Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Child Marriage

From Talking Points Memo:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full article here.

Read the bill here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Domestic Sex Trafficking and Pimp Culture

By Emily Biggs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

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

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

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

According to

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

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

-- a significant sex trafficking problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

Welcome HTP's Newest Contributor: Bia Assevero

Be the Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t do nothing.

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

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

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A Woman. A Prostitute. A Slave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full article here.


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

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Labor Trafficking News from November

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Youth Radio Investigates: Trafficked

From Youth Radio:

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

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

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

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

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

To listen to the series and read the reports, click

Friday, December 03, 2010

Polaris Project's Fellowship Program

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

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

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

Washington, DC

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

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

New Jersey

Public Outreach and Communications Fellowship
Client Services Fellowship

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

For answers to frequently asked questions, click here.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Music and Pimp Culture

By Rachel Lloyd:

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

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

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

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

Read Rachel Lloyd's full article here.

Rachel Lloyd is the founder of GEMS.


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

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

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