Obama said that nearly 20 million people around the world are pushed into prostitution or other indentured labor by traffickers, according to Agence France Presse.
"I'm talking about the injustice, the outrage of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name – modern slavery," he said. "I do not use that word slavery lightly because it evokes one of the most painful chapters in our nation's history."
Speaking a few hours after his Republican rival Mitt Romney addressed the audience, Obama announced efforts to fight human trafficking in the US and abroad. "The ugly truth is that this goes on right here," he said, according to US News. "It's the migrant worker unable to pay off the debt to his trafficker... The teenage girl—beaten, forced to walk the streets. This should not be happening in America."
Obama unveiled an executive order that would tighten the compliance of federal contractors with laws preventing them from using trafficked labor, according to The Huffington Post. He also said new teams were mobilized to put traffickers behind bars.
"Under the new order, companies working for the US government will have to comply with a series of basic conduct requirements. Those include prohibitions against using misleading ads about the nature, location, and payment of the work offered; charging employment fees; and destroying, confiscating, or otherwise denying access to identification documents," The Atlantic wrote.
"Our message today to them is, to the millions around the world, is we see you, we hear you," Obama said, addressing what he said were the unseen victims of human trafficking, according to AFP. "Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time."