History of Our Movement in Washington State

“Human Trafficking is a deeply complex industry that brutalizes men and women around the world. It is not only sex-trafficking, it is not only happening overseas, and it is not going to go away on its own. Let us come together as a community to examine the root causes of this industry, only with this multifaceted approach can we truly eliminate it at its core.”
– Dr. Sutapa Basu, Executive Director of the University of Washington (UW) Women’s Center

Seattle, WA — The movement began after countless stories of mail order brides being beaten, exploited and murdered started to surface in the mid-1990s, such as the devastating cases of Susana Remerata Blackwell, Helen Clemente and Anastasia King. Then State Representative Velma Veloria, Dr. Sutapa Basu, Executive Director of the UW Women’s Center, and Emma Catague, Community Organizing Program Manager at Asian & Pacific Islander Chaya (API Chaya), together set out to examine and end this emerging pattern. Under Dr. Basu’s leadership, in 2001 the UW Women’s center hosted the first ever human trafficking conference in the State where the issues around human trafficking within Washington were exposed. At this conference not only was Human Trafficking framed as a public health issue, which has now become one of the major frameworks for contextualizing human trafficking, but also bride trafficking was recognized and identified as a form of Human Trafficking. Acting on these groundbreaking recognition, in 2003 then Rep. Velma Veloria sponsored the historic HB 1175. With the support of her colleagues in both Chambers of the State Legislature, Washington set the stage for the anti-trafficking movement and became the first State in the nation to criminalize human trafficking. Since then, 47 States have replicated and instituted similar bills. A decade later, Washington State continues to be at the forefront of the movement. This year alone, twelve anti-trafficking bills were signed into law!

On May 11, 2012, marketed as a professional develop program for legal and business professionals, the Women’s Center in collaboration with the UW School of Law and Seattle University School of Law hosted an event that went beyond your typical one-day forum built around awareness. The “Human Trafficking, Forced Labor, and Corporate Responsibility” program challenged academic, corporate, legal and advocacy professionals in this area to widen their scope of practice beyond sex trafficking and focus on understanding the global supply-chain push and demand-side pull factors that fuel the industry.

With about 80 people in attendance, speakers offered a multi-disciplinary and comprehensive explanation of the true scope of the problem and delved into strategies to promote socially responsible business and lifestyle decisions to move the burden off the shoulders of human trafficking victims.

Never done with their good work, on January 11th and 12th, 2013, in honor of WA State Human Trafficking Awareness Day and a decade of HB 1175, the UW Women’s Center, UW School of Law and Seattle University School of Law will be hosting a two-day international conference. The conference will examine the root causes of the human trafficking industry and develop strategies to work towards not only preventing, but also eradicating the trade. The program will encompass the true scope of the problem, including the many forms of forced labor and seeks to connect the dots between the push-pull levers of the industry.

As Sutapa Basu frequently asks, “why is it that, despite numerous efforts to eliminate the trade, human trafficking continues to be the second largest illegal industry and the fastest growing in the world?”

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