Friday, April 30, 2010

California State College Professor Promotes Sex Tourism in Thailand

L.A. Daily News April, 20th, 2010

As a California State University Northridge associate professor, Kenneth Ng spends his days teaching students the principles of economics: markets, monetary policy, interest rates.

But in his free time, Ng focuses on a very different kind of market: sex tourism in Thailand.

For the past year, Ng has been running a website that offers insights into the Thai bar scene, such as where to meet beautiful women and how to negotiate fees for their services.

Ng, who has worked at Cal State Northridge, for nearly half of his 50 years, never actively advertised his moonlighting gig to his students or academic colleagues.

But he was outed by a group of foreign businessmen who were outraged by what they considered a disrespectful internet posting. They contact his employer and colleagues, hoping Ng would be pressured into taking down his site.

University officials say they will not intervene or discipline Ng as long as his extracurricular activities do not involve public resources.

And Ng, himself, is defiant in his refusal.

"I am not going to let anyone make take it down." Ng said in a recent interview. "That's just a personality thing."


Since the L.A. Daily News published this article early last week, the debate has been heated among the American public over his website content. People were outraged by his website promoting sex tourism in Thailand. The former U.S. Justice Department official and the founder of the organization PornHarms, Patrick Truman says that if Ng's website content is "enticing and inducing" a person to travel internationally in pursuit of prostitution, he is in violation of federal law, U.S. Code 18;2422(a)-(b). As of last week, reports that the professor's sex tourism website was voluntarily taken down by Ng because of the petition and complaints submitted by the American public. Amanda Kloer at suggests that "A reduction in websites pushing sex tourists to Thailand can really have an impact on the sex industry there. Since sex trafficking is a demand-drive industry, few buyers looking for women or children means fewer traffickers willing to supply them. And that means, of course, fewer victims."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Polaris Project: The Importance of Social Media in the Anti-Human Trafficking Movement

Polaris Project New Media Fellow Vivian discusses the importance of social media in mobilizing a grassroots network.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gambino Crime Family Charged with Sex Trafficking, Other Crimes

According to a Department of Justice Press Release:

PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and GEORGE VENIZELOS, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"), announced today the arrest of 14 members and associates of the Gambino Organized Crime Family of La Cosa Nostra (the "Gambino Family") on charges including racketeering, murder, sex trafficking, sex trafficking of a minor, jury tampering, extortion, assault, narcotics trafficking, wire fraud, loansharking, and illegal gambling.

DANIEL MARINO is a longtime member and is currently a Boss of the Gambino Family. In that capacity, MARINO has over 200 fully-inducted or "made" mafia members under his command, as well as hundreds of associates who commit crimes with and for the mafia. THOMAS OREFICE and ONOFRIO MODICA are currently Soldiers of the Gambino Family acting under MARINO's supervision. OREFICE and MODICA each supervise crews that include DOMINICK DIFIORE, ANTHONY MANZELLA, MICHAEL SCOTTO, MICHAEL SCARPACI, THOMAS SCARPACI, DAVID EISLER, and SALVATORE BORGIA, all of whom are charged with racketeering and racketeering conspiracy. The indictment also charges other individuals who committed crimes with and for the Gambino Family, including STEVE MAIURRO, KEITH DELLITALIA, SUZANNE PORCELLI, and ANTHONY VECCHIONE.

In addition to the racketeering charges, the defendants are charged with [among other crimes]

Sex Trafficking and Sex Trafficking of a Minor

OREFICE, DIFIORE, MANZELLA, SCOTTO, EISLER, MAIURRO, and PORCELLI are charged with sex trafficking and sex trafficking of a minor. From 2008 to 2009, the defendants operated a prostitution business where young women and girls—including an underage girl who was 15 years old at the time—were exploited and sold for sex. The defendants first recruited various young women and girls—ages 15 through 19—to work as prostitutes. The defendants then advertised the prostitution business on Craigslist and other websites. The defendants drove the women to appointments in Manhattan, Brooklyn, New Jersey, and Staten Island to have sex with clients. The defendants then took approximately 50 percent of the money paid to the young women. The defendants also made the women available for sex to gamblers at a weekly, high-stakes poker games that OREFICE and his crew ran. . .

U.S. Attorney PREET BHARARA stated: "As today's case demonstrates, the mafia is not dead. It is alive and kicking. Modern mobsters may be less colorful, less flamboyant, and less glamorous than some of their predecessors, but they are still terrorizing businesses, using baseball bats, and putting people in the hospital. Today, the Gambino Family has lost one of its leaders, and many of its rising stars have now fallen. We will continue to work with our partners at the FBI to eradicate the mafia, and to keep organized crime from victimizing the businesses, and the people, of this city."

FBI Special Agent-in-Charge GEORGE VENIZELOS stated: "In some ways, this is not the Gambino Family of John J. Gotti. But while the leadership may maintain a lower profile, this case shows that it's still about making money illegally, by whatever means. No crime seemed too depraved to be exploited if it was a money-maker, including the sexual exploitation of a 15-year-old. In truth, despite the popular fascination, it was never really about the thousand-dollar suits. It was—and is—about murder, mayhem, and money."

Mr. BHARARA praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI. Mr. BHARARA also noted that the investigation is continuing.

Assistant United States Attorneys ELIE HONIG, STEVE KWOK, and JASON HERNANDEZ are in charge of the prosecution. The case is being handled by the Office's Organized Crime Unit.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Read the Full Press Release.


As the press release explicitly states, all actors named in this case have not been convicted and are presumed innocent. Also, while this case may highlight more sensational aspects of trafficking, it's important to keep in mind that there is no one face of traffickers, and many if not most traffickers are not involved in organized criminal syndicates. Nevertheless, I am excited to see this case for two main reasons. First, assembling prosecutable trafficking cases is extremely difficult. I am pleased to see sex trafficking charges included with the other charges and to see the trafficking aspect of the case explicitly acknowledged. Also, as this case shows, other criminal activity such as racketeering often occurs in conjuncture with trafficking, which can be a useful avenue to pursue for both criminal cases and civil litigation on behalf of survivors when trafficking charges themselves may not hold up. Second, this case is an important reminder that the United States is not exempt from human trafficking, including human trafficking cases involving organized crime. This reminder is quite timely as we await the soon to be released US State Department's 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report where the US will include a rating for itself for the first time.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ohio State University- Parade Of Tears

Approximately 500 people marched through Ohio State University's campus on Sunday, April 25th, 2010, to draw attention to the victims of human trafficking and sex slavery.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Proposed Labor Town to Rid Bahraini Neighborhoods of Migrant Workers

Recent reporting from the TradeArabia News Source revisits the Bahraini Government's interest in constructing "labor towns" for thousands of migrant workers, with the goal of eliminating the hundreds of make-shift labor camps dotted throughout the country and segregating expats from Bahraini neighborhoods.

This new proposed labor town, which plans to accommodate a 10,000 worker capacity would be established in central Bahrain's East Rifaa District on a selected vacant piece of land behind several factories and plants that are already located in the area. According to the article, the project has already been approved by the Southern Municipal Council and received the backing of surrounding Municipalities and the Minister of Agriculture.

Rifaa's Municipal Councilor and pioneer of this initiative has stated that a new labor town is a necessary mechanism to cope with the expanding expat community currently living, and negatively affecting Bahraini residents in the area. Grouping migrant workers together is argued to improve the lives of Bahraini citizens who often complain of having to live in such close proximity to make-shift labor camps within their neighborhoods. The Municipal Councilor further noted that Bahraini citizens are being forced to move from the area due to deteriorating living conditions-like sewage overhaul-and increasing incidence of crime as a result of the increasing population of migrant workers.

New accommodations are argued to improve the lives of the migrant workers living in cramped, dilapidated housing complexes.

Rifaa is not alone in its quest to rid its national population of migrant workers. Requests for labor townships from all of Bahrain's governates have been made following years of complaints from local Municipal Councils.

The Minister of Agriculture recently banned a request to enact formal legislation that would prevent migrant workers from living in residential areas alongside Bahraini citizens; however, a proposed draft law has been submitted to Parliament by the Municipal Councils that would allow landlords the right to rent property only to expats and professionals, disallowing migrant laborers and unskilled bachelors from acquiring a residence and permitting only 6 months for such individuals currently living in designated areas to vacate before being evicted.

Rifaa's Municipal Councilor is still in the process of locating the landowners of the proposed area for the labor town to approach them about acquiring the plot.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mexico takes lead in launching national campaign against human trafficking

"It is an honor for us Mexicans to be the first country in the world to launch this important prevention campaign against trafficking."

- Felipe Calderon, President of Mexico

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Upcoming Webinar on Forced Labor and Corporate Social Accountability

From Steptoe & Johnson:

Corporate Social Accountability Webinar on Forced Labor
(A Steptoe-Sponsored Event)
April 27, 2010
3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. EDT

Steptoe hosts Ambassador Luis CdeBaca from the US Department of State who will discuss renewed government emphasis on forced labor

We would like to extend a special invitation to join us for a webinar featuring Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, Director of the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, to discuss the new and increased US Government enforcement efforts to counter forced labor, including the use of forced and child labor in the production of US imports. From the perspective of his role as Chair of the Senior Policy Operating Group on Trafficking in Persons, he will discuss the Obama Administration’s vision for corporate social accountability and the enhanced focus on supply chains. He will also share information about his office’s Annual Trafficking in Persons Report and programs as tools to combat forced labor.

Steptoe partner Jonathan Drimmer will discuss the various risks to companies with suppliers that may engage in abusive labor practices, including litigation risks, as well as best practices for enhancing compliance with labor standards and regulations.


Ambassador Luis CdeBaca: In May 2009, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca was appointed by President Obama to coordinate US government activities in the global fight against contemporary forms of slavery. He serves as Senior Advisor to the Secretary and directs the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, which assesses global trends, provides training and technical assistance, and advocates for an end to modern slavery. Mr. CdeBaca formerly served at the Justice Department, where he was one of the country's most-decorated federal prosecutors, leading the investigation and prosecution of cases involving organized crime, human trafficking, and money laundering. He was awarded the Attorney General's Distinguished Service Award for his service as lead trial counsel in a forced labor case involving over 300 Vietnamese and Chinese workers in a garment factory in American Samoa. Mr. CdeBaca has also served as Counsel to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

Jonathan Drimmer is head of the Business and Human Rights practice at Steptoe & Johnson LLP. Mr. Drimmer helps companies concerned about compliance with human rights norms and allegations of potential abuses, whether based on the nature of their industries, the high-profile nature of their brands, the location of their overseas operations, or in response to specific scenarios. He helps companies audit and assess their operations to identify risks and design effective compliance solutions, and represents them in litigation where necessary. A former deputy director in the Office of Special Investigations in the US Department of Justice, Mr. Drimmer prosecuted a number of high-profile cases involving major human rights violations, including some of the government’s most high-profile cases. Mr. Drimmer is a recognized authority and frequent media commentator on the Alien Tort Statute.

For more information: Please e-mail

To learn more about Steptoe's work in this area, please visit the Business and Human Rights practice page.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Screening of The Price of Sugar Tomorrow, April 22nd, in DC


Why watch the Price of Sugar?

"In the Dominican Republic, a tropical island-nation, tourists flock to pristine beaches unaware that a few miles away thousands of dispossessed Haitians have toiled under armed-guard on plantations harvesting sugarcane, much of which ends up in U.S. kitchens. They work grueling hours and frequently lack decent housing, clean water, electricity, education or healthcare. Narrated by Paul Newman, "The Price of Sugar" follows Father Christopher Hartley, a charismatic Spanish priest, as he organizes some of this hemisphere's poorest people to fight for their basic human rights. This film raises key questions about where the products we consume originate and at what human cost they are produced."

Free Parking is available after 5:00 p.m. in a lot bordered by Nebraska, Massachusetts, and New Mexico Avenues. The entrance is on New Mexico.

PLUS Light refreshments will be served

Prevent Human Trafficking (PHT) is a Washington, D.C., based non-profit organization working to build a bridge between South East Asia and the United States to prevent human trafficking. PHT empowers individuals, organizations and governments to tackle the root causes of human trafficking through direct support and technical assistance. PHT uses its expertise and networks to promote best practice and inspire sustainable solutions in the movement to prevent human trafficking.

NOTE: This event sponsored by the American University chapter of PHT.

On a quick personal note, I saw this film in Toronto last October and the material is quite provoking and thoughtful. When considering prevention efforts for human trafficking, we often get caught up in focusing on how to stop traffickers and how to keep victims from making risky decisions that end up becoming trafficking situations, but we forget that we have the power to prevent trafficking as well as consumers: by becoming more knowledgeable about the consumer choices we make, we can help curb demand for exploited labor. I definitely recommend that people go out and see this film.

Labor Reforms in Bahrain Tackle Local Unemployment Crisis

According to the Arabian Business News Source, recent reforms to Bahrain's labor market have begun to drive up the cost of employing cheap and unskilled laborers, increasing competitiveness of Bahraini citizens in the job market. This topic has been a pressing issue for the Bahraini Government in its efforts to expand job opportunities for Bahrainis and drive down its foreign population.

In a recent interview with Reuters News Agency, the Chief Executive of Bahrain's Labor Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) Ali Radhi revealed the cost of employing expatriate workers is rising, and although the cost increase is not significant, it presents an upward moving trend. Recent reforms have imposed monthly 26.5 USD training fees paid by the employer for each expatriate worker brought to the island Kingdom.

Another significant reform occurred last year when Bahrain became the first Arab Gulf state to eliminate the employment sponsorship system, which LMRA officials hoped would allow workers to change sponsors without consent and encourage them to freely negotiate higher salaries with employers, making them less attractive for hire in comparison to their Bahraini counter-parts.

LMRA data shows that there has been an increasing trend in workers who have decided to change their sponsors under this new system, and that the gap in wages between locals and foreigners has decreased by 15 percent in some sectors, like construction. Radh noted that the effects of these reforms will be more significant once the current contracts of outsourced laborers expire and employers can choose between hiring locals instead of foreigners for the first time.

The next phase of labor reforms will be the implementation of an adaptable cap on foreign employment in certain sectors that will be determined by economic growth and industrial output. The employment ceilings have not been released to the public yet, but are awaiting approval by the board of the LMRA and reflect recent data collected from various industrial sectors.

Many Arab Gulf states are looking to Bahrain's economic transformation policies with envy, as they also attempt to address similar struggles of incorporating young people into the job market. Countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have embraced bottom-down reforms that have forced companies to hire locals (and sack foreigners) in the recent economic downturn.

Bahrain is also working to tackle illegal employment of foreign workers, often perpetuated by local employers who recruit them to Bahrain but allow them to pursue other employment opportunities in exchange for a portion of their salaries, which throws them into financial and legal uncertainty, as well as, a higher likelihood of trafficking.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Project Director - Human Trafficking, Freedom House, Guatemala

From Idealist:

Through research, effective advocacy, and programs directly supporting frontline activists, Freedom House supports the spread of freedom and democracy throughout the world. Freedom House has been a leader in identifying threats to freedom through its highly regarded analytic reports, including Freedom in the World. Its diverse programs have supported the work of civic activists and human rights defenders in over 40 countries. Advocacy and outreach are aimed at encouraging democratic governments, including the United States, to adopt and implement policies that effectively advance human rights and democracy at home and abroad. Freedom House’s annual budget is $18 million, with 13 field offices, and two U.S. offices. Freedom House seeks a Director for its Human Trafficking project to be based on Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Essential Duties:
The Project Director will take the lead role in directing and implementing the Anti-Human Trafficking Program in Guatemala. The Project Director will be responsible for program implementation and development, financial management, general oversight of daily office management, public relations, procuring technical assistance and training, developing partnerships with local counterparts, and assisting in all fundraising efforts. The Project involves some in-country travel.

Candidate Requirements:
The appropriate candidate should have a minimum of seven years experience in human rights. Previous experience working on human trafficking or other human rights issues in Latin America is required. Project management and experience living and working in Latin America is a must. An advanced degree in, international relations, international development, political science, human rights, or related field, are highly desired. Spanish and English fluency are required.

How to Apply:
Please submit resume, cover letter, and salary expectations by e-mail or fax to: Yolanda Abner Human Resources Manager Fax: (202) 822-3893 Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. If a candidate does not submit all required information, he or she will not be considered. Candidates are also requested to state where they viewed the job advertisement in their applications. Only candidates who have been selected for an interview will be notified. No phone calls, please. EOE, M/F/D/V

Monday, April 19, 2010

Alaskan Bill Had Raised Concerns About Effects on Trafficking Victims

From Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: JUNEAU — The state House rejected a bill Monday that aimed to let Alaska tailor drivers’ licenses for visa holders and other international visitors to last only as long as they can legally stay in the United States. State regulations require state-issued driver licenses to be valid for five years, regardless of whether a holder’s immigration papers expire sooner than that, state Division of Motor Vehicles director Whitney Brewster said.

The bill, introduced more than a year ago, had been quiet for almost a year. It drew plenty of attention Monday, with supporters saying it would appropriately help ensure illegal aliens can’t hold a state driver’s license. Opponents said it would saddle Alaska with the responsibility of helping oversee immigration laws and worried it could could complicate the license application process for victims of human sex trafficking.
The House rejected the bill 23-17 but sponsor Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, said he’d seek another vote under legislative reconsideration rules. Six other Republicans co-sponsored the bill, including Fairbanks Rep. Jay Ramras.

It bounced through the House committee process last winter, drawing questions along the way, before falling dormant. But Brewster followed revived debate last week by writing to Lynn Thursday explicitly supporting the bill.
Brewster said the bill would let the state issue drivers licenses that expire when the holder’s legal stay in the United States expires. He said the bill is not about immigration: It would leave the Division of Motor Vehicles simply checking drivers’ qualifications and legal documents. The bill would change nothing for license holders who need to renew their licenses every five years, he said. “Immigration is a problem but it’s a federal problem and we need to keep it that way,” he said. He said Alaska is one of four states that lack such a measure.

Opponents said the plan could be a back door to compliance with part of the 5-year-old federal REAL ID Act. Some also said the change would make it difficult for victims of human trafficking to gain licenses. It was unclear from the debate Monday how the bill would affect that population, which Rep. Anna Fairclough, R-Eagle River and one of a handful of Republicans to vote against the bill, estimated at roughly 200 in Alaska. A clause in the bill would have let the division issue licenses to a sex or human trafficking victim while he or she applied for permanent or conditional resident status. Fairclough and Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said they remained unconvinced the bill would protect that population. Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, called the bill “well-intentioned” but opposed what she said would saddle state workers with a responsibility — overseeing citizenship — appropriately left to the federal government.

Various clauses in the bill explicitly forbid the state from issuing identification cards “solely to bring the state into compliance” with the 2005 REAL ID Act, which sought to homogenize the process used to issue state-level drivers licenses across the country.
One line reads that the bill “may not be construed as support for, or compliance with, the federal REAL ID Act.” The Legislature has also passed other bills in recent years barring the state from taking similar steps from complying with the federal law. The bill is House Bill 3.

This is a really interesting news piece, and I am pleasantly surprised to see that consideration for the way this bill would have affected victims of human trafficking by its passage was given as much weight as it received. A lot of the issues that are debated concerning immigration affect victims of human trafficking, particularly those who are undocumented.
Most people don't realize the amount of time it takes for non-governmental organizations, legal service providers and law enforcement agencies to assist survivors in adjusting their immigration status if they are undocumented - it could take many months or even years before they have the documentation to be able to become more self-sufficient while they are restarting their life outside of their trafficking situation. That time in limbo can be extremely difficult and frustrating for the survivor to deal with, and this is in part due to the kind of restrictions that are placed on them by their lack of status. I hope other legislators give survivors this kind of consideration in similar bills.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In the Presidential Proclamation, President Obama states "Every day, women, men, and children across America suffer the pain and trauma of sexual assault. From verbal harassment and intimidation to molestation and rape, this crime occurs far too frequently, goes unreported far too often, and leaves long-lasting physical and emotional scars. During National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we recommit ourselves not only to lifting the veil of secrecy and shame surrounding sexual violence, but also to raising awareness, expanding support for victims, and strengthening our response." While human trafficking and sexual assault/sexual violence are different and not conflatable, they have many intersections and connections.

Sex trafficking victims face brutal and repeated acts of sexual violence. Siddharth Kara, author of Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery, notes that rape is often used to initiate victims into sexual slavery (12). He describes "breaking" periods in India, since Mumbai "brothel owners [express] a preference for the girls who had already been broken. . . [t]he initiation period [is] thus a cold business decision. Break the girls first; enjoy greater profits later" (59). Kara also points out that rape, as well other forms of physical and sexual violence, can be used as punishment and to control victims throughout their entire time as sex slaves (193). In her book, The Road of Lost Innocence, Somaly Mam describes the horrific sexual abuse she endured as a sex slave in Cambodia, and writes that "the brothels have grown large and more violent. We find women chained to sewers. . . When I was young we were terrorized with snakes and heavy fists, but these girls suffer a more brutal sort of torture" (166).

While trafficking for forced labor may not have obvious connections with and does not always involve sexual violence, sexual abuse can be used as a method of control. A young woman who was trafficked to the UK for domestic servitude told authorities that she was sexually assaulted by her trafficker. According to Women and Global Human Rights, in Kuwait, "Because of the isolation and the stigma of sexual assault, most domestic workers face many obstacles and are deterred from reporting employer abuse to the authorities." Labor exploitation victims, particularly female migrant workers, are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse.

Though human trafficking and sexual assault/abuse are different, they share similar dynamics and root causes. Understanding the intersections and connections between the two is important for addressing victims' and survivors' needs and tackling the roots of these forms of abuse. Ultimately, sexual violence and human trafficking both involve treating people as less than human, and involve using force and violence to achieve their ends.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

'Little Treasures' Game Lifts Veil on Human Trafficking

From Saatchi & Saatchi:

Cape Town - The Salvation Army, together with Saatchi & Saatchi Cape Town, has set out to lift the veil on child trafficking with an innovative outdoor campaign to inform the unknowing South African public about the severity of human trafficking, the fastest growing criminal industry in the world.

1.2 million children are trafficked each year and it's estimated that these numbers will rise dramatically in 2010. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) contends that globally human trafficking has an annual turnover of US$32 billion, making it the third most lucrative criminal activity after the narcotics and weapons trades, although in contrast to these other criminal activities, the penalties for human trafficking in most countries are much less severe, or non-existent.

Major Marieke Venter of The Salvation Army says, "Modern day slavery 'works' and thrives because of its great profitability. This industry is continuously growing because of the high demand, ease of supply and lack of awareness. That coupled with the absence of effective laws will allow this industry to continue without much resistance."

Ian Young, Managing Director of Saatchi & Saatchi Cape Town says, "We decided that an unusual approach would work in generating the much needed awareness around this issue," he adds. "We took an ordinary toy crane machine, gave it a sinister twist and created a new game called 'Little Treasures'."

He says that the machine was filled with cute dolls, wrapped in seemingly innocuous illustrations and then placed in a popular shopping mall on a busy morning. "People of all ages were instantly drawn to the innocent looking game and the treasures within. After playing and snatching a prize, the truth was revealed via a message attached, that each doll represented a child lost to the business of human trafficking."

He stresses that the media in South Africa is the most powerful medium of communication to the diverse cultural groups in SA. "With this in mind, this week we launch the mechanism of this campaign to the top media houses in South Africa to create the awareness right at the core of communication."

"We are excited that the media are willing to get involved in this campaign and trust that they will give this issue the presence it deserves," he adds.

Read the full article here.

This is interesting. I'm not familiar with what outreach and awareness activities would resonate with the South African audience, but the tactic is creative. Since games like that obviously target children, I'm not sure if children would understand the very deep and upsetting message attached to their dolls. Although hopefully parents could use it as a stepping point to either learn more themselves or start a conversation with their children about protecting themselves. My immediate reaction is conflicting - I'd be interested to see if the Salvation Army or Saatchi & Saatchi plan to do some sort of evaluation after they're done with this effort to see how effective it was.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Flight Attendants and Human Trafficking


Flight Attendants Are First Line of Defense Against Human Trafficking

Flight attendants at a large U.S. airline are training other flight attendants to recognize signs of human trafficking on international and domestic flights. The flight attendant leading the program says it's possible to catch traffickers in the act, saving the lives of women and children trapped in the net.

For a moment in time, strangers from around the world come together as travelers.

It's also a moment when American Airlines flight attendant Sandra Fiorini can save a life. "We had an 18-year-old boy and he had a brand new day-old baby, umbilical cord everything was still there, day-old baby. He's going on a six hour flight, no wife. He has two diapers stuck in his pockets and one bottle," she describes.

Fiorini sees scenarios like that on a regular basis when she is on one of her international flights. She says after 39 years on the job, it's not difficult to recognize a suspected case of human trafficking. "Most of us are parents. When you see an instance that's not right and a red flag is raised, especially when there is children involved, you're more in tune with what's happening," she said.

Fiorini had tried to report suspicious activity to the police but they never responded. Two years ago, it all changed when Fiorini met Deborah Sigmund, founder of the organization Innocents At Risk.

"It's enslavement. We're talking about modern day slavery," Sigmund said.

Innocents At Risk provided Fiorini with brochures detailing the signs of human trafficking. There's also a phone number to report a suspected case.

"Before you couldn't call anyone," Fiorini said. "The local authorities would not respond to you. So now when you do call this hotline number, someone does respond."

Law enforcement will be waiting at the gate if a flight attendant reports something suspicious. Innocents At Risk created a video showing why it's important for law enforcement to respond. The organization says women, girls and even boys are being sold into sexual slavery.

"This is happening everywhere in the world, every country in the world," Sigmund said. "And it's happening here in the United States. Its a multi-billion dollar industry."

Meanwhile, Fiorini educates flight attendants around the world, using brochures and bracelets that contain the human trafficking hotline number. "I show my brochure, I tell them what I'm doing, and then I ask them to put the hotline number in the cell phone," she said. "Please pass the brochure onto another flight attendant."

Fiorini and Innocents At Risk have also been mobilizing lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

"We are working with Congress, with Human Rights Commission, and I think that something will come out of that and I'm very optimistic," Sigmund said.

The hope is that brochures like these will eventually end up in the seat back pockets of all flights so passengers will notify the flight attendants if they spot something suspicious.

Fiorini hopes once passengers know what to look for, they won't turn the other way.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

ACLU Suit Can Move Forward

Late last month, a federal district court in Massachusetts ruled that the ACLU's suit against the Department of Health and Human Services can proceed. In 2009, the ACLU sued HHS on behalf of the taxpayers of Massachusetts because HHS' funding of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to provide aftercare services to victims and survivors of trafficking imposes restrictions on the services provided to victims and survivors due to religious beliefs.

The USCCB has been one of the main providers of services for trafficking victims and survivors, including case management, shelter, counseling, job training, advocacy, and other needed services. However, the USCCB does not provide birth control, will not fund abortions, and restricts reproductive health options. The ACLU has taken issue with these restrictions, arguing that they "impose religious doctrine on victims of human trafficking."

Judge Richard Stearns ruled on March 22nd that the ACLU's suit can go forward. Initially, the USCCB had argued that the ACLU could not bring the suit forward on behalf of taxpayers, but instead that only a trafficking victim or survivor could bring the suit. The ACLU argues that "It is unlikely a trafficking victim or a cash-strapped nonprofit organization that provides services to trafficking victims would come forward to sue the federal government, and it has been well established for the last 40 years that taxpayers can challenge government-funded religion." While their point is well taken, it is important to also be cautious about speaking on behalf of or for marginalized people or victims of violence. Such acts can be oppressive and re-victimizing, while perpetuating the silencing of these populations.

The case is far from over. The USCCB has also argued that freedom of religion allows them to determine the programs and services that they provide and support, and that were the ACLU's suit was to triumph, it would be in violation of freedom of religion.

Amanda Kloer points out that regardless of the outcome, victims are likely to suffer in this case: "It will involve organizations which serve trafficking victims spending lots of time and money on legal fees which could be spent on people. If USCCB is told they must provide reproductive health care, then trafficking survivors will lose a competent, experienced service provider and have their recovery process disrupted as they're shuffled around. If USCCB can carry on, then women in need of health care might not get it, resulting in more trauma in their lives. If I'm a woman trying to rebuild my life after trafficking, no version of the future is looking bright and rosy."

Monday, April 12, 2010

NYOF: a nonprofit rescuing Nepalese children as young as 6 from indentured servitude

Thousands of Nepalese girls are sold into indentured slavery for $30 or $40 a year. As heart wrenching as it sounds, the Nepalese government has been reluctant to address such issue. in fact, the higher officials in governments are the ones who buy Nepalese girls from the village for $30 a year.

But there is one organization who's been diligently fighting against the slavery of Nepalese children for the past two decades.
Nepalese Youth Opportunity Foundation(NYOF) is that organization. NYOF was founded in 1990 by Olga Murray, a retired lawyer from San Francisco, California. When she visited Nepal in 1984 and 1987, she has witnessed a terribly impoverished situation of many Nepalese young girls who are sold to slavery for a few dollars. Olga Murray and Gregg Tully, the development director of NYOF explains the efforts and the missions of the organization in this interview.

NYOF’s mission is to transform the lives of impoverished Nepalese children by providing them with what should be every child's birthright – education, housing, medical care, and loving support. NYOF’s goals include eliminating the tradition of selling Nepali girls into bonded servitude, reducing the prevalence of child malnutrition throughout Nepal, and making education more widely available to the most downtrodden children in the country.

In the areas where we have been working for a number of years, it is now shameful for parents to sell a daughter into labor, whereas, it was a matter of pride for a family to do so prior to our awareness raising campaign effort.

(Olga): This has a historical context. In certain ethnic groups in Nepal, many fathers had been bonded laborers for generations. They lived and worked on the land of others. They were largely paid in crops, so when they needed money for various reasons such as medical care or clothes or a wedding, they borrowed it from the landlord, often at exorbitant rates. They could almost never pay off the debts during their lifetimes, and when they died, their sons were liable for the debt. This practice was made illegal in 2000 and the debts are forgiven. During the time of their bonding, if the landlord wanted a servant, the laborers wife or child were sent ot the landlord's home to work, often without compensation. Or someone who needed a servant would come to the villages to buy the services of daughters for a year. Though bonding service became illegal in 2000 and the government promised to rehabilitate the former bonded laborers, they failed to do so. Most were evicted from the land, they had lived on, and were living in shanties. So, when these freed laborers needed money desperately, they sold the labor of their daughters even more willingly. To them, this was a natural process, and no social stigma was involved in the practice in 2000 when NYOF began our efforts.

(Gregg) The custom of selling daughters into virtual slavery exists in the Tharu ethnic group, which is native to the hot flat parts of Nepal. They are traditionally uneducated farmers. In the past, other ethnic groups moved into Tharu areas, bought the land the Tharu farmed on, and the Tharu became sharecroppers. The prices that the landowners charged the Tharu were exorbitant, and the Tharu soon fell deeply into debts they could never pay. To pay some of the interest on the debts, they would send their daughters to work in the landowner’s houses. This developed into the custom today of Tharu parents selling their daughters to be trafficked all over Nepal, and sometimes into India. Many of the girls are trafficked into prostitution, and have spent so much of their lives as servants that they do not understand that they have the right to refuse to do what people tell them to do.

Q: CAN YOU GIVE US AN EXAMPLE OF YOUR EFFORT TO END TRAFFICKING OR CHILD SLAVERY IN NEPAL? NYOF’s public awareness campaign has been instrumental in the success of the program. NYOF’s staff informs people about the importance of education for girls and the plight of bonded children. As a result, local communities have turned against the bonding tradition, making the impact of the program sustainable. Further, NYOF trains other nongovernmental agencies in its methods, so the program can be replicated.

PBS broadcasted a story on these former domestic servitude victims to advocate for their rights and other Nepalese girls to be freed from their indentured servitude. Their effort of awareness raising not includes Marching on the street with their traditional instruments and a big band and loud singing, but also public speech by the victims crying out for ending the tradition of exploitation as well as a stage play performed on the street by the former victims.

Q: HOW DO YOU SEE NYOF EVOLVE IN THE FUTURE? Year after year, more people are supporting NYOF, even during the recent economic turmoil. NYOF’s programs in Nepal also continue to grow and transform the lives of more children. We are in the process of choosing new projects to expand our impact on the children who comprise the future of Nepal.

Expenses vary a lot in Nepal. The cost of living in the capital city of Kathmandu can be a lot more than in a rural village. But the cost of supporting children in Nepal is far less than in any developed country. NYOF gives college scholarships to impoverished children who do not have families or whose families are utterly unable to support them, and provides all the children’s clothes, food, housing, and health care, for only $750 per child per year! A scholarship for a young child in a rural area whose parents can take care of them and feed them, but don’t have the money for school fees, uniforms, and books, is just $75. For these amounts of money, the urge to help is almost irresistible. (According to PBS, an average Nepalese makes in a village makes $1 a day).

I encourage people to visit to learn more about NYOF. People who want to support our projects can donate online through our website and they can mail a check to NYOF at 3030 Bridgeway, Suite 123, Sausalito, CA 94965, USA. They may also contact us at or 1-866-FOR-NYOF to discuss other ways to contribute.

NYOF is close to eradicating slavery in one ethnic village. But they have four more villages to reach out for further endings of slavery of Nepalese daughters. Development , regardless of culture and geographical locations, is certainly a long and difficult process to implement. One former UN senior official once said that one is lucky if he or she can change a traditional practice (such as indentured servitude in Nepal) in a decade or two. If this is hard to understand, look at the post-communism countries, for instance. Many have failed to completely step away from their communism culture even after two decades or so. In this respect, NYOF's success in eradicating slavery in a district just in two decades is not something to be overlooked.
For more information on NYOF, visit

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Peruvian Sheepherders File Lawsuit Against Ranch

*Picture from CLS's Migrant Farm Worker Division

From the Denver Post

Two Peruvian sheepherders who left a Craig ranch with only the clothes on their backs filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday saying they were abused by ranchers with a 20-year record of federal labor complaints.

John Peroulis & Sons Sheep Inc., Louis Peroulis, Stanley Peroulis and Crisologo Damian — a recruiter of workers for the ranch — are named in the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver.

Roel Espejo, 25, and Juvencio Samaniego, 32, are experienced sheepherders who participated in the federal H-2A visa program, which allows foreign workers to come to the U.S. for temporary agricultural work.

Espejo arrived in Colorado in March 2009, and Samaniego came in June with the promise of a $750 monthly salary, a camper to sleep in and food provided by their employer.

While both men worked on the Peroulis ranch in Colorado, they did not know each other because they were there at different times that year.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Jennifer Lee of Colorado Legal Services, says each man paid Damian thousands of dollars in recruitment and travel fees to come to the U.S., fees prohibited in the H-2A program.

The men claim Stanley Peroulis confiscated their passports and visas so they couldn't leave the ranch. Much of the time, they were hungry because they didn't have enough food, the suit says.
"The workers we meet are very much about working hard, and they take pride in how they work," said Lee, who litigates cases involving migrant farmworkers. "They don't expect amazing conditions, but they expect to be treated fairly."

Stanley and Louis Peroulis did not return a call seeking comment.

Both men are accused of verbally abusing the sheepherders and not allowing them to take more than 15 minutes to eat or to read books. The suit claims Stanley Peroulis knew about the recruitment fee that the workers paid to get to the U.S.

The lawsuit accuses Louis Peroulis of kicking a sheep and hitting a horse with a plank of wood when he was in a rage over the performance of his workers.

Samaniego says he was beaten.

In July, Samaniego left the ranch and walked for 10 hours until he came across help. In November, Espejo walked two hours on a highway in order to get away from the ranch, and police officers took him to a hotel for the night.

Lee filed the lawsuit after she was made aware of the workers' complaints by the Peruvian Consulate. The U.S. Department of Labor is investigating the complaints.

In 2000, the Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against Peroulis & Sons alleging similar complaints of worker abuse.

Peroulis & Sons settled the case without admitting wrongdoing but had to produce a handbook on proper working conditions made available to workers and prohibit acts of workplace violence.

As early as 1990, the Department of Labor levied fines against the Peroulis ranch for mistreatment of immigrant workers, according to a 2000 Denver Post story.

In September 2000, federal agents, including some from the FBI, raided the ranch but criminal charges were not filed.

Felisa Cardona: 303-954-1219 or

Yet another case highlighting the broken system of our H-2A guestworker program here in the U.S. The laws guiding the program look good on paper - for example, H2A workers are not supposed to pay recruitment and transportation fees. As the article points out, however, in this case and in other cases, guestworkers have been forced to pay these fees to the tune of thousands of dollars. With immigration reform about to come to the table again, hopefully a comprehensive model will pass that incorporates better oversight of the H-2A and H-2B programs so as to prevent these abuses and help prevent cases of human trafficking (this particular case does include TVPRA claims). I mention oversight specifically because the program already has some protections and benefits on paper (establishes wage rates, worker protection, safety and health standards, etc.), but a lack of oversight leaves these workers extremely vulnerable to abuse. Close to Slavery by the Southern Poverty Law Center is worth a read if you want to learn more about how vulnerable guestworkers really are. Colorado Legal Services also produced a report called Overworked and Underpaid: H-2A Herders in Colorado.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Stella Rotaru: Fighting Global Sex Trade

From Al Jazeera:

Stella Rotaru, with her International Organization for Migration, is fighting the international sex trade.

Stella is from Moldova, a former Soviet republic so poor that over one quarter of the population has emigrated. The country is a prime source for girls trafficked into prostitution.

Within a few years, Stella has become the "go to" person for many girls who have been tricked and sold into prostitution with the false promise of a job abroad - often in the Middle East.

As a young Moldovan herself from a similar background, the girls trust her.

This film tells the story of some of these girls and Stella's determination to help them.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Yoga Stop Human Trafficking

On March 13th 2010 Yogis around the world rolled out their mats for a mass sun salutation, to take a stand against trafficking and show their support to its millions of victims.

The central event was held in the Southern Indian city of Mysore, the world-famous birthplace of Astanga Yoga, and home to Odanadi Seva Trust, who have been working with exploited women and children in and around Mysore for the past 20 years. There were some 60 events in 20 countries taking place around the world.

This video is of the event organized by Sophie Cleere in Reading (England).

Video by David Wall

Monday, April 05, 2010

Humanity United Seeks an Investment Analyst

Humanity United is a philanthropic organization committed to building a world where mass atrocities and modern-day slavery are no longer possible. By helping to build permanent constituencies to end atrocities and slavery, supporting efforts that empower affected communities, and addressing the root causes of conflict and injustice, Humanity United seeks to help restore human dignity in places where it has been lost and to help create a lasting global peace. Humanity United was founded in the belief that defending basic human rights is essential not just to bringing about justice, but also to ensuring greater economic growth, enhanced environmental protection, improved public health, and a more secure and less violent world.

The Investment Analyst is a member of the HU investment team primarily responsible for providing research and analysis to improve the effectiveness of HU grant-making. The Investment Analyst role will include performing desk research / due diligence on new opportunities and existing grants, producing market analysis to inform individual grants and strategic priorities, and representing the organization externally in a variety of settings. This position will work across both of organizational portfolios: prevention of conflict and mass atrocities; and prevention of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Strong candidates with have academic and/or professional experience related to one or both of these issues in one or more of the following areas: advocacy, policy, rule of law & governance, multilateral institutions (United Nations, African Union, International Criminal Court) human rights, or corporate social responsibility. ESSENTIAL JOB FUNCTIONS:
  • Represent HU in a manner that is consistent with its mission
  • Advance internal thinking through targeted research and analysis of the field of mass atrocities and human trafficking
  • Perform analysis of social sector and commercial sector organizations and investment proposals with a potential fit for HU’s strategy
  • Stay up to date on relevant international policy developments and apply current strategic perspective to investment related activities
  • Support deal execution through funding
  • Work collaboratively with other HU program functions (Research, Communications, Policy)
  • Support due diligence efforts for prospective investments and grants
  • Provide occasional analytic support for projects with HU funded organizations
  • Contribute to periodic investment area strategic reviews
  • Lead and support other projects as required
  • Prior demonstrated interest in creating positive social impact, with experience in human rights based efforts and organizations a plus
  • BS/BA in political science, international development, public policy, or equivalent
  • 1-3 years work experience in social sector and/or private sector
  • Demonstrated ability to build relationships, influences others, and offer strategic perspective
  • Strong analytical skills
  • Strong teamwork, with excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to sift through large volumes of information quickly and to summarize effectively
  • Ability to travel domestically and internationally
  • Strong interest and background in social sector organizations
Send your letter of inquiry and resume to

Friday, April 02, 2010

Health and Human Trafficking

Health-care reform has dominated policy debates. While human trafficking has not been at the front of these debates, human trafficking something. Though there are serious health consequences from trafficking itself - including STDs and STIs, broken bones, burns, malnourishment, and psychological trauma -, victims often do not have access to proper medical care until their situation becomes serious. At the same time, medical professionals may be the only person a victim does come in contact with. Service providers also need to be aware of their own mental health needs when working with victims and survivors; secondary trauma is an issue often ignored. The relationship between health issues, health-care, and human trafficking is complex and multifaceted.

Meg: Sexually transmitted diseases are drastically high among women who have been prostituted. For example, in one study done in 1994 with 68 females who had been prostituted in Minnesota for at least six months, only 15% had never contacted one of the study's focus STDs (chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, and herpes). However, women in the sex trade can be less likely to seek out treatment for a number of reasons, including inability or suspicion of outsiders and authorities. How can governments increase treatment/decrease STDs among these populations? Should a policy of decriminalizing prostitution for the prostitute, while criminalizing it for the purchaser (similar to Sweden's policy), be adopted in order to encourage more women caught in the sex trade to seek treatment? In 2009, the sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, initiated a similar policy to Sweden's by shifting resources away from arresting prostituted females (instead referring them to social services), to arresting sex purchasers. It will be interesting to see if this is a model that will be useful for the rest of the country.

Shreya: In 2003, Global AIDS Act, i.e. United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 is signed into law. This ACT requires organizations to sign a "Prostitution Pledge" to receive U.S. funding. This pledge prohibits funding to organizations that do not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.
The Act seems to merge the terms "prostitution" and "sex trafficking". As a PLoS Medicine article points out this is not acceptable: "One of our key findings was that the merging of the terms “prostitution” and “sex trafficking” in the Global AIDS Act is not accepted as standard language or practice by the scientific literature on HIV/AIDS or by international agencies with HIV prevention programs. Trafficking in persons for any purpose is consistently seen as a criminal and human rights offense, and the subset of human trafficking related specifically to the sex industry is universally seen as among the most grievous of trafficking-related crimes. While the law calls for opposing sex trafficking, we could find no entity that did not already oppose it. The same holds true for any form of prostitution involving children or minors—this was universally acknowledged as a crime and a human rights violation before the policy. However, many organizations disagree with the Act's equation of all forms of prostitution with sex trafficking. The term prostitution itself is controversial—most groups working with persons who sell or trade sex for money use the terms “sex work” and “sex worker,” rather than “prostitute,” which is widely held to be stigmatizing and pejorative".

The goal of the pledge was to control HIV transmission by decreasing or ending prostitution, but according to most studies the pledge has had no measurable impact. Most people believe this pledge only hurts the already vulnerable population of sex workers.

Youngbee: When one thinks about health and human trafficking, the first thing that comes to his or her mind is HIV/AIDS infection. Though HIV/AIDS is a commonly known byproduct of human trafficking, especially, sex trafficking, the victims often suffer more than sexually transmitted disease. Along with sexually transmitted disease, they suffer mentally or psychologically as a result of forced prostitution or even labor exploitation. According to a research, child victims suffer depression, guilty&shame, cultural shock, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD), and traumatic bonding with the traffickers. In a case of forced prostitution or prostitution alone, both child as well as adult victims suffer from PTSD, guilt and shame, difficulty in establishing a healthy relationship, and low self-esteem. Many times, victims are re-victimized in the brothels or sex industry after the rescue, if they fail to receive proper counseling treatment to recover from the trauma.

Jenn: Medical professionals and health-care workers may be the first or only people to come in contact with a trafficking victim. Doctors, nurses, emergency medical responders, and other medical professionals need to receive training on recognizing potential trafficking indicators and should be part of coordinating anti-trafficking efforts. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine provides a report on the causes of health issues in trafficking victims and the consequences of these issues, including physical, psychological, and sexual/reproductive health issues.

Polaris Project points out that health-care workers have unique opportunities to recognize the signs of trafficking, and advises that human trafficking assessment protocols should be "adapted to fit existing organizational protocols for interacting with potential victims of child abuse, violence, sexual assault and other related crimes. Health practitioners should familiarize themselves with social service providers in their area working on the issue of human trafficking and work with these agencies to create a protocol for responding to victims of trafficking." Polaris Project also provides several lists of health indicators that should be trafficking red flags and information about short and long-term effects of trafficking on health.

Elise: Over the last year, as I have worked for a service provider for survivors of human trafficking, I have come to better understand the important role of health care workers in the fight against human trafficking, both as sources for identification of victims and support for survivors. Low-income clinic workers and emergency personnel are particularly important because traffickers often withhold medical care from the victims until it becomes absolutely necessary. DHHS created an identification card as well as other training materials for health care workers.

In addition, I would submit that survivors would be better served if hospitals and medical personnel were trained not only on identification, but also on an understanding of the support system set up to assist survivors through the TVPA. I mention this specifically because even when survivors are linked with NGOs, he/she may still be considered undocumented until the service provider or law enforcement agency has been able to adjust their status as their case proceeds. Outside of emergency assistance, this time of limbo complicates the survivor's ability to receive health care services because this individual may have limited identification documents, no insurance and a limited cap on medical expenses depending on the funding or grant source of the organization. Even with the existence of MOUs or SOPs that a service provider may set up with a medical provider, staff turnover and gaps between cases may lead to unnecessary complications. Perhaps the solution lies in training mandates or curriculum in medical schools or stronger cooperation between service providers and health care facilities, but this is an extremely important service to survivors of any type of trafficking.