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Washington, D.C. – On International Day of the Girl, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) will attend an event, sponsored by the Canadian Embassy and Together for Girls, to bring awareness to violence against girls and how we can stop the vicious cycle.

Below are Chairman Royce’s remarks (as prepared for delivery):

“Thank you for inviting me here to speak on today’s International Day of the Girl.

Around the world, women and girls experience violence and discrimination at overwhelming rates, and I have seen far too often the damaging effects of human trafficking and exploitation of women and girls, both in my home state of California and across the globe.

In the United States, more than 17,000 people are trafficked each year. Nearly four years ago, I set up a Human Trafficking Congressional Advisory Committee to hear from those in my district who have been affected by this scourge. I have since met with many brave survivors of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation in Southern California.

I think of Angela Guanzon locked into her abusive workplace, sleeping on the hallway floor. I think of Carissa Phelps being sold on the streets of Fresno at the age of 12 by a violent pimp. Meeting them showed me that the horror of human trafficking lies not in statistics, but in stolen lives.

While the devastation of human trafficking hits close to home for me in California, it is not only a problem in the United States, but around the world.

My Chief of Staff, Amy Porter, has worked with young girls in India and Cambodia rescued from brothels and other deplorable situations, whose ages ranged from 16 down to 3 years old. And she is right when she says, ‘You don’t see the harm of human trafficking most clearly in numbers or statistics. You see it in the eyes of the individual person whose life is being stolen and whose dignity is being assaulted, for the profit of someone else.’

Human trafficking destroys individual lives and entire communities. This was clear to me during my recent trip to South Korea, where I visited a memorial to the Comfort Women, which recognizes one of the worst cases of human trafficking in the 20th Century, when hundreds of thousands of women were forced into sexual slavery during World War II.

Still today, human trafficking tramples human dignity, destroys families, and terrorizes individuals. This modern-day slavery is a global tragedy that devastates the lives of over 20 million people around the world, and over 70% of victims are women and girls. Yet, human trafficking is just one of the many forms of violence and discrimination that women and girls face. Practices such as child marriage, FGM, gender-based violence, and bride kidnapping are other severe human rights violations that rob girls of their childhood, health, education, and future.

Of course, war itself remains one of the greatest threats to the rights and security of women and girls. In conflict zones, girls are more than twice as likely as boys to be out of school. In places like Syria and other conflict-affected areas, women face systematic rape and sexual violence. Recently, the U.N. reported that Burma’s police and army forces have committed crimes against humanity, including a campaign of rape and abuse against ethnic Rohingya Muslim women and girls.

And too often, women become prey to extremist groups who make a point to suppress and control them. I’ve been to girls’ schools in Pakistan that were later demolished by the Taliban… that tells you just how far these groups go to subjugate women and girls.

It is clear that women and girls are disproportionately affected by conflict, and yet, their voices are marginalized when it comes to resolving them. Compelling research shows that peace agreements are more likely to be reached – and to last – when women’s groups are involved in the process.

That is why the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Members of Congress worked so hard to pass the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017, which was signed into law just last week.

Recently, I spoke with Liberia’s outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who I am proud to call a friend of many years. Of course, President Sirleaf and the women of Liberia represent what can be accomplished when women become involved in ending conflict. After many failed attempts by politicians, combatants, and the international community, it was the women of Liberia who forged an end to one of West Africa’s longest-running and most brutal conflicts.

We must learn from this history, and I am hopeful that the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 will empower more women and girls to fight for peace, dignity, and their human rights.

In addition to this bill, I am proud to have supported other legislation to promote girls’ rights – including Rep. Chabot’s Girls’ Count legislation, promoting birth registration for girls, and Rep. Lowey’s READ Act, to use education to tackle some of the violence and discrimination that girls face.

These issues are too important to ignore, and the consequences of inaction are too great. So please know that my colleagues and I will continue working to ensure that the inclusion and empowerment of women and girls remain a top U.S. foreign policy priority.

Thank you again for inviting me here today.”

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