Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiday Shopping Event to Benefit Victim Services Organization

Trafficking Victim Services of the International Institute of Buffalo has teamed up with Ten Thousand Villages, who will be hosting a Community Shopping Day on Thursday, December 3rd to benefit the program. From 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM, 15% of net sales will be donated to the program – so please encourage friends, relatives, or colleagues in the Buffalo area to attend the event to do some fair trade shopping and benefit a program here at the Institute! If you have any questions, please contact Elise Garvey at

Friday, November 27, 2009

Illinois and the Swedish Prostitution Model

llinois' Cook County Sheriff, Tom Dart, is in the process of re-focusing Illinois' efforts to address prostitution to the demand side. In his efforts, he is looking to the Swedish model for addressing prostitution. In Sweden, the selling of sex is legal, but buying sex is illegal, reflecting a belief that prostitution is a form of violence against women. The law is meant to put the focus on the people who create the demand for commercial sex and facilitate it: johns, pimps, and in some cases traffickers.

In a recent article in the Weekly Standard, Ambassador Lagon, former Ambassador-at-Large and Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and current Executive Director of Polaris Project, reports that Dart is shifting "enforcement resources from the supply side to the demand side: from arresting (and releasing and rearresting) forcibly prostituted women and girls to arresting pimps and johns and impounding their cars, while directing the prostituted females to social services."

Lagon quotes Thomas Bodström, a former Swedish minister of justice, stating that "as long as men think they are entitled to buy and use women's and girls' bodies, human trafficking for sexual purposes will continue." While not all commercial sex is forced or is trafficking, proponents of the Swedish model and efforts to address demand argue that such efforts will afford protections to anyone engaged in commercial sex, since it will allow prostitutes and sex-trafficking victims to access social services and healthcare without fear of arrest.

End Demand, IL, an organization advocating for efforts to address demand for commercial sex, states that its goals are to "advocate for the creation of resources and tools for law enforcement to hold perpetrators accountable, deter further exploitation and increase options for prostituted and trafficked women and girls. . . . EDI's work will result in the adoption of sound public policies and practices that focus law enforcement efforts on protecting victims of the sex industry and prosecuting traffickers, pimps and other enterprises that profit from the exploitation of women and girls in the sex trade. Furthermore, our work will create an infrastructure of care for those involved in prostitution." From a basic economic-analysis standpoint, addressing demand makes sense, given that reducing supply tends to mainly drive up prices and profits - for pimps and traffickers, in this case - and does not eliminate demand.

At the same time, Amanda Kloer of
End Human Trafficking points out that simply lifting the Swedish model and attempting to graft it onto other communities and localities is problematic. She lists three main reasons that simply imposing the model on Illinois may not work, including Sweden's more extensive social welfare system, the fact that Sweden is more homogeneous and a significantly smaller country and more centralized nation than the US, and a cultural emphasis in the US on individual rights and the ability to "do what we want." She concludes, "These concerns shouldn't prevent Sheriff Dart or any other creative public servants from taking a hard look at their prostitution policies and reinventing them to better protect women and girls in prostitution. But they should be an reminder that the U.S. isn't Sweden, and thus we shouldn't implement the exact same policies nor expect the exact same results."

We can learn a great deal from international efforts to end slaver, but at the same time, innovative efforts, in fact all efforts, to address trafficking must carefully consider the local context.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Spotlight: Somaly Mam

Born to a tribal minority family in the Mondulkiri province of Cambodia, Somaly Mam began life in extreme poverty. With limited options as a severely marginalized ethnic group, and living in unimaginable despair, her family often resorted to desperate means to survive. This confluence of dire circumstances led to the unspeakable horrors that would mark Somaly's early years. Somaly was sold into sexual slavery by a man who posed as her grandfather. To this day, due to the passing of time and the unreliability of a wounded memory, Somaly still does not know who this man was to her. Yet his actions set her on an unimaginable path fraught with danger, desperation, and ultimately...triumph.

Forced to work in a brothel along with other children, Somaly was brutally tortured and raped on a daily basis. One night, she was made to watch as her best friend was viciously murdered. Fearing she would meet that same fate, Somaly heroically escaped her captors and set about building a new life for herself. She vowed never to forget those left behind and has since dedicated her life to saving victims and empowering survivors.

In 1996, Somaly established a Cambodian non-governmental organization called AFESIP (Agir Pour les Femmes en Situation Precaire). Under Somaly's leadership, AFESIP employs a holistic approach that ensures victims not only escape their plight, but have the emotional and economic strength to face the future with hope. With the launch of The Somaly Mam Foundation in 2007, Somaly has established a funding vehicle to support anti-trafficking organizations and to provide victims and survivors with a platform from which their voices can be heard around the world.

Learn more about the Somaly Mam Foundation

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nigerian women forced into voodoo prostitution

Greek police crush voodoo prostitution ring

Greek police said Thursday, November 12th, that they had smashed a gang that forced Nigerian women into prostitution using voodoo in the latest of a number of such cases reported in Europe.

The Athens Police Department said the traffickers are believed to have exploited more than 40 Nigerian women brought to Greece via Turkey in the last two years.

A 20-year-old Greek woman of Nigerian origin was arrested on suspicion of working for the network and police are seeking her husband, who is also a naturalized Greek citizen. Police rescued five women held captive by the traffickers against a ransom of 80,000 euros (R885 369) demanded from their families.

In October, Dutch prosecutors sought prison sentences of up to eight years on Tuesday for ten Nigerians accused of using voodoo curses to force about 140 Nigerian girls into prostitution in Europe. The trial, on charges of human trafficking and membership of a criminal organisation, opened in March in Zwolle in the central Netherlands and judgment will be handed down on December 3.

Prosecutors claimed that the girls brought by the gang into the Netherlands as asylum seekers had disappeared from asylum centres in 2006 and 2007. About a dozen of the girls were traced, while the rest were thought to have been forced into prostitution in Italy, Spain and France.Their ages ranged from 16 to 23.

The suspects were arrested in the Netherlands in October 2007 after an investigation by Dutch police in collaboration with their Nigerian, Italian, Spanish, French, Belgian, British, Irish and US counterparts.In August Spanish police said they had smashed a gang that used the threat of voodoo curses to force Nigerian women to work as prostitutes in Germany, arresting more than 50 people. - AFP


Black magic cultists are using Voodoo to control the minds of Nigerian girls and force them into prostitution. This has been a common phenomenon in the European region involving the human trafficking victims from West Africa.

Voodoo is deeply rooted in the Western African culture. Voodoo priests often use a ritual to "seal financial transactions or root out suspected thieves -- often with a threat of a deadly curse for the wrongdoer." [1]

Likewise, traffickers lure young girls into the false promise of job in Europe and make them go through voodoo ritual. The girls are told that if they leave the traffickers or the pimps, it "will bring death to them or their family." [2]

An incident like this reinforces the importance of raising the awareness and educating the potential victims to bring about cultural changes to prevent further harms in the future.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Human Trafficking Event in Rochester, New York

Human Trafficking: Awareness & Action

December 8, 2009, 9:00 AM—4:00 PM
5257 W. Henrietta Rd, Rochester, NY 14467

Speakers include:
  • Florrie Burke, Co-Chair, Freedom Network (USA): Ms. Burke will provide an overview of Human Trafficking, victim profiles, collaborative multi-disciplinary models of response andservice, and building a community-wide response to trafficking.

  • Ron Soodalter Co-Author, The Slave Next Door: Using examples from his research Mr. Soodalter will focus on the state of human trafficking and slavery in the United States andwhat is being done to address trafficking in various regions.

  • John O’Brien, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Michigan & Edward Price, Detective Sergeant, Michigan State Police—Detroit: The instructors will provide information on an actual child prostitution investigation which spanned from Michigan, Ohio, Florida and Washington D.C. and grossed over two million dollars in illegal money and assets. The instructors will discuss in detail the different methods and techniques that were used to dismantle these criminal enterprises which involved two pimps and over nine juvenile victims.
Intended audience includes government and social service providers, law enforcement members, educational staff, medical personnel, community, religious, and cultural groups, legal assistance providers and victim advocates in Upstate New York.

Register by filling out the registration form and mailing it to NCMEC/NY, 275 Lake Ave, Rochester, NY 14608 or Fax: 585-242-0717.

For more information, contact: Kathy Cannon,,
585-242-0900 x 3339

Friday, November 20, 2009

CNN: Sex Trafficking in Indonesia

CNN Headline News anchor Richard Lui reports on the disturbing realities of Asian sex trade. Posing as a sex tourist, Lui looks into the realities of sex worker trafficking.

Learn more about sex trafficking in Indonesia

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Look at the Times Special: Running in the Shadows - For Runaways, Sex Buys Survival

From Jennifer Hollinger:

In the second article of a two article series, Ian Urbina of the New York Times explored the growing number of teen runaways on US streets as a result of the recession. In this excellent article, Urbina discusses how teens survive a harsh life on the streets. For many teens, this means resorting to survival sex. According to the article, nearly 1/3 of runaway children engage in survival sex for food, drugs, or a place to stay. I suspect that the actual number of runaways who engage in survival sex is far higher.

I was immediately struck by how similar the situation of the teen runaways was to that of someone trafficked for sexual exploitation and how easily these two phenomena could intertwine. Pimps used the same methods a trafficker would to coerce women into working for them; seducing the women and girls, convincing them they were “in love,” initiating a sexual relationship and then demanding that they do them a favor by having sex with friends or simply forcing them to have sex for money. Take, for example, the story of 17-year-old Nicole, who ran away from home in Medford, OR. “I didn’t know the town, and the police would just send me back to the group home,’ Nicole said, explaining why she did not cut off the relationship once her first boyfriend became a pimp and why she did not flee prostitution when she had the chance. ‘I’d also fallen for the guy. I felt trapped in a way I can’t really explain.’

In addition to runaways, over a dozen convicted pimps were interviewed by the New York Times. According to Urbina, incarcerated pimps described the complicated roles they played as father figure, landlord, boss and boyfriend to the girls who worked for them. They said they went after girls with low self-esteem, prior sexual experience and a lack of options. Again, the overlap with the conditions leading to human trafficking was alarming. Those who wish to exploit vulnerable people have a common vocabulary of abuse, manipulation and deceit.

While there are those who seek to exploit young runaways, there are others who are doing their best to help, including anti-trafficking units in metropolitan police departments and the FBI. A poignant interview with a 16-year-old runaway who was forced into prostitution highlighted the fine line that the FBI prosecutor had to walk in this so-called flip interview. In essence, he had to persuade her to leave her pimp without actually admitting that she had one while simultaneously convincing her to testify against him, or flip on him. The irony of this situation is that, were this same girl 16-year-old girl to have sex with a male over the age of 18, he would end up in jail but, because money changed hands, he would simply be fined and she would be arrested for solicitation. If a 16-year-old child is too young to legally consent to sex, how can we simultaneously consider her old enough to sell it?

Overall, this two article series was highly informative and gave some good insights into the phenomenon of survival sex by teen runaways and the systematic abuse they face at the hands of their pimps. The article effectively highlights one of the fundamental flaws in the US legal system. We criminalize prostitutes, even those who are under 18, but we let off the johns with barely a slap on the wrist. The people who pay for sex promulgate this system of abuse and yet they suffer little fear of punishment from the legal system.

While much was done well in this article, more of a connection could have been made between human trafficking and teen prostitution, especially considering that Urbina quotes the head of a Boston anti-trafficking task force in the piece. The methods of exploitation employed by a pimp and a trafficker share many similarities and addressing the criminalization of prostitutes could do much to aid both trafficking survivors and teen runaways who are forced into survival sex.

Go here to read the
full article.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What you are doing for civil rights today?

Inside the Ladies Locker Room, is running a Civil Rights Online Video Contest to recognize the efforts of civil rights activists.

They are asking people to submit a short video answering, "What you are doing for civil rights today?" and win $300 worth in prizes.

According to their site, the winner "will receive an official plaque from the Inside the Ladies Locker Room TV Talk Show recognizing their work in the Civil Rights arena. S/he will be invited to a taping of the Inside the Ladies Locker Room, and his/her winning video will play during the show. The winner will also receive Vegas Movie Studio HD editing software and iPod 8G Nano."

The contest ends 12.1.09 at 12 a.m. PST.

For official rules and to enter, please click here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

5-year-old Shaniya Nicole Davis Found Dead, Mother Accused of Sex Trafficking

On Saturday, November 14th, North Carolina police charged Antoinette Nicole Davis with human trafficking of her 5-year-old daughter for commercial sex. According to CBS News, " North Carolina police now say that the mother of 5-year-old Shaniya Nicole Davis, who has been missing since Tuesday, forced her child into sexual servitude and prostitution. . . Fayetteville police charged Antoinette Nicole Davis on Saturday with charges including human trafficking, child abuse involving prostitution, filing a false police report and resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer. "

Read the Full Article here.

On Monday, November 16th, the girl's body was found. Charges have been filed against Antoinette Nicole Davis and Mario Andrette McNeill, who was charged with first-degree kidnapping. According to the Associated Press, "[police] said surveillance footage from a Sanford hotel showed him carrying Shaniya. Authorities said McNeill admitted taking the girl, though his attorney said he will plead not guilty."

Read the Full Article here.

According to CBS, "Lockhart [Shaniya Davis' father] and his sister, who live out of state, cared for the girl until last month, when she went to live with her mother. Davis had worked to get her life together and had been working for at least six months and gotten a place of her own, Lockhart said. . . 'She's a precious, little angel, full of joy," Lockhart said. "A little reserved when you first meet her, but once she gets to know you, she just runs around, plays and won't leave you alone.'"

Read the Full Article here.

WNCT, a North Carolina CBS affiliate, points out that, "As tragic and troubling as the Shaniya Davis case is, it’s perhaps just as troubling to know that it’s not an isolated incident. Investigators say human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world."

Read the Full Article here.

The Exceptions to the Rule

The US has enacted both federal and state legislation to combat trafficking, and the US also has ostensibly made a financial commitment to ending slavery in the US and around the world. At the same time, however, a number of "exceptions to the rules" in US policies and practices create situations where slavery and exploitation can flourish. Intricate and contradictory visa policies and industries that are exempt from certain labor laws can help slavery go undetected.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, "Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") in 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy." This act was key to bringing fair labor conditions to workers, and is an important source of protection for workers today. However, as Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter point out in their recent book The Slave Next Door, farmworkers and domestics are excluded from its protections (263).

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers states that "Unlike laborers in other industries, agricultural laborers are not covered by the NLRA so the growers who employ them are under no obligation to dialogue with worker representatives. And workers have no recourse to the National Labor Relations Board if they are fired or discriminated against for raising issues with their employers." This exception for farmworkers results in a situation where workers have little recourse and trafficking can more easily occur.

I have written before about a particular egregious exception to the rule, when diplomatic immunity shields diplomats from the consequences of keeping a domestic slave. Bales and Soodalter argue, however, that other polices relating to domestic workers make these people particularly vulnerable, whether they are employed by a diplomat or not. First, as noted earlier, like farmworkers, domestic workers are exempt from the National Labor Relations Act.

Second, depending on the type of visa they hold, domestic workers face very different situations. Bales and Soodalter point out that J-1 visa holders, who largely are young, educated, middle-class European women, have a greater system of protections in place, from a mandatory orientation, formal networks with other workers in her area, mandatory sessions with her employers and a counselor each month, background checks on employers, and strict regulations about hours, pay, and working conditions (36). Holders of A-3 or G-5 visas. who are more likely to come from impoverished backgrounds, have no such protections.

Moreover, workers who hold A-3 or G-5 visas are "permit[ed]. . . to work only for that one employer [who sponsored the visa]," according to the Break the Chain Campaign. The Break the Chain Campaign, which works on behalf of domestic workers' rights in the DC area, goes on to note that "A domestic servant who leaves the employ of her official sponsor is considered “out of status” by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and is subject to deportation." Thus, though under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act threat of deportation is considered a form of coercion, for many domestic workers this threat is very real, making them especially vulnerable to exploitation and slavery.

I find such exceptions uniquely frustrating. On the one hand, expanding the National Labor Relations Act to cover domestic workers and farmworkers, and changing visa policies to protect all guest workers is possible. The frame works are in place, all we need is the political will. On the other hand, I know that any efforts in this area will likely face extreme opposition.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Open Sourced On-line Modern Anti-slavery Event Tomorrow

Best Practices to Combat Human Trafficking: Forced Labor - an on-line event
  • When: Monday, November 16, 2009, 10 am - 12 pm (EST)
  • URL: For more information and to register, visit the event page here.
  • Co-sponsored by the Initiative to Stop Human Trafficking and the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation’s Government Innovators Network

    This webinar is hosted online. Registration is required, and free of charge

Thursday, November 12, 2009

ICE: Human Trafficking PSA, Prostitution

Human trafficking and human smuggling represent significant risks to homeland security. Would-be terrorists and criminals can often access the same routes and utilize the same methods being used by human smugglers. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcements Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit works to identify criminals and organizations involved in these illicit activities.

Human Trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. Sex trafficking occurs when a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or when the person induced to perform such acts has not attained 18 years of age.

For more information, please go to

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Determinants of Trafficking: Understanding the problem and the actors

The starting point for understanding the problem of trafficking and finding a solution is to figure out what we think and know about the problem. So this is where I started.

Recently, I read a report which said, half the districts in India are affected by human trafficking. I have read similar reports on different countries across the globe, and each report claims the problem exists because people know either nothing or very little about trafficking. While this may be true, what confused me is the fact that even though there are people or groups who know more than others, it is not always easy to figure out what those people or groups precisely think about the problem.

As I read more, I want to know what
everyone thinks of the problem. To keep this exercise structured, I have broken down the study into multiple parts. Today's post is an attempt to understand the factors that influence activities of victims, exploiters, and buyers.

PART I: Determinants of Trafficking: Understanding the problem and the actors

It is crucial to understand all the actors involved in human trafficking as well as the dynamics between the actors and between the actors and the environment.

There have been many articles written on human trafficking, but there is no consensus on what the necessary conditions are to create and maintain human trafficking, i.e. what causes human trafficking and what keeps it going? The answers of course range from political factors such as war and conflict to social factors such as gender discrimination. Perhaps we can never have a uniform answer to these questions. It seems that only now we're beginning to agree on a definition of trafficking so it is hard to believe we will be able to find a set of common determinants of trafficking so soon. Hence, I am very interested in learning what everyone thinks about the questions below and where we differ in our ideas - I hope this exercise will help us see the problem from different perspectives. The goal of this post is to start a discussion on determinants of trafficking and to learn from others' views.
  1. What conditions are necessary for trafficking to occur? What (plausible) assumptions can we make about the type of factors that influence trafficking and what makes these assumptions plausible?
    • For example, in terms of economic drivers, we know poverty and high level of unemployment are some of the (essential) conditions traffickers look for in recruitment areas , but they may not be causes of trafficking, but rather conditions for it. There may be poor communities which may not be be suitable for 'recruitment' because those communities, for example, may not have well connected criminal networks.
    1. Personal: literacy, communication channels, home environment, etc.
    2. Economic: debt, high levels of unemployment, etc. :
      • For example, we've read globalization may have created conditions that make it easy for criminal networks to flourish and hence for trafficking to occur. In this case, we would attempt to understand precisely how globalization creates these conditions.
    3. Political: war, conflicts, exclusion by caste or some other group, etc.
    4. Social: gender discrimination, marital status, etc.
    5. Geographic: forced migration due to scarcity of water, etc.
  2. How are the necessary conditions for trafficking (from question 1) created and maintained?
  3. Who can we classify as exploiters (trafficker, pimps, etc) ? What assumptions can we make about the exploiters?
  4. What assumptions can we make about the buyers? Who (and what process) creates the demand?
    • We've read that trafficking enables "commodification" of humans. We also know that the demand for any commodity is much more complex than just the need of the buyer. Hence, what are these other variables that make understanding this demand and the buyers so difficult and complex?
  5. Are we missing something? Who else plays a role and how important is it?
Input from everyone would be extremely helpful and I look forward to a discussion about the questions in this post.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

MAKE THE DIFFERENCE -A Benefit Concert for Trafficking Victims

Young people are getting together to hold a benefit concert for human trafficking victims in Nashville on Dec. 12th, 2009. This is a fund raising and awareness raising event to reach out to the young generation in the U.S. to spread the word about the gravity of human trafficking, which is rampant around the world.

1. Tell me about this upcoming event in Nashville

The name of the event is Make The Difference. It is a benefit concert raising awareness and funds for the International Justice Mission.

2. How would you describe goal and mission of the event?

My vision with this is not to simply raise money and tell people about IJM; I hope people leave with an understanding of the horrible acts of injustice going on in the world today, and how easy it is for individuals to do something about it. [ Emphasis added.]

People simply don't realize that other human beings, who have every right to LIVE a life of opportunity- are being stripped of that right. If they were aware, I believe people would react. If a person walks down the street here in States and witnesses a kid being abused violently, he or she would do something to stop it. Because it is WRONG. It's the same with oppression in other countries and the underground sex market in the U.S. Something needs to be done. Thankfully, there are organizations working so hard to rescue people trapped in these situations. If people KNOW what is going on around them their human common sense kicks in and says "ACT." The "act" is as simple as writing a check and spreading the word…maybe even volunteering to help out.

3. What are some main activities in the event?

The artists performing are Derek Webb, Matthew Mayfield, and Cool Hand Luke. It will be an acoustic evening of incredible music; these artists write songs with meaning that are inspired by their own experiences; music from the heart, not fluff.For now, I'm running this event on my own. And it's only a one-time deal, but that may change. I have friends helping me with promotion, and I am VERY grateful for their willingness to lend a hand.

4. How did you first learn about trafficking?

I'm not certain how I first learned about trafficking; My freshman year of college, four years ago, I saw the Invisible Children documentary which completely blew me away. That was probably where it started. Somehow I ran across the International Justice Mission online a while later and learned the realities of human trafficking, and how the people of IJM work so selflessly to rescue people. I'm not an IJM spokesman or representative one bit, but that organization was heavy on my heart when I decided to plan this concert. No rhyme or reason.

5. What is your direct involvement? Do you utilize volunteers and, if so, how do you recruit volunteers and who are they?

For a while I've thought about using concerts to generate revenue for organizations and individuals who need support to do the hard job they selflessly signed-up for. Over the summer, I was thinking about it a lot; so I took the plunge. The way I see it, I have a general understanding of the horrid realities happening to fellow human-beings and [I know I am] therefore morally responsible to inform others and hopefully inspire them to react. So I guess it is sort of a responsibility to spread the words. Also, I'm pumped to be working with these artists; they are super generous for helping out.

6. What would you say to people who do not understand the gravity of human trafficking?

If a person is alive on this earth, he or she has the right to live a life of peace and opportunity. The unfortunate reality is that corrupt, evil people and governments willfully reject that right and force innocent, undeserving people into slavery, prostitution, and other violent oppression. We cannot simply write-off something that atrocious. If someone thinks human trafficking isn't of their concern, they might as well be running the underground slave and sex markets with the rest of the selfish, greedy villains. It is a sad and uncomfortable topic, but it MUST be brought into the light. A thing like this should unify people to act, regardless of background or belief.

7. How can people support the event?

People can support this event by coming to the show Saturday December 12 at Rocketown in Nashville at 7pm. The ticket price is $15 at the door or at All of the proceeds will benefit IJM.

People can also spread the word about the event, and do some research on their own time and discover ways they can do their part to Make the Difference. More information is at

Monday, November 09, 2009

CATW: Wanted Ad

Women and girls. Seeking individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit. All ages...

Learn more about CATW

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Child Labor in Blueberry Fields

Earlier this week, ABC broke a story worked on by a group of Carnegie Fellows about child labor in blueberry fields in Michigan; in addition, the fellows investigated child labor in agriculture in New Jersey and North Carolina. According to the story, "A five-year-old girl, named Suli, was seen lugging two heavy buckets of blueberries picked by her parents and brothers, aged seven and eight. An 11-year-old boy in the Adkin fields told the Carnegie fellows he had been picking blueberries since the age of eight."

In addition to violating child labor lays, these young children are exposed to harmful labor conditions, particularly given the wide-spread use of pesticides and chemicals. According to the ABC story, "The nurse with a migrant health clinic program, Josie Ellis, told the fellows she is concerned for the health of the young children given the widespread use of pesticides in the fields." Health consequences includes respiratory problems, rashes, and neurological problems.

Like slavery, people may be aware that child labor is still a problem, but most do not think of it occurring in the United States. The ABC story quotes Zama Coursen-Neff of Human Rights Watch as saying: "Americans think of child labor as a problem elsewhere, but in fact we have that problem in our own backyard." Human Rights Watch is also conducting an investigation into child labor in the U.S.

Major US companies, including Kroger and Wal-Mart, used to purchase blueberries from Adkins, the grower whose fields have been worked by children, according to the Carnegie Fellows investigation. "Walmart and the Kroger supermarket chain have severed ties with one of the country's major blueberry growers after an ABC News investigation found children, including one as young as five-years-old, working in its fields."

In an interview with Democracy Now, Brian Ross, the chief investigative correspondent at ABC News, stated "we discovered a pervasive pattern, really across the country, of a situation that has continued for decades and has gone unenforced. There are laws against children this young working in agricultural fields. But for the most part, until very recently, those laws were largely ignored by federal authorities at the Department of Labor."

This raises questions about the responsibility of both the US Government and corporations such as Wal-Mart, given that these violations of child labor laws are occurring systematically and have been for years. Though Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor, released a statement in September stating that "Child labor and forced labor are inexcusable abuses of human rights," such abuses continue to occur in the U.S. The ABC story reports that "While advocates for children welcomed the enforcement efforts, many say the fines levied by the Department of Labor, are so slight they're little more than a slap on the wrist."

Ending child labor will take a commitment to enforcing child labor laws, as well as a commitment to economic and social justice for low-income families and migrant workers, since these practices will continue as long as families cannot survive economically under current labor practices.

Picture taken from ABC News Investigates

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

California Increases Penalty for Sex Traffickers

On October 11, 2009, Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law AB17, a bill which increases the penalty for human traffickers. According to the Legislative Counsel's Digest, the new changes include:

1) Adding "abduction or procurement by fraudulent inducement for prostitution," i.e. sex trafficking, to the definition of "criminal profiteering activity." Existing California law provides for the forfeiture of property and proceeds acquired through a pattern of criminal profiteering activity, so the new law will also now provide for the possibility of forfeiture of property and proceeds acquired through sex trafficking.

2) In cases involving "human trafficking of minors for purposes of prostitution or lewd conduct," or "abduction or procurement by fraudulent inducement for prostitution," money and proceeds from property forfeited will be placed in a fund to be available for appropriation to fund child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse victim counseling centers and prevention programs; 50% of such funds are to be granted to "community-based organizations that serve minor victims of human trafficking."

3) An increase in the maximum amount of additional authorized fine from $5000 to $20,000 for any person convicted of procurement of a child under 16, or abduction for the purpose of prostitution of a person under 18. 50% of such fines collected will also go to community-based organizations that serve minor victims of human trafficking.

Case Manager Position Open with Ayuda in DC

From Idealist:
Case Manager
Education: Bachelor (BA, BS, etc.)
Washington, District of Columbia, United States
Job Category:
Direct social services
Last day to apply:
November 24, 2009
Full time Language(s): English, Spanish
Area of Focus:
Human Rights and Civil Liberties

Ayuda is the DC area’s leading source of multilingual legal and social service assistance for low-income immigrants in the areas of immigration, human trafficking, domestic violence and family law. Ayuda is expanding social services to its Sterling, VA office and is seeking a Case Manager to join the Social Services Department. This position will provide comprehensive case management to immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking and conduct community outreach and trainings. The position will be based in Sterling, VA.

Specific Responsibilities:

• Conduct client intakes and safety planning, assess client needs, and develop individualized social service plans
• Provide comprehensive case management and crisis intervention to include culturally and linguistically appropriate referrals for housing, medical and mental health care, English classes, employment, etc.
• Coordinate and accompany clients to appointments as needed
• Collaborate with Ayuda’s Legal department to provide holistic services to clients
• Maintain client case files
• Conduct outreach and trainings to providers and community members and collaborate with project partners
• Other related duties as assigned

Bachelor’s degree required, BSW or MSW preferred. Experience in case management and/or providing direct services to domestic violence clients and/or survivors of trauma is required. Demonstrated sensitivity to and knowledge of issues involved in working with diverse populations. Strong commitment to serving, empowering, and advocating on behalf of Ayuda’s low-income immigrant client base. Excellent oral and written communication skills. Ability to work independently and part of a diverse multidisciplinary team. Required Bilingual in English and Spanish. Competitive salary and excellent benefits.

How to Apply:

Submit a resume with cover letter to: Renee Huffman, Ayuda, 1707 Kalorama Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20009 Or email to

Monday, November 02, 2009

Human Trafficking and the EU

On October 19th, European Union marked the EU Anti-Trafficking Day. As the European Union inches closer to adopting a treaty that could, among other things, increase the EU's anti-trafficking work, it makes sense to consider the reality of trafficking in the EU as well as the EU's role in addressing trafficking as a supranational entity.

According to an article in the AFP, "the United Nations said on Sunday [October 18th] there could be around 270,000 victims of human trafficking in the European Union and urged greater efforts to combat the illegal trade." The article goes on to report that "Authorities in Europe were aware of only a tiny proportion of the victims, said the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), estimating there were 30 times more people affected than were known about."Human trafficking is also extremely underprosectued in Europe, according to the United Nations. cites a "report by the Press Trust of India (PTI) [on a] study that finds that fewer people are convicted for human trafficking in Europe than for less-frequent crimes like kidnapping."

While such incredible disparities between the number of victims and the number of victims identified are a universal norm around the world, action at the EU level is vital for effectively combating slavery in Europe. Near the end of October, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Representative for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, Eva Biaudet, and the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Ambassador Janez Lenarcic issued a statement underscoring the importance of the EU in addressing trafficking. A press release from the OSCE quotes Biaudet as saying "Fighting trafficking means having zero tolerance towards exploitation, particularly exploitation of women and children. . .If we fail to combat the increased tolerance of exploitation, the effects of the global crisis will be felt in our socio-economic development for decades to come."

The statement highlights different EU-level policies and programs that have a role in combating slavery. The report also addresses the role of the economic crisis in increasing the number of people vulnerable to trafficking, pointing to the EU's role in economic development and immigration policy, both of which impact people's vulnerability to trafficking situation. They applaud the EC Proposal for a Council Framework Decision on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings, and protecting victims for its efforts to establish an EU-level policy that focuses on victims' needs, while addressing prevention and prosecution.

The EU also hosted the Towards EU Global Action against Trafficking in Human Beings Conference in late October. Its goals were:
  • "to strengthen the EU policy ands action against trafficking in a the external dimension where action previously has not been taken comprehensively,
  • to contribute to development of the EU’s increasingly important partnerships with third countries and in that context a particular challenge, i.e. trafficking,
  • to consult with all concerned stakeholders in view of the Action Oriented Paper,
  • to collect and collate best practices and concrete proposals for action against trafficking in partnership between the ERU and third countries."
In her welcome statement to the conference, Beatrice Ask, Minister for Justice, stated "But the work done so far is not enough. We need to broaden our approach. The main purpose of this conference is to strengthen the co-operation between government administrations, international institutions and NGOs in countries of origin, transit and destination. There is a mutual dependence between us in order to effectively fight and prevent trafficking in human beings. We have to work together, and we need to step up our efforts."

Minister Ask's words are applicable to all of us involved in working to end modern-day slavery.