Friday, October 30, 2009

Namaste-My Five Weeks in Kolkata, India

I got to spend five weeks in India this past summer. I was working in shelters for trafficking survivors and children of sex workers.

I'm really excited about all the opportunities that are going to come from this adventure and to share it with you.

While in Kolkata, I wrote a few excerpts for this blog. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave a comment or email me! I cannot wait to start a dialogue!

"For the next few weeks I will be working at the Destiny Reflection Center in Kolkata, India. The Destiny is a center where girls rescued from the sex trafficking industry come to work and earn a sustainable living.

I've only been to the center once, being that I've only been in the city for a couple of days. I met a few of the girls and saw what they are working on. Monday is my first official day of volunteer work.

During my first few days of visiting here, I am just in awe and wonder of how magical a place like India, and more specifically Kolkata can be. There have been many obstacles to overcome while here. Not knowing how to communciate, going the past six days without my luggage, being taken advantage of by cab drivers and shop owners because I am an American. However, that does not stop the immense joy that I feel while I am here.

There is so much to learn and know about Kolkata, India. This pulsing metropolis is in the eastern part of the country. It is overwhelmingly diverse in people and in ways of life. I'm staying in an apartment right now in a modest neighborhood along the main road of Kolkata. Just a few blocks down the road is a mall that trumps any mall I've ever been to, and you can feel the air conditioning from the street. Yet, 50 feet in front of this mall is a slum full of houses made of sticks, mud, and grocery/rice bags.

Indian people take such pride in their culture, people, and country, yet do not lend a hand to their brothers and sisters in the slums. Walking past a slum yesteray, I heard a car horn beep behind me, and it was a Mereceds Benz. Really? Behind the mall I spoke of, there are three highrise apartment complexes being built. They are complete with tennis courts, swimming pools and state-of-the art fitness centers.

Maybe it's my strong Western sense of community, but I just can't seem to rationalize why a booming economy doesn't help build up its people. No wonder terrible phenomena like Human Trafficking still exists.

I was riding in a cab the other day (quite the adventure) and while stop a young girl reached her hand in the open window and smacked my arm. She was a gorgeous child, maybe seven or eight eyears old. One of the most stunningly beautiful children I have ever laid eyes on; the sad thing was I couldn't look at her. I had to ignore her because she is working for someone, trying to get money she'll never see. I wanted to pull her into the cab with my firend and me, and just take care of her. I don't know how people can walk the streets of this city and ignore what's going on all around them. How a child can walk the streets and beg for moeny instead of playing and pretending; or how a young girl can sleep with numerous men who will never remember her name or love her the ways she is supposed to be loved. My heart cannot help but be open and broken to the situation my eyes are laying witness to. This just has to stop."

"Wandering through the streets of Kolkata give me a whole new udnerstanding of teh world in which Indians live. Slums lay next to luxury tower apartments. People beg for moeny outside of shopping malls. There are thousands of girls that get lured from their homes and taken into the sex industry. Living in filthy and infectious stalls and forced to service man after man.

Working at the Destiny Center has given me a chance to put faces with the name "Trafficking." These girls are barely 16, 17 years of age and have already seen more of a life than their parents. Most of the time they are offered a better life in a bity city. There are promises of good jbos and higher salaries, but these promises never go through.

My heart breaks to know that something like this happens right under the noses of people who live in this country. Everyone knows about it. Does anybody care? Have they become so callused to this way of making money and exploiting people, that it becomes almost justified?

In the USA, trafficking occurs, too. We make up about 10% of the sex trafficking; most of the people trafficked into our country are for labor. They become landscapers, house slaves, domestic caregivers, farmhands and the like. Most Americans don't know that this happens. We say they are "illegal aliens" and that they are "stealing our jobs." Keep in mind that not every foreigner in our country is there by free will.

I'm most outraged at my own country for not noticing trafficking and going something about it. We have so much power and authority, so many means to make trafficking stop, and we all it to continue. Maybe that's why people like me, Faceless International, The Empancipation Network, Free the Slaves, Stop The Traffik, Made By Survivors, and others exist. We are teh ones called to educate and seen an end to such a horrible and unjustifiable way of treating people. Help rescue the ones who are in it and help restore the quality of life they all deserve.

Human beings have the ability to dream, exlore, create, and change the world in which they live in. We are given a complex mind and imagination that no one can compare to; why discourage people to not use that to its fullest power and authority?"

"I, again, got to go through the Red Light District of Kolkata a few days ago. For those of you new to the blog, I'm an Art Therapist, and I went to Khidderpore to work with the children of sex workers.

The first time going through the RLD, I wasn't approached at all. This time I was bombarded. One sex worker spotted me and came running towards the taxi I was in. She was offering me her baby girl, who was maybe seven months old. A beautiful baby girl, don't think it didn't cross my mind to take her home with me.

Being around the children of Khidderpore shelter was like being around any other group of children. They are very joyous, want to be loved and talked to. They drew pictures for me and laughed when I treid to understand Bengali. Watching them walk back to the brothels for the night broke my heart.

If you could look into their eyes, like I got the chance to, you'd feel like you had to do something too. We're doing a great injustice to humanity when we know the facts and don't do anything to stop this."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Domestic Trafficking Part II: How Nicky Became a Criminal

Read Part I Here

Nicky never told anyone about Frank’s molestation, not even to her lawyer. Just as many victims of sexual abuse in the United States, she felt nothing but the shame and guilt about Frank’s molestation. She hence never wanted to talk to anyone about how much it bothered her to have Frank coming into her room every night for the past 10 years. Since she had poor academic performance, none of her teachers really paid attention to her behavior changes, either.

Her mom’s negligence out of her drug abuse only drove Nicky to isolation. In Nicky’s mind, if her own mother would not care to listen to her story, no one else would. Nicky felt lonely, depressed, and isolated. Therefore, when some people showed affection or were interested in her, Nicky became emotionally dependent on them. Her emotional dependency becomes worse when a guy shows attention to her. Nicky always let her boyfriend walk all over her. When she was in 7th grader, she once stole her friend’s wallet because her 17 year-old boyfriend asked her to do so to buy a pack of cigarettes.

Likewise, Nicky was more afraid of Leo’s rejection than sleeping with Leo’s client who would only remind her of the nights of the molestation by Frank.[1]

Her fear of Leo’s rejection was also the reason why Nicky refused to testify against Leo before the court. The night when Nicky walked into the motel room to meet Leo’s client, Leo told Nicky that if anything went wrong, Leo would come find her no matter where she would be. Leo also told Nicky that unlike her parents or Frank, he would be the only one who would stand right next to her.

Meanwhile, Nicky’s lawyer felt like her hands were tied. Unlike the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), the Florida human trafficking statute does not include clarification that “fraud, force, or coercion by the trafficker is not required elements of the crime when the victim of trafficking is under 18 years of age.”[2] Therefore, without proving Leo’s involvement, Nicky would be treated as a prostitute rather than sex trafficking victim.

Nicky’s fear of losing Leo’s affection was not helping Nicky’s lawyer’s case either. When the prosecutor aggressively accused Nicky of committing prostitution, Nicky’s lawyer had no ground to prove that she is a victim of sex trafficking. Nicky refused to testify against Leo or even showed willingness to drop a hint that she was lured into prostitution as she did not, by any means, want to endanger her relationship with Leo or lose his affection towards her.

Nicky was holding onto Leo’s only promises: that he would never leave her even if she would be locked up in a juvenile detention center and that he would never treat her like anyone else has. He even promised Nicky that he would come visit her.

Today, just like many other victims of domestic minor sex trafficking, Nicky is locked up in a juvenile detention center in Florida. Just like yesterday, she is waiting for Leo to visit her with his warm affection.

[1] “a dependent pattern of behavior is more pervasive than regressed behavior. A child who exhibits this dependent pattern of behavior often allows other people to make important decisions, such as whether or not the child is hungry or needs help. Dependent children who fear rejection may agree with people even when the child knows that these people are wrong. The child may volunteer to do things that are unpleasant or demeaning in order to get other people to like him/her. A dependent child is vulnerable to exploitation and revictimization because he/she has a tendency to attach to anyone who he/she feels attends to their physical or emotional needs. This pattern of behavior can create major long-term developmental and relationship problems.”


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

CNN's Amanpour's Feature on Sex Trafficking Aired Sunday

On Sunday, Christiane Amanpour conducted a show on sex trafficking in India on CNN. Amanpour interviewed Taina Bien-Aime, Executive Director of Equality Now and Ruchira Gupta, filmmaker and activist.

At one point in the show, Amanpour featured a scene from Gupta's movie "Selling of Innocents."
After the clip, Amanpour asked Gupta about the scene:

AMANPOUR: That was a scene filmed in Nepal in the startling documentary, "Selling of Innocents." It shows that the problem of human trafficking extends across borders... Let me ask you, Ruchira, you were posing as a trafficker in that scene.

RUCHIRA GUPTA: That's right. I wanted to show how easy it was and how anyone could go into a village in Nepal or India and look around to buy a girl, and somebody would show up to sell the girl, and the girl had no idea about her rights, and for as little as $50 could buy her and do whatever they wanted with her.

AMANPOUR: And it was making that film that turned you into an activist for these -- against this -- this situation? GUPTA: It was a life-changing experience for me, because as a journalist I'd covered war, famine, conflict, hunger, but I had never seen the deliberate exploitation of one human being by another as I saw in a brothel in Bombay, when I walked into a little room which was four-by-four and saw the 10-year-old and the 12-year-olds sitting on the bed.

AMANPOUR: Ten and twelve?

GUPTA: Yes, and 10 or 15 customers a night...

AMANPOUR: Ten or fifteen customers for 10-year-old girls?

GUPTA: Raped repeatedly every night.

AMANPOUR: How many girls and women does this affect?

GUPTA: According to the government of India, just recently in May, they said 1.3 million children are sold into prostitution in India right now. And there are 1.3 million prostituted children in our country right this second.

Although the video of the full show is not yet available, you can find the transcript of the show here.

New Website Provides Information on U.S. Labor Laws in Filipino

Noah Theriault, a friend of mine and Fulbright scholar (Philippines '07), recently launched a website that translates U.S. labor laws into Filipino. In his words:

We made this website as part of a “service-learning” project for an Advanced Filipino language course we took over the summer at the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute in Madison, Wisconsin. Our initial research suggested that there was very little information on U.S. labor laws available in Filipino on the Internet. Even though many Filipinos speak English well, we felt that having the information available in the other national language of the Philippines would be beneficial to those looking for additional clarity. With that in mind, we wrote brief but informative summaries of the key federal labor laws that protect workers’ rights, as well as a brief explanation of what happens when local, state, and federal laws differ. In essence, we designed the website to highlight the basic rights and protections of which all migrant workers should be aware when coming to work in the U.S.

Although many people assisted us with this website, we are entirely responsible for any errors contained in it. Ultimately, the information on this website is not meant to replace professional or expert counsel. Instead, it is intended to: (1) promote consciousness of labor rights among Filipino migrant workers in the United States and (2) provide links to legal information and resources for workers.

- Allan Lumba, Marites Mendoza and Noah Theriault

Visit the website here (in Filipino)

For information on migration in the Philippines click here

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Swedish Institute Releases Films on Human Trafficking Efforts

The Swedish Institute, in conjunction with The NewsMarket, has released two short films about Sweden's efforts to combat sex trafficking, at home and in its capacity as current president of the European Union.

The first discusses Sweden's Action Plan against human trafficking, and sets forth the Swedish government's stance that prostitution is inextricably connected with human trafficking. This view led the Swedish government in 1999 to become the first country to criminalize the buying of sex while allowing the selling of sex, treating the prostitute as more of a victim than a criminal.

The second video highlights the conference "Towards Global EU Action against Trafficking in Human Beings" that was held October 19-20 in Brussels. At the conference, future efforts to combat trafficking were addressed, including the Stockholm Program and increasing cooperation with origin and transit countries.

Queen Silvia of Sweden stated during the conference: "It is important that we recognize that the demand for sex with minors is a very strong driving force behind this global problem, and therefore needs to be addressed urgently. And to deny, to turn a blind eye, or to passively observe, is a contribution to the continuous contemporary slave trade that is manifested by trafficking of human beings."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Reverse Trick-or-Treating

With Halloween right around the corner, the connection between chocolate and slave and/or child labor is particularly timely. According to the US Department of Labor's 2009 report, "List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor," cocoa has been found guilty on both counts. Rather than being immobilized or depressed by the fact that much of the candy given out on Halloween will be tainted by slavery, Global Exchange has started a campaign called "Reverse Trick-or-Treating." The concept is simple: instead of taking candy, children and adults go trick-or-treating and give the households they visit fair-trade chocolate and cards explaining the connection between slavery and chocolate and ways to change this abuse.

This year marks the third year of the campaign. According to Global Exchange, "Ten to twenty thousand groups of children will hand chocolate back to adults during their regular neighborhood trick-or-treating rounds this Halloween. The children will distribute Fair Trade certified chocolate attached to a card explaining the labor and environmental problems in the cocoa industry globally and how Fair Trade provides a solution." Last year I participated, and having the chance to speak with approximately 100 people about human trafficking and chocolate was extremely rewarding. The houses we visited were receptive to the information, and my friends and I had some great conversations around this issue.

2009 has been a year of progress and increased awareness, though this problem still persists. In August, Interpol rescued 54 children from plantations in the Cote d'Ivoire. The children, "aged between 11 and 16. . . told investigators they would regularly work 12 hours a day and receive no salary or education." Global Exchange argues that this "demonstrates that the chocolate industry has still not gone far enough to end child slavery and trafficking in the cocoa fields." In 2009, Cabury became the first major chocolate brand to receive fair-trade certification in the UK; activists are pressuring Hershey's to follow suite in the US.

While the free kits distributed by Global Exchange have already been claimed, people who want to participate in reverse trick-or-treating can download the information card or flyer, and purchase fair-trade chocolate to create their own kits. A Spanish version of the card is also available. Global Exchange can be reached at

Saturday, October 24, 2009

MTV EXIT & The Killers: Human Trafficking Music Video

The MTV EXIT Campaign has been working with The Killers on a follow up to last year's multiple award-winning music video collaboration between MTV EXIT and Radiohead for their track All I Need from the In Rainbows album.

A new video has been produced for The Killers' track Goodnight, Travel Well from the band's third studio album, Day & Age. Directed by David Slade (30 Days of Night, Hard Candy) and produced by Anonymous Content in Los Angeles, the video is a hard hitting view of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Visit MTV Exit here

Friday, October 23, 2009

Trafficking Survivors Speak Out at the United Nations

From the AP:

UNITED NATIONS — A father of two from Nepal who thought he was going to America wound up in Iraq, forced to work at a U.S. airbase. A 14-year-old Ugandan girl kidnapped by rebels spent nearly eight years in captivity as a sex slave and human shield. And a young Venezuelan woman lured to New York by the man she loved wound up in a brothel his family was running.

The three victims of human trafficking spoke Thursday at an event organized by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay who said it was "pressing and urgent" not only to listen to their stories of survival but to get their recommendations on how the international community can help end the growing global scourge.

"In every part of the world, countless individuals are callously exploited for profit," Pillay said. "While trafficking may be a problem related to migration and to transnational crime, it is also — and fundamentally — an attack on the dignity and integrity of the individual. Trafficking involves practices prohibited in every country including slavery, debt, bondage, forced labor and sexual exploitation."

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who opened the event, said the global economic crisis "is making the problem worse." He urged governments to heed his "call to action" and step up efforts to prevent exploitation, protect victims and pursue traffickers whose conviction rates in most countries "are microscopic compared to the scope of the problem."

The U.N. Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking estimated last year that annual profits from trafficked, forced labor is around $31.6 billion. Some experts say it is now the second-largest illicit business in the world after drugs.

Buddhi Gurung, who calls himself a poor Nepali man, described how he was unable to get a job to support his wife and two sons during fighting by Maoist rebels and the army in 2004. When an agent promised him a job in America for $500 a month, he said he borrowed about $2,800 to pay him — but instead of going to the United States, he was taken to Jordan via New Delhi.

After a month in Jordan, he said he was put in a van with 11 others and driven to Baghdad. Twelve Nepali friends in the van that left just before his were abducted, paraded on television and eventually beheaded. Gurung said he wound up at the U.S. Al Asad Air Base where he was forced to work and paid less than the promised $500 a month.

"We would hear bomb blasts nearby and we knew our life was at risk," Gurung said. "I always wanted to go back to Nepal but neither my passport was with me, nor did I have any money or knew any other way to go back. ... Finally, after 15 months, I was permitted to go back to Nepal. ... This is how my life was saved."

Gurung and the families of the 12 Nepali men have filed a U.S. federal lawsuit accusing Houston-based defense contractor KBR Inc. and a Jordanian subcontractor, Daoud & Partners, of human trafficking.

Gurung urged the "big people" at Thursday's event "to develop a mechanism to save people like me from such traps of human trafficking."

Charlotte Awino described how she and 138 other girls were abducted from a boarding school in 1996 by rebels from the Lords Resistance Army, marched for three months into southern Sudan, and used as human shields during fighting against Uganda soldiers.

"As usual, we girls suffered more," she said. "We were distributed to rebel commanders, as objects without rights, and we were sexually abused. ... I was given to a man who had 20 other abducted girls, and he was a brutal man. I had two children with him."

Awino, who escaped in 2004 when the rebels went back to northern Uganda, urged the U.N. to "try to get back the children who have been trafficked through war, some as young as 6."

She also called for victims to be given counseling, health care and education, for countries to better protect their citizens during war, and for improved methods to track and trace missing people. She also urged understanding for the plight of victims.

"One day I was at home. The next day I was among the rebels," Awino said. "Is everyone going to call us rebels or terrorists?"

Kikka Cerpa described falling in love with a man named Daniel while working at a hotel in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, when she was 17 years old. A few years later, she said, Daniel moved to New York and eventually she went to join him, only to discover that his family ran a sex trafficking ring.

Cerpa said her passport and money were taken, she was put in a basement and told she owed the family a lot of money, and the only way to pay it off was to work in a brothel.

"The first night was the worst," she said, her voice quavering. "I have to service 90 men."

Cerpa said she was trafficked from brothel to brothel over the next three years. Sometimes police would raid the brothels, but "instead of rescuing us, they demand that we perform sexual services on them." After her best friend in the brothel was murdered by a customer, she said, she knew she had to leave — so she married a customer, but he beat her and threatened to have her deported.

Finally, she escaped and was helped by an organization to get a divorce and legalize her status in the U.S.

"I'm telling my story to help all the trafficking victims around the world," she said. "We need to pass and enforce laws that will protect us from traffickers like Daniel."

Cerpa said customers should also be held accountable and "treated like a criminal, like they are," and police officers and prosecutors should be trained to identify and protect victims.

You can find a video of some of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's speech here as well as some of the victims' testimonies.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

HTP joins Causecast to spread awareness on The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post and Causecast have recently teamed up to launch Impact, a page dedicated to blogging about current social, political, economic and humanitarian issues with the purpose of promoting action and awareness:

From the website:
HuffPost is launching a new section called Impact, covering how individuals, nonprofit organizations and businesses in the U.S. and around the world are getting involved and making positive changes in their communities. The Impact section will cover a range of issues both domestic and international, from homelessness and health care to human rights and water scarity. Our intent is to continue the work of the news on HuffPost and provide a way for readers to take action.

HTP is excited to announce that our contributors and administrators will be posting to Impact and bringing our pieces to this venue! Please follow us on Impact and check out some of the other writers covering important topics throughout the blog.

Read our first post here

Monday, October 19, 2009

Corporate Responsibility

I have written several times on this site about the role our habits as consumers can play in combating human trafficking. While I believe that as individuals we can play a powerful role in ending slavery, corporations must also become active in this movement.

In March 2009, UN Global Compact, the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) and the ILO, released the results of a survey they conducted on companies' awareness of human trafficking, awareness of how trafficking might affect their businesses, and belief in the need for them to be actively involved in anti-trafficking through their business practices. As stated in the report, Human Trafficking: Everybody's Business, "Although the connection between business and human trafficking may not be initially evident, human trafficking should be of pressing concern to companies - especially those with international operations and/or complex supply and production chains."

The bulletin of information on the results points out that multiple levels of subcontractors and labor recruitment agencies, often in multiple countries far from corporate headquarters, can make it difficult for corporations to accurately know whether slave labor has been utilized in part of the supply chain unless the company is pro-active in monitoring for trafficking. The report notes that, even as corporate activity is becoming increasingly complex and dispersed across different locations, corporations have a number of reasons for fighting trafficking through their policies and production activities. Reasons range from the altruistic - human trafficking is morally abhorrent and a human rights violation - to the more selfish and pragmatic - human trafficking violates international law and could lead to negative relationships with shareholders.

Despite the report's argument that corporations have a significant role and stake in fighting trafficking, the results of the survey suggest that most companies, though aware of human trafficking, do not believe they have such a role or do not know how to fill it. According to the survey "less than 20% of participants indicated that human trafficking posed a serious threat to the security of their global supply chains and only 31% identified being motivated to address human trafficking in order to manage risk and maintain the company’s reputation." At the same time, "Participants showed particular interest in gaining greater knowledge about international standards and showed interest in exchanging information about industry best practices."

Some corporations and organizations are leading the way in mobilizing the private sector to fight slavery. As reported by the Human Trafficking Project earlier this month, LexisNexis has taken an active role in using its services to combat trafficking by providing technology for Polaris Project. According to their website, "LexisNexis is committed to combating human trafficking by offering direct financial support and legal and technical advice to organizations working in the field to eradicate the illegal trade wherever it exists."

Last month, the HTP also reported on the Nomi Network, which is working to leverage the market to provide long-term economic stability for trafficking survivors and those at risk of trafficking. The organization, Business Travellers Against Human Trafficking, works to educate business travelers about their particular role in this issue. It also aims to mobilize them to recognize and report trafficking, and to pressure hotels, airlines, and other industries to adopt anti-trafficking policies.

Currently, UN.GIFT and the UN Global Compact are soliciting examples of companies who have developed policies and practices to combat and prevent human trafficking in their business efforts.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Colombian armed groups recruiting child soldiers

The Colombian government's 41-year war against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) has become increasingly dangerous for children.

The group is looking more and more at child soldiers - boys and girls below the age of 18 - as it seeks to recruit new fighters.

The Colombian government says there are 9,000 soldiers in that age group in irregular armies, but independent sources say the number is closer to 11,000.

Al Jazeera's Gabriel Elizondo reports from San Jose de Guaviare in Colombia.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

LexisNexis & Polaris Project Fight Trafficking

Anti-human trafficking partnership between LexisNexis and the Polaris Project. These organizations have partnered to help combat human trafficking such as forced labor and sex slavery.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rally to STOP Forced Child Labor in Uzbekistan’s Cotton Fields

On Wednesday, October 14th, 2009 the AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers, Child Labor Coalition, International Labor Rights Forum, Not for Sale Campaign, SEIU, Workers United are hosting a rally at the Embassy of Uzbekistan to protest forced child labor in Uzbekistan.

According to
The Department of Labor's List of Goods Produced by Child or Forced Labor, released in September of 2009, the cotton industry in Uzbekistan continues to use child labor and forced labor. The International Labor Rights Forum states that Uzbekistan is the second largest exporter of cotton around the world. While this industry is profitable for some, "Thousands of children as young as seven work in the cotton fields instead of attending school in order to meet government-imposed cotton production quota. . . Some children are conscripted to work in remote areas where they are forced to stay in dormitories while they pick cotton."

In 2007 the BBC released a story about reporter Simon Ostrovsky who investigated the path cotton takes from "the clothes rack to the factory and back to the fields where the cotton has been harvested." While retailers were disturbed to learn that products that they sell were made with forced labor, the practice continues. The articles recounts the story of a "nine-year-old girl who has to work from eight in the morning until sunset, [who] said: 'They have closed the school - that's why I'm picking cotton.'" According to the article, each year the schools are closed during the cotton harvest.

The US State Department placed Uzbekistan on the
Tier Two Watch List of the latest Trafficking in Persons Report for the second year in a row, up from Tier Three in 2006 and 2007. The report states that Uzbekistan is a source country for women and girls trafficked for sexual exploitation in "UAE, India, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkey, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and Israel." Men are trafficked to Russia and Kazakhstan for forced labor. People are also trafficked internally in Uzbekistan for forced labor and sexual exploitation, including "Many school-age children, college students, and faculty [who] are forced to pick cotton during the annual harvest."

The TIP report states that Uzbekistan has issued a formal ban on forced child labor and created an action plan to address trafficking. However, the report also states that "Uzbekistan did not make significant efforts to eliminate the use of forced labor of adults and children in the cotton harvest and did not make efforts to investigate, prosecute, or convict government officials complicit in the use of forced labor during the harvest." Moreover, the state-enforced quota system for the cotton harvest has remained in place.

Cotton products that people buy may be tainted with forced labor, including forced child labor, particularly given that Uzbekistan is the second largest exporter of cotton.

What: Rally to STOP Forced Child Labor in Uzbekistan’s Cotton Fields
When: Wednesday, October 14th, Noon – 1 PM
Embassy of Uzbekistan
1746 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC
(Near Dupont Circle)

Sponsored by AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers, Child Labor Coalition, International Labor Rights Forum, Not for Sale Campaign, SEIU, Workers United.

For more information and to RSVP, visit

You can also sign a
petition urging the Uzbek Government to stop forced child labor.

Image taken from the Rally to STOP Forced Child Labor in
Uzbekistan’s Cotton Fields' flyer.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Amnesty International Hobart Action Centre: Comfort Women Event

On the 1st of August, Amnesty International Hobart Action centre ran an action on the grounds of Parliament House, Hobart, in an effort to raise awareness for the "comfort women", a body of women put into sexual slavery by the Japanese Military during World War II.

World War II saw one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century.

Thousands of 'comfort women' were coerced into providing sexual services for Japanese armed forces across the Asia Pacific.

Many of these women are in their later years now, and are still campaigning for some sense of acknowledgment or compensation from the Japanese Government.

Japan still refuses to officially acknowledge its responsibility or legal liability for these crimes.

More info on comfort women

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Restore NYC on Broadway

Some of Broadways stars are teaming up
to raise awareness about human trafficking and donations for Restore NYC, an anti-trafficking organization. On Monday, October 26th, Jeff Kready (Les Miserables, Billy Elliot) will host an evening of songs from beloved Broadway musicals. Proceeds from ticket sales will go the Restore NYC's after-care services for international survivors of sex trafficking in New York City.

The event, which will be held at the
Peter Jay Sharp Theatre, will include performances by Sierra Boggess (The Little Mermaid, Phantom of the Opera), Tituss Burgess (Jersey Boys, The Little Mermaid), Nikki Renee Daniels (Aida, Les Misérables), Bryce Ryness (Hair), Ann Sanders (Beauty and the Beast, Avenue Q), cellist Summer Boggess (The Little Mermaid, Carnegie Hall) and pianist Alexander Rovang. Tickets are $75 and can be purchased at Symphony Space Ticketing or by calling the box office at 212-864-5400.

According to
Restore NYC, New York is a significant hub for sex trafficking in the US; JFK International Airport has been identified by the Justice Department as one of the main entry points into the US for international sex trafficked victims. Moreover, the number of victims and the scope of the problem are growing. Their website states "While there is a great need for effective services caring for women rescued from sex trafficking in New York City, there is currently no organization solely providing long-term holistic aftercare services and housing for international women escaping sex trafficking." Restore NYC aims to address this growing need.

Restore NYC
began as an idea in 2004; in February of 2009, they began working with clients. They primarily work with Chinese, Korean, and other foreign national victims and surivivors of sex trafficking in New York. The organization provides housing, case management, educational and vocational services, and assistance with medical and legal services. Their aim is to provide holistic, long-term services to survivors in addition to services to meet the women's immediate needs when they are rescued.

Restore NYC is currently
seeking volunteers to help with mentoring, accounting, and case-management. People can also support the organization by attending the Broadway event:

Monday, October 26th at 7pm
Peter Jay Sharp Theatre

Tickets: $75
New York, New York

Friday, October 02, 2009

Human Trafficking Book Awarded the Dayton Literary Peace Prize

The 2009 Dayton Literary Peace Prize winners were announced on September 23, and this year's winner in the nonfiction category is A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery, by Benjamin Skinner (published by Simon & Schuster).

The book is based on the author's experiences reporting in Haiti, Sudan, India, Eastern Europe, The Netherlands, and suburban America, and according to the Dayton Literary Peace Prize press release, "is both a shocking expose of the horrors of contemporary slavery and an inspiring call to make ending this crime a global priority."

Stated Skinner: "By highlighting modern-day slavery and the fight for its abolition, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize committee pushed forward the 'unfinished work' that President Lincoln spoke about that Thursday afternoon in Gettysburg....There are more slaves today than at any point in human history, and I'm deeply honored, and humbled, to be recognized by the committee as being among those working for their freedom." Skinner will be donating the $10,000 award to
Free the Slaves.

The book was published in March 2008, and has received high praise from
The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bill Clinton, and John McCain, among others.

The runner-ups included
Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan (Little, Brown, & Company), a collection of short stories which focus on hardships facing children in Africa, including child trafficking. Say You're One of Them was recently announced as Oprah Winfrey's latest book club pick.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

War Child: "I Got Soul" by the Young Soul Rebels

About the Music

Official video for 'I Got Soul' - War Child's single recorded by the 'Young Soul Rebels'

The track, a new, re-written version of the stirring Killers anthem "All These Things That I've Done", will be released on October 19th on Island Records. Proceeds go to help War Child's vital work protecting children from the brutal effects of war.

The Young Soul Rebels are:

Pixie Lott
Tinchy Stryder
V.V. Brown
Kid British
Domino Go
London Community Gospel Choir

About War Child

War Child International is a network of independent organisations, working across the world to help children affected by war.

War Child was founded upon a fundamental goal: to advance the cause of peace through investing hope in the lives of children caught up in the horrors of war.

More info on War Child