Welcome to the Bridge to Freedom Foundation Blog

Thank you for visiting the Bridge to Freedom Foundation (BTFF) blog, where we look forward to bringing you inside information on the inner-workings of BTFF, inside information on our volunteer team and leadership, in-depth coverage of BTFF and partner events, news and happenings from across the globe and so much more.

Learn more about Bridge to Freedom Foundation and how you can help on the BTFF website. We do hope you will subscribe to and follow our blog and please e-mail us at blog@btff.org if you have any feedback, ideas or contributions.

Thank you for your support!
Cassandra Clifford
Executive Director and Founder of BTFF

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Groups battle sex trafficking in Atlanta
On average, 100 adolescent girls are sexually exploited for money in Georgia on a typical night, according to a report by the Schapiro Group, an Atlanta-based research, marketing and communications firm. The data reveal that 7,200 men pay for sex with adolescent females in Georgia each month and the largest concentration of men — 42 percent — seeking to pay for sex with adolescent females in Georgia is in the north metro area, outside the Perimeter. Twenty-six percent come from inside the Perimeter and 23 percent from the south metro area outside the Perimeter. Nine percent are from the immediate vicinity of the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Human trafficking decision will allow class action suits for guest workers, says civil rights groups
A federal judge’s decision to grant class action status to a group of immigrant Filipino teachers who were allegedly duped into forced labor in Louisiana could be used to protect other guest workers in the U.S., said the civil rights group representing the teachers. A recent ruling by federal judge in the Central District of California granted class action status in a human trafficking lawsuit involving more than 350 Filipino teachers is the first time the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) has been applied to a group of people, rather than just individual victims, said the Southern Poverty Law Center on Dec. 20. The ruling, it said, sets a precedent by showing that the TVPA's legal protections can be applied on a class-wide basis.

Super Bowl attracts human trafficking
As the Super Bowl draws near, one Indiana state senator is looking to close existing loopholes in laws regarding human trafficking and prostitution. Senator Randy Head, a former Tippecanoe County Deputy Prosecutor, said human trafficking will be a major problem as visitors stream into Indiana for this year's Super Bowl. As a former deputy prosecutor for Tippecanoe County, Head said he's seen the type of scars human trafficking can leave on a child.  Indiana does have laws that punish human trafficking, but Senator Head feels those laws aren't strict enough. The bill he's proposing bumps up most offenses from a class B felony to a class A felony. It would also make it illegal for any person to sell a child into the sex trade, as the wording stands now, it only prohibits a parent or guardian from trafficking a child.  Senator Head is hoping to have the bill read, approved and in place in time for Super Bowl Sunday on February  5.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Monetary Incentive to End Child Marriage in Indian State is Successful

Photo: Sandeep Saxena for Hindu.com 
One in seven girls in developing countries is married before their 15th birthday, usually against her will. Across the globe, more than 60 million girls find themselves innocent victims as child brides, despite the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulation that 18 is the minimum age for marriage. While many countries have adhered to this age restriction, others have fixed the minimum age at 16, while some countries have yet to set or enforce any minimum age for marriage.

Though child marriage is outlawed in many states, it continues to thrive in the dark of night or in the rural villages often out of reach of the rule of law. In India, Parliament passed the Child Marriage Restraint Act in 1978, setting the minimum age for women to get married at 18 and 21 for men. Despite the law, child marriages still continue, especially in populous northern states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. According to a 2010 study in India one-fifth of married women were wed before they were 15 years-old and half of those surveyed were married before they turned 18 years-old. The study was conducted by the Population Council of India and released by Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad in Febu. It also found that 47 percent had their first pregnancy in the first year of their marriage, while a quarter of those who were married as children also experience some form of physical violence in the marriage (Hindu).

Child marriages violate the rights of the child in many ways, but the most concerning violation is a girl’s right to consent. How do we end this outdated practice, that continues to harm girls across the globe? One Indian state believes that they may have found a viable solution to help curb child marriage. In the state of Haryana, child marriage is on the decline, a rare victory in this battle.

To read the rest of this article by Bridge to Freedom Foundation's Executive Director and Founder, Cassandra Clifford please follow this link to the Foreign Policy Association's Children's Rights Blog: http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/12/22/monetary-incentive-to-end-child-marriage-in-indian-state-is-successful/

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Korean "comfort women" in landmark protest against Japan
Korean women seized by Japanese military during World War II, then forced into sexual slavery, staged their 1,000th successive weekly protest outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea on Wednesday. "I want President Lee [Myung Bak] to urge Japan to apologize for the past sins and make compensation. The Japanese ambassador should make a formal apology as quickly as possible before we all die," said Kim Bok-dong, 88, one of five former "comfort women" in attendance, and one of only 63 still alive today from among the more than 200,000 girls taken to military brothels.

Bensouda to take on gender violence at ICC
Holding perpetrators of gender-based crimes accountable for their actions will receive increased focus moving forward, newly elected International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda says. Bensouda, who is the first woman to hold the ICC's top prosecution position, believes the court's efforts can help end the impunity that surrounds sexual assault and gender-based crime in many parts of the world.

Photojournalist exposes secret world of child brides
In an interview, photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair -- who shot the feature "Too Young To Wed" for National Geographic magazine -- discusses nearly a decade of work investigating child marriage throughout the world. Despite international agreements that outlaw the practice in many countries, millions of young girls, some as young as five, are forced into marriage annually.

Five girls who resisted child marriage hailed as ‘icons' by President
Economic progress is not the only indicator of a country's development, a nation requires its people to show courage against social pressures and overcome social evils, said President Pratibha Devisingh Patil on Wednesday after meeting five teenagers from West Bengal who fought social and family pressure and resisted child marriage. The girls, with little education and almost no support, turned down marriage proposals and faced the anger of their families and the community. They earned praise from the President, who described them as “icons” and asked them to share their stories and encourage girls to say no to under-age marriages.

Human trafficking for flesh trade on the rise in Mindanao, say two groups
Both Bernardo Mondragon, executive director of the group Child Alert, and Jeanette Ampog, executive director of Talikala, said most of the documented cases of human trafficking in the region this year had minors as victims, who were lured into the growing but clandestine world of “sex entertainment” because of poverty. Ampog said as the poverty situation worsened, more women and children were trafficked into prostitution. “But although most of the victims of human trafficking are women, some boys are also being lured into the cybersex dens in Davao City because of the promises of big money,” said Mondragon. He said Child Alert has documented cases of minors, as young as 14 years old, lured into Davao’s cybersex dens, so mobile and probably backed up by a powerful syndicate, they continued to elude apprehending authorities this year. Mondragon said the cybersex dens have been mostly in private homes, aided only by “spotlight,” laptops and a camera.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Identifying Human Trafficking Victims in a Health Care Setting

It’s estimated that between 14,500 and 17,500 individuals are trafficked into the United States each year. Health care providers are often one of the few “outsiders” with an opportunity to interact with human trafficking victims, and therefore play a key role identifying and rescuing victims. Providers at all levels must be trained to recognize and identify the signs and symptoms in order to rescue victims and fight this intolerable injustice. The following signs and symptoms may indicate that a patient is a victim of human trafficking:
  • Patient is unaware or lacks knowledge of his/her whereabouts, states that he/she is “just visiting”
  • No documentation, or lack of control over documents and paperwork
  • Few to no personal possessions
  • Inconsistent story
  • Patient refuses to speak to medical personnel, won’t make eye contact
  • 3rd party insists on being present or interpreting
  • Injuries (multiple, old & new)
  • Malnourishment
  • Branding
  • Patient lacks health insurance
  • A patient who is under 18 and in the sex industry – VERY big red flag, must be investigated
  • Patient exhibits a behavior change when law enforcement is mentioned
***Do not mention law enforcement if you suspect human trafficking, as it may cause the patient to shut down and not feel safe disclosing his/her status
  • Sexually transmitted infections, or history of bacterial or yeast infections
  • Patient’s demeanor (e.g., fearful, anxious, submissive, distant, emotionless)
  • Multiple abortions or miscarriages
If you suspect that a patient or any individual is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center:
English: 1-888-373-7888
Korean: 1-888-967-5246
Spanish: 1-888-80-AYUDA

Monday, December 12, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Human Rights Watch pressures Yemen on child brides
After an agreed resolution to Yemen’s months of political unrest, Human Rights Watch is pressing its campaign against child marriage in the country. The organization is calling on the Yemeni government to ban marriage for girls under 18, noting that the arrangements often pair them with much older men, affecting the brides’ health and denying them a chance at education.

School system aims to aid India’s female Dalits
Sister Sudha has launched dozens of schools catering to marginalized girls and women in India’s poorest areas in a bid to promote literacy and knowledge about sanitation, reproductive health and basic human rights. India’s Dalits, the untouchables at the bottom of the country’s caste system, number about 170 million and make up the overwhelmingly majority of landless, bonded-laborers.

Ireland: Law criminalising employers over forced labour considered
The Labor Party is examining British legislation on forced labor with a view to preparing a specific law to criminalize offending employers in Ireland. Joe Costello TD said the party was examining legislation passed in the U.K. in 2009, which made it an offence to hold a person in slavery or subject them to forced labor. “The Labor Party has passed it to our legal advisers with a view to preparing legislation to deal with the loopholes in the present system,” Mr Costello said. GrĂ¡inne O’Toole, workplace and project leader with the Migrant Rights Center, said that over the past six years it had dealt with 160 cases of forced labor in Ireland, but said this was “the tip of the iceberg.”

Clinton Orders Review of Visa Program
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has ordered an "extensive and thorough review" of a foreign exchange program that has been used by U.S. businesses as a source of cheap labor and exploited by criminals to import women to work in the sex industry. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee's immigration subcommittee also has been gathering information on the J-1 visa, which was created in 1963. More common than sex trade abuses is shabby housing, scarce work hours and paltry pay. In August, dozens of workers protested conditions at a candy factory that packs Hershey chocolates in Hershey, Pa., complaining of hard physical labor and pay deductions for rent that often left them with little money.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fact: Organ Trafficking is On the Rise

  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 66,000 kidney transplants, 21,000 liver transplants, and 6,000 heart transplants were performed worldwide in 2005.
  • A global increase in kidney diseases and a decreasing supply of transplantable kidneys have led to a substantial increase in the illegal kidney trade. In fact, the WHO estimates that just 10% of the demand for kidney transplants was met in 2005.
  • Conservatively, it’s estimated that 15,000 kidneys are illegally trafficked each year.
  • On average, one can earn between $2,000 and $6,000 for a kidney, however, there is no post-operative medical care for the donor. As a result, many donors suffer serious medical complications and incur substantial medical costs, leaving them with little or no money to survive.
  • Organ trafficking is illegal in Israel, Egypt, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, India, and Iraq, but as a result of poverty and corruption, the illegal organ trade flourishes in each of these countries.
  • Desperation leads many buyers to “overlook” or justify the illegality and inhumanity of purchasing a trafficked organ.
  • Kidneys (and other organs) are frequently used as collateral for money lenders in some parts of India.
  • According to the University of California, Berkeley, the majority of donors who sold a kidney to get out of debt find themselves in serious debt again shortly thereafter. Despite this reality, most donors would say "I'd do it again. I have a family to support. What choice did I have?"

Monday, December 5, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Would-be teen bride is hospitalized in Afghan acid attack
The recent acid-throwing attack on a teenage Afghan girl and her two sisters has again focused attention on the fates of child brides. The 17-year-old girl in the Kunduz province, north of Kabul, was apparently supported by her family in rejecting the match with an older suitor, who is suspected in the incident.

Vietnam, China grapple with increased trafficking
Vietnam is facing a trend of laborers being trafficked into China as companies look to employ cheaper foreign labor after changes to labor laws, the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking says. In 2008, Chinese authorities passed legislation that requires Chines nationals to receive certain levels of pay and benefits.

A crackdown on child marriage in Bangladesh
Communities across Bangladesh are beginning to act decisively against the practice of child marriage in response to coordinated efforts by aid groups and local authorities. Prevention efforts include public awareness campaigns and the creation of local income-generating activities to help keep girls in school.

U.S. States Failing to Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation

Did you know that there is an estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals trafficked into the United States each year?  Shockingly, the number of U.S. citizens trafficked within the country is even higher!

“Is it really that bad?” is the question usually asked- the answer is undeniably, “Yes!” According to the 2009 Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking report by Shared Hope International, which reported in-depth on the high prevalence of child sex trafficking in the United States, the number of American children at risk of being pulled into the sex industry is an estimated 200,000.  Shockingly, the average age of entry in the sex trade industry in the U.S. is only 12 years old.  There is no stereotypical face of slavery; the chains of modern slavery can bind anyone of any gender, race, religion or age. Those trapped by slavery do not have to cross borders to be victimized, for one can be exploited within their own home, community, as well as halfway across the globe.  The issue of child trafficking and sexual exploitation has all to often been deemed an international issue, leaving the child victims in the United States overlooked.  Therefore, many states continue to inadvertently provide safe havens for sex trafficking, including for minors.

Therefore I was excited to be watching as Shared Hope International announced Protected Innocence Initiative in San Antonio, Texas on Thursday.  The long awaited report from the extensive project looked at the sex trafficking legislation in all 50 States and the District of Columbia, and then gave each state a letter grade and full report card.  “Each state’s laws show omissions in protective provisions for child victims, and lack strong laws to prosecute the men who rent the bodies of other men’s children,” said former Congresswoman and the President and Founder of Shared Hope International. “Early in our research it was clear that responses to child sex trafficking must originate at the state level. The Protected Innocence Initiative establishes the essential legislative framework that attempts to harmonize the state’s response to the treatment of prostituted children and emphasize the appropriate prosecution of the buyer.”

To read the rest of this article by Bridge to Freedom Foundation's Executive Director and Founder, Cassandra Clifford please follow this link to the Foreign Policy Association's Children's Rights Blog: http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/12/03/u-s-states-failing-to-protect-children-from-sexual-exploitation/