Thursday, December 31, 2009

Human Trafficking: 2009 In Review

2009 has been an active year in the field of counter-trafficking: from new leaders to new reports to new civic and cultural engagement, we can only hope that 2010 shows even more promise for greater stakeholder collaboration and greater awareness so that fewer and fewer people are victimized. The HTP team wanted to highlight some of the efforts that we feel were personally important to the fight to end modern day slavery:

Jennifer K: Texas continued to lead in state action to fight slavery. In August, Gov. Rick Perry signed House Bill (HB) 4009, establishing a human trafficking taskforce in the Attorney General's Office. According to a press release from Gov. Perry, the taskforce "will develop policies and procedures for the prevention and prosecution of human trafficking crimes." As reported in this blog, the bill also provides grant funding to assist trafficking victims, including specific provisions for domestic victims who currently are not covered under federal legislation.

Anti-trafficking efforts received another greatly needed
financial boost near the end of 2009, when the House and Senate passed an omnibus appropriations bill that will fund a variety of anti-trafficking initiatives. According to Polaris Project, this development was particularly exciting since for "first time since the Trafficking Victims Protection Act was passed in 2000, the spending bill provides that this funding is available for both foreign national and U.S. citizen survivors in need of assistance."

Justin: Slumdog Millionaire won eight Academy Awards in 2009, the most for any film of 2008, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Grossing over $377 million worldwide, Slumdog also featured human trafficking, in the form of forced sex work and begging rings, as a constant risk underlying the daily existence of street children in India. What I particularly appreciated about the movie's presentation of trafficking is that it was not employed simply as a gimmicky plot device to progress the story, but is a real, pressing issue in India that was portrayed graphically and painfully at times but in my opinion did a good job of conveying the brutality and prevalence of trafficking while shying away from a more Hollywood-ized version of the issue. Although there was a fairytale ending for the protagonist, the scope of the issue presented via glimpses from the numerous other minor characters who were unable to escape reflects a sober reality of trafficking in India and beyond.

Our hats off to Mr. Boyle and the Slumdog cast for shining mainstream light on trafficking and winning awards in the process. Having said that, there are many other excellent documentaries and films on trafficking that were released this year,
some of which were posted on our site. Film representing one of many mediums through which awareness of trafficking can be raised, I'm excited to see what the new year will bring in terms of music, film and other creative means of inserting trafficking into the mainstream dialogue.

Elise: One of the most significant events that happened this year, at least in the United States, was in May when a federal judge handed down a decision in favor of trafficking survivors from the agricultural industry for approximately $7.8 million. The suit had been filed against the contractors Moises and Maria Rodriguez as well as Andy Grant and Grant Family Farms. Grant Farms settled out of court. Although the traffickers were charged under different criminal laws, the civil suit presented a good, albeit slower opportunity for justice for the survivors. Not only was the suit successful, it was one of, if not the, highest settlements ever awarded in a farmworker trafficking case.

The 2008 reauthorization of the TVPA had a section on the enhancement of civil action, however its application is still pretty rare so this was a big win not only for all trafficking survivors, but particularly for survivors from the agricultural field, which is still vastly overlooked. In addition, the attention of the case brought to light several difficult questions still facing the anti-trafficking community when dealing with case in the agricultural industry: 1) What is the responsibility of the growers and companies who purchase the products? 2) Why are, particularly labor, cases so difficult to pursue in criminal court? I'm hoping this new year will bring further victories like this for survivors of labor trafficking.

Meg: Domestically, a significant positive step was taken this year with the first federal prosecutions of (would-be) child prostitution customers under the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The prosecutions were the result of an undercover operation in Kansas City known as "Operation Guardian Angel." The sting resulted in the convictions of seven adult males who responded to internet advertisements for underage prostitutes that were posted by task force officers. Although the TVPA was passed in 2000, no child trafficking customers were prosecuted under the act for nearly a decade. "Pimps" who offer to sell children as prostitutes had been previously convicted under the act, but prosecutions of "johns" are vital to prevent the driving force behind sex trafficking: demand.

Youngbee: The Department of Labor released 194 page long report on forced and child labor in 2009. The report is a significant byproduct of the NGO's urgency for DOL's active participation against child and forced labor. provides some of the highlights in the report regarding forced and child labor, which include:
  • The most common goods which have significant incidence of forced and/or child labor are cotton, sugarcane, tobacco, coffee, rice, and cocoa in agriculture; bricks, garments, carpets, and footwear in manufacturing; and gold and coal in mined or quarried goods.

  • 122 goods in 58 countries are produced with a significant incidence of forced labor, child labor, or both.

  • More goods were found to be made with child labor than forced labor.
The list of the countries heavily relying on child and forced labor include, North Korea, Bolivia, India, Burma, and Nepal.

Jennifer H: What is one of the most welcomed developments in the fight to end human bondage in 2009? Activists across the anti-trafficking spectrum welcomed the news in May of 2009 that Luis CdeBaca was appointed by President Obama as the Ambassador-at-Large of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Mr. deBaca’s tireless fight to prosecute traffickers is matched by his determination to rescue and rehabilitate trafficking survivors. According to Benjamin Skinner in a great piece in the Huffington Post in May of this year, Most meaningful to de Baca, however, are his successful rescues and rehabilitations of over six-hundred slaves. That is a record unmatched by any law enforcement official at any level since Reconstruction. And central to his approach has been his deeply felt compassion for the victims. I look forward to more positive developments in the fight against slavery this coming year and I believe Mr. deBaca is up for the challenges inherent in his new position.

Shreya: The picture for victims of sex trafficking is grim: the world often fails to see them as victims. They are not treated like the victims of violence and human rights abuses that they are. We need better laws and better services for the victims. This is what New York Safe Harbor for Exploited Youth Act is trying to do. The Act, which comes into effect in April 2010, is the nation's first such act which recognizes sexually exploited children as victims and offers them social services instead of punishing them. Both the Trafficking in Persons Report and the UN meeting with survivors of human trafficking have pointed out that the victims need a safe place to speak out and we need to help them break out of the cycle of fear. In the next post in January 2010, I will write about what we can looking forward to regarding the impact of this act.

Happy New Year to all of our readers - Keep up the fight in 2010!

Myanmar increases its anti-human trafficking efforts

Myanmar has been making efforts in combating human trafficking, claiming that it has rescued over 1,000 trafficked victims in four years' period since 2005 when the country's anti-human trafficking law was introduced.

More than 1,100 traffickers were also exposed in connection with 400 cases of its kind, according to the Home Ministry's Central Committee for combating human trafficking.

Those who were repatriated from Thailand are the majority, followed by those from China, Malaysia, Japan, Bangladesh, Jamaica and Singapore as well as China's Macao and Chinese Taiwan, the home ministry's figures showed.

The government has so far built eight rehabilitation centers offering educational programs and vocational skill training for the returned victims.

In 2008 alone, the Myanmar authorities reportedly rescued 203 victims, punishing 342 traffickers in connection with 134 related cases.

Meanwhile, Myanmar in cooperation with non-governmental organizations has developed information networks at highway terminals in Myanmar second largest city Mandalay to curb human trafficking undertakings centered in the city.

Mandalay has been exposed as the country's internal human trafficking point and used as a transit center to reach border areas along the trafficking route of Mandalay-Pyin Oo Lwin-Lashio-Muse to other countries.

To facilitate the repatriated victims, Myanmar is also planning to set up temporary care center for them in Muse with the help of GGA organization of Japan.

>Full Article


According to the report above, the country has demonstrated its sincere efforts to fight against human trafficking, including victims' assistance. Earlier this year, China and Burma announced their joint anti-human trafficking effort through a film shooting. Burma also closed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Thai government in an effort to decrease the country's rampant human trafficking to Thailand.

On the other hand, the military junta increased the number of child solider in an efforts of securing public order before the upcoming election to be held in 2010. [1] The family of child soldiers receive food and money at the expense of their children's military service.[2]

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Urge Secretary Clinton to End Child Trafficking

Plan International USA, Inc. has created a petition urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to work to end child trafficking in 2010. The petition thanks Secretary Clinton for her support of anti-trafficking work to date, and aims to encourage her to continue to make ending slavery a priority. The petition, which has already gathered over 20,000 signatures, will close on January 31st.

Plan International is a child-centered NGO that operates in 48 countries around the world. According to Plan International, "This year 1.2 million girls and boys were victims of child trafficking. That means they were taken from their families. Sold into slavery. Forced to work 7 days a week with dangerous equipment. They endured beatings, malnutrition, and other abuse. Girls are especially exploited: sold as “mail order brides,” forced into prostitution, and brutalized and raped by their “employers.”

As Plan International notes, Secretary Clinton has expressed support for anti-trafficking work. The petition urges Secretary Clinton to "continue [her] important work to protect children from human trafficking by; spreading awareness of human trafficking by including it as a key part of upcoming speeches and responding to tragedies in the news, encouraging the work of organizations and countries that are making progress in ending human trafficking, discussing this issue with key leaders of countries who are known for human trafficking violations and insisting that these leaders follow the recommendations in the 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report."

Upon the release of the 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report, Secretary Clinton wrote in a piece published by the Washington Post, "Human trafficking flourishes in the shadows and demands attention, commitment and passion from all of us. We are determined to build on our past success and advance progress in the weeks, months and years ahead. Together, we must hold a light to every corner of the globe and help build a world in which no one is enslaved." Plan International's petition aims to encourage Secretary Clinton to continue her commitment and strengthen her leadership in shining this light.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Al-Qaeda's New Business Model: Cocaine & Human Trafficking

From Forbes:

By Nathan Vardi

Arrests show terror group's growing dependence on organized crime for funding.

Osama Bin Laden's terrorist organization has become increasingly reliant on organized crime, including cocaine smuggling, human trafficking and kidnapping, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Friday in Manhattan's federal court. The charges filed against three alleged al-Qaeda associates by the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan is the latest chilling evidence of a convergence between terrorism and organized crime.

Oumar Issa, Harouna Touré and Idriss Abelrahman were snatched in Ghana on Wednesday [December 16th] by a Drug Enforcement Administration sting and shipped to New York, where they arrived on Friday to face charges of conspiracy to commit acts of narco-terrorism and providing material support to al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization. The arrests mark the first time that al-Qaeda associates have been charged with narco-terrorism offenses.

Read the full article

Monday, December 28, 2009

Changing views: Government promises action

From the Kansas City Star:

By Mark Morris, Mike McGraw and Laura Bauer

The Obama administration is weeks away from announcing a new surge — this one aimed at escalating the war on human trafficking in America.

“In January we are going to be announcing a major set of initiatives,” Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, told The Kansas City Star.

Napolitano disclosed the administration’s plans at the conclusion of The Star’s six-month investigation exposing numerous failures in America’s anti-trafficking battle.

Although details of the plan were not released, advocates and other experts said they’re cautiously optimistic that this is the best chance in years to address many of the problems revealed in the newspaper’s five-part series. They’re also hopeful that the administration, which has reached out to them and asked what changes are needed, will correct structural flaws in the broken system.

“It is time to go back to the drawing board and promote a more seamless, coordinated plan,” said Florrie Burke, a nationally known advocate for trafficking victims.

Other experts said it’s also time for congressional oversight hearings on the flagging decade-long struggle, and time to centralize an anti-trafficking effort that is thinly spread across a vast bureaucracy plagued by inter-agency wrangling and a lack of coordination.

Others contend what’s also needed is a top-to-bottom overhaul of ineffective immigration policies that infuriate those on both sides of the politically charged debate.

“The series that ran this week in The Star is a horrible reminder of the price of codes without compassion or common sense,” said U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Kansas City Democrat. “In our quest to make our borders unbreakable and our laws unforgiving we have driven some of the most poor and desperate seeking the promise of America into unthinkable situations.”

Kansas state Rep. Mike Slattery, a Mission Democrat, said reading the series convinced him that changes across the system are desperately needed. “It has been on people’s radar on the federal level,” Slattery said. “Yet there seems to be no coordinated effort to make things better…I think it’s about making this a priority.”

Read the full article

Read the Kansas City Star's Human Trafficking in America Series

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays from HTP

If you are currently busy with last minute shopping or struggling to find something for that hard-to-shop-for person on your list, consider one of the following ways to support anti-trafficking work with your purchases.

The Nomi Network has launched the "Buy Her Bag, Not Her Body" campaign. You can order a tote and help raise money for survivors of sex trafficking, while raising awareness about sexual slavery.

Made By Survivors offers a variety of products, from jewelry to holiday items to clothing. A special line of products also helps support the NGO GEMS, which works with minor survivors of sex trafficking in New York. Made By Survivors sells products made by survivors of trafficking and people at high risk for trafficking, in order to provide them with a stable, sustainable, living wage and fair working conditions. While Made By Survivors has stopped shipping for the year, you can order items to be shipped on January 4th or gift certificates.

You can also give the gift of awareness and education. Books about trafficking include Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter's The Slave Next Door, Ben Skinner's A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery, David Batstone's Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It, and Somaly Mam's autobiographical book The Road of Lost Innocence.

For the people who are really impossible to shop for, you can make a donation to an anti-trafficking organization in their name. The Somaly Mam Foundation, Free the Slaves, and Polaris Project are just a few of the many worthy organizations available.

Finally, as you are preparing holiday cookies and other goodies, consider purchasing chocolate, sugar, and other supplies from Equal Exchange or a local, organic source.

Thanks for reading and supporting the Human Trafficking Project in 2009. We look forward to an exciting year with you in 2010!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Senator Wyden Hosts Briefing on Sex Trafficking


On Monday, December 14, 2009 Senator Wyden held a briefing with leading experts on the issue of human sex trafficking to inform Congressional staff and media on the issue as he works to develop legislation. The legislation focuses on providing resources and training for law enforcement, providing shelters,
counseling, legal services and educational assistance for victims, working with communities to raise awareness on how to deter sex trafficking, rehabilitating the johns who engage in prostitution and finally strengthening reporting requirements for missing children, especially those who runaway repeatedly and are at the greatest risk of being lured into prostitution.

  • Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the State Department, and Chair of the inter-agency human trafficking Senior Policy Operating Group
  • Libby Spears, filmmaker Director of Playground documentary film on sex trafficking
  • Rachel Lloyd, Executive Director, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services
  • Bradley Myles, Deputy Director, Polaris Project
  • Sgt. Byron Fassett, Dallas Police Department, High Risk Victims and Trafficking squad
  • Dave Johnson, FBI Section Chief, Violent Crimes Section, Innocence Lost project
Length: 1 hour 16 minutes

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ask Choice Hotels to Take Steps to Prevent Child Prostitution

The folks at have started a petition requesting that Choice Hotels take concrete steps to prevent child trafficking, and they would like your help. Choice Hotels owns such major hotel chains as Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, Sleep Inn, and Comfort Suites, including the Comfort Suites at which Shaniya Davis was seen with an adult male shortly before she was found dead this year. is asking Choice Hotels to sign the EPCAT code of conduct for tourism service suppliers, which would require the company to implement the following six criteria:

1. Establish an ethical policy regarding commercial sexual exploitation of children;
2. Train personnel in the country of origin and travel destinations;
3. Include a clause in supplier contracts that states a common repudiation of commercial sexual exploitation of children;
4. Provide information to travelers through catalogs, brochures, in-flight films, ticket-slips, home pages, etc.;
5. Provide information to local "key persons" at the destinations;
6. Report annually.

In response to the 2500 signatures already received, Choice Hotels has agreed to enter into discussion with EPCAT about how they can take steps to prevent child prostitution on their properties--an important first step. However, further signatures are needed to encourage the company to continue taking positive steps towards preventing child trafficking. To view and sign the petition, please click here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

House and Senate Appropriate Money to Fight Slavery

Late last week, the House and Senate passed an omnibus appropriations bill that will, among other things, provide funding to fight human trafficking. The Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 will provide money to both the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services for anti-slavery work, including services for survivors.

Despite federal anti-trafficking laws, such as the Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act of 2008, funding for anti-trafficking work has always lagged behind, making this funding development particularly welcome. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

The bill includes a 25% increase in funding to the Department of Justice to assist victims of trafficking. This funding pool has been used to establish task forces in the past. Moreover, this will be the "first time since the Trafficking Victims Protection Act was passed in 2000, the spending bill provides that this funding is available for both foreign national and U.S. citizen survivors in need of assistance," according to Polaris Project. The bill will also provide funding for prosecuting traffickers through the Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.

In addition to increasing the DOJ's anti-trafficking funding, the bill also provides funding for the Department of Health and Human Services work on behalf of foreign national victims and survivors. Additionally, according to Polaris Project, the bill "is accompanied by report language that urges the Administration to request funds for assistance to all survivors, including U.S. citizens, in next year’s budget request."

You can contact the legislators who played an important role in this effort to provide additional, extremely needed funding for victims and survivors of slavery:

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chair, and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Ranking Member, Senate Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), Chair, and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-WV), Ranking Member, House Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Co-chairs, House Human Trafficking Caucus.

As we approach the new year, many state legislatures will be going into session, making this a prime opportunity to also contact your state-level representatives and urge them to support state-level anti-trafficking legislation.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Listen to Me - Stories from marginalised children around the world

EveryChild and Save the Children UK, have collaborated with iceandfire to stage a new play based on real testimonies of vulnerable children around the world.

20 years on from the creation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), Listen to Me tells the stories of children living on the streets, fleeing conflict, trapped in bonded labour and growing up in abusive households and will explore whether children have seen an improvement in their lives.

The play was performed for an invited audience of children's rights experts, charities, opinion formers and decision makers at the prestigious Unicorn Theatre, the UKs flagship theatre for young people in London, on 16 November.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Seattle Against Slavery

Despite its relatively recent origin, Seattle Against Slavery (SAS) has already begin to harness significant grassroots support to comprehensively fight slavery in the Seattle area and beyond. Recognizing that ending slavery will require a range of efforts that engage multiple sectors, SAS has built a collaborative community of 33 local and national partner organizations. One of SAS's founders, Alex Sum, describes the coalitions as a "no-drama, non-politicized community of abolitionists." The impetus for SAS was a conference hosted by the Freedom Initiative Team in May, 2009, which partnered with International Justice Mission.

According to SAS's website, "Whether the work is local, national or international, rescuing victims or providing services to survivors, prosecuting perpetrators or creating new anti-slavery and anti-trafficking laws, we seek to connect all Seattle area individuals and organizations in a grassroots community with a vision to expand our network across the nation" [emphasis added]. Anti-trafficking work demands such a holistic approach to address the facets of the problem, from the myriad of needs of victims and survivors to the challenges of policy and prevention. Moreover, given the horrific nature of anti-slavery work at times, such a community is vital to the well-being of those on the frontlines.

Nevertheless, while broad efforts with diverse areas of expertise are necessary for addressing slavery in a community, pulling such a team together is easier said than done. Thus, the diversity of SAS partner organizations is particularly impressive. Partners range from victim care and rescue organizations in the Seattle area - such as the Asian and Pacific Islander Women & Family Safety Center, the Seattle Police Department, and the Washington Advisory Committee on Trafficking - to awareness and/or fundraising organizations - such as Climb for Captives and Film, Faith & Justice. SAS also works with other coalitions, like the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE).

If you are interested in getting involved, SAS and its partner organizations offer a variety of volunteer opportunities, from project management to public speaking to events coordination. You can email SAS at for more information or visit them on Facebook.

Like many anti-trafficking groups, SAS's vision is "Ending slavery in our lifetime;" the organization focuses on starting locally, "one city at a time starting with Seattle." SAS's efforts and vision reflect a belief that local efforts, when leveraged with grassroots support and multi-sector collaboration, can create global change.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Emmanuel Jal: The music of a war child

For five years, young Emmanuel Jal fought as a child soldier in the Sudan. Rescued by an aid worker, he's become an international hip-hop star and an activist for kids in war zones. In words and lyrics, he tells the story of his amazing life.

Learn more about Emmanuel Jal

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Not For Sale Global Advocacy Days

Join Not For Sale this spring in Washington D.C., and Ottawa, Canada, to ask legislators to re-Abolish modern-day slavery.

Global Advocacy Days from David Hepburn on Vimeo.

According to Not For Sale, "Being a modern-day Abolitionist means advocating for stronger legislation against human trafficking, as well as protection and care for survivors. These two-day events will combine advocacy training, networking, and meetings with your elected representatives as you give voice to those in captivity."

Registration for the two visits is now open.

Washington, D.C
March 1-2, 2010
Day 1: Breakout Sessions; Advocacy Training
Day 2: Capitol Hill; Meet with your elected representatives
General Admission: $49; Students and Military: $39

Ottawa, Canada
Day 1: Training
Day 2: Meet with members of Parliament
General Admission: $49; Students and Military: $39

Space is limited.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Few New York State Prosecutions Despite Law

From the New York Times:

Despite a highly trumpeted New York State law in 2007 that enacted tough penalties for sex or labor trafficking, very few people have been prosecuted since it went into effect, according to state statistics.

In New York State, there have been 18 arrests and one conviction for trafficking since the law was signed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer and took effect in November 2007, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. There is one case pending in Manhattan, one in Queens and two in the Bronx.

The situation is not very different in New Jersey or roughly 30 other states with laws against human trafficking — defined as using fraud or force to exploit a person for sex or labor. A federal law passed in 2000 with life prison penalties has resulted in 196 cases with convictions against 419 people, according to the United States Department of Justice.

The scale of those numbers contrasts starkly with the 14,500 to 17,500 people the State Department estimates are brought into the United States each year for forced labor or sex.
Prosecutors like Anne Milgram, the New Jersey attorney general, and Janet DiFiore, the Westchester County district attorney, blame a lack of training.

Police officers, they said, do not recognize signs of exploitation and do not ask the right questions at an opportune time. Eager to move a case along, the police may arrest someone for promoting prostitution rather than stiffer trafficking charges. With evidence growing stale, it can be hard to upgrade charges later on, the prosecutors said.

“It’s very reminiscent where we were 30 years ago on the domestic violence stuff,” Ms. DiFiore said. “People just don’t get it yet.”

In a typical recent case, a 22-year-old woman from Mexico said she was lured to New York by her boyfriend, who promised a waitress’s job. Instead, she said she worked for his uncle in Queens as a prostitute, servicing 10 men a night across the five boroughs for $35 to $45 a trick.
Friendless, stranded on alien streets, frightened that the police would discover she was here illegally, she felt she had no choice, said the woman, who is pregnant.

“I felt so bad, so bad,” she said, drying tears as she spoke softly with the help of a translator. “I didn’t know what I could do. I was alone.”

In July, the boyfriend was arrested after, she said, he beat her so brutally that she finally fled and sought out a stranger, who led her to the police. But he was charged only with a misdemeanor assault for domestic violence.

The Mexican woman said that had she been asked, she would have told how she had been intimidated into prostitution, but the police did not press her, and she did not volunteer anything because she was afraid the boyfriend might seek revenge against her family in Mexico. Her lawyers say they are trying to get Queens prosecutors to upgrade the charges, something prosecutors say they will consider.

The police, experts say, should be asking an immigrant prostitute whether she was forced to work the streets, whether her passport was taken away, whether she was held against her will. Training sessions on such questions have been held, including one Nov. 12 in Mount Kisco, N.Y.

“If you’re looking at a frightened immigrant woman in a brothel, it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in political science to know what you’re dealing with,” said Dorchen Leidholdt, legal director for Sanctuary for Families, a Manhattan agency for battered women that is helping the Mexican woman. She runs across many police officers who do not know that a trafficking law exists, she said.

But the police often are not helped by victims, who are “taught, trained and manipulated by their exploiters not to cooperate with nor trust law enforcement,” Richard A. Brown, the Queens district attorney, said in an e-mail message. His office said that the Mexican woman told officials only that her boyfriend had punched her; she never mentioned prostitution.

If the right questions are asked, trafficking charges do result. In Westchester, a 21-year-old Hungarian immigrant told prosecutors she was deceived by her employer, Joseph Yannai, 65, author of a book profiling the world’s top chefs, into thinking she would be coming to Pound Ridge to be his personal assistant. But according to a criminal complaint, the job required sexual favors.

The woman escaped and her testimony resulted in charges against Mr. Yannai of sexual abuse and two counts of labor trafficking — one involving the Hungarian and another a Brazilian woman at the Yannai home. Under the new law, each labor trafficking count carries a prison sentence of three to seven years.

In their questioning, prosecutors learned, according to the complaint, that Mr. Yannai had deceived the Hungarian woman about the job, had limited her phone calls and offered her no spending money — acts that undergirded the trafficking charge. Mr. Yannai, who is awaiting trial, said the women “were free to come and go as they wished,” according to his lawyer, John D. Pappalardo.

On Tuesday, a Queens jury convicted David Brown, 32, of St. Albans, of sex trafficking and kidnapping. The Queens district attorney said it was the first conviction for sex trafficking since the 2007 law was passed.

Prosecutors said the defendant forced a woman to work for him as a prostitute for 12 days in August 2008 by threatening to beat her and cut up her body if she left his apartment. Witnesses testified that the woman was “sold” to the defendant for $2,000 by an ex-girlfriend.
Amy Siniscalchi, program director for My Sister’s Place in Westchester, a service agency working with seven trafficking victims, said “everybody in the field thinks that the crime of human trafficking is increasing.”

Jennifer Dreher, senior director of the anti-trafficking program at Safe Horizon, a domestic violence agency, said the world economic crisis had made desperate people more willing to believe employment schemes and had provided workers for massage parlors and brothels.
Those trafficking cases that have been brought illustrate how trafficking is different from run-of-the-mill crimes like promoting prostitution.

Last month, two Mexican immigrants — a husband and wife — were charged by federal authorities in Brooklyn with using physical violence — including cutting the victim with a knife, beating her with a brick, punching her and breaking her finger and nose — to force a young woman to work as a prostitute starting in April 2007.

Benton J. Campbell, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, described the case as “sex slavery.”
In the Queens case involving the Mexican woman, she said the police asked her only about visible bruises. Vivian Huelgo, another lawyer for Sanctuary for Families, faults them for not digging harder.

“A couple of different questions — is someone forcing you to have sex and is that sex for money — would take you down the road to a more serious crime,” she said.

The article has many good points, and I'm thrilled that the first conviction under New York State Law finally happened last week. Just giving my own view on the material in the article though, I think our problems run even deeper than just law enforcement and district attorneys understanding how to ask victims the right questions. I think there is an issue with police and prosecutors even understanding or believing there is a problem of trafficking in their areas. In a report entitled, Understanding and Improving Law Enforcement Responses to Human Trafficking, the authors conducted surveys among 3,000 state, local and municipal law enforcement agencies and found that, "The majority, between 73 and 77 percent, of local, county and state law enforcement in the random sample (n=1661) perceive human trafficking as rare or non-existent in their local communities." While the report provides for much more complex analysis of the results of the survey, that is a huge indication that even the best state laws will prove useless unless there is a more basic understanding of the problem of trafficking and an acknowledgment that it can happen pretty much anywhere.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Unborn Children for Sale in South Korea

The illegal sale of children makes up more than half of all the cases of human trafficking around the world, according to recent estimates.

Traditionally it has involved the exploitation of children in poorer nations, but an Al Jazeera investigation has found that it is also happening in developed countries, such as South Korea.

For four months, Al Jazeera surfed community boards on popular Korean Internet sites, and found an underground trade where pregnant women can sell their unborn children.

Steve Chao reports.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

EVENT: Trafficking talk in New York

December 10th at 7 PM
Soho20 Chelsea Gallery
547 West 27th Street, #301
New York, NY 10001

Cost: Free
For information and to RSVP call:
(212) 367-8994

Photographer/artist Kay Chernush will be showing these and other images and talking about the moral and aesthetic challenges of photographing human trafficking.

In her own words:

I've worked with survivors in Paris, Rio, Belem, Torino and Amsterdam to create a non-documentary series of images that were recently exhibited in an open-air installation in The Hague, Netherlands. We are looking forward to a lively discussion about the moral and artistic challenges raised by this pressing global problem, and the intersection of art and social action.

Learn more about Kay Chernush

EVENT: The Blind Project's Second Annual Benefit Gallery

From the Blind Project:

Thursday, December 10, 2009
7:00pm - 11:00pm
2nd Floor Gallery Space, 105 Rivington Street
105 Rivington Street
New York, NY

Join us in a night of exhibition and auction of Chad Riley photography, complimentary Brooklyn Brewery beer, wine and hors d'oeurves with good music and good people for a great cause. All proceeds go directly to support our sustainable economic programs for survivors of sex trafficking in Southeast Asia.

Tickets are available for $25 in advance or $35 at the door.

Purchase your tickets at

To learn more about The Blind Project, please visit:

About Chad Riley:

Chad Riley was born on August 31, 1977 and raised in the mountains of California. He studied at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara and afterwards, moved to New York City to become a freelance photographer shooting for a diverse client list in advertising, fashion and action sports industries.

Chad was also a Photo Assistant to Annie Leibovitz. He travelled all over the world with Vogue and Vanity Fair on photo assignments with Bono, Oprah, Giselle, Muhammad Ali and even Queen Elizabeth (to name a few). Chad recently photographed Annie Leibovitz, herself, for the cover of her new book “At Work”.

Chad is a co-founder of The Blind Project.

This photography exhibition tells the story of sex-trafficked survivors.

The Blind Project is honored to announce Dr. Laura Lederer will be
speaking at this event. Dr. Lederer is currently Vice President at Global Centurion. Formerly, she was the Executive Director of the Senior Policy Operating Group on Trafficking in Persons, a high level inter-agency policy group that staffed the President’s cabinet-level Inter-agency Task Force on Trafficking in Persons.

Learn more about the Blind Project

Tiger Woods

While Tiger Woods has been in the news a great deal lately, the connection between his business practices and slavery in Dubai has received scant attention. Rachel Maddow reports on this issue.

Though many celebrities champion anti-trafficking efforts, it is also important to consider the ways that they may - albeit at times inadvertently - support slavery through their lifestyle practices. We are all accountable for the continued existence of slavery through our own choices and practices.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

UN Peacekeepers punished for sex scandal: a literal slap on the wrist

By Youngbee Kim

December 2nd was the International abolition day of slavery. Remembering all the victims of modern day slavery around the world and sexual abuse, I am searching for the reports on whether the authorities have brought the remedies for the victims of child molestation and sexual assault by the UN peacekeepers in Haiti, Congo, and many other countries. So far, they are nowhere to be found.

How the victims were abused

In Haiti, a Jordanian UN peacekeeper raped and sodomized a Haitian mother of five children in 2005.
[1] In 2007, 13 years and older girls are having sex with UN peacekeeping soldiers for $1 dollar. In Congo, the UN reported in 2004 that the peacekeepers and bureaucrats have been exploited women and children for quite a few years. [2]

The remedies executed so far

In November 6th, 2009, Associate Press released a report on the disciplinary actions against the UN peacekeepers for molesting children on the missions. According to the report, at least 50 UN peacekeepers punished and prosecuted by the state authorities of their origins. The punishment varied from "reduction in military rank to eight months' imprisonment for committing sexual abuses on missions since 2007."
[3] The report also stated that the UN can only investigate allegations of misconduct, but is not able to prosecute the individual offenders. Rather, the each state has the power to prosecute the peacekeepers of their won nationals.

A slap on the wrist

In many places around the world, child molesters serve much longer jail term than what some of the UN peacekeepers had to face, which is only 8 months in jail. In New Jersey, a 61 years old pedophile was sentenced nearly 20 years in jail for molesting children in Thailand.
[4] In Florida, a man was sentenced life in prison for molesting his step daughters as well as nieces. [5] In Australia, a 61 years old man was sentenced for 12 years in jail for molesting 12 children. [6] What is worse is that some of the soldiers were never prosecuted by their own state authorities upon their dismissal from the mission by the UN. [7]

The victims: stuck with a life long trauma

The children who are molested in their young age have to face various symptoms caused by the sexual abuse. Socially, they experience the fear of losing control in a relationship and have hard time trusting other people. They also face challenges in their sexual relationship with the partners as some of the remarks or touch by the partners would likely bring them back to the memories of the abuse. Physically, the victims suffer all kinds of chronic pain including abdominal pain, menstrual pain, intestinal complaints, stomach ache, nausea, back pain, etc.

So the case is closed?

A human rights lawyer in Haiti reports as follows:

In 2009, the UN sent 112 requests for action taken concerning all forms of misconduct, including but not limited to sexual exploitation and abuse, and received 14 responses as of 3 November. By comparison, she noted, the UN sent 192 such requests in 2008 and received six responses on action taken, while 146 requests were made and nine responses received in 2007.
It is not only disturbing to hear that these victims are left with no remedies for their trauma but also that only a few out of many UN peacekeepers faced a lighter punishment than what they actually deserve in committing such a horrendous crime like mentioned above. Currently, the UN still has not obtained the full right to discipline their soldiers and aid workers when they commit a crime during the mission. Some people say that such scandal only proves its inability to retain its own soldiers. Others argue that the UN must be granted more binding power to retain its system. But again, in either case, the victims are left with a life long trauma with no assistance for rehabilitation so far.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Sweden Takes Action Against Sex Trafficking

Sweden, currently holding the EU Presidency, is calling for a strengthening of international cooperation and coordinated action to combat the increasing global problem of prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes. Sweden is calling upon other EU countries and the international community to adopt even more effective measures to combat this serious violation of human rights, and of individuals human dignity, this barrier to social equality and gender equality.

Sweden regards trafficking and prostitution as intrinsically linked and Sweden was the first country in the world to introduce a law (1999) criminalizing the purchase of sexual services.

In July 2008, the Government confirmed its commitment to action by adopting an Action Plan against prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes and committed SEK 213 million to the introduction of 36 measures up to 2010. The Action Plan covers five priority areas: greater protection and support for people at risk and for victims, a stronger emphasis on preventive work, higher standards and greater efficiency in the justice system, increased national and international cooperation, and educational and awareness campaigns.

The consensus among Swedish experts is that efforts to combat prostitution and human trafficking must take into account judicial, social and gender perspectives and be based on the human rights principle. Societies that claim to defend principles of legal, political, economic and social equality cannot allow human trafficking to flourish. The eventual elimination of human trafficking is achievable.

Friday, December 04, 2009


In late November, the State Department issued new guidelines and regulations for diplomats who bring domestic servants into the US.
The Washington Examiner reported that the State Department announced in a closed meeting that, "Diplomats below the rank of minister no longer will be able to bring domestic servants into the United States without being able to show they can afford to pay them a prevailing wage."

I have written about domestic slavery and diplomatic immunity before on this site. In the past, diplomats who keep domestic slaves have gone unpunished when cases are found. More often, such cases are never detected, since it is extremely difficult for law enforcement to monitor the conditions of domestic workers, particularly in the diplomatic community.

These new guidelines are an important step to increasing oversight and ensuring that abuse of domestic workers is detected. According to the Washington Examiner, "The new guidelines, which also require diplomats to pay their servants using checks or direct deposit so payments can be traced, have already been issued to consular offices, a State Department source said. The guidelines will also require embassy chiefs to personally approve the servants their employees wish to bring with them."

Increased guidance and regulations are an important step towards addressing domestic slavery in the diplomatic community. At the same time, such efforts must be viewed as a first step, not an end point. These guidelines need to be backed by strong penalties for violations, along with increased efforts to educate domestic workers about their rights, enhanced efforts to detect and rescue domestic slaves, and additional resources for survivors of domestic slavery.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Annie Lennox: Women on the Frontline, Traficking in Nepal

Women on the Frontline
is a video documentary series presented by Annie Lennox that shines a light on violence against women and girls. The series takes the front to homes, villages and cities around the world where a largely unreported war against females is being waged.

Broadcast on BBC World for seven weeks in 2008, the series covers: Nepal, where thousands of women are trafficked each year; Turkey, where killing in the name of honour continues; Morocco, where women political activists who have survived torture and imprisonment testify before a government truth and reconciliation commission; the DRC, where women bear the brunt of a 10-year war in the eastern provinces; Colombia, where women have been tortured in the shadow of a guerilla war; Mauritania, where women who have been raped may go to prison; and Austria, where, under a new law, perpetrators of domestic violence are forced to leave home.

(Publishers: UNFPA,, Austrian Development Cooperation, UNIFEM; Year of Release: 2008)

Read more about Women on the Frontline here

See more chapters from this powerful documentary series:




Republic of Congo




Wednesday, December 02, 2009

CATW Event Wednesday - A Conversation Among Men About Sex Trafficking

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women will be hosting "A Conversation Among Men About Sex Trafficking" in New York City on Wednesday, December 2, 2009. The event is free and open to the public, will feature opening remarks by Gloria Steinem, songs by Lannie Cooke, and the following panelists:

Peter Buffett (Composer/Philanthropist)
Victor Malarek (Activist/Author The Johns)
Aaron Cohen (Activist/Author Slave Hunter)
Michael Cory Davis (Actor/Activist)
Jonathan Walton (Poet)

The event will start at 6:30 pm at the NYU Wasserman Center (133 E. 13th Street, 2nd Floor). The event will be limited to 200 people, so early arrival is recommended. For more information, see CATW's website.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

South Africa to Conduct 16-Day Anti-Human Trafficking Campaign

South Africa's Crime Line has announced that human trafficking will be the focus of a 16 Days of Activism Against Abuse of Women and Children campaign. Crime Line is an anonymous SMS tip-off service that was launched in 2007 and allows citizens to text police regarding suspected crime. This year's campaign theme is "Don't Look Away, Act Against Abuse," and will last from November 25 until December 10. The theme was created at least partially in response to an anticipated increase in human trafficking during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which will be held in South Africa. The spokesman for Crime Line, Yusuf Abramjee, stated that "It's time to break our silence. If you have any information on human trafficking, send your tip-off to Crime Line now to [sms line] 32211 or go to and the police will act."