of human beings who are forced against their will into labor or worse, into the sex trade, is not something relegated to the history books or to underdeveloped third-world counties,” at the Human Trafficking Bill Signing Ceremony located at Washington Dulles International Airport, a common entrance point that traffickers use to transport victims into the United States. On Tuesday May 31st, 2011, Governor McDonnell initiated an aggressive campaign against human trafficking in Virginia by signing three landmark pieces of legislation, House Bills 1898 and 2190 as well as Senate Bill 1453, which work to strengthen comprehensive laws and close loopholes. For example, HB 1898 acts to amend existing code statutes and significantly stiffen penalties for those who abduct adults for the purposes of prostitution. HB 2190 creates a plan to coordinate effective response for victims of human trafficking to ensure the delivery of social services and resources they need and deserve in order to begin the recovery process. SB 1453 authorizes the Department of Criminal Justice Services working along with the Attorney General Office to advise and train law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of traffickers. RJI was present at the event along with the many delegates, law enforcement officials, journalists, new station crews, and various non-governmental organizations. All of us agree with Sara, RJI Director and Founder, when she stated, “We are very grateful to Governor McDonnell and the members of the General Assembly who, along with the many grassroots organizations in Virginia, have taken an active leadership role on this issue. Together, with the proper awareness and action, we can fight to end modern-day slavery in our lifetime. Today is significant in many ways because it is sending a message to traffickers and those who enslave others that Virginia is open for honest, legal businesses, but closed for slavery.” As RJI and partners are becoming closer and closer to abolishing modern day human slavery, the more and more human traffickers acknowledge the concrete reality that Virginians and America as a whole will no longer tolerate such malicious violations against human rights.
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To see more photos from the event, click here.
-Tran, RJI Administrative Volunteer