WASHINGTON – Grammy award-winner singer Ricky Martin testified Tuesday before the House Committee on International Relations and urged the Congress to take action against human trafficking.
Human trafficking is a worldwide illegal activity that commercially trades people to exploit them. According to the U.S. Agency for International Development,the trade in humans generates $8 billion per year.
The Latin pop star,who is also goodwill ambassador to the United Nations Children's Fund,complimented the U.S. government's efforts in combating child trafficking.
Martin emphasized the need for the cooperation of the FBI and the CIA to continue working internationally to address human trafficking.
According to UNICEF,about 1.2 million children around the world are victims of traffickers. They are usually taken to other countries under false pretenses and exploited as prostitutes,slaves or as sources for organs for transplant.
In 2004 the Ricky Martin Foundation launched People for Children,a program aimed at eliminating child trafficking. The Latin pop star started the foundation to advocate for children's well being around the world.
The program was developed after the singer traveled to Calcutta,India,and met three little girls who,he said,might have been days away from being sold into prostitution.
Rep. Tom Lantos,D-Calif.,the committee's senior Democrat,praised the singer for using his celebrity to fight human trafficking. Lantos said that,despite the global popularity of anti-Americanism,the U.S. is always willing to address social issues.
“Whether it's human trafficking,fighting hunger,combating the AIDS epidemic or dealing with natural disasters like tsunamis,the United States is invariably in the forefront of fighting these problems which afflict humanity,” Lantos said.
Lantos asked the singer about how other celebrities could address social issues.
“I believe they have no idea the power they have in their hands,and they just don't know how to use it,” Martin answered.
For the Latin performer,music has been a platform to spread awareness of child trafficking. “Music is only an excuse,a tool of what my mission is,” Martin said.
And Martin said music is only one way to influence young people. He highlighted the role of education in combating child trafficking and said that not having education is like being blind. Children in educated families are less likely to become victims,and he urged families to talk more about the topic.
“We need to have dinner with our children,” the singer said. “We need to inform them about life. We have to be honest. Children have to be proud of us. If a child has a question,please answer with the truth.”
Although People for Children aims to eliminate child trafficking globally,the program was first launched in Puerto Rico.
“We started in Latin America because we had to start somewhere,and that's where I come from” Martin said.
The singer said that he has talked to Latin American governments and that,unfortunately,addressing human trafficking it is not one of their priorities.
Martin urged the media to combat human trafficking through public service announcements and invited Spanish-language network Telemundo to help him.
“Telemundo,please join me. Every kind of newspaper: I'm willing to give interviews. Please,read my Web site. All the information is there,” he said.
The singer said that his testimony before the committee was a good beginning and,despite not having all the solutions,he will make some noise to continue the combat against child trafficking.