Gloria Steinem, the renowned women's rights leader, was among those who addressed a rally against human trafficking last Thursday on Foley Square in Manhattan."We should become latter day abolitionists," Steinem said, using a term for those who wanted to free the slaves in the Civil War era. "This is a fight against modern slavery."Steinem, Republican fund-raiser and cosmetics tycoon Georgette Mosbacher, City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), Gloria Ramos, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women, Taina Bien-Aime of Equality Now and others addressed the rally on the steps of New York State Supreme Court. They said demonstrators planned to return weekly to try to get the New York State legislature to act on their demand.Incidents involving human trafficking are reported periodically in Queens, particularly in neighborhoods with large numbers of recent immigrants.Several advocates suggested the state Assembly and Senate were excessively timid about coming up with legislation to outlaw trafficking."The bills that have been introduced have had no teeth," Bein-Aime said. "The penalties were equal to those for a person convicted of sneaking into a warehouse and swiping a case of soda."Activists said victims of trafficking are often smuggled into the United States, forced into brothels or sweatshops and then told that relatives in their native lands will be harmed if they try to escape.Liu said one aspect of the problem was that in the case of women being forced into prostitution, the men who patronize the women are not arrested."This problem is right here with us," Bien-Aime said. "New York City is a tremendous port of entry and people are arriving all the time and being forced into a life of fear and degradation."Reach reporter Philip Newman via e-mail at news@times
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