Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Child Marriage

From Talking Points Memo:

On Thursday night, hours before passing the tax cut compromise, House Republicans thwarted a bill that aimed to protect girls around the world from being coerced into child marriage. They opposed it because, they claimed, it might fund abortions.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), was blindsided. After the Child Marriage Protection Act passed the Senate with zero objection on Dec. 1 -- a rare feat these days -- it didn't seem like there was much to worry about.

But just before the vote began, Republican leadership blasted out a "whip alert" to GOP staffers with a message: Vote no. The alert claimed the bill cost too much and that a competing bill, introduced just the day before, would be better.

"There are also concerns that funding will be directed to NGOs that promote and perform abortion and efforts to combat child marriage could be usurped as a way to overturn pro-life laws," the alert read.

And so the bill, which needed a two-thirds vote to pass under the suspended rules, failed. Even some congressmen who sponsored the bill voted no.

McCollum, along with human rights organizations and the State Department, believes that child marriage is a form of child abuse that includes sexual abuse, domestic violence and slavery.

Read the full article here.

Read the bill here.

According to Millions of girls are forced into child marriages around the world, sometimes with men over twice their age. In developing countries, child marriage is an incredible problem, with girls' physical and emotional health being endangered by this dangerous practice. From missing out on education to dangerous childbirth at a young age, girls in developing countries are especially at risk because of child marriage.

In response to the House of Representatives failure to pass the bill, has started a petition which can be viewed and signed here.

Picture by Kay Chernush for the U.S. Department of State.

A Reexamination of The Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor

Though it has been several months since the release of The Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor, a careful examination of the report’s pros and cons is still in order. The intent of the report is to provide a reliable source for consumers and companies so they can make ethical choices about where they purchase and source products from, with the hope that if people do not purchase products tainted by child/forced labor, we can eliminate the problem.

The study was created by the Department of Labor’s International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) and details the products produced in various countries where child and forced labor are often used (both in the formal and informal economy). The study covers 122 products in 58 different countries, which are in various stages of development and are located in every region of the world. Some of the more commonly listed goods are sugarcane, gold, carpets, coffee, cotton, rice, coal and cocoa.

The findings of the report are certainly useful for those who are interested in pushing for a world free from child and forced labor, but there are also several limitations to the study. Though I cannot provide a comprehensive evaluation of the pros and cons of this study I do want to briefly examine some of them.

The first pro is that the study provides a general guide that consumers and companies can use when choosing where to purchase or source products from. Though some of this information is already public knowledge (in that you could do an online search and find that child labor occurs in Thailand’s shrimp industry), this report puts information about the nature of many different products in one place, while providing further informational sources should one wish to know more.

The second pro, is that the report provides a means of empowerment for consumers. If someone is interested in buying shrimp, they could use this resource to make a more informed decision about their purchase. If the bag or fishmonger says the shrimp comes from Thailand, they can buy from another brand or store that does not. Consumers can also use this knowledge to petition companies not to purchase potentially tainted products from these countries (note: see con below).

The third pro is that the report provides a mechanism for change. Though it is likely that not every country or every product produced using child or forced labor is included in this list, it can provide people and governments a means to put pressure on other governments to make changes. Governments are more likely to take action when they realize that information of this nature is widely distributed. In a similar way to how countries react to the Trafficking in Persons Report each year, no one wants to be portrayed as a safe haven for child or forced labor. This report hopefully will lead to stronger mechanisms for preventing and prosecuting such cases within the countries examined.

Despite the benefit of these reports, there are also a few cons, which should be taken seriously when examining the report. The first and perhaps most important con to this study is that it is not very useful for highly manufactured items. For example, my shirt might be made in Untied States (though unlikely) in a factory where there is no forced/child labor and the shirt says it is made in the US. What I do not know, as a consumer, is where the cotton came from, how the dyes where made, where the machines that made the shirt came from and where the materials used to make the machine that make the shirt originated. I may make this purchase believing I am not contributing to child/forced labor since my shirt was made in the US. In reality though, I may be contributing to the problem because the cotton came from India or the metals came from a forced labor mine in the Congo. This guide while useful cannot help me make an ethical decision about that purchase.

The second con is that while the report acts as a shaming mechanism for governments, it misses a primary contributor to the problem, corporations. While governments are responsible for regulating the production of items in their country, companies are contributing (knowingly or not) to the problem by purchasing from other companies that use child/forced labor. Corporations need to share in the responsibility and blame for this and this report avoids holding them accountable by seemingly placing all the blame on governments. Corporations can be a force for good in this fight, but are still not being held accountable by those who could, including the US Government.

The final con is that there is a danger in condemning a whole industry within a country due to child or forced labor. While it is a good general rule of thumb, it can also severely harm companies that are trying to do the right thing. If we condemn all cocoa producers in a country, but not all of the producers use child or forced labor, they too will suffer when consumers demand a company stop sourcing items from that country. The report in some sense encourages people to punish whole countries for the practices of some or perhaps even a majority of companies in that country with regard to the product of interest. We should encourage companies that do not use child or forced labor, and large corporations should reward them by sourcing from these companies. Additionally condemning every company in a country can be particularly harmful to the companies that are trying to do the right thing since their labor costs etc. tend to be higher. Companies that are trying to do the right thing are likely the first ones to feel the impact of a boycott, which really seems to defeat the purpose of such a ban.

I encourage everyone to take a glance at the report here. It is definitely a great contribution to society and a useful resource for reducing child/forced labor (which sometimes includes trafficking), but the report should be seen both for what it does and does not do.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Domestic Sex Trafficking and Pimp Culture

By Emily Biggs:

The pimps who are trafficking young women and girls on the street in the U.S. have a great marketing tool; the media. As Americans when we hear the words “sex trafficking” we immediately think of women and children overseas who are being forced into the sex trade, or who are brought into the United States for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

We usually do not think closer to home; Americans trafficking Americans. Think about women and girls you have seen out late at night on the streets, when you are coming home from work or a social event, dressed in short dresses and spike heels. Most people turn their heads and look away, not wanting to look at the faces of these young women and girls who are forced to work out in the street. To fully understand sex trafficking in the United States, it requires an open mind and letting go of what is shown on television. You have to let go of the media’s portrayal of the “joys” of prostitution shown in music videos on VH1 and MTV, and open your eyes to the violence and control the pimps have over their victims.

Tina Frundt
was fourteen years old when she was forced into prostitution. She was like any typical teenager, finding her identity and defying her parents were at the top of her list. When a man came into Frundts’ life that showed her attention and listened when she complained about her parents, she did not think twice about the fact that he was ten years older than her. He informed her that she was mature for her age, and that she understood him better than anyone his age. Tina stopped believing anything her parents told her, and believed he was the only one who truly understood her. After six months of dating, Frundt believed she loved him, at least that is what he told her, and she ran away to be with him. The couple ended up in Cleveland, Ohio and he informed Tina she was going to meet the rest of his family.

Tina had no idea that the “rest of the family” meant three other girls. After she met the family she was told what her role would be; Frundt would go out to “work” that night and bring him back the money. He assured Tina that he would always love her no matter what, but he needed to know how much she loved him by making sure she would do anything for him. The first evening his friends came by the motel, he told Tina to have sex with someone, but she did not want to so his friends raped her.

Afterward, he told her “that wouldn’t have happened if she would have just listened to him first.” Tina blamed herself instead of being angry at him for getting raped. He then picked out her clothes, told her what to wear, how to walk, what to say to “Johns” and how much money she was to bring back to him. Then she was forced back out into the streets. Tina walked the streets back and forth for hours, she finally got into a car because they were always being watched and she had to get into a car sooner or later. Their nightly quota was $500 but Tina was only able to make $50 that night to give back to the pimp.

As a result, he beat her in front of the other girls and then sent her back out to the street to earn the rest of the money. This was the man that took Tina out to eat, listened to her, gave her advice, and had complete trust in, now she was seeing another side of him. Frundt was shocked at the situation she found herself in, but was also scared. She was locked in the closet numerous times, and had her finger broken which never set right. None of the girls were allowed to see a doctor so they tolerated the pain by pushing it deep down inside them and trying to forget it ever happened. People have asked Tina several times to this day, “Why didn’t you just leave? Couldn’t you escape?” She now knows that it was not her fault that a pimp manipulated a child.

As I stated earlier, the pimps use media to their advantage in luring young women and girls. Pimps are glamorized in TV shows, music videos, and movies, and young people use the word “pimp” in everyday conversation. They do not understand the reality behind the term. Traffickers and pimps prey on women and girls by finding their weakness and then exploiting it; children are easy to manipulate because they quickly become dependent on a pimp.

After a pimp gets into a victim’s mind it is easy for him to maintain control. The women are required to bring him $500-$2,000 a night, they are always a “bitch” or a “ho” and are reminded of that daily. The victims are part of his “stable,” and if they do not want to follow his rules then he may sell them at anytime to another pimp.

A non-profit anti-trafficking organization in Washington, DC, reported that a pimp that had three young girls in his “stable” were each bringing back $500 every day. The pimp was making about $24,000 a month or $642,000 a year tax free by selling sex with girls and young women and then keeping all of the money.

Tina’s situation, fifteen years ago, is still going on today. Girls every night are forced onto the streets, beaten and raped, to make money for pimps.

Emily Biggs attends Milligan College in Tennessee majoring in Exercise Science. She plans to pursue a career in Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy. She plays collegiate fastpitch softball for Milligan.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Call to Action: Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2010

From the Polaris Project Action Site: On December 9, the U.S. Senate passed S.2925, “Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2010.” This bipartisan legislation was introduced by Senators Wyden (D-OR) and Cornyn (R-TX) and was passed with unanimous consent in the Senate. With only one week left in the Congressional session, the House must now adopt the Senate bill and pass it by Friday, December 17!

To learn more about what you can do and how to contact your representatives, click here.

According to

The Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2010 will improve federal and state government efforts to combat domestic sex trafficking of minors by:

- Authorizing six year-long grants of $2.5 million to state or local governments in regions that have

-- a significant sex trafficking problem

-- demonstrated cooperation between law enforcement, prosecutors, and service providers in efforts to combat sex trafficking, and

-- developed a plan to combat sex trafficking that includes provisions for victims' shelter and services, training of law enforcement and service providers, and prosecution and deterrence of traffickers.

- Providing that a minimum of 25% of grant funds are used to provide shelter and services to victims of sex trafficking.

- Providing for an independent annual evaluation of grant recipients' programs.

- Requiring state reporting of missing children to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and encouraging the Attorney General to change the NCIC to facilitate protection of missing children.

- Encouraging states to enact safe harbor laws that presume a minor found in prostitution is a victim of a severe form of trafficking.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Welcome HTP's Newest Contributor: Bia Assevero

Be the Change

We live in a world that faces a great many challenges. Some of those challenges are economic, others are social and others still are political. To complicate matters even further, they are all interlinked; poverty leads to crime leads to the deterioration of social structures, which leads to political instability, which leads to economic instability, which leads to environmental damage and so it goes but not necessarily in that order.

For me, the difficulty was in knowing where to begin. People were always telling me to “be the change you want to see in the world”. I thought that was a lovely sentiment. My only problem was that I want to see a lot of change in the world and it seemed slightly unrealistic that I could incarnate all of it at once.

And then an extraordinary thing happened on a very ordinary evening in New York City.

I attended a book signing by Benjamin Skinner, the author of A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern Day Slavery. If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend reading it.

What Skinner achieved both in his book and in his speech at the signing was to find hope in an apparently hopeless context. In the course of his research, Skinner literally did come face to face with horrific examples of enslavement and abuse. And yet despite the toll that it undoubtedly took on him, he emerged from the experience more determined than ever to combat trafficking and slavery.

But what really flipped the switch in my head was when Skinner quoted Stalin and said, “the death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.”

The words resonated with me but more than that, they challenged me and they defied me. The death of millions should never be only a statistic. In order to effectively combat human trafficking among the many other ills in the world, we have to always be aware of our common humanity.

If we seek too much comfort in the sterility of statistics, we run the risk of forgetting that every victim of human trafficking has a life story; one that in the end isn’t so different from our own.

I’m sitting here writing this on a cold day in Central London. Somewhere in the world another young woman, the same age as me, has been trafficked and is experiencing horrors that I probably can’t even imagine.

But how different is she from me, really? If she’d had access to the same education and the same health care and the same family support as I had, who is to say what she might have accomplished?

Maybe she’d be a writer like me. Maybe she’d be a doctor or an artist or an astrophysicist.

It is the circumstances of the world that we live in, and accidents of birth that provide some of us with more security than others. But fundamentally, no one human life is worth more than another.

I left the tiny Asian restaurant where the book signing was held with a sense of purpose unlike any I’d known before. People choose different avenues to become the change that they want to see. Some join the Peace Corp or they become diplomats or advocates. Others volunteer locally or internationally.

Me, I’m a writer and I believe in the ability and the responsibility of writers and journalists to use their words to affect positive change. Before we even get down to the nuts and bolts of how to end human trafficking, we have to get people to pay attention and we have to get them to care.

There is a tendency – particularly in the Western world – to ignore things that happen “over there” or to “other people”. But when it comes to human trafficking, there is no “over there” or “other people.” It can happen in your back yard to you or some one that you know.

And even if it doesn’t – even does happen to a total stranger half way across the world – look in the mirror and ask yourself if that is justification enough to turn away and do nothing.

I can’t do nothing.

And I’m aware that I can’t end human trafficking by sheer force of will alone but I believe that there is transformational value in the process.

My goal is to tell the stories of the victims of human trafficking and of the people who dedicate their time and their lives to fighting against it. If I can do this in ways that move people to empathy and better still to action, I will have become one tiny piece of the change that I want to see.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A Woman. A Prostitute. A Slave

Originally published November 27, 2010 by Nicholas D. Kristof in the New York Times

Americans tend to associate “modern slavery” with illiterate girls in India or Cambodia. Yet there I was the other day, interviewing a college graduate who says she spent three years terrorized by pimps in a brothel in Midtown Manhattan.

Those who think that commercial sex in this country is invariably voluntary — and especially men who pay for sex — should listen to her story. The men buying her services all mistakenly assumed that she was working of her own volition, she says.

Yumi Li (a nickname) grew up in a Korean area of northeastern China. After university, she became an accountant, but, restless and ambitious, she yearned to go abroad.

So she accepted an offer from a female jobs agent to be smuggled to New York and take up a job using her accounting skills and paying $5,000 a month. Yumi’s relatives had to sign documents pledging their homes as collateral if she did not pay back the $50,000 smugglers’ fee from her earnings.

Yumi set off for America with a fake South Korean passport. On arrival in New York, however, Yumi was ordered to work in a brothel.

“When they first mentioned prostitution, I thought I would go crazy,” Yumi told me. “I was thinking, ‘how can this happen to someone like me who is college-educated?’ ” Her voice trailed off, and she added: “I wanted to die.”

She says that the four men who ran the smuggling operation — all Chinese or South Koreans — took her into their office on 36th Street in Midtown Manhattan. They beat her with their fists (but did not hit her in the face, for that might damage her commercial value), gang-raped her and videotaped her naked in humiliating poses. For extra intimidation, they held a gun to her head.

If she continued to resist working as a prostitute, she says they told her, the video would be sent to her relatives and acquaintances back home. Relatives would be told that Yumi was a prostitute, and several of them would lose their homes as well.

Yumi caved. For the next three years, she says, she was one of about 20 Asian prostitutes working out of the office on 36th Street. Some of them worked voluntarily, she says, but others were forced and received no share in the money.

Yumi played her role robotically. On one occasion, Yumi was arrested for prostitution, and she says the police asked her if she had been trafficked.

“I said no,” she recalled. “I was really afraid that if I hinted that I was a victim, the gang would send the video to my family." . . .

No one has a clear idea of the scale of the problem, and estimates vary hugely. Some think the problem is getting worse; others believe that Internet services reduce the role of pimps and lead to commercial sex that is more consensual. What is clear is that forced prostitution should be a national scandal. Just this month, authorities indicted 29 people, mostly people of Somali origin from the Minneapolis area, on charges of running a human trafficking ring that allegedly sold many girls into prostitution — one at the age of 12.

There are no silver bullets, but the critical step is for the police and prosecutors to focus more on customers (to reduce demand) and, above all, on pimps. Prostitutes tend to be arrested because they are easy to catch, while pimping is a far harder crime to prosecute. That’s one reason thugs become pimps: It’s hugely profitable and carries less risk than selling drugs or stealing cars. But that can change as state and federal authorities target traffickers rather than their victims. . .

Read the full article here.


Nicholas Kristof rightly points out the common misconception that human trafficking occurs only outside the U.S. borders. Awareness of the global nature of human trafficking merits great emphasis in the fight for abolition. The stories told by countless survivors demonstrates the strength of the human spirit and creates new impetus for addressing the demand side of this profitable trade.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Labor Trafficking News from November

Throughout the month, there are many cases or stories that break regarding forced labor. They are usually not on the front pages of our newspapers, rather they are buried deep and sometimes are only accessible through the internet. These are some of the stories, both headline articles and those that are not, from November.

Markus Löning, Germany's Human Rights Commissioner, criticized Uzbekistan for its use of child labor in the yearly cotton harvest. He demanded that the country allow monitors to enter the country and that it stop using children during the harvest. Each year, in September, schools are closed and students as young as seven are forced to pick cotton in the fields. The country has signed two Conventions against child labor and Löning asked them to honor their commitments. At least 65 retailers including Gap and Wal-mart, boycott Uzbek cotton.

Debates raged throughout November about whether or not carpets made in India would lose designation as being produced through child and or forced labor by the United States Government. The Deputy Undersecretary of Labor, Sandra Polaski, said that the US had not determined the status of the carpets, while India's Carpet Export Council claimed that the US would drop the designation. The Department of Labor clarified that it had not removed India's carpet industry from the list, but rather believed there was not enough suitable information to determine whether it should be kept on the list. They are awaiting the results of a study on child and forced labor in Asia to determine if India should remain on the list.

The Irish Human Rights Commission asked Ireland's Government to launch an investigation of the Magdalene laundries or asylums, where women of ill-repute were forced to undertake forms of hard labor including laundry work, even into the 20th century. The Commission said that appropriate redress should be provided to the survivors of the institutions. The findings included evidence that the State knew and was involved in the process of sending women and girls to the laundries. It is also possible that the Government violated obligations it undertook through the 1930 Forced Labor Convention by not outlawing or stopping the laundries and by trading with the convents that were running the laundries. The Government admitted as early as 2001 that the women were victims of abuse but no redress has been provided.

No agreement was reached on the future of Zimbabwe diamonds after a four day meeting of the Kimberly Process. While the Chairman, Boaz Hirsch, said he was hopeful that an agreement could be reached within a few days after the meeting, as of the end of November there still was no deal. Obert Mpofu, Zimbabwe Mine's Minister, said that despite the lack of an agreement, diamonds would still be for sale with no conditions to those who wished to purchase them. Sales of Zimbabwe's diamonds were barred last year due to human rights abuses, including the use of forced labor, in the Chiadzwa fields.

Three illegal immigrants were indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with a human trafficking scheme which forced its victims to sell CD's and DVD's. Charges included conspiracy to harbor illegal immigrants and conspiracy to force labor. Victims were recruited from Mexico and forced to sell the pirated wares. The accused are believed to have intimidated victims into working until they paid off their debts.

After Cyclone Giri, which hit Myanmar at the end of October, the Government began forcing affected villagers to assist with renovations including helping rebuild military sites without pay. This was one of the hardest affected areas by the cyclone. The villagers are staying in makeshift huts, since many people have not been able at this point to rebuild their own homes and since they are forced to work from dawn to dusk on Government/Military projects.

Photo by Kay Chernush for the U.S. State Department

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Youth Radio Investigates: Trafficked

From Youth Radio:

“To solve a problem you have to understand it. So to solve this prostitution problem, you have to understand the girls.”
-Anonymous, victim of sexual exploitation

This statement from a teenager who was trafficked by a pimp on Oakland’s streets may seem simple enough. And yet for all the debate about youth prostitution in America, where are the voices and perspectives of the people at the center of it all -- the girls who are trafficked?

For more than six months, Youth Radio has been investigating child sex trafficking in Oakland. It's a system of exploitation that's ensnaring girls across America. The FBI has said more than 300,000 children and youth per year are forced into prostitution. But perspectives from the girls themselves, who are caught up in what's known as "the game," are often missing from reports.

The series
Trafficked tells the story of two young women, Darlene and Brittney (not their real names), who became teenagers in Oakland around the time the FBI named their city one of the country’s hotspots for child prostitution. The Youth Radio investigation draws on interviews, eyewitness reporting, and city records to piece together what life is like for girls when they become trapped by pimps -- and how law enforcement continues to criminalize girls the state legally defines as sexually exploited victims.

In addition to the broadcast stories, Youth Radio will publish interviews with high school students currently working as prostitutes in California and a handwritten pimp "business plan" provided by prosecutors, and delve into the controversy of whether some Bay Area hip hop music glorifies sex trafficking.

To listen to the series and read the reports, click

Friday, December 03, 2010

Polaris Project's Fellowship Program

Polaris Project's Fellowship Program is recognized as one of the premiere leadership development programs focused on the issues of human trafficking and modern day slavery. The program provides young adults with training and on-the-ground practical experience in the anti-trafficking movement.

Applicants range from undergraduate students to retired attorneys from around the world and throughout the United States. At the beginning of each session, Fellows receive more than 40 hours of intensive training on human trafficking as well as program-specific training related to their particular position. Once trained, Fellows are integrated into the daily operations of their program and engage in meaningful projects and continuing education activities within the anti-trafficking movement.

All fellowships are unpaid, and most are designed as full-time positions. Since the fellowship program's inception in Spring 2003, more than 400 Fellows have completed the Fellowship Program, many of whom have gone on to take prominent positions in the anti-trafficking movement.

Washington, DC

Executive Assistant Fellowship
Communications and Media Fellowship
Social Media Fellowship
Policy and Legal Fellowship
Training/Technical Assistance and Research Fellowship

National Human Trafficking Hotline Fellowship
Information Technology (IT) Fellowship
Operations and Non-Profit Management Development Fellowship
Policy Implementation and Coordination Fellowship
Japan Liaison Fellowship
Program Liaison Fellowship
Client Services Operations Fellowship
Foundation and Grants Fellowship

New Jersey

Public Outreach and Communications Fellowship
Client Services Fellowship

he Fellowships run January 13-May 13. Early application deadline is December 10. and the final application deadline is January 10.

For answers to frequently asked questions, click here.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Music and Pimp Culture

By Rachel Lloyd:

Recently, Jay-Z, the man who created an anthem which shamelessly glorified pimp culture, "Big Pimpin", acknowledged his own conflicted feelings about that song to the Wall Street Journal. "It was like, I can't believe I said that. And kept saying it. What kind of animal would say this sort of thing? Reading it is really harsh," said the rapper. Yeah, listening to it come on in a club and see the entire crowd go wild and singing along has been really harsh too Jay.

Full disclosure, I'm a Jay-Z fan and I have been since his first album Reasonable Doubt. Yet as a survivor of the commercial sex industry and as an advocate for exploited and trafficked girls it's hard to not feel some shame for liking an artist who has contributed his fair share of misogynistic lyrics and who has helped equate the concept of pimping with masculinity and 'swagga.'

I'm not alone with these conflicted feelings about Jay-Z or hip-hop in general. For those of us who grew up listening to Public Enemy, Grandmaster Flash, Eric B, and Rakim Mc Lyte and Queen Latifah and who felt that rap told our stories and captured our hearts in a way that nothing else did, hip-hop has been part of the soundtrack of our generation. Yet for those of us, particularly women, who have been impacted by gender-based violence, who've experienced the venom behind the words 'bitch' and 'ho' and who are disgusted by the objectification and sexualization of women and girls in this medium, loving hip-hop presents an uncomfortable contradiction.

For me, the conflicted feelings run deep. For the last 13 years, I've worked with and fought for girls and young women who've experienced violence and oppression at the hands of pimps and johns. And I know first-hand what its like to dance on the stage of a stripclub, be leered over by strange men, and break my 'daddy' off some bread. In short, I've been one of the girls that are alternately scorned and objectified in the lyrics of many rap songs.

Read Rachel Lloyd's full article here.

Rachel Lloyd is the founder of GEMS.


Rachel Lloyd's piece raises a number of important points and questions, most without easy answers. Creating a world without sex trafficking or any form of slavery will take more than laws, arrests, prosecutions, and victim services. It will take evaluating the root causes and the ways that we are complicit, as individuals and as societies, in a world that tolerates and even promotes slavery. As Lloyd notes, that includes examining the "glorification of pimp culture" in music, art, and film.

Lloyd goes on to write, "I don't know how much Jay-Z understands the realities of pimps and the harm that's done to girls and young women every day in this country by pimps and traffickers. I don't know how much he feels that he's played some role in the acceptance and glorification of pimping within our culture and how committed he is to perhaps trying to take responsibility for that. But his acknowledgment that he feels a level of shame about this song is a start towards having a balanced conversation about hip-hop's role in this issue."

Obviously this is a two-way street, and as music consumers we bear some responsibility for supporting songs that glamorize pimps and that objectify women and girls. Still, like Lloyd I would argue that if established artists and musicians began the learning about the realities of trafficking and start self-reflecting on their roles and actions, both positive and negative, we will have a strong first step.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Somalis in Twin Cities Shaken by Sex-Trafficking Charges

From The New York Times on 23 November:

By Erik Eckholm

When the girl now identified as Jane Doe 2 came under their control in 2006 at age 12, the Somali Outlaws and the Somali Mafia gangs set a firm rule: Their members could have sex with her for nothing; others had to pay with money or drugs.

Repeatedly over the next three years, in apartments, motel rooms and shopping center bathrooms in Minnesota and Tennessee, the girl performed sexual acts for gang members and paying customers in succession, according to a federal indictment that charged 29 Somalis and Somali-Americans with drawing young girls into prostitution over the last decade, using abuse and threats to keep them in line, and other crimes. The suspects, now aged 19 to 38, sported nicknames like Hollywood, Cash Money and Forehead, prosecutors said.

The allegations of organized trafficking, unsealed this month, were a deep shock for tens of thousands of Somalis in the Minneapolis area, who fled civil war and famine to build new lives in the United States and now wonder how some of their youths could have strayed so far. Last week, in quiet murmurings over tea and in an emergency public meeting, parents and elders expressed bewilderment and sometimes outrage- anger with the authorities for not acting sooner to stop the criminals, and with themselves for not saving their youth.

For the rest of the article visit The New York Times.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Action Steps from the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation

Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) recently presented at a national human trafficking conference on effective ways for citizens to Demand Change! This post will highlight steps for you to demand change on international sex trafficking and the commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC). Each action results in a reaction, each reaction hopefully leads to a discussion on ways to end human trafficking. Add your voice to the Demand for Change.

1) Keep Informed:
Read up on international sex trafficking on websites such as;,, Read blogs on the issues. Knowledge is power. Equip yourself with the power to end human trafficking.

2) Raise awareness.
Visit the “Restore and Rescue” campaign for resources to share with your community. (

3) Fundraise for a trusted organization fighting human trafficking.
Events could include a benefit concert, movie night, or a 5k marathon to engage the local community. Potential movies include Playground, Very Young Girls, Lilya 4-Ever, or Born into Brothels.

4) Volunteer!
Take time to volunteer at a local organization aimed at the abolition of human trafficking. Or donate money to an anti-trafficking organization.

5) Advocate! Be the voice of the estimated 600,000-800,000 individuals trafficked internationally each year.

a) Lobby for international airlines to train their employees on identifying human trafficking victims. A free manual is provided at

b) Ask your representative to support the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act. (HR5575).

6) Add the Human Trafficking Hotline number to your phone.
Take out your phone right now and add 1-888-3737-888. Phone to “report a tip; to connect with anti-trafficking services in your area; or to request training and technical assistance, general information, or specific anti-trafficking resources” (Polaris Project)

The steps outlined are just a foray into the ways YOU can make a difference and make your voice heard!

Posted on behalf of Laura Convery.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Human Rights and Sex Trafficking: A Film Forum (Cambridge, MA)

December 2 – 5
Brattle Theatre
Cambridge, MA

Red Light Trailer:

The Boston Initiative to Advance Human Rights (BITAHR) board members Kate Nace Day and executive director Alicia Foley Winn have launched Human Rights and Sex Trafficking: A Film Forum to explore the use of film as an effective way to raise awareness and trigger action in combating commercial sexual exploitation of girls and women.

The forum will consider the role of film in advancing women’s human rights and the many governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) efforts to combat sex trafficking. Preliminary research indicates that this forum will be the first of its kind, merging filmmakers and academics in order to understand the phenomenon on all levels, from theory to practical solutions and law.

Sex trafficking involves a particularly perverse dimension: the use of the victim in perpetrating a fiction necessary to avoid police detection and legal sanctions. The victim becomes a coerced accomplice because she is proffered to the general public, johns, and law enforcement as a prostitute. Film and documentary offer an otherwise unavailable view into the process of trafficking, the accompanying torture, and the mindset of the victim.

Recognizing the need for greater public and academic awareness of sex trafficking, this forum will investigate the power of film in effectuating a movement to combat commercial sexual exploitation and modern-day slavery.

Learn more

Friday, November 26, 2010

Welcome HTP's Newest Contributor: Annie Durkin

Slavery in 2010 Been there; done that, got the T-shirt; but then…

As someone who spent four years of her undergrad education studying history, I put a lot of faith in the fact that we learn from the errors of our past. We make progress and we move forward - well, at least one would hope.

What have we learned from slavery throughout the years? That we can change the technique, nomenclature, or hide behind technology and pretend that it no longer exists? But there it is…like a bad penny. Always finding a way into our lives.

There are more people enslaved today than at any other time in history. Domestic labor and sex trafficking thrives right under our noses. This exists in the restaurants we eat, the housekeepers we employ, the laborers who build our homes. This is not progress. How can it possibly be that, at this very moment, throughout the world, there are six-year-old girls being sold as sex slaves? How can it be that people don’t know this is an issue that permeates our world?

As Americans, the list of problems we have to face is daunting. Yet we still have so much to be grateful for. We have important issues to stand up and fight for---national security, health care, the economy and the list goes on and on. What I am asking you is this. When will we put human beings first? When will we all be brave enough to stand up to the cowards who take part in the enslavement of men, women and children?

When will our sense of decency and human compassion override our willingness to make a good deal on cheap labor be a reason to turn our backs on human suffering?
The reality is that if it seems like a deal “too good to be true,” then somebody else – not you - is paying the difference. You should be aware that human slavery and the exploitation of people seeking a better life, is a prime source of the “good deal” you seek.

It’s not my place to judge or scold others, but I also have no plans to turn a blind eye; we’ve been there and done that. Let’s try something new. The truth is, we can still play a role in fixing something that is terribly wrong and the first step is to acknowledge that there is still a problem. After that, you can listen to people who are paying attention.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thoughts for Thanksgiving: 50 Years Since Harvest of Shame

The day after Thanksgiving in 1960, the documentary Harvest of Shame, a report by Edward Murrow about the situation facing agricultural workers, was aired. 50 years later, agricultural workers in the U.S. still struggle with many of the problems exposed by this film: poverty wages, sub-standard housing, untreated injuries, children being kept out of school, lack of labor regulations and/or enforcement, long, sometimes dangerous journeys to find work, among many others. I kept thinking as I watched the documentary, how many of the quotes in this film could we simply transpire to a modern documentary on agricultural labor?

"We used to own our slaves, now we just rent them."

"But a migrant was just a person who worked on a farm to me."

The response of the employer, who claimed that farmworkers are the happiest race of people in the world. "They just love this."

"They have no voice in the legislative halls. They certainly have no voice in Congress. And their employers do have a voice. Their employers are highly organized, and make their wants and terms and conditions known to our legislators."

We still cling to a romantic view of farm life - the one of commercials of glistening fruit and fields waving back and forth with the wind. The happy farmer- gloved and smeared with dirt. While there is much pride in the act of growing food and nourishing people, the reality is that the problems exposed in this film today are compounded by the industrial agricultural system that has exploded since 1960.

Farms are larger and must answer to the demands of consumers of supermarkets and fast food chains and the system relies on cheap labor. People are no longer connected to the food they eat. Think about the Thanksgiving meal you enjoyed today - do you know the origin of your ingredients or under what conditions the food was brought to your table? It is very likely migrant or immigrant farm labor helped make that Thanksgiving meal happen.

Harvest of Shame is, unfortunately, not far from today's reality in the fields. The demographics of farmworkers might be different, but slavery, abuse and poverty are still common. And just as there are many relevant quotes to be pulled from Harvest of Shame, there are also relevant questions that we should still be asking ourselves:

"Is it possible that we think too much in terms of charity, in terms of Thanksgiving Day baskets, in terms of Christmas baskets, and not in terms enough of eliminating poverty?"

"Must the 2 to 3 million migrants who help feed their fellow Americans work, travel and live under conditions that wrong the dignity of man?"

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Historic Breakthrough in Florida's Tomato Fields

Last week, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers announced that they and "the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE) have reached an agreement that will extend the CIW's Fair Food principles – including a strict code of conduct, a cooperative complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a worker-to-worker education process – to over 90% of the Florida tomato industry."

In a CIW Press release, Lucas Benitze said “This is a watershed moment in the history of Florida agriculture. With this agreement, the Florida tomato industry – workers and growers alike – is coming together in partnership to turn the page on the conflict and stagnation of the past and instead forge a new and stronger industry.”

An article in the Atlantic points out "One penny a pound might not seem like a very big raise, but when you pick a ton of tomatoes a day, as a Florida farm worker can, one penny represents a raise from $50 to $70, the difference between poverty and a livable (though still paltry) wage. And it doesn't seem radical to suggest that growers should abide by a reasonable code of conduct that includes a mechanism to address complaints, a health and safety program, and training sessions."

According to the CIW website, "The CIW is a community-based organization of mainly Latino, Mayan Indian and Haitian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida." The CIW began campaiging for workers' rights in 1993, taking on fast food giants like Taco Bell, McDonalds, and Burger King along the way. They also have an Anti-Slavery Campaign, which they describe as "a worker-based approach to eliminating modern-day slavery in the agricultural industry. The CIW helps fight this crime by uncovering, investigating, and assisting in the federal prosecution of slavery rings preying on hundreds of farmworkers."

Of last week's victory, Benitze said: “Make no mistake, there is still much to be done. This is the beginning, not the end, of a very long journey. But with this agreement, the pieces are now in place for us to get to work on making the Florida tomato industry a model of social accountability for the 21st century.”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why Child Labor and Trafficking Matter in Pakistan

From the Daily Times
VIEW: Child labour: a threat to the future —Mashal Sahir

If poverty justifies child labour, then it should also justify burglary, prostitution, kidnapping, smuggling and all other crimes. Child labour is a much more serious crime compared to others, because unlike other crimes that affect individuals, child labour affects an entire generation

Child labour is work that is unacceptable because the children involved are either too young or because, even though they have attained the minimum age to take up employment, the work that they do is unsuitable for a person below the age of 18. Child labour is a violation of fundamental human rights and has been shown to hinder children’s development. According to the last available statistics, Pakistan has a total population of 158 million, which includes a total of 40 million children, out of which 3.8 million are the victims of child labour. Many children are victims of the worst forms of child labour, such as bonded labour and slavery, and are easily exploited and abused on account of their vulnerability. It was found that of the total population of child labourers, seven percent suffered from illness or injuries frequently and 28 percent occasionally.

Child labour is not an isolated phenomenon. It is the outcome of a multitude of socio-economic factors and poverty is among its most prominent aspects. In Pakistan, around 30 percent of the people are living below the poverty line. Due to the unfair distribution of income, unemployment and inflation, poor parents are forced to send their children to work for economic reasons. In many cases, poverty has also led to the bonded labour of children. There are specific cases of children being pledged or bonded in return for loans to their parent(s) or guardian, notably in the carpet industry and in agriculture. The way children are absorbed and obliged to work varies but, as a matter of routine, the children of bonded families start working as soon as they reach school age, if not before. According to these parents, their actions are completely justified on account of their poverty. However, if poverty justifies child labour, then it should also justify burglary, prostitution, kidnapping, smuggling and all other crimes. Child labour is a much more serious crime compared to others, because unlike other crimes that affect individuals, child labour affects an entire generation. . .

Natural calamities and crises also play a huge role in giving rise to child labour. The recent floods that hit Pakistan can be seen as a major threat to the future of thousands of children. Once the families that have been displaced by the floods return to their homes, they will encourage their children to go to work and help restore the family. Media reports have indicated that children from the flood-hit regions are being promised lucrative jobs, taken away from their families and then being used for sex work. An increase in child labour was noted after the previous natural calamity — the 2005 earthquake. There are fears that this pattern could be repeated.

The gap between the law and its implementation is a serious problem in Pakistan. According to the Child Labour Law in Pakistan, a child cannot be employed before the age of 15, under any circumstances. Moreover, bonded labour, or ‘debt bondage’ is a practice condemned by the UN as being similar to slavery and consequently a violation of Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is considered by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to constitute forced labour and to be a violation of the ILO’s Convention no 29 on forced labour. However, the government has not put its laws into practice to stop child labour and these laws are universally ignored in Pakistan where children aged four to fourteen keep the country’s factories operating, often working in brutal and squalid conditions. . .

The future of Pakistan depends on whether the government chooses to use this recent crisis as a further excuse for spending cuts in key social areas, or whether it seizes the opportunity and mobilises the necessary political will to prioritise the elimination of child labour as a wise investment in future development.

Read the full article here.


This is a really interesting opinion piece which identifies the reasons why child labor and child trafficking matters in Pakistan (and really everywhere). Child labor in Pakistan largely exists due to poverty but the author also notes the connections between child labor and over-population, quality of education, natural disasters, and problems with law enforcement. In order to fight child labor and trafficking the author suggests the government needs to ensure there is access to quality education, and that there are social protections for poor families.

Perhaps most importantly the author recognizes the connection between healthy, well educated children and the success of a country. When children are unable to attend quality schools they are also unable to learn the skills that would be necessary for improving their family's lives and possibly bringing their family out of poverty. This puts future generations of children at risk for forced and abuse labor.

Ultimately the issue of child labor and trafficking is an issue not only of child psychological and social development, but also of the future economic development and stability of the communities where they live. By turning a blind eye to child labor now, we put future generations at risk for exploitation. At the same time though, without the proper social protections for the poor, many families simply cannot afford to loose the income their children make, however small. This is the conundrum that Pakistan and many developing countries and communities face.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Woman fighting sex slavery named CNN Hero of the Year

From CNN:

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- A woman whose group has rescued more than 12,000 women and girls from sex slavery has been named the 2010 CNN Hero of the Year.

Anuradha Koirala was chosen by the public in an online poll that ran for eight weeks on CNN's Anderson Cooper revealed the result at the conclusion of the fourth annual "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute."

"Human trafficking is a crime, a heinous crime, a shame to humanity," Koirala said earlier in the evening after being introduced as one of the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2010. "I ask everyone to join me to create a society free of trafficking. We need to do this for all our daughters."

Koirala was introduced by actress Demi Moore, who along with her husband, Ashton Kutcher, created DNA, The Demi and Ashton Foundation, which aims to eliminate child sex slavery worldwide.
"Every day this woman confronts the worst of what humanity has to offer," Moore said of Koirala. "She says, 'Stop. Stop selling our girls.' By raiding brothels and patrolling the India-Nepal border, she saves girls from being sold into the sex trade, where they are being repeatedly raped for profit, tortured and enslaved."

Read the full story here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Can The Buying Local Movement Help Prevent Trafficking?

Picture from

At a recent talk at Harvard Kennedy School, John Mackey, Co-CEO of Whole Foods stated that the demand for locally sourced food is exploding. Authors like Michael Pollan and sites like Sustainable Table and Local Harvest, among many others promote the practice of buying organic food from local sources as a way to create a more sustainable food system than the one dominated by fast food restaurants and supermarkets. The environmental benefits to buying local organic food are clear: Buying local reduces the use of fossil fuels needed to bring the food to your plate. According to Food Routes, food travels on average 1,300 miles from farm to table; Buying organic reduces reliance on harmful chemical pesticides and other synthetic agricultural inputs.

Economically, buying local either by demanding it in your local stores, joining a CSA or shopping at local farmers markets often helps sustain smaller farms in your area, which have largely disappeared as a result of the rise of industrial agriculture. This also contributes to many health benefits by avoiding industrial animal production and consuming more fruits and vegetables. So what is the connection to trafficking?

My concern is that a sustainable food system should be about even more than the environmental, health and local economic factors that currently dominate the drive for locally sourced food. All of those factors deserve honest attention, and I personally believe the benefits of buying more local organic foods are sizable.

However, the current rationale behind buying local is not enough.
Agricultural cases are a growing percentage of trafficking cases nationwide, and the State Department has listed agriculture as one of the primary industries in which trafficking occurs in the U.S. While many of these often cases involve large or industrial farms, it still affects local food sourcing.

Let's take the Aloun Farms case:
Aloun Farms provides produce for local groceries, farmers markets and is intricately connected to the local community through events and food drives. According to an article in the Examiner, "Eliminating their products could potentially mean that local consumers will have no choice but purchase produce that is shipped here..." Yet the farm's owners, Alec and Mike Sou plead guilty to trafficking charges earlier this year and are now facing additional charges connected to the case.

Despite the illustration provided by this case, there is no conflict between the buy local movement and the anti-trafficking movement. In fact, hopefully, the buy local movement can serve as a check on labor practices in agricultural industry and the two movements can complement each other. If people are more aware of the source of their food, hopefully more attention will also be paid to the labor that helps bring that local food to their table because the risk of trafficking is local as well.

It was actually John Mackey's talk that inspired this post: if the demand for locally sourced food is exploding as he says it is, then I am sure more grocery chains and supermarkets will pick up on the trend. While this has many potential benefits, we also run the risk of becoming content with supermarkets telling us that the food is sourced locally and ending our concerns there. The increasing demand for locally sourced food should not be satisfied by the mere knowledge that the food is from a local farm: What are the labor practices of that farm? What are the environmental practices of that farm?

I am not accusing people fighting for a more sustainable food system of ignoring the labor concerns of agricultural workers. On the contrary, there is a lot of potential for the movement for more sustainable food systems to act as a preventive agent against slavery. As demand for local food grows, hopefully the stronger connection between consumers and farms will help lead to fewer victims in the agricultural sector.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Security Firms Agree Not to Use Forced Labor

Private security companies sign code of conduct
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS November 9, 2010, 4:48AM ET

Major private security companies have signed a code of conduct pledging to respect human rights and the rule of law in conflict zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

DynCorp International, G4S and Xe Services are among the firms signing the code Tuesday in the Swiss city of Geneva. North Carolina-based Xe Services was formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide.

The code developed by industry and government representatives requires companies to ensure their employees "take all necessary steps to avoid the use of force."

It also forbids mistreatment of detainees, sexual exploitation and forced labor.

Signatories, non-governmental groups and governments who employ them still have to agree how companies' compliance will be monitored and by whom.


Several major security firms gathered in Geneva to sign an agreement stating they would not allow their employees to use forced labor or engage in sexual exploitation. Several of these organizations have been in the news for an array of allegations about rights abuse violations including human trafficking. It does not provide much comfort that at this point no arrangement was determined on how this agreement will be monitored and enforced. These security forces provide vital services in Iraq and Afghanistan but are largely viewed as being above the law both in the communities they work in and by the American people. Despite their negative public image, this is a step in the right direction and the agreement has the potential to hold security firms accountable, but only if enforced.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Film Festival in Boston

From the Boston Initiative to Advance Human Rights:

BITAHR Human Rights and Sex Trafficking Film Forum
December 2 - 5, 2010
Brattle Theater, Cambridge, Massachusettes

The Boston Initiative to Advance Human Rights (BITAHR) board members Kate Nace Day and executive director Alicia Foley Winn have launched Human Rights and Sex Trafficking: A Film Forum to explore the use of film as an effective way to raise awareness and trigger action in combating commercial sexual exploitation of girls and women.

The forum will consider the role of film in advancing women’s human rights and the many governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) efforts to combat sex trafficking. Preliminary research indicates that this forum will be the first of its kind, merging filmmakers and academics in order to understand the phenomenon on all levels, from theory to practical solutions and law.

Sex trafficking involves a particularly perverse dimension: the use of the victim in perpetrating a fiction necessary to avoid police detection and legal sanctions. The victim becomes a coerced accomplice because she is proffered to the general public, johns, and law enforcement as a prostitute. Film and documentary offer an otherwise unavailable view into the process of trafficking, the accompanying torture, and the mindset of the victim.

Recognizing the need for greater public and academic awareness of sex trafficking, this forum will investigate the power of film in effectuating a movement to combat commercial sexual exploitation and modern-day slavery.

Films include The Day My God Died, Fatal Promises, Holy Ghetto, Red Light and many others. There will also be panels and a performance by Sarah Jones. For a complete schedule and ticket information, please go to the forum's website here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Lack of Transparency

From the Harvard Crimson:

By Niharika S. Jain & Tara Suri

In a New Delhi village where a staggering 85 percent of women are victims of sex trafficking, the Najafgarh Community Centre is imprinted with the sign of Venus, the symbol for the female gender and for the anti-trafficking organization “Apne Aap Women Worldwide.” On its website, Apne Aap says it runs the Najafgarh Community Centre for the empowerment of women and children, a claim that it makes to donors worldwide. Unfortunately, the striking symbol and the large letters etched below it spelling out “Apne Aap” seem to be the organization’s only mark on the village.

We learned all this when we arrived in Najafgarh this summer with a bold idea to help the villagers transform their situation. After reading about Apne Aap and corresponding with its founder, Ruchira Gupta, we raised $20,000 to fund a vocational training program that would teach the women to sew and provide a sustainable job option as an alternative to prostitution. After an initial $12,000 donation, we received monthly reports from Apne Aap listing names of women and children involved in programs at the Community Centre. Yet we also received desperate e-mails from the community coordinator complaining that Apne Aap was not allocating money appropriately. But in light of the international accolades the organization had been receiving for its efforts to help female sex workers, we were loath to think our $12,000 contribution had been misused, much less that the reports Apne Aap was sending us were blatant misrepresentations. Instead, we hoped this project would allay our exasperation with the sexism and inefficiency we had witnessed on previous visits to the country of our heritage.

Our quixotism was shattered when we finally visited Najafgarh. The “Community Centre” that Apne Aap claims to run is a dank two-room building accompanied by a weathered eight-feet-wide by 10-feet-wide rug placed on the dirt where the children sit. More than half of the children do not attend school, and the informal education “class” for the children has no teacher or curriculum; instead, the kids sprawl themselves on the rug, drawing on slate boards and occasionally chucking pieces of chalk. The vocational training program is a daily sewing lesson taught by a 15-year-old village girl to five of her peers, instead of to the 19 girls and women Apne Aap claimed were attending. The women are completely disillusioned and continue to work in the sex trade. Indeed, after spending several weeks working in Najafgarh, we found that Apne Aap had nearly no presence there, apart from a few foreign interns it sporadically stationed there to “teach English.” Devastated by this farce of an initiative, we contacted the organization to ascertain the fate of our donation. After applying significant pressure upon the organization, we were granted a meeting with the founder, who offered to return $4,000, an offer that remains unfulfilled.

Read more

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Shop to Stop Slavery

Press Release:

Shop to Stop Slavery Releases 2010 Ethical Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide
Learning how to be a socially conscious shopper this holiday season has just been made easier by Shop to Stop Slavery.

Jacksonville, FL, November 8, 2010 —, a new concept website devoted to raising awareness about human trafficking, has released its very own, unique 2010 Ethical Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide. The premier edition of the guide aims to help shoppers make ethical choices in the gifts they offer this holiday season.

Many of the products purchased in the Western Hemisphere are produced by slaves or exploited groups of people. Robin Rossmanith, founder of Shop to Stop Slavery, states “It is a shame that the items that bring joy to our children, friends and family members are created in a manner that brings suffering to others.”

Consumers who are concerned about making socially conscious shopping choices can make a difference by purchasing items with the “fair trade certified” label or those shown to be made ethically. Through such purchases, they are supporting manufacturers and brands that are committed to not exploiting others. Luckily there are many options available for fairly made product purchases. However, sometimes consumers have to spend hours researching to find the right gift.

The 2010 Ethical Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide is a compilation of almost 100 US based stores that carry fair trade and/or ethically made products. The guide includes links to stores for easy access by the viewer. The Ethical Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide will make socially conscious shopping easier for the consumer. The gift guide can be viewed at and is also available for download.

The 2010 Ethical Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide was created by Robin Rossmanith, founder of Robin has a background in retail sales, as well as extensive knowledge of human trafficking. After discovering that 27 million people worldwide are living in slavery and a shocking number of them were right here in the United States, Robin Rossmanith, a Jacksonville, Florida mother of 3 school age children, committed herself to becoming an activist for the cause. Robin became the co-chair of the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Task Force, in 2010, leading individuals and agencies in a community wide effort to prevent human trafficking, rescue and restore victims and prosecute traffickers.

Also in 2010, Robin began, a website dedicated to informing consumers about products made with forced labor and providing opportunities for consumers to purchase slave free goods. Shop to Stop Slavery seeks to engage everyone in the efforts to end human trafficking. “Even the seemingly little things, like the Christmas gifts you buy, can make a big impact towards ending the exploitation of those people worldwide who are most risk.”

For additional information, contact Robin at 1-904-838-5339 or online at is a blog created by anti-human trafficking activist Robin Rossmanith, outlining ways to increase awareness and help eliminate modern day slavery. As the co-chairperson of an anti-human trafficking task force, she has become intimately aware of the risks posed by these types of crimes.

To get a copy of the 2010 Ethical Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide, go to

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

CNN Heroes 2010: Anuradha Koirala

Ms. Anuradha Koirala is the Founder and Executive Director of Maiti Nepal. According to the Friends of Maiti Napal:

Born in Nepal and former English teacher, Ms. Koirala started Maiti Nepal in a small house in Kathmandu with her own savings. . . Her commitment has been an inspiration to her largely volunteer staff. Most of the workers are rescued girls and young women who are healthy enough to work. "They need little incentive from me," states Ms Koirala. "They are working to help their sisters and they know the horror of the victims." She adds, "Society rejects me and my girls, but they are the most important thing in my life."

According to their website: In the border areas, Maiti Nepal operates Twelve Intervention Outposts to prevent girls from being trafficked. Here, Maiti Nepal volunteers, who have been rescued from the Indian brothels themselves, watch for the pimps crossing the border with innocent girls who are ignorant of their fate.

Maiti Nepal also operates physical and mental health programs, and a vocational education program.

"We try to give them whatever work they want to do, whatever training they want to do, because when you're economically empowered, people forget everything. People even forget [she is] HIV-positive or was trafficked," Koirala said in
an interview with CNN.

"Anuradha is a hero. ... She's courageous," Geeta [who was brought to Maiti Nepal after police extracted her from sex trafficking at the age of 14, and who is now a peer educator for Maiti Nepal] said in an
interview with CNN. "She gave me my faith back. ... If Maiti Nepal wasn't there for me, I would be dead by now."

To vote for Ms. Koirala
click here.