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

Friday, August 31, 2012

FACT: Labor Trafficking Exists in the United States

Forced labor -labor trafficking- is not just something that happens overseas, but right here in our own backyards. Every year as many as 17,500 people are trafficked to the United States from over 50 countries worldwide, of which 80 percent are female and 50 percent are children.  This shocking figure only notes one side of the the evil face of modern slavery as the number of children sexually exploited in the U.S. is as high as 300,000.

The U.S., the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines labor trafficking as:
“The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.”
Labor traffickers use forms of coercion such as violence, threats, and lies to force victims to work against their will. The most common types of labor trafficking include industries which employ those such as domestic servants, hotel staff, restaurant workers, farm workers, or factory workers.  Victims of labor trafficking in the U.S. have been identified all across the country in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

If you suspect a case of labor trafficking please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline at 1-888-3737-888. The NHTRC operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Northern Ireland in bid to outlaw paying for sex
Paying for sex could become illegal in Northern Ireland if proposed changes in the law are introduced. The crackdown on prostitution is part of a range of measures contained in draft legislation aimed at tackling human trafficking and exploitation in the region. While activities such as kerb-crawling, pimping and brothel-keeping are illegal in the UK, selling or paying for sex is permitted.

Nepalese foreign work ban for young women
Many women worldwide leave their homelands for domestic work in other parts of the world. In the case of Nepal, an estimated 1,000 women make such journeys from their homes to the Middle East. However, due to cases of pregnancy, sexual abuse, rape and other forms of violence, the Nepalese government has instituted a ban that prohibits women under 30 from leaving the country in search of domestic work. Though the intent to protect these women is good, some fear that backlash will result in the form of lies about actual age, false passports, or other ways around the ban. 

Four men sent to prison for trafficking in women
Four men were sentenced to between eight and 14 years in prison for their involvement in 13 cases of human trafficking in which 14 women and one child were sold, Shanghai Xuhui District People's Court announced [August 17th]. A Yunnan Province Man, Huang Debin, was sentenced to 14 years for luring women to Suqian, Jiangsu Province, where they would be sold to men who had trouble finding wives, according to a news release from the court.

City lacks resources to help trafficking victims
Even after nearly a year of a statewide awareness campaign about human sex trafficking, there aren't resources in Chattanooga to help victims of the crime. During a news conference in Chattanooga in October, state officials, including Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn, called for action after a joint study with Vanderbuilt University revealed that 85 percent of Tennessee counties had reported a human trafficking case. Chattanooga had as many as 100 cases, according to figures released at the news conference.

Money laundering and human trafficking
The U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) recently launched Project STAMP (Smuggler Trafficker and Assets, Monies, and Proceeds) to combat human trafficking, and other illegal activities through anti-money laundering regulations. The project relies on stringent regulations and collaboration with private financial sectors to combat human trafficking int he U.S. Money laundering is a crime where perpetrators conceal the source of profits obtained through illegal activities like human trafficking. To continue carrying out illegal activities, traffickers often commit money laundering to disguise profits acquired by exploiting women and children.

By Whitney Joseph

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Candy Shop and Broken Dolls

Last week Elyse Elder posted, Fairy tales are battling child exploitation, on the eyeopening awareness short film, The Candy Shop, which we both watched together in the office.  As we watched the piece I was instantly blow away at the depth and artistic twist this short film, which Elyse's boyfriend -a horror film fanatic- stumbled across on YouTube.  The film was not the horror film he had expected, but it was a horror indeed and creeped him out more than most of the cinematic horrors he is used to watching.  As the storyline unfolded the films ere story turned into a nightmare that wasn't the unrealistic nightmare it appeared to be, but the hanis reality of little girls across the country. 

As I watched the film I was instantly carried back in time to childhood as the fairy tale like story began to unfold, however this Willy Wonka character, the Candyman-who's outlandish attire even resembled the glamorized version of an American Pimp- is in a business of satisfying grown men with tasty 'candy' treats. 

As the film unfolded it not only addressed the lost innocence of the Canyman's young victims, but that of the issue of demand for 'candy' that fuels the growing industry that exploits children.  The film's ending is bitter sweet as the not only are some of the 'lollipops' unable to be turned back into little girls, as they are 'too broken'- it also show how putting an end to one 'Canyman's' business is not enough as demand only finds it's way into a new location -reminding me of the endless fight to shut down Korean 'massage parlors' -brothels- we have fought so tirelessly in DC which would often just reemerge a few weeks later or move to Virginia.

Following the film I went rummaging through my old poetry and writings as I vaguely remembered using a similar creative analogy to sex trafficking years ago.  After a bit of searching I found what I was looking for, only it wasn't about a 'candy shop', but a 'doll shop' -though the symbolism and lost innocence parallel.

Broken Doll 
Frank Horvat: Broken doll at flea market, Paris, 1958 
She sits upon the shelf with all the other dolls, smiles painted across their faces, long lashes made to flutter.
Their pretty dresses positioned just right So beautiful and delicate they look upon the shelf.
Each one quietly waits for their buyer to take them home.
  One day the big man comes in, he looks at each little doll searching for the perfect toy to take home And then he sees her... He takes her from the shelf, “This one will do.” 
 Once at home she is no longer placed upon a shelf for one to look at.
She is placed upon the cold bed and positioned every which way the man likes.
Soon the man tires of his doll and he shares her with all his friends and she becomes every one's toy.  Her dress becomes tattered, her body bruised and worn.
But her smile remains firmly painted on her face Tossed around the bed like a rag doll, until she is thrown out with all the other broken dolls.
So many broken dolls... 
So many painted smiles hiding needless pain.
Cassandra Clifford (c)2008
While the film and poem take an artistic approach to opening one's eyes of the horrors of minor sex trafficking he real story is even more ghastly, as some 27 million persons are victims of modern slavery -including the sexual exploitation of young girls and boys. In the United states alone nearly 300,000 are estimated to be at risk for sex trafficking. According to the 2009 National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, by Shared Hope International there are 100,000 children in the U.S. victimized each year.

Friday, August 24, 2012

FACT: Forced Labor is the Second Most Common Form of Human Trafficking

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the second most common form of human trafficking is forced labor, at 19%. It follows sexual exploitation, which is reported at 79%. It is improtant to note, however, that due to the hidden nature of human trafficking and issues such as the under-reporting of incidents and cases, these percentages are not exact. There is no actual way to get an exact percentage or number of human trafficking victims.

But what is forced labor? Forced labor is one of several forms of exploitation where individuals are forced to work under various conditions, which may include  commercial sex, childcare or housework and toiling on farms and plantations. This year, the International Labour Office (ILO) published a new fact sheet on estimated global figures for forced labor. The ILO 2012 Global Estimate of Forced Labor shows that:

  • Almost 21 million people are victims of forced labor.
  • Forced labor is most prevalent in Asia and the Pacific, at 11.4 million.
  • 14.2 million persons are exploited for labor purposes.
Written by: Whitney Joseph

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fairy tales are battling child exploitation

I walked into the office Monday morning ready to share with my boss, Executive Director Cassandra Clifford, a movie trailer I had seen the night before titled The Candy Shop. I literally knew nothing about it except what a friend had told me: "I found this creepy video on YouTube and it's about child sex trafficking."  Always an iffy situation, I was hesitant to check it out, but after seeing the trailer I decided it was worth sharing.  In lieu of answering emails, Cassandra and I settled in with our coffee to watch the 30 minute film.  What we saw was an eye-opening cinematic portal of domestic minor sex trafficking hidden beneath the cloak of a horror film.

With the support of Street Grace and 12Stone Church, director Brandon McCormick created a fairy tale parable to raise awareness to the issue that Georgia is a city with some of the highest numbers of child sexual exploitation in the world.  Doug Jones (Hellboy, Pans Labyrinth) plays a terrifying and twisted Willy Wonka-type character who lures young girls into his shop where he then uses his "machine" to turn them into lollipops for older men to buy and enjoy.  See the correlation?  It's up to young Jimmy, played by Mattie Liptack, to battle the shopkeeper and save the girls.  

The film is only 30 minutes long, but it demonstrates new creative wave that is being employed to grab the public's attention to this tragedy that can be found not only in Georgia, but in every major urban center in America.  At least 300,000 children are being prostituted a year in the United States.  As the shop keeper says..."if there wasn't such a need, there wouldn't be so much business."  In the film, Jimmy has the opportunity to save most of the girls, but he finds there are some "lollipops" that just can't be turned back; they're just too broken.  While this film may look like a horror flick at first glance - the world of modern slavery is a true life horror story that never ends for it's victims and survivors- .

Step outside of yourself, dare to be uncomfortable.  Watch this short film and share with friends and family.  With so much evil right outside, in your city, there is no choice but to open your eyes.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Turning Demands into Offenses

Unofficial flag of Northern Ireland
 According to The Guardian, a new legislative proposal in Northern Ireland may turn the demand for prostitution and sexual services into offenses punishable by law. So what does this mean? It means that paying for sex could become illegal. 

Introduced by Democratic Unionist Lord Morrow, reasons for the proposal include "those who have been trafficked and sent to Northern Ireland are pushed into the sex trade." It would also eliminate the issue of the difficulty in differentiating between coerced victims of trafficking and willing participants. 

Official flag of Northern Ireland
Currently, "activities such as kerb-crawling, pimping and brothel-keeping are illegal in the UK." Kerb-crawling occurs when someone parks or drives slowly in an area, seeking to have sex with prostitutes or other women. The bill has to go through public consultation and it has to have enough cross-party supporters in the Stormont chamber, one of the locations where Northern Ireland's parliament conducts its business. 

Lord Morrow hopes that in eliminating the demand for such services, the supply will eventually fade away. 

What do you think about the idea of cutting the demand for prostitutes and sexual services in order to cut the supply? Do you support or oppose this idea? What do you suppose may be a better form of action?

Modern Slavery news Round-Up

Atlanta pimp gets life in prison
Atlanta pimp David pepe was sentenced to life in prison for "sexually abusing and pimping a teenage runaway...[He was] found guilty of trafficking of persons for sexual servitude, pimping, aggravated child molestation, enticing a child for indecent purposes and contributing to the delinquency of a minor."

US court awards damages to Pinay human trafficking victim
Elizabeth Cabitla Ballesteros, a former domestic worker for Colonel Arif Mohamed Saeed Mohamed Al-Ali, may receive damages from a civil suit against him. She was "[subjected to] involuntary servitude, forced labor, peonage, debt bondage, and slavery as a domestic worker..." Ballesteros was supposed to be paid in U.S dollars for work done five days a week. Colonel Al-Ali was acquitted of the criminal charges against him in 2011.

North Korea: Human traffickers and the Chinese Market for Brides
Steven Kim is an American businessman who assisted North Korean refugees assimilate into Chinese culture and society by providing them with safe houses, food, and money. He was caught, arrested, and convicted for helping illegal migrants in 2003, after which he spent four years in a Chinese prison. Eventually, a strong market for North Korean brides was created. The buyers are often farmers who just want a wife. The popularity of this also seems to be due to China's family-planning laws and actions such as abortion and infanticide have led to a very high male-to-female ratio.

Prison terms upheld in abuse of Afghan child bride
Observers are characterizing as a small victory the recent decision by an Afghan appeals court to uphold the 10-year prison sentences for three people convicted in the torture of a 13-year-old girl, Sahar Gul, sold into marriage. Gul, now 14, is recovering at a shelter for women in Kabul.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Reality of Child Marriage

The Facts
100 Million: The number of girls worldwide who will be married before the age of 18 (in the next decade).
51 Million: The number of girls (ages 15 – 19) presently married worldwide.
82%, 75%, 63%, 57%, and 50%: The percentage of girls in Niger, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, and Uganda who marry before age 18.
39%: The percentage of girls in the Amhara region of Ethiopia who marry before age 15.
66%: The percentage of girls among Nigeria’s poorest 20% who will marry before age 15.
12%: The percentage of girls among Nigeria’s richest 20% who will marry before age 15.

Driven by, and Connected to Poverty

Child marriage is highly prevalent in two of the world’s most impoverished areas, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South Asia. In Bangladesh, Mali, Mozambique, and Niger, more than 75% of the population lives on less than $2.00 per day, and more than half of the young girls are married before age 18 (91% of Mali’s population lives on less than $2.00 per day). A country’s GDP is also intimately connected to the incidence of child marriage. Chad has a GDP of $1600 per capita, and 71% of young girls are married; contrast that with South Africa which has a GDP of $11,100 per capita and only 8% of the young girls are married. Not surprisingly, household economic status is a key factor in childhood marriage, as children from poorer families are much more likely to be married at a young age than children from wealthy families. 
According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), young girls from poorer families are twice as likely to marry before age 18 than children from wealthier families. Not only is the young girl often viewed as a financial burden, but in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, marriage also involves the exchange of wealth between families in the form of a dowry and/or a bride price, providing greater financial incentives for child marriage.

Violence & Abuse

A 2004 study conducted by the ICRW and its partners on young people in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand, India revealed that girls who were married before 18-years of age were twice as likely to report marital abuse (beatings, slapping, or threats), and three times as likely to report being forced to have sex without their consent (in the most recent 6 months) than girls who married later. 
The survey also found that girls who married before age 18 consistently reported having more difficulty approaching and talking with their husbands about contraception, as well as when to have children and how many children to have. Several other studies have confirmed the link between child marriage and domestic violence. In Peru for example, a study found that child marriage increases the likelihood of domestic abuse. In Kenya, 36% of girls married before age 18 believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife; whereas only 20% of married women hold such belief. Young brides typically have less “bargaining power” (as compared to married women) as a result of their young age and lack of education, which also increases the likelihood of spousal abuse.

Health Impacts

Child marriage results in child sexual activity, and by extension, early child bearing. Adolescent female bodies are not sufficiently developed or prepared for child birth, making young girls much more susceptible to complications (including death) during childbirth. Compared to women in their 20s, girls under 15 years of age are five times more likely to die during childbirth. In fact, pregnancy is the leading cause of death worldwide for young women age 15 to 19. Adolescent childbirth is also dangerous for the infant. Because young mothers are not physically suited for childbirth, infants born to young mothers are much more likely to suffer serious complications and/or die as compared to infants born to mothers in their 20s. 
The incidence of HIV/AIDS is also much higher in married sexually active adolescents as compared to unmarried sexually active adolescents. Though more research is needed to understand the connection between marriage and HIV/AIDS, current research suggests that married adolescents are more susceptible to HIV/AIDS because they have little to no option to change their sexual behavior in response to knowledge about HIV/AIDS. For example, a study of young girls in Kenya and Zambia reported that unmarried adolescents were much more likely to change their sexual behavior (including abstaining from having sex) after learning about HIV/AIDS; whereas married adolescents did not have the option to abstain from sex.

Education as a Deterrent

According to an ICRW study of 18 of 20 countries with the highest incidence of child marriage, a young girl’s level of education is the highest predictor of the age she will marry. In all regions of the developing world, educated girls are less likely to marry as children. Moreover, girls who receive secondary schooling are six times less likely to marry before the age of 18 than girls with little to no education. For economic reasons, many girls do not have the opportunity to attend school or are pulled from schools in order to get married. Once married, a young girl’s access to both formal and informal education is severely limited because of family burdens, as well as financial concerns and societal norms.

- Nicaragua: 45% of girls with no education are married before the age of 18, compared to just 28% of girls with a primary education, 16% of girls with secondary education, and only 5% of girls with higher education.

- Mozambique: 60% of girls with no education are married before the age 18, compared to just 10% of girls with secondary schooling and 1% of girls with higher education.
- Senegal: 41% of young girls with no education are married, but only 14% of girls with a primary education marry as children.

These statistics and numerous studies confirm that educating adolescent girls is a crucial component of increasing the age of marriage in developing countries.

Source: http://www.icrw.org/publications/child-marriage-factsheets

Another Victory: New State Joins in Vacating Convictions for Victims

Prostitution convictions for victims of forced prostitution and sexual exploitation are sadly all too often common aspects of human trafficking -modern slavery.  Recently, Hawaii joined a small group of states who have passed legislation which will vacate prostitution convictions for victims of human trafficking. Hawaii's new law -SB 2576- “allows sex trafficking victims to vacate prostitution convictions from their criminal records by proving they were sexually enslaved”. Additional states with similar legislation include New York, Illinois, and Nevada; New York was the first state to enact such a law. While this is good news for many survivors -who find it increasingly difficult to attain or retain employment due to this such unjust and misunderstood convictions- there are a few criticisms. One argument questions “how useful a bill like SB2576 would be to many victims on a practical level […saying] that many victims are too afraid of their traffickers to testify against them to prove their victim status. Therefore, a vacating conviction law has no value to victims if it requires them to prove their sex trafficking history by testifying against traffickers” (Dale). Unfortunately, it seems that similar issues will arise in many cases of “vacating convictions” laws, as they do with cases of sexual assault and rape. In rape cases, it can be very difficult to prove that the incident occurred, in addition to the psychological turmoil of reliving such a traumatic event. Victims are often accused of provoking their attackers or of lying. The few cases in which it is later revealed that the victim was not actually a victim certainly does not help. In the same instance, victims of human trafficking/modern slavery endure the same fate as victims of rape. Their lawyers must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that they were trafficked and the victim has to relive that time in their life. In addition, there is the possible accusation that they are lying or that they were voluntary participants. Regardless of criticisms, many individuals and organizations view SB2576 and similar legislation, as a victory for victims. It is a new change and another chance for them to reintegrate into society with a clean slate. Dale, Youngbee. "Hawaii: New Law Allows Trafficking Victims to Vacate Prostitution Convictions." Washington Times Communities. N.p., 11 July 2012. Web. 27 July 2012.

Written by: Whitney Joseph

Friday, August 17, 2012

FACT: the average age of entry into prostitution is 12-14 years old.

Did you know that the average age of entry into prostitution is only a mere 12-14 years old?

Child prostitution is the commercial sexual exploitation of children, for which a child is held under force, fraud or corrosion to perform sexual services, for financial gain. Pimps/traffickers target girls -or women- who are homeless, appear naive, lonely or rebellious. The victim first finds themselves in the spotlight of the attention and affection of the pimp -who then convinces her to “be his woman.” Pimps/traffickers then keep these innocent girls -or women- in virtual captivity through verbal and physical abuse. Many sexually exploited youth have been so psychologically manipulated by their pimps/traffickers that they are often compelled to return to them -thus why the investment into the self-worth and long-term development of survivors is key to the work of Bridge to Freedom Foundation. It is estimated that some 80% to 95% of all prostitution is pimp-controlled.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

In Afghanistan, 13 year old Sahar Gul was forced to marry her husband, 30 year old Ghulam Sakhi, illegally. She was beaten, tortured, and thrown into a dark cellar at the hands of her husband and in-laws after declining to prostitute herself or have sex with her husband. Sakhi and his family were not unaccustomed to using violence to force action; his first wife was beaten because she had not beared children. Sahar Gul's husband and in-laws were each sentenced to 10 years in prison; she is now at a shelter in Kabul.

Donyel Pier Dove of Manassas, Va. Sentenced for role in gang-led prostitution of H.S. girls
Donyel Pier Dove, the member of a the Underground Gangster Crips (UGC) based in Fairfax Virginia, was sentenced to 276 months in prison and 5 years of superised release. Dove served as a bodyguard and and driver for the UGC's prostitution ring, and even paid for advertisements of such commercial trafficking on Backpage.com. Five other members or associates of UGC were also convicted of the sex trafficking of juveniles.

Traffickers force more men into servitude
A Salvadoran man, who has not been identified because of beliefs that he is a victim of a sex crime, escaped a remote ranch after being forced to work without pay, picking vegetables; he endured beatings, rapings, and cigarette burns. In Houston, Texas there has been an increase in human traffficking cases involving men. Houston is popular for human trafficking because of its diversity and proximity to the Mexico border. Investigators have been unsuccessful in locating the ranch; the investigation remains open. Compiled By: Whitney Joseph

Syrian refugees struggle to cope and seek child marriage as a solution

Recent concerns have sparked as child marriages spike among Syrian refugees in Jordan. Difficult conditions in Jordan have many parents pushing to have their daughters married at an earlier age. The issue has created a concern among many international aid organizations that the rise in child marriage has been brought on as a sort of coping mechanism to adjusting to life as a refugee in the country. The majority of these young girls are in their early teens and are increasingly being married to older Syrian men as a form of financial and other security against a backdrop of conflict and instability. Early marriage is against the laws of both Syria (minimum age of marriage at 17 for boys and 16 for girls) and Jordan. However, in Syria, religious leaders may still approve “informal marriages” at for girls from 13 years-old and for boys from 16 years-old. The “informal marriages” allows spouses to live in the same home and have children, but is only legally registered once both turn 18. In Jordan the legal minimum age for marriage is 18-years-old for both spouses, though in exceptional circumstances marriages involving 15-year-olds are allowed — it is illegal for anyone under 15 to get married. Hana Ghadban, a volunteer with the Syrian Women Association (SWA), told IRIN that in the Syrian cities of Homs and Dera’a many girls are married at the age of 13 or 14. “We know of so many girls who got married after moving to Jordan. Most of them were engaged in Syria.”
“They rape girls who are as young as her in Syria now. If they raped a nine-year-old girl, they can do anything. I will not feel OK if I do not see her married to a decent man who can protect her,” said the father of Hanadi, a pregnant child bride in Jordan aged 14.
To read the rest of this post by Bridge to Freedom Foundation Founder and Executive Director, Cassandra Clifford on the Foreign Policy Association's Children's Rights Blog here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

“Act”-ing for Children’s Welfare

Rep. Karen Bass
As the popularity of human trafficking grows through supply and demand, governmental and non-governmental efforts to end it also grow. Through such efforts, a link has been found between the welfare system and human trafficking, particularly when it comes to children. Yet, there seems to be a lack of data, research and legislation on these incidents.

One new piece of legislation is on its way to providing a solution for this problem: the Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Human Trafficking Act of 2011, or H.R. 2730. Introduced to the House of representatives in 2011, this bill is sponsored by Representative Karen Bass of California, and has 21 co-sponsors.

Some of the goals that H.R. 2730 seeks to accomplish include:
  • Guidelines for training child welfare and court employees in "identifying, educating, and counseling children at risk...or who are human trafficking victims who may be in the care of the child welfare system."
  • Guidelines with recommendations on "how state child welfare agencies may prevent children from becoming victims of trafficking."
  • Recommendations on "[updating] licensing requirements...so that...residential facilities or safe havens serving children who are trafficking victims can qualify as childcare institutions."
  • Requiring state [Foster Care and Adoption Assistance] plans to make child welfare agencies classify children receiving assistance for trafficking, reasons for classification, information on each child, and immediate reporting to law enforcement the identity of missing or abducted children receiving assistance.
Non-profit organizations like Safe Horizon are doing what they can to increase the number of supporters. Safe Horizon, which provides support and services for victims of violence and abuse, is the largest victims' service agency in the U.S. Other supporters include Shared Hope International, ECPAT, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), and Courtney's House, a partner of the Bridge to Freedom Foundation (BTFF).

Where is the bill now? It has been referred to the Subcommitee on Human Resources. Afterward, it'll make its way to the Senate, then hopefully to the President where it will oficially become a bill!

What can you do? Find out who your representative is and call or write a letter to him or her encouraging them to support H.R. 2730. You can also sign the letter to support H.R. 2730 via Safe Horizon.

By Whitney Joseph

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Canadians fight global sex trafficking on their soil
Human rights advocates are enraged after an announcement made by the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada (AEAC) declared they will be recruiting high school and college students to fill the demand for sex workers after the government banned visas allowing foreign workers to work in the industry.  The AEAC insists the industry is safe to work in, yet Joy Smith, a member of Parliament, argues "many Canadians do no realize that prostitution, strip clubs...are were the majority of victims of human trafficking are found." Canada is a gateway for many Asian and Eastern European victims.

Appeals court reinstates Vermont prison forced labor case
After an appeal made Friday, a three-judge panel decided that Finbar McGarry, a man who claims he was forced to do manual labor while pending trial, has the right to argue that he was under threat to work in a prison laundry.  He was waiting trial for domestic disturbance when he says he was forced to work up to 14 hours three days a week washing laundry for 25 cents/hour.  He will be arguing for $11 million in damages.

Torture and denial of rights for drug addicts locked in Asian camps
Hundreds of thousands of drug users in China and across Southeast Asia are held in camps where they are subject to physical and sexual violence in order to be "cured".  These centers have received financial support from donor countries and UN agencies yet they deny people their rights.  The lack of liberty can last up to 5 years and involve the homeless, mentally ill and street children.  Joe Amon, a director at Human Rights Watch, insists that "beatings, forced labor and humiliation" are not part of the prescribed therapy.

The Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) reported that Tanzania has a higher rate of internal trafficking than transnational trafficking. Internal trafficking often occurs among the family and friends of victims who, as with other forms of trafficking, are given empty promises of employment, education, and otherwise. Many victims are subjected to being domestic workers, barmaids or prostitutes. The case study was done on the city of Dar es Salaam; the top five cities where human trafficking is found are Iringa, Kilimanjaro, Morogoro, Singida, and Dodoma, respectively.

Non-profit organization doma is helping human trafficking victims in Franklin County Ohio by allowing women to run their food cart, Freedom a la Cart. Stationed Downtown, the women, who learn skills such as kitchen prep and business management, also provide catering services and every “meal served comes with a pamphlet on human trafficking. All proceeds go to helping victims.

Watchdog group Judicial Watch claimed that the Department of Justice suspiciously dismissed a case in which three defendants “who worked for the Los Angeles-based labor recruiting company in question -- Global Horizons Manpower, Inc. -- pled guilty to [human trafficking-related] charges…” Bruce Schwartz pled guilty to conspiring to commit forced labor, while Sam Wongsesanit and Shane Germann pled guilty to conspiring to commit document servitude. However, other watchdogs argue that the prosecutors were unable to prove the admitted guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Compiled By: Elyse Elder and Whitney Joseph 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Do you know how many slaves are in the world?

According to a post by The CNN Freedom Project, there are an estimated 20 - 30 million slaves in the world. The number of people working in forced labor conditions seems to be increasing over the years, not
 decreasing.  A new study from the International Labor Organization has estimated about 21 million people are now in forced labor. These numbers by the ILO are a significant increase from the minimum estimation of 12.3 millions enslaved persons in 2005. It is important to note that it is not possible to get an exact number of people enslaved in the world asmany experts have different research methods to gather information. In a news release, ILO stated that of the "20.9 million globally in forced labor, 4.5 million were sexually exploited and 14.2 million were exploited in industries such as construction and agriculture."  The numbers presented by the ILO suggest that 11.7 million forced labors come from the Asia-Pacific region, making them the largest region of forced labor, and Africa the second highest at 3.7 million. In a statement by Beate Andrees, head of the ILO's Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour, she said  "We have come a long way over the last seven years since we first put an estimate on how many people were forced into labor or services across the world." She continued by saying "We have made good progress in ensuring most countries now have legislation in place which criminalizes forced labor, human trafficking and slavery-like practices."

- Written by Jasmine London