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 www.notforsale.org; www.love146.org, www.polarisproject.org, 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. (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking).

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 www.innocentatrisk.org.

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.com. 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 Treehugger.com

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 — ShoptoStopSlavery.com, 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 www.ShopToStopSlavery.com/Gift-Guide and is also available for download.

The 2010 Ethical Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide was created by Robin Rossmanith, founder of http://www.shoptostopslavery.com. 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 ShoptoStopSlavery.com, 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 www.ShoptoStopSlavery.com.

ShoptoStopSlavery.com 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 www.ShoptoStopSlavery.com.

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.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Labor Trafficking News from October

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 were not from October.

In their Fourth Annual Report, the Payson Center for International Development at the University of Tulane reports that not enough is being done to prevent suppliers from using child labor within their supply chains. Child labor (worst forms), forced labor and labor trafficking still occur within the industry and include abuses such as physical, sexual and verbal harassment along with restricted movement and children being sent to farms separate from their parents and guardians. While some companies have worked to clean-up their supply chains there is at least one company notably absent. Read more

Details about the first case involving charges of labor rather than sex trafficking in Canada began to come out at the beginning of October. A group of 19 or more victims were lured from Hungry to work in Canada. Once they arrived they were forced to work for a construction company and were controlled through threats of harm to either their families or to themselves. The workers were forced to apply for government support. The traffickers would take this money once it arrived. Ten members of a family are being charged in the crime. Read more

Authorities arrested 23 people and were looking for more in connection with a Chinese human trafficking ring in places such as New York City and Long Island. Victims paid up to $75,000 to come to the US for work. The victims families were threatened and required to pay off these fees while the victims were living in poor conditions and were forced to work in "slave-like conditions" in restaurants. Read more

A man was convicted in Missouri for his role in a scheme which spread across 14 states. It involved the recruitment of illegal aliens to work in places such as hotels. The employees were lead to believe the conditions of employment would be different. Once in the US the victims were threatened with deportation. The man was not charged with forced labor but was convicted under RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) charges. Read more

Additional charges have been brought against the Sou brothers in the Hawaii Aloun Farm case involving the 44 workers they brought to the US from Thailand. They have been charged with five counts of forced labor for threatening workers. There are also two counts of document (passport) confiscation, and two counts for hiding workers from the authorities after their visas were expired in order to force them to work. Read more

A potential case of child abuse/labor is being investigated in Britain. While it is still early in the investigation it appears that 8 children were being forced to work on a farm in near freezing weather while inadequately dressed. The children were between 9 and 15 years old. Read more

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the "California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010" on the 18th of October. The Act requires manufacturers and retailers within California to detail what they are doing to ensure there is no slavery within their supply chains. This must be posted on the company's website. Read more

While a lot of attention is given to child labor in Uzbekistan's cotton industry, very little attention is paid to the forced labor of adults in the same industry. People from many different industries including police officers and teachers were reportedly being forced to pick cotton during this year's harvest particularly because prices for cotton are currently high. Uzbeki news sources reported several abuses related to people who refused to work. Teachers were beaten in effort to compel them to work and a whole village had its power cut to punish a man who refused to work. According to the report even the sick and old are being compelled to pick cotton. Of the 3,400,000 tons of cotton that was picked China is expected to receive at least 100,000 tons Read more

Thursday, November 04, 2010

International Sanctuary

According to their website: International Sanctuary works to rehabilitate girls rescued from sexual slavery, provides them with marketable training, and empowers them with the skills they need to sustain themselves, pursuing better futures filled with hope. he girls are paid 100% above fair trade wage.

Each girl has a bank account where her earnings are deposited and saved for her future when she transitions out of the home. The Fair Trade Federation is an association that was established as a global movement to build equitable and sustainable partnerships in order to alleviate poverty. Fair trade wage is calculated according to each country's economic scale. Fair Trade products ensure that items were not made by slave labor. The additional funds cover the material cost, shipping, and tax.

The concept of Purchase with Purpose™ is that consumers should have the opportunity to use their money in a powerful way. When you buy from iSanctuary, you not only receive the merchandise, you also change lives. Purchasing a product from iSanctuary provides a foundation for survivors futures. Proceeds offer rescued girls vocational training, education, and monetary savings upon their transition from the aftercare home.

To view their products, click here.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Attorney General’s Annual Report to Congress and Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons for Fiscal Year 2009

In October, the U.S. Department of Justice released the online copy of the Attorney General’s Annual Report to Congress and Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons for Fiscal Year 2009.

According to the report, "[t]his report, the seventh submitted to Congress since 2004, describes the U.S. government’s comprehensive campaign to combat TIP during Fiscal Year 2009 (FY 2009), including efforts to (1) protect victims by providing benefits and services; (2) investigate and prosecute human trafficking crimes; and (3) prevent further trafficking-related crimes.3 In addition to reporting this information, the report includes an assessment of U.S. government activities based on improvements since the last annual report and recommendations for further improvement."

Read the full report here.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Safe Harbor Legislation

I spent this past summer as a U.S. Advocacy Intern with Love146, an organization fighting to end child sex slavery and exploitation. The organization, headquartered in New Haven, Connecticut, was abuzz with excitement due to Connecticut’s passage of the Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act, Public Act 10-115, effective October 1, 2010. Far too often children are arrested for engaging in prostitution and sent to a juvenile detention facility. However, this treatment stands in stark contrast to the 2000 Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) definition of a person under the age of 18 who has been “recruited, transported, harbored, provided, or obtained for purposes of a commercial sex act” as a victim of human trafficking.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) recently hosted a hearing titled, “In Our Own Backyard: Child Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the United States”, and in the opening remark stated, “We have created a legal dichotomy in America in which the federal government views prostituted children as victims, yet most states treat them as criminals.” Safe Harbor legislation seeks to eliminate the discrepancy inherent in many states handling of prostituted children and ushers in a paradigm shift viewing children as victims instead of criminals.

In Connecticut the legal age for consensual sex is 16 years of age, however, per the TVPA any person under the age of 18 found engaging in a commercial sex act is a victim of human trafficking. The Connecticut Safe Harbor Act prevents a child under 16 years of age from being charged with prostitution and views a person age 16 or 17 years of age as a victim of human trafficking.

The implementation of Safe Harbor legislation follows a biopsychosocial framework by focusing on addressing a survivors biological, psychological, and social needs post-exploitation through partnerships with social service providers. It is important to note that Safe Harbor legislation does not decriminalize prostitution but rather protects the estimated 100,000 American children forced to engage in prostitution every year.

The possibility of re-victimizing a child by focusing on criminalization instead of victimization merits a change in U.S. policy towards prostituted children. The current Safe Harbor political landscape only includes Connecticut, New York, Washington, and Illinois.The lack of awareness in the United States is contributing to the continuation of this lucrative crime. Ask your State Representatives where they stand on Safe Harbor legislation.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Voices of Human Trafficking


Voices of Human Trafficking -a film by Eveline van Dijck- These women want to state that they are not voiceless victims, but survivors of an horrendous crime who are capable and willing to put their experiences to use. They want to make clear that in order yo have effective antitrafficking strategies victims need be involved in designing and reviewing policy in an integrated and ongoing way. For more information visit: http://www.blinn.nl/

This documentary features images from Kay Chernush's series "Bought and Sold: Voices of Human Trafficking." Chernush states, "As I move into multi-media and explore different ways of raising awareness, I think it's a good example of how photography and art can be used to transform perceptions of human trafficking -- perceptions of the survivors of themselves, and also of public and political entities."