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Political, cultural, and media elites are increasingly raising alarm over what has become one of the world's largest illegal commercial sectors—the trade in human beings. The U.S. Government estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked across international borders each year. Of these approximately 80 percent are women and girls, and the majority of victims are trafficked for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. President George W. Bush denounced the phenomenon in his historic speech before the United Nations in 2002, and as recently as December 2005, the U. S. Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act to improve upon and expand existing anti-trafficking laws.

Today's movement for the abolition of sexual trafficking is a rekindling of an earlier crusade. In the late 19th century, reformers such as Josephine Butler, Florence Soper Booth, Katharine Bushnell, and many others fought to protect "the down-trodden mass of degraded womanhood." They were the William Wilberforces of their day, battling another form of slavery and working for the restoration of its victims.

Josephine Butler (1828-1906)
Public policy crusader

Described by contemporaries as "touched with genius" and "the most distinguished woman of the Nineteenth Century," Josephine Butler launched the first international anti-trafficking movement on behalf of prostituted women. Born into the prominent family of John Grey, a slavery abolitionist and cousin to a prime minister, Josephine was raised in a household that was politically influential, deeply religious, and characterized by a sense of social responsibility and "fiery hatred of injustice." In 1852 she married George Butler, a respected scholar and ...

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