10 Accomplishments Made By ThornIn 2012, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore founded Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children. Thorn is an organization that works globally to fight sex trafficking and the exploitation of children. A documentary on the sex slavery of children in Cambodia inspired Moore to create the organization. Thorn created technology to help identify victims of sexual abuse and protect children from online sexual abuse material. Since its foundation, Thorn has made a large impact in eliminating one of the most common and overlooked crimes in the world. Additionally, Thorn gained traction as a very well-known and respected organization. Below are eight accomplishments made by Thorn.

Top 8 Accomplishments Made by Thorn

  1. In 2017, Thorn created Spotlight. Spotlight is software that helps law enforcement save time by identifying predators and victims quicker. In addition, more than 1,200 law enforcement agencies across the United States and Canada use Spotlight. Spotlight has helped reduce critical search time for victims by 60 percent. To date, it has identified a total of 16,927 traffickers and 14,874 children.
  2. In February 2017, Ashton Kutcher gave a 15-minute testimony in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the importance of ending modern-day slavery around the globe. He told a story about when the Department of Homeland Security reached out to his team at Thorn. The Department of Homeland Security needed help to identify the perpetrator of a 7-year-old-girl being abused and watched on the dark web for three years.
  3. In addition to Spotlight, Thorn creates a Technology Task Force. This made up of more than 25 technology companies. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and so forth work together to create even more software to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. Thorn has partnered with a variety of organizations, ranging from government to non-profits. Some other notable partners include Amazon, Twitter, Flickr and Verizon.
  4. In 2018, Thorn surveyed 260 sex trafficking survivors in order to understand the needs of survivors. This survey was able to give insight on average ages of victims, how victims know their traffickers and advertising.
  5. In the 2018 Thorn impact report, it reported that Thorn assisted law enforcement in identifying more than 10,000 victims of child sex trafficking in 38 countries around the world.
  6. In 2018, Thorn educated more than 2,000 teens on Sextortion. Sextortion is a form of blackmail that uses sexual content. Since creating its Stop Sextortion campaign, Thorn has educated more than 3.5 million teens about online sexual extortion.
  7. In 2019, The Audacious Project by TED gave a $280 million grant to eight recipients, Thorn was one of them. Thorn is using grant to launch new software called Safer. Safer helps companies, especially image-hosting websites, identify and eliminate sexual abuse content on their platforms.
  8. With a combination of the software that Thorn has created, the organization is currently able to identify an average of 10 kids per day.

Being less than 10 years old, Thorn has accomplished many things is a short period of time. Though the organization has fewer than 40 employees, Thorn is still able to continuously create and evolve its technology. Thorn already benefits thousands of children worldwide. It will continue to fight child sexual exploitation and trafficking for years to come.

Alyson Kaufman
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Southern Russia
Women’s rights are an international concern. The state of women’s rights in Russia is challenging, particularly in Southern Russia, where the police and government treat feminists as extremists. Southern Russia includes Adygeya, Astrakhan, Kalmykia, Krasnodar, Rostov and VolgogradThis article will mainly inform on the gender pay gap in Russia as well as violence in the form of domestic violence and harassment. Additionally, it will shed light on some solutions and progress that women and the government have made. The solutions that have been working highlight that it is possible to outline new ones and effectively fight for women’s rights. 

Gender Pay Gap

A significant topic when discussing women’s rights in Southern Russia is the gender pay gap, which is significant. Back in 2015, men earned $670, while women earned $452. The pay gap percentage is smallest in the educational sector, while it rises in the IT sector with a 33 percent difference. Still, Olga Golodest, a Russian politician and economist, says that the gap has narrowed in the past decade, when women’s salaries were 40 percent lower than those of men, compared to a current 26 percent.

Violence

In 2018, Russian journalists accused influential lawmaker Leonid Slutsky of sexual harassment through the #MeToo movement. The parliament’s ethics committee held a hearing, but later on dismissed the complaints, calling them a conspiracy that sought to smear Slutsky’s image. He never admitted any wrongdoing. A year before, in 2017, the parliament also decriminalized domestic violence as long as it does not cause any serious bodily harm that requires hospitalization. Many saw this move as a step in the wrong direction because domestic violence is rampant in Russia, and so much so that around 12,000 women suffer killing as a result of it every year.

Taking Action

 In St. Petersburg, two women opened Russia’s first exclusively female co-working space called Simona. One of the co-founders, Svetlana Natarkhoba, explained that she “got tired of sexism and mansplaining at work, especially when [she] found out that [her] male colleague, who worked just as much as [she did], had a salary up to 15,000 rubles ($230) higher than [hers].” Simona allows any female customer to stay and work there for only $2.2 per day. Another positive development has been the spread of feminism. Women have been demanding new legislation to restrain abusers and innovative ways to tackle outdated gender attitudes.
There is also a significant representative in politics for feminism named Oksana PushkinaPushkina became an elected member of United Russia in 2016 and is campaigning to get the law that decriminalizes domestic violence overturned. She is also seeking to get Russia to pass its first-ever domestic violence law.

The pay gap between men and women, as well as violence against women and how the population perceives it, are vast indicators of how women’s rights are doing in a particular place. By looking at Simona and the efforts of Oksana Pushkina, it is clear that some in Russia are fighting these injustices and obtaining results. Learning about the solutions that have been working shows that it is possible to outline new ones and effectively fight for women’s rights in Southern Russia and around the world.

– Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

5 Facts About Sex Education in IndiaAdequate sex education in India has been lacking for centuries. However, India has started to make way for a whole new sex education curriculum. Here are five facts about sex education in India.

5 Facts About Sex Education in India

  1. The current Indian Health Minister was against sex education in India. In 2014, India’s Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan, declared that he wanted to ban sex education. Instead of sex education, Vardhan declared that yoga should be compulsory in schools. This declaration against sex education was in opposition to a 2007 health education program for adolescents that India’s National AIDS Control Organization and its Ministry of Human Resource Development was promoting. He opposed this education because he believed it was against traditional Indian values. In an interview with the New York Times, Vardhan said, “condoms promise safe sex, but the safest sex is through faithfulness to one’s partner.” There was a great amount of uproar among opposers because of all his comments on this topic encouraged abstinence over education. After receiving a lot of grief from his comments opposing sex education, he tweeted, “Media got it wrong again. I am against “so-called” sex education not sex education per se. Crudity, Vulgarity out, values in.”
  2. Teachers were threatened with violence if they were to conduct sex education. Around the same time as Vardhan’s comments, the right-wing group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti led an attack that included “threats of physical violence against teachers and schools that dared to carry out the 2007 health education program. As a consequence, several different states in India banned sex education.
  3. Better sex education is now a part of India’s school curriculum. After years of sex education being banned in many Indian states, Prime Minister Narendra Modi rolled out a sex education program in 2018. This training is vital since India is number three in the world’s HIV epidemic. This education involves role-playing and activity-based modules that are taught by trained teachers and student peer educators. In this training, students learn about sexual violence and sexual health among other topics. The whole training in total is 22 hours. Each week the schools set aside one period for the training.
  4. The Internet Could Be a Key Tool to Provide More Comprehensive Sex Education. Better India conducted research in 2017 and found that 77 percent of males and 54 percent of females use the internet. Projections show that internet usage will reach more than 600 million people by 2021. In a society where sex is taboo, learning about sex education privately online is often times the solution. Media content on sex education in Hindi has become popular. mDhil’s videos on sex and STIs have received 1.2 million views on YouTube. The shareability of this content increases the reach of sex education.
  5. The fight for fair sex education is not over. Despite great strides, sex education is still considered taboo in India. It is considered by many to be a Western influence that corrupts Indian culture. The Family Planning Association of India conducted a workshop on “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for All” in July of 2019. The organization hopes to break down taboos around sex, reproduction and homosexuality. India’s Health Ministry is also working to improve awareness about sex and sexuality. In 2017, it stated homosexual feelings are natural. This is a progressive stance for a country with previous laws against homosexual intercourse.

This biggest barrier toward sex education in India will probably be cultural norms against talking about sex. These norms are heavily ingrained in Indian society. However, India is making small but important steps to provide more comprehensive sex education.

– Emily Joy Oomen

Photo: Flickr

Lobbying for a Global Treaty to End Violence Against Women
With the #MeToo movement sweeping the United States, Portland-native Lisa Shannon is pushing for an end to violence against women around the world. Shannon is CEO and Co-Founder of the Every Woman Treaty, a campaign to establish a global treaty to end violence against women. At a recent discussion panel hosted by Global Washington, Shannon spoke out about the consistent violations of women’s rights pervading every corner of the globe and explained how Americans can make a lasting impact.

Defining Violence Against Women

Violence against women, whether psychological, physical or emotional, is “the most pervasive human rights violation on earth.” Sex trafficking, forced marriage and domestic violence are three of its most common forms, and all are prevalent globally. While the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979, suggests establishing protective legislation for women, the agreement has not sufficiently fueled action to prevent violence. There is a need for a more direct global treaty to end violence against women.

Sources of Violence

Human trafficking causes significant violence against women due to how it damages each person involved and the expanse of the industry. Suamhirs Piraino-Guzman from the International Rescue Committee shared at the Global Washington event that “40 million people around the world are victims of human trafficking.” A recent U.N. report adds that 79 percent of trafficking consists of the sexual exploitation of women and girls, which means that there is a total of around 30 million women being sex-trafficked today. That is greater than the population of Australia. In addition, human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world.

Forced marriages represent another preventable source of violence against women. They eliminate a woman’s freedom of choice and frequently result in violent partnerships. According to UNICEF, although international law and many national legislations prohibit it, forced marriage is still a widespread practice. One in five women enters marriage without offering full, free and informed consent. This is mostly due to lack of government crackdown on forced marriage cases.

Even when a relationship is consensual, domestic violence is frustratingly frequent. The World Health Organization estimates that about 35 percent of women experience physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetimes. It does not help that an estimated one billion women lack legal protection from domestic violence, according to a World Bank Study. Domestic sexual violence is only a crime in one in every three countries.

What Needs To Change

The establishment and enforcement of legislation related to protecting women have been lax. A lack of accountability leads to millions of women suffering. UNODC Director Antonio Maria Costa lamented that “while the number of convictions for human trafficking is increasing, two out of every five countries covered by the UNODC Report had not recorded a single conviction.”

People are not holding governments accountable for protecting women within their borders. However, many professionals agree that lasting change will stem from the political realm. Data easily shows the benefits of legislation. Shannon pointed out countries that, in the past, experienced a reduction in female mortality by 32 percent with a ban on domestic violence. There is a need for a global treaty to end violence against women to improve the accountability of governments that create and enforce laws protecting women. That is exactly what Every Woman Treaty is striving to accomplish.

The Global Treaty To End Violence Against Women

The Every Woman Treaty requests a partnership between every country in the global community to bring accountability to protecting women. Countries that sign the treaty would ensure they have sufficient legislation to prevent the most common abuses of women, provide services for victims, promote prevention education and contribute towards a global implementation fund with a goal towards ending violence against women. As the movement gains traction, the Every Woman Treaty is asking individuals to sign onto its platform to show governments that it has the support of the public.

Several of the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals released by the U.N. focus on protecting women from violence. Voices across the global community scream for change on this issue. Despite this, governments are still not providing the legislative changes necessary to end the violence once and for all. A global treaty to end violence against women, like the one the Every Woman Treaty proposes, could be the answer—the final push to make this issue a priority. Lisa Shannon made clear at the event that violence against women is horrible, but an “absolutely solvable problem. We just have to decide we’re ready to (solve it).”

To sign onto the Every Woman Treaty’s cause, visit https://everywoman.org.

– Olivia Heale
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about violence in honduras
In Honduras, the homicide rate is currently 43.6 per 100,000, meaning for every 100,000 of Honduras’ inhabitants, about 44 people will be murdered every year. With this statistic alone, it is easy to see Honduras has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. However, by evaluating the implemented solutions working to combat violence, homicides in Honduras appear to be dropping; raising the possibility of losing its position as the murder capital of the world. Here are 10 facts about violence in Honduras.

10 Facts About Violence in Honduras

  1. Murder – In 2011 Honduras experienced a peak in murder rates making Honduras the holder of the highest homicide rate in the world. Between 2011 and 2015, the murder rate in Honduras decreased by 30 percent. Homicides went down from 88.5 per 100,000 residents to 60.0 per 100,000 and have remained constant or decreased slowly depending on the year. However, in Honduras, only 4 percent of reported homicide cases result in arrest showing there is still lots of room for improvement.
  2. Lack of Trust – Police and judicial systems in Honduras suffer from corruption, lack of training and a list of cases so long that even honest, well-equipped officials struggle to keep up. As a result, members of the most vulnerable Honduran communities often do not trust the police, public prosecutors or judges to do their jobs. Fearing retaliation from violent perpetrators, they often refuse to provide witness testimony necessary to bring about a conviction. This causes Honduran judicial officials to lose trust in victims. This lack of trust and support fuels a vicious cycle of violence and impunity that has contributed to Honduras’ status as one of the most violent countries in the world. The Special Commission to Purge and Reform the Honduran Police is working to rid the force of corrupt leaders, strengthen public and police relations and reorganize their internal and external goals. Today, the Special Commission to Purge and Reform the Honduran Police has put in nearly 15 months of work and suspended or removed 5,000 police from the force.
  3. Poverty – Poverty and violence are directly related, and they work together to generate difficult living conditions in Honduras. As of 2017, 64 percent of Honduras’ population lives in poverty. Further, Honduras has the second smallest middle class in Latin America, at only 10.9 percent of the population. A larger middle class would result in stronger public institutions, stronger economic growth and greater societal stability. Therefore, Honduras would see lower levels of violence because of stronger societal relations. Working to stem both violence and increase economic opportunities is the key to sustainable development.
  4. Illegal Drug Trade – Central America serves as a transit point for at least 80 percent of all cocaine shipments between the Andean region and North America. Criminal groups in Honduras are very aware of this and profit primarily from drug trade and extortion as well as kidnapping for ransom and human trafficking. In February 2019, authorities in Honduras arrested four Colombian citizens caught in an attempt to smuggle over 100 kilograms of cocaine into the United States through a remote region of the country’s eastern coast. This is one example of thousands.
  5. Gangs – Gang presence in Honduras is common in poor urban areas and where territory is controlled by members of rival gangs, the most powerful being the Mara Salvatrucha and the Barrio 18. The most common age for Honduran gang members is between 12 and 30. Gangs constitute a real but often misunderstood feature of these 10 facts about violence in Honduras. While there is little doubt that they are involved in significant levels of violence, gangs are highly diverse and linked more to localized insecurity rather than the transnational danger ascribed to them by the media and certain policymakers. It is understood that 40 percent of gang members claim to be involved in gangs to ‘hang out,’ 21 percent because they had gang member friends and 21 percent to evade family problems. There is also a correlation between youth unemployment and gang membership: only 17 percent of gang members were employed and 66 percent actively characterized themselves as unemployed.
  6. Domestic Violence – One woman is murdered every 16 hours in Honduras, and the country has the highest femicide rate in the world. Shocking numbers of rape, assault and domestic violence cases are reported. However, 95 percent of cases of sexual violence and femicide in Honduras were never investigated in the year 2014. As mentioned above, widespread underreporting is likely to be linked to the lack of trust in governmental figures such as police and judicial systems. Rape is widespread and is employed to discipline girls, women and their family members for failure to comply with demands. In Honduras, there is a 95 percent impunity rate for sexual violence and femicide crimes and the lack of accountability for violations of human rights of women is the norm rather than the exception.
  7. Honduras Youth – The expansion of gangs and the increase in violence is linked to the lack of opportunities for the youth of the country. Many young Hondurans turn to gangs for their welfare protection and identity construction because they see no other way. Gangs emerge in this context as an option that is often desired for the marginal youth as it provides a form of transition from adolescence to adulthood. About 2 percent of females go completely uneducated, compared to 3 percent of males. Likewise, secondary school lasts between two to three years between the ages of 13 and 16, and 38 percent of females drop out compared to 33 percent of males.
  8. The Public and Prevention – In areas with low levels of violence, residents have taken incidents of crime and made an effort to minimize conditions that might allow violence to thrive. Kindernotheilfe has partnered with the community-formed group Sociedad más Justa (ASJ). They are dedicated to improving the living conditions of children and young people in Tegucigalpa and protecting them from violent abuse. Since 2004, parents, children, young people, teachers, churches, justice officials, city administrations and other NGOs have gotten involved. Some of their help include psychological and legal counseling, neighborhood patrolling and organized children’s clubs and activities.
  9. USAID and Honduras Citizen Security – On Sept. 30, 2016, the U.S. Agency for International Development programs for Honduras invested in a $34.17 million project lasting until Feb. 13, 2021. They are working to support the Government of Honduras’ efforts to improve the service delivery of justice institutions; increase the capacity of police to work with targeted communities; and incorporate respect for human rights to help reduce violence, decrease impunity and implement human rights standards within government institutions. During the third quarter of year one, they achieved key targets, including launching five city events, holding an international conference, instituting a Supreme Court Innovation Committee, connecting with the LGBTQI committee and collaborating with other donor programs.
  10. The Peace and Justice Project – The Peace and Justice Project provides investigative, legal and psychological support for people with few resources who have been victims of violent crimes and push for structural change in Honduras’ security and justice systems. The project has a 95 percent conviction rate, almost 24 times the national average. This has reduced the impunity rate in key communities from 4 percent convictions to 60 percent convictions for violent crimes, while also reducing the overall homicide rate drastically. Over the last 10 years, 600 lives have been saved through interventions in these violent communities.

These 10 facts about violence in Honduras prove that while strides have been made, violence in Honduras is still a major global concern. Communities and citizens of Honduras should continue to make a difference by demanding higher standards and continuing prevention actions. Furthermore, other nations should continue to support by becoming involved in helping strengthen institutional, governmental and police and judicial systems to see long term change.

Grace Arnold
Photo: Flickr

Following­ the eruption of violence in 2018, Nicaragua, the poorest country in Central America, has seen its economic progress stagnate and its domestic life falter. The additional unrest is making Nicaraguans more vulnerable to violence and instability. While Nicaragua’s overall crime rate is low, certain areas, like the rape of minors and political violence, are high. These 10 facts about violence in Nicaragua provide a glimpse after one year of conflict.

10 Facts About Violence in Nicaragua

  1. Political violence occurred in 2018 in response to the government’s social security reforms. Protests occurred between April and July, and the government responded brutally. More than 300 people were killed and hundreds detained during three-month anti-government protests where citizens demanded that President Daniel Ortega — who has been in power since 2007 — step down. In the subsequent six months, the government arrested and jailed opposition leaders and those who challenged his authority, his human rights abuses, his consolidation of power and his low 10 percent approval rating.
  2. Sixty thousand Nicaraguans have sought asylum from the violence in Costa Rica. In July 2018, Costa Rica alone received about 200 requests by Nicaraguans for asylum per day. The U.N. is seeking to support countries who take Nicaraguan refugees.
  3. Violence between protesters and government-sponsored paramilitary groups disrupts access to resources. Roadblocks appear without apparent reason, mostly around cities, and limit the availability of food and fuel.
  4. Civil unrest continues unpredictably. Although protests are forbidden, they occur and government forces respond with violence. The poor infrastructure in parts of the country limits the potential of international assistance.
  5. Access to healthcare is limited due to the unrest. Government hospitals are understaffed and frequently deny treatment to suspected protestors. Ambulances are unreliable, denying treatment or not visiting certain areas.
  6. Sexual assault, especially against girls, is common. More than two-thirds of the 14,000 rapes reported between 1998 and 2008 were committed against girls under the age of 17, and nearly half of them were under the age of 14. More recent statistics during Ortega’s presidency are unavailable, but anecdotal reports suggest that gender-based violence is widespread. A stigma follows survivors of rape, but not perpetrators. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has expressed grave concern.
  7. Domestic violence against women is controversial in Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan Constitution contains both protections against and provisions for violence against women under certain circumstances, like marriage. Legal dialogue has fluctuated through the 2010s. In 2012, in response to high levels of femicide and little legal response, a women’s rights group pushed through Ley Integral Contra La Violencia Hacia Las Mujeres (Law 779) expanding the legal definition of violence against women, establishing specially-trained prosecutors to hear gender-based violence cases and further protect victims. Since then, 779 has been systematically weakened by a series of legislative and presidential decrees. Local conservative legislators and religious leaders see 779 as potentially destructive to families if women could seek reprisal for domestic violence. Although rape is illegal, domestic/intimate violence, child-marriage and dating violence is still high.
  8. Violence is hurting Nicaragua’s economic growth. Between 2014 and 2016, poverty in Nicaragua decreased from 29.6 to 24.9 percent and extreme poverty from 8.3 to 6.9 percent. But due to the social and political unrest since April 2018, the economy contracted in 2018 by 3.8 percent. The World Bank supported Nicaragua through the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries, to support poverty reduction measures in the country.
  9. Violent street crime is spotty, but regional, and is greater in urban areas after dark. Street crime is more prevalent in Managua, Puerto Cabezas, Bluefields, San Juan del Sur, Popoyo, El Transito and the Corn Islands.
  10. The homicide rate is low and falling. The homicide rate held steady with 15 in 100,000 people 2014-16, but it fell to 6 in 100,000 in 2018—far lower than comparable economies. Men commit homicide six times more frequently than women and people ages 15-26 are the most likely to commit homicides.

Heather Hughes
Photo: U.N.

anti-human trafficking software
Children are the most vulnerable population in the world. Even the most vigilant of parents cannot watch their children at all times. Every country suffers from kidnapping, although certain countries have much higher rates than others. For example, in 2015, Lebanon held the highest rate of 16.9 per 100,000 people kidnapped. The reasons for kidnapping children vary drastically, but one of them is human trafficking. This abhorrent practice has been going on for far too long, but with modern technology, there are organizations developing ways to stop it through anti-human trafficking software. Thorn is an organization founded by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore to defend children from human trafficking and sexual abuse.

Digital Defenders of Children

As a digital platform dedicated to ending child trafficking, “Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children concentrates on the role internet plays in facilitating child pornography and child sexual slavery internationally. By putting its efforts towards reclaiming the battleground for a better future of the world’s youth, Thorn is using digital technology to track down victims of sex trafficking and child pornography as well as those who facilitate it.

And, even though some communities get targeted for “easier access,” child sexual abuse is not confined to any one group. Online pornographic images and videos involve both girls and boys from 0-18 years old with diverse backgrounds. In one of their reports for tipline, “the Canadian Centre for Child Protection found that children under 12 years old were depicted in 78.3 percent of the images and videos assessed by their team, and 63.4 percent of those children were under 8 years of age.” The same study found that 80.42 percent of the children were girls while 19.58 percent were boys. These staggering numbers underline the importance of Thorn’s work in targeting child pornography, especially when the physical and psychological trauma endured in early childhood affect the victims for the rest of their lives.

Child Sexual Abuse Deterrence Program

The majority of the sex trafficking victims end up in the situation because of living in poverty. As children of more impoverished and uneducated families, they often at higher risk of abduction or even being sold into slavery where they can end up in the estimated $13 billion pornography industry. In 2018, one in seven runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children likely became victims of sex trafficking, the majority of which came from low-income families. Therefore, issues of poverty ultimately need to be addressed in order to stamp out child sexual abuse entirely.

Poverty isn’t the only catalyst. Child pornography wouldn’t exist if there weren’t a market in which to sell it. So, to prevent the pattern from spreading even wider, Thorn communicates directly with people actively searching for material featuring child sexual abuse with the aim to make them think about and realize its consequences and hopefully to change their behavior by helping them understand their accountability for the detrimental situation these children are in. Thanks to Thorn’s child sexual abuse deterrence program, more than 140,000 individuals have sought help in addressing their role in supporting child pornography.

Progress So Far

With the help from Thorn’s anti-human trafficking software, law enforcement officers and investigators have already identified 5,791 child sex trafficking victims and rescued 103 children who were victims of sexual abuse that was recorded and distributed. Thorn continues working with more than 20 international NGOs and more than 40 tech partners, aiding more than 5,000 law enforcement officers in all 50 states and in more than 18 countries in the fight to eliminate sex trafficking and abuse.  

Ending human trafficking and the sexual abuse of children might be one of the worst fights society faces today, but with the help of organizations like Thorn creating anti-human trafficking software not only to find and recover these children but also to hold accountable and attempt to rehabilitate those who support the industry, there is hope of seeing a reduction in these types of atrocities in the future.

Photo: Flickr

Kenya In the current climate of American culture, one has most likely heard or participated in a discussion about consent; but, in many nations and cultures, having a conversation about sexual consent can be quite foreign.

Global Conversations on Consent

Rape and sexual assault are pervasive parts of all societies. Currently, about 120 million girls worldwide, or roughly 1 in 10 of the women on Earth, have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts in their lives.

Contrary to many popular beliefs which imagine the perpetrators of these crimes to be strangers, it is most common that the person who commits sexual violence against girls and women are current or former boyfriends, partners or husbands.

Often women who suffer sexual violence at the hands of intimate partners do not consider these acts to be crimes. It can simply be seen as innate to such partnerships due to the cultural normalization of sexual violence. In 37 countries, perpetrators of rape are exempt from prosecution if they are married or subsequently marry their victim.

Ending the Silence

The historical power inequity between men and women has shown long-standing connections to sex. Interpersonal violence against a weaker partner is widespread and systematic, but sexual violence is rarely discussed within professional or familial relationships. Such silence occurs due to shame from the social stigmas attached to victims and widespread inexperience in conversing on such difficult and painful topics.

Global conversations on consent are amazing ways to lift the burden on survivors and victims of sexual assault and rape. In many countries with available data, less than 40 percent of women who experience physical or sexual violence seek help.

Education and Support

In so many instances, victims internalize these assaults through culturally induced practices of self-blame. Opening platforms where survivors have room to share their narratives is a paramount aspect in the struggle to end violence against women.   

An incredible example in the fight to begin global conversations on consent can be found in the education programs provided by the non-profit, No Means No Worldwide in Kenya and Malawi.

No Means No

No Means No Worldwide is training instructors in high-risk environments to teach a rape prevention curriculum to girls and boys aged 10-20 in both schools and clubs.

Education has major links to the perpetration and susceptibility to violence in both men and women. No Means No Worldwide’s curriculum empowers both girls and boys to create cultures of mutual respect. Girls are taught to identify risk and that they have the choice to say “no.”

If that “no” is not respected, girls and women can also learn physical skills to defend themselves. Boys learn to challenge their perceptions by questioning rape myths. Boys are also taught to ask for consent and to intervene if they expect or witness predatory behavior.

The Right Direction

The results of these programs are astounding. In the areas where their curriculums have been implemented, No Means No Worldwide has seen a 51 percent decrease in the incidence of rape and a 46 percent decrease in pregnancy-related school dropouts.

Fifty percent of girls stopped a rapist within the first year after training, and there was a 73 percent success rate of boys who intervened to prevent an assault.

Speaking Up

Poverty and sexual assault are experiences that are inextricably intertwined; the existence of each fuel the other and back again. People living in poverty and lacking in economic power and resources are at greater risk for sexual violence. In a world where women continue to be economically dependent, less educated and poorer than men, their sexual dignity and human rights are eternally at risk.

Rape is preventable, but first, we need to admit that sexual assault is happening. Global conversations on consent are one step in the road to ending violence against women — so start talking.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Flickr

sex trafficking in India
The trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. This profitable industry generates an estimated $99 billion each year. Unsurprisingly, women and girls make up 96 percent of victims of sex trafficking. The action of sexual exploitation is a human rights violation. This exploitation robs these women and girls of integrity, dignity, health, security and equality.

Sex Trafficking in India an Ongoing Issue Despite New Laws

Sex trafficking in India continues to be lucrative and persistent, and poverty is a major factor. Many vulnerable women and girls are lured into the industry because of the promise of employment. When these women and girls are faced with the harsh reality of poverty, hunger and homelessness, many of them see this as the only option. Matters of poverty are sometimes so severe that parents will sell their own daughters into the trade. These women and children have no other options because they do not possess an education or the skills or the resources to escape sex slavery.

Although India’s Parliament passed a bill amending laws concerning sexual violence and making sex trafficking a criminal offense in 2013, this law will only be so successful. Trafficking is profitable, and corruption is widespread. Traffickers can easily pay off police officers to avoid the deserved charges, which leaves women and children still very much at risk and unprotected.

Sudara Provides Employment Opportunities for Sex Trafficking Victims

A mission-driven company exists on behalf of these women and children to not only empower them, but to provide them with dignified employment opportunities. Sudara is an online store that sells items such as clothing, bags, jewelry and children’s toys, yet there is so much story behind each of these items.

Sudara started in 2006 by partnering with a sewing center in India and taught six women how to sew a pattern for loungewear pants that have been named Punjammies. The previous year, founder Shannon Keith had just returned from a trip to India, where she heard many stories of women who were sold into sex slavery and women who were being picked up off the streets by local pimps.

From the beginning, Sudara’s focus and goal has remained the same: to empower women to live in freedom from sex slavery through safe, sustainable living-wage employment. Every pair of Punjammies robes and slouch pants are made in India, and every style is named after a woman at one of the centers.

Fifteen years later, Sudara has multiple sewing center partnerships with people from all over India and the United States. One of these center partners, Ivana, provides women who are at high risk of trafficking with valuable skills training on computers and tailoring. In addition, the center also offers counseling services for every woman as well as on-site childcare for their children.

Sudara’s mission also emphasizes providing a level of care that allows a woman who has been a victim of sex trafficking in India to heal from her past and facilitate training that leads to a self-sufficient future. Because of this, Sudara pays the sewing center partners a premium that goes towards medical care and counseling. This premium also goes towards job placement services and micro-loans for women who would like to start a business of their own.

Sudara’s Nonprofit Arm Helps the Most Vulnerable in India

Sudara also created a nonprofit organization, the Sudara Freedom Fund, to further its social impact goals. The donations made during checkout at sudara.org go towards the Sudara Freedom Fund and have helped fund safe housing for women escaping sex trafficking in India, equipment for new or growing sewing centers and back-to-school programs.

With the continuous support of donations to the Sudara Freedom Fund, one of their most recent successes is the Sunetha Home, which opened in 2017. The Sunetha Home is providing safe housing, meals and an education for 10 girls living in a red light district of India.

Although companies such as Sudara and its nonprofit, the Sudara Freedom Fund, are putting their efforts towards creating freedom for hundreds of women and girls who are at high risk of sex trafficking in India, it is not enough to end sex slavery once and for all. To do that, it is necessary to break the cycle of slavery for the next generation and the generations after that. By supporting Sudara and other philanthropic organization, many people are doing their part to combat the sexual exploitation that millions of women and children face.

– Angelina Gillespie
Photo: Flickr

John Marks
In an increasingly polarized world, it is becoming more and more common for individuals to be split on issues. Although this may not be negative, such binarization certainly has the potential to breed conflict. Search for Common Ground (SFCG) is a non-governmental agency that seeks to prevent violence that results from differences. Here are ten facts about Search for Common Ground that provide a better understanding of what the organization does.

10 Facts about Search for Common Ground

  1. Search for Common Ground was founded by John Marks in 1982 in Washington D.C. His vision was to replace the dog-eat-dog mentality of the world with the premise that everyone is better off if we are all better off.
  2. SFCG is revolutionizing the way the world deals with conflicts. Through listening and cooperation, the company brings people together toward a common goal and away from conflict.
  3. They have 59 offices worldwide and work in the U.S., Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia.
  4. Search for Common Ground is dedicated to upholding human rights. As a result, they served as a signatory for a delegation in Nigeria known as the Steering Committee of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights Initiative.
  5. SFCG has a great global outreach program, as 795 thousand individuals volunteer with SFCG every year.
  6. Search for Common Ground has global initiatives such as “The Team.” This is a television series where soccer players must overcome their ethnic, social, religious and racial differences and use diversity to work together. This has proved to be an effective method to reach viewers as Richard Scudamore, the Chief Executive of the Premier League said, “football (soccer) is a remarkable tool which can break down barriers, foster understanding, and teach people valuable lessons on a wide range of social issues.”
  7. SFCG encourages cooperation in specific locations through dialogue, media and community work.
  8. SFCG has been successful in using dialogue to better relations. In one case, they transformed the reputation of police officers in the Terai region of Nepal through the Pahunch Project. This project invited Terai youth and police officers to play football and ask questions about one another. Notoriously there is tension among these groups, but afterward, one participant named Mamta said, “The football clinic has made my friends and me positive towards the police.” In fact, she even later decided to become an officer herself.
  9. SFCG created a video: L’Équipe to address gender-based violence. It revolves around the perspective of two African women soccer players that are victims of sexual violence. Despite their pain, the two women seek to better their situation and community. This is one of the many SFCG media tools that reaches 51 million people annually and provides encouragement for women to stand up against sexual violence.
  10. The Kpaika community within the Democratic Republic of Congo is a poor area that is prone to attacks from rebel groups. In response, SFCG organized the Secure, Empowered, Connected Communities (SECC) project. This project bettered communication within the community by establishing radio networks and emergency plans of action. As a result, the community has felt a lot safer and is more prepared for potential attacks.

Creating Change

These facts about Search for Common Ground do not encompass the entirety of the organization’s successes as a whole. To learn more about the organization or how to help, visit sfcg.org.

– Mary McCarthy

Photo: Flickr