Category Archives: slavery

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

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Being that I work overseas, you might expect that I would use today to talk about Trafficking in Persons in the country I live in currently (Albania). Or, the country I just came from (Kazakhstan). Or, the country where I did research on human trafficking (Chile). Or, the country where I knew children who were trafficked (Moldova). But, today I won’t do that. I want to talk about human trafficking int he country I call home (USA).

The sad truth is that human trafficking continues to be a problem in the US.  Yes, in large cities: New York, LA, Boston.  But also in rural areas of the country, small towns, suburbia.

A few jobs ago, I worked with some victims of human trafficking.  Men who were lured to the US with promises of jobs and money to send home and instead ended up working in slave like conditions in Middle America with their passports confiscated and the door to the house they lived in padlocked from the outside.  After several months, someone put in a tip and they were freed.  They were freed, but they weren’t compensated for their losses.  They were free, but they still had to explain to wives and children what happened to them.  They have been free for years now, but I am sure their experience still haunts them.  Honestly, their stories still haunt me.

An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year. The number of U.S. citizens trafficked within the country is even higher, with an estimated 200,000 American children at risk for trafficking into the sex industry. (U.S. Department of Justice Report to Congress from Attorney General John Ashcroft on U.S. Government Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons)

These numbers are staggering and the realities are bleak. However, in the US, there are places you can report suspected cases of trafficking.  Polaris Project suggests:

If you see any of these red flags, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-3737-888 to report the situation. Click here to learn more about reporting potential human trafficking situations. This list is not exhaustive and represents only a selection of possible indicators. Also, the red flags in this list may not be present in all trafficking cases and are not cumulative.

Common Work and Living Conditions: The Individual(s) in Question

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)

Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
  • Avoids eye contact

Poor Physical Health

  • Lacks health care
  • Appears malnourished
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture

Lack of Control

  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)

Other

  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
To request assessment tools and for more information about reporting trafficking click here. For resource packs on human trafficking and how to recognize the signs click here.

What I learned from Lucy Liu

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While I lived in Cambodia, I heard that MTV was starting a counter-trafficking campaign. I was intrigued by the idea. So much of the program, in so many parts of the world, is victims not realizing their vulnerabilities and others not knowing the warning signs to spot and report trafficking. Still, I never concretely see any of the productions, nor did I seek them out.

Recently I heard Lucy Liu speak and saw a trailer to one of the rights-free short documentaries that MTV had produced. I also learned a bit more about their production methods, their impact via independent research, and how they are making the films accessible to a section of society that does not have cable.

Here is the video (split into three parts).  Overall, I was pretty impressed– I hope you take the time to watch.

Find out more at MTV Exit.

In the News: Chilean cops fired for links to (child) prostitution ring

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As taken from the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Senior Chilean Cops Fired for Links to Prostitution

SANTIAGO – President Michelle Bachelet’s government fired four high-ranking members of Chile’s PDI investigative police for alleged ties to a prostitution ring that exploited underage girls.

Among the officers forced into early retirement is Hector Soto Candia, the PDI’s erstwhile inspector-general, who was in charge of probing allegations of police involvement made by one of the victimized girls in October 2007.

The PDI chiefs in Santiago and the coastal city of Valparaiso were also ousted.

Last Friday, the PDI suspended five of the six detectives mentioned in a television expose of police links to the prostitution operation managed by Carlos Parra Ruis, known as “Charly.”

The PDI acted within days of the airing on Chile’s Channel 13 television of a documentary, “Charly’s Angels,” detailing alleged police collusion with the pimp.

Channel 13 launched its investigation after hearing from former police deputy inspector Hector Guzman, who claims he was fired for investigating Charly.

The broadcaster said that several police detectives were regular customers at the two brothels run by Charly: the Hotel Louisiana and the Cabaret Pandemonium, both in Valparaiso.

Those detectives were allegedly protecting Charly’s operation, taking payment in the form of sessions with drugged girls.

Some of the girls also said they were taken to the police barracks to have sex with officers.

While the prostitution ring was eventually broken up by PDI officers from the Santiago division assigned to Valparaiso, Channel 13 said that neither police leadership nor prosecutors were willing to investigate the charges about cops’ collusion with Charly.

The television program prompted the Human Rights Committee in the lower house to summon Defense Minister Francisco Vidal, PDI director Arturo Herrera and Deputy Police Secretary Ricardo Navarrete to testify on the scandal.

On Monday, Deputy Interior Secretary Patricio Rosende said that given the “explosion of charges” which followed the Channel 13 expose, prosecutors had been asked to “get to the bottom of the matter, to exhaustively investigate and do it quickly.”

Why look abroad when we still have slavery in the US?

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I have worked on human trafficking issued both in the US and abroad.  Clearly, my first run-in with the world of slavery and trafficking was as a Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova; however, domestic trafficking within the US and trafficking too the US are clearly on my radar.

When I studied trafficking in Chile, many people asked me why I focus on it in Chile when it is such a huge problem in the US.  Many others continued to give me a laundry list of other problems the US has.  I agree. They do. We do.  I have worked with victims in Missouri.  I have studied cases and case law from around the country.

And, today, I am sharing a piece by Nicolas Kristof on the plight of trafficked, prostituted, “thrown-away” girls in the US in the New York Times.

Op-Ed Columnist

Girls on Our Streets

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Published: May 6, 2009
ATLANTA

Jasmine Caldwell was 14 and selling sex on the streets when an opportunity arose to escape her pimp: an undercover policeman picked her up.

The cop could have rescued her from the pimp, who ran a string of 13 girls and took every cent they earned. If the cop had taken Jasmine to a shelter, she could have resumed her education and tried to put her life back in order.

Instead, the policeman showed her his handcuffs and threatened to send her to prison. Terrified, she cried and pleaded not to be jailed. Then, she said, he offered to release her in exchange for sex.

Afterward, the policeman returned her to the street. Then her pimp beat her up for failing to collect any money.

“That happens a lot,” said Jasmine, who is now 21. “The cops sometimes just want to blackmail you into having sex.”

I’ve often reported on sex trafficking in other countries, and that has made me curious about the situation here in the United States. Prostitution in America isn’t as brutal as it is in, say, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Cambodia and Malaysia (where young girls are routinely kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured by brothel owners, occasionally even killed). But the scene on American streets is still appalling — and it continues largely because neither the authorities nor society as a whole show much interest in 14-year-old girls pimped on the streets.

Americans tend to think of forced prostitution as the plight of Mexican or Asian women trafficked into the United States and locked up in brothels. Such trafficking is indeed a problem, but the far greater scandal and the worst violence involves American teenage girls.

If a middle-class white girl goes missing, radio stations broadcast amber alerts, and cable TV fills the air with “missing beauty” updates. But 13-year-old black or Latina girls from poor neighborhoods vanish all the time, and the pimps are among the few people who show any interest.

These domestic girls are often runaways or those called “throwaways” by social workers: teenagers who fight with their parents and are then kicked out of the home. These girls tend to be much younger than the women trafficked from abroad and, as best I can tell, are more likely to be controlled by force.

Pimps are not the business partners they purport to be. They typically take every penny the girls earn. They work the girls seven nights a week. They sometimes tattoo their girls the way ranchers brand their cattle, and they back up their business model with fists and threats.

“If you don’t earn enough money, you get beat,” said Jasmine, an African-American who has turned her life around with the help of Covenant House, an organization that works with children on the street. “If you say something you’re not supposed to, you get beat. If you stay too long with a customer, you get beat. And if you try to leave the pimp, you get beat.”

The business model of pimping is remarkably similar whether in Atlanta or Calcutta: take vulnerable, disposable girls whom nobody cares about, use a mix of “friendship,” humiliation, beatings, narcotics and threats to break the girls and induce 100 percent compliance, and then rent out their body parts.

It’s not solely violence that keeps the girls working for their pimps. Jasmine fled an abusive home at age 13, and she said she — like most girls — stayed with the pimp mostly because of his emotional manipulation. “I thought he loved me, so I wanted to be around him,” she said.

That’s common. Girls who are starved of self-esteem finally meet a man who showers them with gifts, drugs and dollops of affection. That, and a lack of alternatives, keeps them working for him — and if that isn’t enough, he shoves a gun in the girl’s mouth and threatens to kill her.

Solutions are complicated and involve broader efforts to overcome urban poverty, including improving schools and attempting to shore up the family structure. But a first step is to stop treating these teenagers as criminals and focusing instead on arresting the pimps and the customers — and the corrupt cops.

“The problem isn’t the girls in the streets; it’s the men in the pews,” notes Stephanie Davis, who has worked with Mayor Shirley Franklin to help coordinate a campaign to get teenage prostitutes off the streets.

Two amiable teenage prostitutes, working without a pimp for the “fast money,” told me that there will always be women and girls selling sex voluntarily. They’re probably right. But we can significantly reduce the number of 14-year-old girls who are terrorized by pimps and raped by many men seven nights a week. That’s doable, if it’s a national priority, if we’re willing to create the equivalent of a nationwide amber alert.

How one woman took lemons and is making really loud and life changing lemonade

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I learned about Somaly Mam when I was living in Cambodia and working against human trafficking in the region. She is a local name and a local hero.  I can’t imagine what a person feels when they live through what she has survived. I often wonder how these children have the strength to persevere. But the fact that Somaly more than survived, that she grew up to be a savior for children in her position with the strength to speak out and stand up, is amazing.

New York Time columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote on Sept 24:

My Thursday column is about one of the bleakest aspects of global poverty, human trafficking, and about somebody who shows that it is not the hopeless cause people sometimes think it is. Somaly Mam runs a foundation in her name to fight trafficking and has just published a powerful autobiography that I highly recommend.

One of the things I’ve seen in development is that Western-designed efforts aren’t always as successful as they should be, while the best approach is to support local people who know the local terrain. That’s why it’s so wonderful to see people like Somaly providing leadership, with Westerners serving as Sherpas.

It is definitely worth it to check out Kristof’s interview with her.

Also, Mongkol, a Cambodian studying in the US, writes about how she made an appearance on the Tyra Banks show.  He includes the videos of the show and his own comments.

“Never forget: Justice is what Love looks like in public”

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Please take two minutes and twenty two seconds to watch this trailer and educate yourself.

www.notforsalecampaign.org

There are 27 million people living in slavery…some of them are in your backyard…

As a backyard abolitionist, we want to inform you of an opportunity coming to your city. As you may have heard, Not For Sale has been involved in the production of a new documentary film called Call and Response. Appropriately nicknamed a “rockumentary”, Call and Response features performances from today’s most talented musicians who have been inspired to respond to the human trafficking crisis, and we are inviting you to join the movement. The film will be premiering all across America throughout October; we have included a link to the locations, dates and times of screenings in your city.

In addition to the screenings, certain cities have organized candlelight vigils to precede the event; this includes San Francisco, Orange County, Washington D.C., and Minneapolis. If you would like to purchase tickets for these cities, please follow the appropriate link:

San Francisco:
https://secure.webconnex.com/callandresponsesf
Washington, D.C.
https://secure.webconnex.com/callandresponsedc
Minneapolis
https://secure.webconnex.com/callandresponsemn
Orange County
https://secure.webconnex.com/callandresponseoc

For other locations, check out:
www.callandresponse.com

If you would like to host a vigil in any additional cities, feel free to contact us for more information.

We encourage you to invite your friends, family, coworkers, and anyone else you know to attend the screening. If they don’t know about human trafficking this film is a perfect introduction; if they do know, it’s a perfect way to show support for the cause.

Another good reason to invite your friends is that ticket sales will be directly benefiting Buddies Along the Roadside. Created by a remarkable Thai woman named Kru Nam, Buddies is a safe house for trafficked children strategically located in the Golden Triangle, a major hub in human trafficking industry. Ticket sales from Call and Response will provide important funding for this project.

You are needed in the fight against modern slavery.

Look for screenings in the following cities:

ATLANTA DENVER ORANGE COUNTY SAN JOSE AUSTIN LOS ANGELES PORTLAND SEATTLE BOSTON MINNEAPOLIS REDWOOD CITY WASHINGTON DC CHICAGO NASHVILLE SAN DIEGO DALLAS NEW YORK SAN FRANCISCO

Inside Africa

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If you get CNN, it is really worth checking out Inside Africa this weekend.  They are doing a special on slavery and human trafficking.  Reports include the move from child beggars to adult prostitution, the woman who is suing her government (story below), and how modern day slavery works in Africa.

Former Sex Slave Sues Government of Niger for Failing to Protect Her

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Monday, April 07, 2008

DAKAR, Senegal — A woman who claims she was held as a domestic servant and sexual slave for 10 years is suing Niger’s government for failing to implement its own laws banning slavery in an unprecedented legal action.

Twenty-four-year-old Hadijatou Mani’s case began Monday in the capital, Niamey. It is being heard by a regional court run by the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States because Hadijatou “believes she cannot get fair redress at any national court in Niger,” Romana Cacchioli, Africa coordinator of Anti-Slavery International, told The Associated Press by telephone.

Comment from Niger’s government was not immediately available.

Hadijatou is also demanding monetary compensation equivalent to about $100,000, said one of her lawyers, Ibrahima Kane of the International Center for Legal Protection of Human Rights.

“Despite the criminalization of slavery in 2003, the government of Niger is accused of not only failing to protect Hadijatou Mani from the practice of slavery, but also continuing to legitimize this practice through its customary law, which is discriminatory toward women and in direct conflict with its own criminal code and constitution,” Anti-Slavery International said in a statement.

(THE REST OF THE STORY HERE)

Synthesized info on child trafficking in Chile

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The other day I was wondering around the web, as I am apt to do, and I found a document (which I will link to as  soon as I find the website it came from) that helps to give an overview of children and trafficking in Chile.  One of the nice things about this document, is that it cites where all the numbers come from thus making it feel more valid. I thought I would share some of the relevant findings:

Total population    15,988,000         Population Reference Bureau 2004

Child population      4,156,880          Population Reference Bureau 2004

Child labor:  In 2000, less than 1% of children age 10 to 14 we working. Children do work in the following sectors: agriculture, fishing, ranching, shepherding, meat and shellfish processing, bagging in grocery stores, domestic service and street sales.     US Dept. of Labor 2003 Findings on the worst forms of child labour

Children out of school: In 2001, 195,600 primary school aged children between the ages of 6-11 were out of school.     UNESCO’s EFA Global Monitoring Report 2005

Child Slavery: No confirmed reports.

Child Trafficking: Chile is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for both laboral and sexual exploitation.  Traffickers are know to contact victims and their families directly or through advertisements offering jobs as domestic help, model, or product promoters.    US Dept of State TIP 2005

Child prostitution and pornography: A 2003 SENAME study found at least 3,700 children were victims of commercial sexual exploitation.    US Dept of State TIP 2005      More can be found on that in my piece here. Also, in 1998 “Operation Cathedral” exposed a link between Chilean pedophile network and the international pornography trade. This include 19 other countries as well. There are reports of children as young as 7 expoited through prostitution and sex tourism in Chile’s 4 largest cities. In 2003 a US man was arrested in the Santiago airport for possessing child pornography.  Although the national authorities deny it, ECPAT claims that Chile is a sex tourism destination   Ecpat CSEC database

Children used in crime: Children are involved in sale of drugs and prostitution.     US Dept of Labor’s 2003 Findings on the worst forms of child labor.

Child soldiers: Under 18s could be recruited with their parents’ consent. No numbers are available.      CSUCS, Global Report on Child Soldiers, 2004

Second Annual International Weekend of Prayer and Fasting for the Victims of Human Trafficking – Sept. 28—30, 2007

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Weekend of prayer for victims of human trafficking, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

I like this blog because it gives me the opportunity to educate people about human trafficking (and everything else in my life); however, there are very few instances when I am able to give suggestions of what people can do about human trafficking besides report anything suspicious to the US counter trafficking hotline 1-888-428-7581 (for US readers) and educate others. This, falls into the category of the latter. The Salvation Army is trying to organize the second annual international weekend of prayer and fasting for the victims of human trafficking. If you think your church, the neighborhood church, or the church of anyone you know might be interested, please feel free to pass on the information.

Also, if anyone from other faith communities hears of something similar, please email me and I will promote that as well!