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Monday, October 15, 2012

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Child marriage at heart of today's global day for girls 
World leaders are joining United Nations agencies today in calling for an end to the practice of child marriage on the first International Day of the Girl. Ideas for action and myriad events -- including several dozen as part of the Girl Up campaign -- are planned worldwide, where one out of seven girls is married before age 15. "While the oppression of girls perpetuates a cycle of poverty, the empowerment of girls has a ripple effect that strengthens families, communities, countries, and ultimately the world," writes Kathy Calvin, CEO of the United Nations Foundation. 

Afghan child brides under UN spotlight
Greater efforts must be made to protect girls in Afghanistan, where nearly half are married as child brides and almost one in six weds before they turn 15, the United Nations said Thursday. "Early marriage is a fundamental violation of human rights and impacts all aspects of a girl's life," a group of UN organizations said in a statement to mark the International Day of the Girl Child...The UN group, including the children's and women's organizations as well as the Afghan mission, said there was a strong link between the age of a mother and maternal death. Despite progress in the past 10 years, the UN says Afghanistan's maternal mortality rate is still 327 per 100,000 live births -- one of the worst in the world. "Girls aged 10-14 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than women aged 20-24," the statement said. The UN points to a link between access to education and the prevention of early marriage.

Well, Uttara from West Bengal was 12 years old when her father fixed her marriage. He even paid the groom's side 2000 rupees. An impoverished farmer, he had to sell a goat and trees to raise the dowry. This may seem an image from the past - yet, this is a common reality all over the country. Close to half the girls in India are married before 18 years of age. In Bihar, Rajasthan and West Bengal, child marriage concerns 3 out of 5 girls. India has the highest absolute number of child brides - about 24 million. This represents 40% of the 60 million child marriages globally.

Islamists in Mali recruit, pay for child soldiers
Across northern Mali, Islamists have plucked and paid for as many as 1,000 children from rural towns and villages devastated by poverty and hunger, the Associated Press has found in several dozen interviews with residents, human rights officials, four children or youth and an Islamist official. The AP also saw several other children with machine guns half their size strolling down the streets in Timbuktu, where Westerners can no longer go because of the threat of kidnapping. The interviews shed new light on the recruitment practices of the Islamists, including first-hand accounts of how much money is being offered to poor youth and their families to join. They also provide evidence that a new generation in what was long a moderate and stable Muslim nation is becoming radicalized, as the Islamists gather forces to fight a potential military intervention backed by the United Nations.

Senate OKs harsher anti-trafficking bill
Attempts to commit various human trafficking-related activities such as recruitment, selling and transporting persons are now crimes under a new Senate-backed bill, which has been unanimously approved on third and final reading. The Expanded Anti-Trafficking of Persons Act of 2010 or Senate Bill No. 2625, extending the original anti-trafficking law or Republic Act 9208, imposes harsher panalties on attempted trafficking and encourages state officials, not-for-profit entities and the media to publicize the identities of accused traffickers. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile urged President Benigno Aquino III to fast-track the signing of the measure.

According to a growing list of religious groups, feminists, celebrities and policy makers, adult classifieds website Backpage.com is profiting from one of the ugliest crimes on the planet: sex trafficking. Backpage’s critics say they are facilitating sex slavery and should shut the site down. New York Times writer Nick Kristof pressured Goldman Sachs to unload its shares in Village Voice Media overnight (and at a $30 million loss) in March. In July, Washington State introduced a legislative attack on CDA230 that aims to make websites like Backpage criminally responsible for third-party content posted by minors – a move that put the EFF on the offensive on behalf of the Internet Archive, Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman says, to make sure the legislation “doesn’t cross the line to the government throwing people in jail for what their users do.”

Debt bricks in Pakistani 'slaves'
One does not always need a time machine to travel into the past - a visit to a typical brick kiln in Pakistan's Punjab province is enough to evoke a time when human beings were traded like animals and slavery was rampant. Overburdened by loans, generation after generation of workers, totaling about 4.5 million spread across 18,000 kilns around the country, toil for nothing more than the promise of freedom. Ata Muhammad (28) and his wife work for 18 hours a day at a kiln in the outskirts of Lahore, where they are paid 450 rupees (US$4.80) per 1,000 bricks, irrespective of how long it takes to complete the task. According to estimates from the labor department, it takes a standard family of five, including children, a whole day to make 1,000 bricks.

Experts to study region's gangs, sex trafficking
A trio of local professors have received a $399,000 federal grant to research the scope and nexis of gang activity and sex trafficking in the region. The three-year study, entitled “Measuring the Extent and Nature of Gang Involvement in Sex Trafficking in the San Diego/Tijuana Border Region,” will bring together Point Loma Nazarene University’s professor of cultural anthropology Jamie Gates, University of San Diego’s assistant professor Ami Carpenter and San Diego State University’s professor of criminal justice Dana Nurge. The project will begin in January. The National Institute of Justice has begun funding research on trafficking across the country in recent years in an attempt to understand the scope of the problem. Experts at the federal agency say much more work is needed on assessing how much trafficking goes on, how it works and who are the perpetrators and victims in the United States.

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