NEW YORK -- Twenty-one states have laws against human trafficking. But the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition says that although state legislators have approved weak measures, they have yet to enact one into law in New York.
Janet Manning of the group Equality Now says human trafficking is simply a trade in human beings, something most Americans think is illegal.
"It means taking a person with a heart and soul and hopes and plans and trapping that person in a position of servitude against his or her will," said Janet Manning. "It happens in the sex industry, mostly to the young, mostly to girls and very young women. It happens in labor settings in sweatshops, on farms, in delis and restaurants."
Advocates says laws against rape and kidnapping do not usually apply in human trafficking situations because the laws require victims to prove the use of imminent force or show that they were abducted and held in a place where they could not be found.
Many of the victims are forced into prostitution and often find themselves prosecuted rather than protected. They are often lured with promises of jobs as domestics or marriage proposals.
Kika Cerpa knows from firsthand experience. She was brought from Venezuela to New York by a boyfriend who took her passport and sent her to work in a brothel.
"When I was in the burdel [brothel], I met a lot of women that were trafficked also," said Kika Cerpa. "Also when I was working my friend Annie died. She was killed by a customer because she did not want to be with him. I am standing up not only for me because whatever happened to me is in the past, but to build my future I have to face it. And this is how I want to face it. I want New York City to make a strong law to help women going through trafficking to rebuild their lives and also to punish the customers in trafficking."
According to the US Justice Department, New York's John F. Kennedy Airport is the hub of cross-border trafficking in the United States. Ken Franzblau of Equality Now says the victims come from everywhere, including the United States.
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