On September, 23, 2003, Senator Hillary Clinton was interviewed for the great PBS program Wide Angle on the topic of human trafficking (2003, folks, that was 5 years ago, ok… and yes, that was the year of the beginning of the war in Iraq but that was not the only thing going on in the world. I, for one, am glad somebody was paying attention to these other crucial issues even though I disagree with her – heck, ANYONE’s vote for the war). Let me excerpt a few chosen quote (full transcript at the link above, so YES, I’m picking and choosing).
“Hillary Clinton: Well. Jamie, the fact that this is a modern-day form of slavery was shocking to me. When I realized, because of my travels and exposure as First Lady, how prevalent it was, I determined that we should do something about it. I went to Beijing to the UN Conference on Women in September of 1995, and spoke out against a long series of abuses that were human rights violations of women’s rights and among those, of course, was trafficking. And then, in the time after the conference, when it did become an item that was of higher interest on the national and international agenda, we followed up. In 1996, I went with my husband to Thailand for a state visit. I went to the north where I met with NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], trying to help young girls who had been sold by their families into prostitution, trafficked into the brothels, mostly in Bangkok.
Jamie Rubin: So they were sex slaves, these girls.
Hillary Clinton: They were. They were 10, 11, 12 years old. I remember going to a hospice and meeting a 12-year-old girl who had become very sick because of AIDS, had been thrown out of the brothel, had found her way back to her family, who didn’t want her, and ended up in this hospice for dying teenagers and adolescents. And both I and my staff, led by Melanne Verveer, who was responsible for the work on issues like this, began talking about it with everyone we could find in the White House and the State Department. In 1997, we began something called Vital Voices, and we brought together women from the former Soviet Union in Vienna. And what I found was that it was a huge problem, not just in a country in Asia, like Thailand, but also in Ukraine, Belarus, the former Soviet Union. And then the administration, under my husband’s leadership and under Secretary Albright’s leadership, really made this a high priority, which led to our involvement in international conferences with the Secretary of State, the President, and other high officials, raising this with governments around the world.”
But but but… as First Lady, all she did was organize tea parties!! You know what? That’s what I call leadership, damn it (Disclaimer: I know such an interview will be full of self-serving statements but the very fact that she knows what she is talking about is evident… below, you’ll find my own writing on the subject… she hits all the crucial points in this!).
Note to trolls: yes, 1996 was also the year she traveled to Bosnia… no it’s not inconsistent… a year has 365 days, so you can actually go to different places in one year (I know, ain’t that incredible??).
And here is one for the skeptic feminists:
“When Madeline Albright became Secretary of State — after the announcement and when she was confirmed — I went over to the State Department. And we had a joint meeting where we talked about women’s rights as being really important to American foreign policy — and not as some kind of marginal luxury that maybe when we didn’t have something better to think about we could worry about. Because where women have rights, as we have found in Afghanistan, and in many other parts of the world, the countries are more likely to be stable, they are more likely to be pro-democracy.”
YES, I want a President who understands the gendered nature of social issues such as trafficking. Human trafficking sounds gender neutral but the reality is that criminal networks are masculine organization. The victims of human trafficking are largely women. It is absurd to design policies that are gender neutral when the targeted population “just happens” to belong to one gender: women. So what did Hillary do exactly? In the interview, she emphasizes that during WJC’s administration she did NOT work on the law enforcement side of things. Instead, she started the Vital Voices initiative after Beijing (you can read about their accomplishments – and recognition of HRC’s leadership) at their website, but the general goal is to raise awareness.
And here again, Hillary shows, to someone like me who constantly writes and works on globalization, that she’s got the more detailed, nuanced and consistent view of the phenomenon:
“It’s the dark underbelly of globalization. Now that we can move goods and people with such ease all over the world, it is very hard to know what it is that we are transporting, where it’s supposed to end up. This is true for human beings, it’s true for drugs, it’s true for weapons, it’s true for terrorism, it is something we have to come to grips with. I think we should be looking at trafficking, not only as an evil, in and of itself, that the world has to combat, but as part of some of the problems that we face because of globalization. Who would have thought, before September 11th, that hijackers could use credit cards, modern commercial airplanes, and box cutters to wreak such havoc? I really think it’s time for the world community to come together internationally and start setting out rules for the 21st century.”
Here again, this is a horribly long post, so, most of it is below the fold but I am trying to convey here that here is someone who, again, displays leadership where, in my view, it matters: on problems that have global ramifications. She does so with passion and intelligence (huh? Who knew you could have both?), approaches the issue of trafficking with compassion without losing sight of the national / global policy implications.
To paraphrase the song, the world needs Hillary.