WASHINGTON (AP) _ International traffickers in women and children often go unpunished because existing laws in the United States and other countries are inadequate, two members of Congress said Monday.

Reps. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, and Christopher Smith, R-N.J., said they have introduced a bill that would boost penalties for people convicted of forcing women and children into the sex trade. Several other members of Congress have introduced similar legislation.

``Trafficking in human beings is a form of modern-day slavery,'' said Smith, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. ``Although trafficking has long been a problem in some Asian countries, it was not until the end of communism in East-Central Europe and the breakup of the Soviet Union that a sex trade in the (area) began to develop.''

The bill would:

_Impose harsher penalties on people convicted of sexual trafficking inside the United States.

_Establish a new office in the State Department to report annually on foreign nations that fail to criminalize international sexual trafficking.

_Bar the federal government from giving nonhumanitarian help to foreign governments that tolerate the international sex trade.

_Help victims by authorizing grants to shelters and rehabilitation programs.

_Allow some victims illegally in the United States to stay in the country if they face retribution in their own countries.

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The bill is H.R. 1356.