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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 11, 1998

March 11, 1998

                           THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
                            INFORMATION AGENCY
           SUBJECT:  Steps to Combat Violence Against Women and
                     Trafficking in Women and Girls

As we celebrate International Women's Day today, we highlight the achievements of women around the world. We also acknowledge that there is much work yet to be done to ensure that women's human rights are protected and respected. The momentum generated by the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 continues to encourage our government, as well as nations around the world, to fulfill our commitments to improve the lives of women and girls.

I have, once again, called upon the Senate to give its advice and consent to ratification to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, thus enabling the United States to join 161 other countries in support of the Convention. This Convention is an effective tool that can be used to combat violence against women, reform unfair inheritance and property rights, and strengthen women's access to fair employment and economic opportunity. Ratification of this Convention will enhance our efforts to promote the status of women around the world. As we look at Afghanistan and the egregious human rights violations committed against women and girls at the hands of the Taliban, we recognize that this is an issue of global importance.

My Administration is working hard to eliminate violence against women in all its forms. Our efforts help to combat this human rights violation around the world and here in the United States. As part of the 1994 Crime Bill, I signed into law the Violence Against Women Act. This legislation declares certain forms of violence against women to be Federal crimes and provides for critical assistance to States, tribes, and local communities in their efforts to respond to this problem. The Department of Justice is implementing the Violence Against Women Act and working with communities across the country to promote criminal prosecution and provide services to victims. Through the Department of Health and Human Services, we have established for the first time a nationwide domestic violence hotline, so that women throughout the country can call one toll-free number and be connected to a local domestic violence support center. We have come a long way since 1994, and I am proud of our efforts.

Each day recognition of the importance of this issue grows around the world. In recent years, many countries have begun to respond to calls for legislation and government programs addressing violence against women. The international community increasingly regards violence against women as a fundamental human rights violation, an impediment to a nation's development, and an obstacle to women's full participation in democracy.

Today I am directing the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the President's Interagency Council on Women to continue and expand their work to combat violence against women here in the United States and around the world. We have made great progress since the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, but there remains much to be done. We must continue to work to implement the Act fully and to restore the Act's protection for immigrant victims of domestic violence here in the United States so that they will not be forced to choose between deportation and abuse.

The problem of trafficking in women and girls, an insidious form of violence, has received a great deal of attention from the world community. This is an international problem with national implications. Here in the United States, we have seen cases of trafficking for the purposes of forced prostitution, sweatshop labor, and exploitative domestic servitude. The victims in these cases often believe they will be entering our country to secure a decent job. Instead, they are virtual prisoners, with no resources, little recourse, and no protection against violations of their human rights. My Administration is committed to combating trafficking in women and girls with a focus on the areas of prevention, victim assistance and protection, and enforcement. Our work on this issue has been enhanced by a strong partnership with nongovernmental groups and the U.S. Congress.

I am also directing the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the President's Interagency Council on Women to increase national and international awareness about trafficking in women and girls. I want to ensure that young women and girls are educated about this problem so that they will not fall prey to traffickers' tactics of coercion, violence, fraud, and deceit.

I also want to provide protection to victims. And finally, I want to enhance the capacity of law enforcement worldwide to prevent women and girls from being trafficked and ensure that traffickers are punished.

Therefore, I direct:

I. The Secretary of State, in coordination with the Administrator of the Agency for International Development, to strengthen and expand our efforts to combat violence against women in all its forms around the world. These efforts should be responsive to government and nongovernment requests for partnerships, expert guidance, and technical assistance to address this human rights violation.

II. The President's Interagency Council on Women to coordinate the United States Government response on trafficking in women and girls, in consultation with nongovernmental groups.

III. The Attorney General to examine current treatment of victims of trafficking including to determine ways to insure: the provision of services for victims and witnesses in settings that secure their safety; precautions for the safe return of victims and witnesses to their originating countries; witness cooperation in criminal trials against traffickers; and consideration of temporary and/or permanent legal status for victims and witnesses of trafficking who lack legal status.

IV. The Attorney General to review existing U.S. criminal laws and their current use to determine if they are adequate to prevent and deter trafficking in women and girls, to recommend any appropriate legal changes to ensure that trafficking is criminalized and that the consequences of trafficking are significant, and to review current prosecution efforts against traffickers in order to identify additional intelligence sources, evidentiary needs and resource capabilities.

V. The Secretary of State to use our diplomatic presence around the world to work with source, transit, and destination countries to develop strategies for protecting and assisting victims of trafficking and to expand and enhance anti-fraud training to stop the international trafficking of women and girls.

VI. The Secretary of State to coordinate an intergovernmental response to the Government of Ukraine's request to jointly develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to combat trafficking in women and girls from and to Ukraine. The U.S.-Ukraine cooperation will serve as a model for a multi-disciplinary approach to combat trafficking that can be expanded to other countries.

VII. The Secretary of State, in coordination with the Attorney General, to expand and strengthen assistance to the international community in developing and enacting legislation to combat trafficking in women and girls, to provide assistance to victims of trafficking, and to continue to expand efforts to train legal and law enforcement personnel worldwide.

VIII. The Secretary of State and the Director of the United States Information Agency to expand public awareness campaigns targeted to warn potential victims of the methods used by traffickers.

IX. The President's Interagency Council on Women to convene a gathering of government and nongovernment representatives from source, transit, and destination countries and representatives from international organizations to call attention to the issue of trafficking in women and girls and to develop strategies for combating this fundamental human rights violation.


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