philippines_human_trafficking
New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith and his congressional team traveled to the Philippines earlier this week to meet with victims, aid workers and government officials in the regions hit by Super Typhoon Hayian.  The U.S. government has spent $50 million in emergency aid to the Philippines, providing much needed food, water and emergency medical care. However Smith says that rising human trafficking in the Philippines is also a major issue. The Philippines is a large source for both sex and labor human trafficking. The poor are especially vulnerable to human trafficking in the aftermath of natural disasters when they have lost their homes as well as their communities and are looking for a way out.

Congressman Ed Royce hosted a house committee on foreign affairs hearing in Fullerton California on November 27, 2013.  One of the speakers was Angela Guanzon, who traveled to the U.S. from the Philippines in 2006 in hopes of a better life. “I worked 18 hour days and had to sleep on the floor in a hallway,” Guanzon said. “My co-workers and I were threatened if we tried to escape.”

Human trafficking is what the State Department, law enforcement officials and NGOs are calling “modern day slavery.” Following narcotics, it is the second most profitable criminal enterprise worldwide and the Philippines has the second largest victim population. Many poverty stricken Filipino women leave their families in the hope supporting them from abroad.

Approximately 1 million Filipino men and women migrate each year, currently there are 10 million Filipinos living abroad. Many of these workers are subject to forced labor and harsh conditions, not just in the U.S., but in Asia and the Middle East as well.  Women who work in domestic positions often suffer violence, sexual abuse and rape. Traffickers use local recruiters in villages and urban centers who often pretend to be representatives of government sponsored employment agencies.  Furthermore, victims are required to pay “recruitment fees” that leave the workers vulnerable to forced labor, debt bondage and prostitution.

Many Filipinos live in poverty and are often swayed by recruiters who offer work and a better life. Furthermore, the vast majority of victims are also women and girls; 300,000-400,000 are women and 60,000 -100,00 are children; over 80% are females under the age of 18.

To combat this, the Philippines government created the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 and has made minor improvements since then. For example, it increased funding to the anti-trafficking agency from $230,000 to $1.5 million and went from eight full time staff members to 37. They were also able to repatriate 514 Filipinos from Syria in the winter of 2012, 90% of whom were trafficked. Even with an upgraded version of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, much work still needs to be done in the Philippines and in the U.S. to ensure that women and the poor in the Philippines are not vulnerable to modern day slavery.

– Lisa Toole

Sources: CNN, NJ.com, ABS CBN, HumanTrafficking.org
Photo: The Guardian

morocco_teen_suicide
A teenage girl in Morocco committed suicide last month after being forced to marry her rapist. Her death occurred amidst debate over a controversial article of Morocco’s Penal code which allows rapists to avoid a jail sentence if they marry their victim.

The article in question, Article 475, received global attention after a similar case in March 2012 in which Amina Filali, 16, drank rat poison after being forced to marry her rapist. At the time, activist Abadila Maaelaynine said on Twitter, “Amina, 16, was triply violated, by her rapist, by tradition and by Article 475 of the Moroccan law.”

In Moroccan society, a woman who loses her virginity – even by rape – is considered unfit to marry. “There’s a mentality that says that a girl that’s no longer a virgin is worthless,” said Khadija Riyadi, President of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH). She went on to say that families feel like they cannot support an “unmarriagable” daughter and to make her marry her attacker seems like the only solution.

Opponents of Article 475 pressured U.S. president Barack Obama who met with Moroccan King Mohammed VI on Friday to urge the king to repeal the article.

A move to protect women from violence was submitted to the Moroccan parliament earlier this month, a year after the initial idea was proposed. Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid told Al Jazeera, “Until now, it’s still just a law project that’s being considered by parliament but hasn’t been rectified. We have not yet formally edited the article.”

“Delays in legal reform in Morocco are leaving women and girls exposed to abuse,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International. “Unless the gap is closed between the authorities’ rhetoric about improvements to the law and their delivery of these changes, more lives will be at risk.”

– David Smith

Sources: Al Jazeera, The Telegraph, All Africa

slavery_india
Slavery is a global problem that is currently on the rise. It is defined as “owning another person such as child marriages and human trafficking among others” says Reuters. Recent studies have shown that out of the world’s 7 billion people, 30 million people are living in slavery across the globe. These studies have also shown that most of these 30 million people are women and children who fall victims to sex trafficking networks. According to surveys held by the Walk Free Foundation, 10 countries out of 162 accounted for more than 70% of the world’s slavery. The 10 countries which make up more than 70% of the world’s slavery include Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia, the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as rising nations such as China and India.

However, the West African Nation of Mauritania is known to have one of the highest proportion of slaves in the world.  Reports estimate that there are “around 140,000 to 160,000 enslaved people in Mauritania” (Reuters.com). That is around 10% of the population in that nation alone. Despite this, reports have found that there is much higher amounts of enslaved people in other nations.   According to npr.org, India has been reported to have the most slaves. India is known to  have between 13.3 million and 13.7 million enslaved people. China is also not far behind. China’s enslaved population ranges from 2.8 to 3.1 million people. Pakistan recently moved up to third place on the list due to it’s large enslaved population which ranges from 2 to 2.2 million (npr.org). In these nations, slaves face poor working conditions, extreme gender differences, and extreme poverty (CNN.com).

Despite these worrisome reports, other nations have also reported a decrease in slavery. Britain and Ireland have been ranked as the “nations with the fewest slaves” (npr.org). UN officials have opted to use the cases of Ireland and Britain as models to provide a solution for slavery. Unfortunately, the United States is not ranked in the list of nations with the least amount of slavery. According to UN reports, the United States has been ranked as the 134th nation with the least amount of slavery. Hopefully,  these new studies will help eradicate slavery on a global scale.

– Stephanie Olaya

Sources: NPR, CNN, Reuters

brazil_human_trafficking
Ranked the third largest source of slaves in the Western Hemisphere behind Mexico and Colombia, Brazil‘s human trafficking situation is grim. In 2009, the Brazilian Federal Police estimated that 250,000 to 400,000 children are exploited by domestic prostitution. An estimated 75,000 Brazilian women and girls work as prostitutes throughout neighboring South American countries, the United States, and Europe–most of them are trafficked. Additionally, around 25,000 Brazilians, mainly rural workers, are enslaved domestically each year.

As Brazil emerges as an economic powerhouse, it’s human trafficking situation only worsens. More migrants from neighboring countries and as far away as Asia are increasingly attracted to the promise of jobs in Brazil. Many of them are duped by traffickers into exploitative work situations. Preparations for the upcoming Olympic games and World Cup are significantly driving up labor needs and fueling exploitative labor practices. Just last month, an investigation into the expansion of Sao Paulo international airport discovered migrant workers in “slave-like” conditions.

Fortunately, this has not gone unnoticed by the Brazilian government. The government announced its first anti-trafficking plan in 2008 and introduced its second this year. The new plan includes tougher border controls, a revision of the penal code, and the training of 400 staff for victim services.

However, many are skeptical that the government’s funding and efforts will be enough. Enter: the Slavery, No Way! campaign. Since its launch in 2004, the Slavery, No Way! campaign has trained and provided on-going support to more than 2,200 educators and community group leaders, ultimately reaching over 60,000 people. Together with partners Reporter Brasil, Pastoral Land Commission, and Free the Slaves, Slavery, No Way! works to “enable communities to prevent trafficking of workers into slavery.”

In response to teachers’ asking for innovative approaches to engage children on the issue, Slavery, No Way! created a board game to teach children about trafficking and how to address it. In order to win, players must utilize dialogue, strategic thinking, and reason to end slavery outbreaks. The game emphasizes cooperation over competition and entails three lines of action: preventing vulnerable populations of Brazilians from becoming enslaved, aiding those already enslaved, and combating the root causes of slavery. Characters in the game include justice officials, activists, slaves, and traffickers.

Reports of human trafficking in Brazil have risen 1,500% in 2013 alone, according to government figures. Such a dramatic rise in reporting suggests that campaigns like Slavery, No Way! are bearing fruit in confronting Brazil’s stark slavery issue.

Kelley Calkins

Sources: Free the Slaves, U.S. State Department, In Sight Crime, BBC, UNODC, Slavery, No Way!

adolescent_girl_pakistan_flood
“I am 17 years old. In the relief camp, when I was sleeping in the night, I was raped. I did not know what had happened to me. I do not know the face of the man. I had heavy bleeding…now I see some disturbances in my body and when my mother took me to the hospital, I was told I am pregnant”.

This is what a young girl from Tamul Nadu in India experienced after a tsunami devastated her hometown. Like her, millions of other girls in developing countries are the hardest hit by disasters in comparison with other segments of the population. Not only do women receive non-preferential treatment during emergency rescues, but they are also at a greater risk of sexual exploitation, child marriage, and being deprived of an education.

According to a report released by Plan International, a child rights NGO, girls fare far worse during disasters than the rest of the population. Given their gender, age, and humanitarian status, girls and women experience a triple disadvantage during crises since pre-existing inequalities and vulnerabilities are exacerbated.

In this way, a 14-year-old girl in a slum will experience a flood or an earthquake differently from a 14-year-old boy in the same situation. Such is the case of a son and a daughter who were swept away by a tidal surge in a cyclone that hit Bangladesh in 1991. The father of these children is cited as saying that he could not hold on to both and had to release his daughter because “his son had to carry on the family line.”

In other cases, adolescent girls and women are driven to sell sex because they have no alternative to feed themselves and their children. “I don’t work. I don’t have parents to help. So, for around a dollar, you have sex just for that…it’s not good to do prostitution, but what can you do?” said Gheslaine, who lives in a camp in Croix-de-Bouquets in Haiti.

Disasters also lead to an increase in child marriages. Research in Somaliland, Bangladesh and Niger found that child marriage is often used as a community response to crises in which girls are sold for income and food. In Niger, girls are taken out of school, wed and impregnated at the age of 13. Many of them suffer from fistula (a rupture between the birth canal and bladder caused by prolonged obstructed labor) and die.

One of the least prioritized issues during disasters is facilitating education for girls. Although most families would rather continue education for boys rather than girls, girls who receive an education are more likely to be healthy, marry later in life, and survive into adulthood. In fact, it is one of the most important determinants of practically all desired outcomes related to the Millennium Development Goals, from poverty reduction, to reduced infant mortality rates, and to enhanced democratization.

Despite the evidence that confirms that the empowerment of women has a transformative power in all types of societies, this study reveals that the rights to protection, education, and participation are still not granted to most women and girls, especially during crises.

– Nayomi Chibani
Feature Writer

Sources: IRIN, Plan International
Photo: UNHCR

UN_women_fight_for_equality
UN Women is an organization that was created in July 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly. The organization’s full name is the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women; its mission is to promote gender equality throughout the world and champion women from all walks of life.

Many women in the world face discrimination in the workplace, and receive fewer opportunities when it comes to career and educational advancement. UN Women sees this kind of gender discrimination happening all over the world, and makes it a part of its agenda to ensure that women have basic and equal human rights. Women are often denied access to health care, and even worse, they lack the political voice to change such conditions because of their stark under-representation in governmental decision making.

One of the major issues on the UN Women’s agenda is the end to violence against women. In a 2013 global review, published by the World Health Organization, it was reported that 35 percent of women in the world have experienced some kind of violence from an intimate partner. UN Women also focuses on the different aspects that are associated with violence against women: sex trafficking, child brides, rape, and sexual harassment in the work or education place.

Partnering with government agencies is an effective way that UN Women is able to take action against the various forms of discrimination against women. UN Women channels its efforts on implementing laws that will help protect women against threats like violence. It also advocates for policies that will open up more economic opportunities for women.

The wage gap between men and women is something that UN Women takes very seriously and seeks to bring to a close by implementing policies that argue for fairness in the workplace. A large part of the organization’s mission to empower women comes from its dedication to spread awareness in response to the AIDS epidemic. Women make up 54 percent of all people living in the world with HIV. UN Women has made it a job to spread awareness on the factors connected to the spread of HIV/AIDS. With the help of its partners, and resources UN Women has been able to broadcast the voice of women living with AIDS and it takes steps to help prevent the spread of the disease.

UN Women is gaining momentum and acquiring more support. Actress, Nicole Kidman, showed her support for the organization during an acceptance speech at the Variety Magazine Power of Women Awards event. Kidman encouraged her audience to see the desperate need for women’s equality in the world.

– Chante Owens

Sources: UN Women, Daily Mail

War_Women_Rape
Dating as far back as the Japanese occupation of Nanking in 1937, rape as a weapon of war has been prevalent in conflicts throughout the 1990s and continues to be used today.

A common misconception is that rape is simply a by-product of war. Sexual violence is certainly occurring in every conflict around the world but its role has evolved from an unfortunate effect of war to a tactic used to humiliate and control entire populations.

The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution (UN Resolution 1820) in 2008 defining the use of sexual violence as a war tactic and calling for an end to impunity for those who perpetrate such acts. This resolution came too late for many, including the over 20,000 Muslim women and girls raped in Bosnia during the Bosnian War as well as the estimated 200,000 women and girls raped during the fight for Bangladeshi independence in 1971.

Sexual violence has become a common element of 21st century war. To be able to combat its prevalence, we must first understand the methods and reasoning behind its use.

Perpetrators utilize sexual violence in conflict situations for many different reasons. Rape can be used as a method of ethnic cleansing, as was seen in the Bosnian War. Serbian fighters raped Muslim women to produce Serbian offspring and thereby “cleanse” the population. During the Sudanese War, however, the Janjaweed militia typically used rape as a scare tactic to humiliate, intimidate, and punish the non-Muslim women and communities. Currently in Colombia rival groups are using rape and murder as part of a punitive code to strengthen control in specific regions.

Not only is rape considered the most invasive of war crimes, it has long-lasting consequences for entire communities and countries. Sexual violence during conflicts has contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases in multiple regions. In addition, mass rape has produced a new generation of young adults that are growing up with only one parent or as orphans because their mother was killed during the conflict. This has long-lasting ramifications for countries that will only be seen in the coming decades as this generation reaches working and reproductive age.

It appears that the use of rape as a war strategy will continue to be employed in conflicts across the globe as long as the culture of impunity surrounding this crime persists. Although the United Nations made sexual violence an official war crime in 2008, the International Court of Justice has yet to find efficient means to indict and prosecute the many thousands of people guilty of this heinous crime.

– Sarah C. Morris 

Sources: BBC, UNICEF, United Nations
Photo: The Wip