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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

indian_child
Human trafficking, for labor and sex work, is rampant in South Asia. In March the Indian Parliament passed a bill making sex trafficking a criminal offense. However, there are many obstacles to enforcing this law.

Despite new restrictions and harsher punishments, India’s human trafficking problem is worse than ever. Young girls are often lured into the sex trade with the promise of employment in major cities. This stems from two problems: poverty and rapid urbanization. Poverty leads young girls into desperation or allows them to be tricked into the sex trade. Urbanization leads to a lot of men moving into cities inhabited by very few women. This creates a market for the sex traffickers to sell to.

The caste system also plays a role in the sex trade, as many of the women come from disadvantaged castes. Men of more noble castes see the exploitation of these girls as natural and deserved. Though steps have been taken to remove the caste system from Indian society, many elements still persist.

For these reasons, amending the laws against human trafficking will not solve the problem. The sex trade stems from poverty, rapid urbanization and a cultural stigma. To solve human trafficking, the government must work to remedy the conditions that nurture the exploitation of young girls for profit.

Organizations that focus on educating women, removing them from the sex trade and rehabilitating them also play a key role in correcting the situation. Not for Sale is a nonprofit working to break the cycle of human trafficking in South Asia. Women who are trafficked are removed from the situation, put into a home for exploited women and move through a program designed to empower them and re-integrate them into society. This includes education, job training, financial consulting, childcare, networking and treatment. Not for Sale also provides employment opportunities for women vulnerable to human trafficking.

– Stephanie Lamm

Sources: Asia Foundation, New York Times1, New York Times2, Not for Sale Campaign
Photo: NPR

taiwan_human_trafficking
October 1, 2013 marked the opening ceremony of the International Workshop on Strategies for Combating Human Trafficking in Taipei City, Taiwan. The workshop serves to stimulate conversation and collaboration for human rights protection and is organized by the National Immigration Agency under the Ministry of the Interior. Around 200 policy experts and officials from Taiwan and abroad attended, including those from Brazil, Canada, Vietnam, the U.K. and 16 other countries.

Vice President of the Republic of China (ROC), otherwise known as Taiwan, Wu Den-yih, took a staunch stance against human trafficking at the opening ceremony. He stated that protecting human rights is a universal value that needs international attention. He also highlighted the firm commitment of the ROC government against human trafficking and violations of human rights.

In the days after the opening ceremony, the workshop hosted six discussion panels ranging from topics pertaining the protecting the youth from sex crimes to trying to prevent modern-day slavery and labor exploitation. Many guest speakers were featured at panels, including officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

This year was the fourth consecutive year that the U.S. State Department awarded Taiwan the Tier 1 status of the U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, based on the government’s effort to fight human trafficking. While the Department of State places countries into one of three tiers, this ranking has no indication of the prevalence of human trafficking in the country, or lack thereof. The ranking simply acknowledges the effort a government has made to make human trafficking a pressing concern in the national political discourse and to attempt to address the problem.

Nevertheless, Taiwan’s ranking demonstrates its commitment of protecting human rights and ending human trafficking. In recent years, Taiwan has been improving law enforcement training, strengthening support services by building shelters and providing temporary work, and establishing policy strictly prosecuting traffickers, such as the Human Trafficking Prevention Act.

– Rahul Shah

Sources: UNPO, AIT, US State Department
Photo: American Institute in Taiwan

Nigerian_orphans_rescued
Eighteen years after it was established, an illegal orphanage in an area of the Lagos State in Nigeria was shut down by state government officials, who also rescued 25 children from the facility. The Office of the Public Defender (OPD) and branch of the state Ministry of Justice, which carried out the rescue mission from the fictitious “Home for Orphans and Less Privileged,” said that aside from keeping the children illegally, the facility was also used for child trafficking.

OPD officers and the Director of Child Development, Alaba Fadairo, learned of the illegal operation run by Rosemary Nwachukwu and acted quickly. A statement issued by the OPD described the deteriorating conditions to which the 27 children, ranging from 3 months to 12 years in age, were exposed. The rescued children have since been taken to the Lagos State Government welfare institution for proper care and protection. The whereabouts of two children are still unknown.

In a press release the OPD stated that, upon further investigation, it was discovered that Nwashukwu held the 27 children in a single room, exploiting them to raise money by defrauding members of the public interested in adoption. The investigation also showed there were no records on kept on any child, no evidence of how Nwachukwu came to be in possession of these children, and no form of police security report.

Fadairo asked the Lagos residents to help the government in curbing such activities in the state. He also warned members of the public to remain vigilant and report similarly suspicious or criminal activity to the media or government in the future. She emphasized that the individuals that operate unapproved or illegal orphanages will be arrested and prosecuted.

In an interview, the suspect, Nwachukwu, told officials that her orphanage had been funded exclusively by donations for the past 18 years, but residents and the landlord association in the community stated they were unaware of the operation, adding that the financial support she described may have been brought to the woman under the cover of darkness.

– Scarlet Shelton
Sources: Vanguard News, allAfrica, eNews Channel Africa

Maiti Nepal
Maiti Nepal is an organization that protects women and girls in Nepal from domestic violence, human trafficking and child exploitation. The word Maiti does not have a literal translation but conveys the idea of a girl’s real family. Through its work, Maiti Nepal provides homes and safety for displaced people. Most importantly, Maiti Nepal was established to put an end to the crime of trafficking.

Human trafficking is a lucrative business in Nepal. Based on supply and demand, human traffickers can be paid upwards of $570 per person trafficked. Demand for cheap labor, lack of employment opportunities, and political instability have also fueled the human trafficking trade. In Nepal, where traveling abroad to find work is common, many people are vulnerable to human trafficking.  There are an estimated 200,000 Nepalese women working in brothels in India with 7,000 new faces trafficked in each year. Women are often sold or trafficked by their own relatives or friends.

Maiti Nepal represents the fight against such human trafficking in Nepal. The organization was founded by Anuradha Koirala. After 20 years of teaching and commitment to social work, Koirala founded Maiti Nepal to serve women and children in suffering, particularly those who were being trafficked within Nepal for sexual exploitation. With the help of a group of teachers, journalists and social workers Maiti Nepal was started in 1993.

The first thing that Koirala accomplished was setting up a rehabilitation home for Maiti Nepal. The home would be for women and children with nowhere to turn to and no place to live. Today, the organization has three prevention homes, nine transit homes, a high school, and a hospice. Additionally, Koirala’s work has turned into a wide range of activities for Maiti Nepal. The organization currently conducts awareness campaigns, rescue operations, female empowerment programs, and health care for women affected by HIV or other illnesses. Maiti Nepal also takes action to provide  legal justice for those who have been exploited. Nowadays, over 1000 children and countless women receive care from Maiti Nepal.

Today, Maiti Nepal continues to rescue girls from human trafficking situations. Maiti Nepal also provides the practical steps to help formerly entrapped women learn to develop self-sustainable life skills. Women are provided with proper counseling and care as well as necessary education. In doing so, Maiti Nepal not only advocates for the end of human trafficking but provides a fresh start for hundreds of women and children.

– Grace Zhao

Sources: Maiti Nepal, The Guardian, Friends of Maiti Nepal

asian_flat_boats_on_river_market
Despite recent governmental actions to curb modern day slavery in Myanmar, human trafficking remains a common practice throughout the country.

Human trafficking takes on various forms within Myanmar, including forced labor, the use of child soldiers for the Myanmar government, and sex trafficking and prostitution. The most common countries of trade include Thailand, China, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. China and Thailand stand out as the two countries with the greatest volume of human trafficking with Myanmar, often with people sent to work in fishing villages, mines, and factories or as a prostitute or a bride.

Myanmar has been traced as both a source country for producing modern day slaves and a destination country to receive illegal slaves. Internally, the country has struggled with forced labor and military recruitment of child soldiers. According to 2011 data from the U.S. Department of State, 92 percent of families in Myanmar’s Chin State had at least one family member forced into serving the government without pay. The government recruits thousands of its citizens into forced labor, requiring them to work in infrastructure development, agriculture and, most commonly, the military. While exact numbers are unknown, thousands of these workers and soldiers are reported to be children with the youngest on record being only 11 years. The government forces the Burmese people into these situations with economic and physical threats, often targeting ethnic minorities.

The primary cause of trafficking in Myanmar traces back to the often-criticized military regime government itself. With the government’s blatant abuse of human rights and use of child soldiers, it is only natural for the Burmese people to follow their government’s lead and turn to human trafficking as a means of generating income. Furthermore, the government fails to recognize smaller ethnic minorities as citizens, which leaves them easy targets for traffickers.

Despite these problems, Myanmar officials claim they are committed to fighting this crime. Current governmental plans to address these problems include focusing on victims, building partnerships between government and civil society, and producing results in taking actions against known human traffickers. While the government pledges to increase arrests and prison sentences to address the trafficking problems, widespread government corruption remains an obstacle to progress in putting criminals away.

As of August 1, the United States and Myanmar governments convened to work on a U.S.-Myanmar Trafficking in Persons dialogue to address the issues the country has been facing. While the country faces many challenges in fighting this issue, in particular with regard to government corruption and economic strife, officials remain hopeful that Myanmar is headed in the right direction to curbing the flow of human trafficking within its borders. The test of time will demonstrate how serious the Myanmar government is in creating this change.

– Allison Meade

Sources: Human Trafficking , Republic of the Union of Myanmar , Knoxville Daily Sun

work-in-freedom-slavery-prevention
On July 15, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, the International Labour Organisation, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine announced the launch of a new slavery prevention program entitled “Work in Freedom.” This project includes a 9.75 million GBP commitment (over 15 million USD) with the purpose of protecting females in South Asia from labor trafficking.

Human trafficking stands out as a growing global issue, with approximately 21 million global citizens forced into labor or prostitution around the world. The majority of modern day slaves find themselves tricked into becoming part of one of these millions of trafficked people. Traffickers target very poor and often remote areas promising to help people find jobs, when in reality they are forced into slavery. The United Nations deemed human trafficking the third-largest global criminal industry.

The plan is to target the most heavily travelled human trafficking routes with access to South Asia, focusing on Bangladesh, Nepal, and some Gulf States. The Work in Freedom Project also plans to provide 50,000 women with technical skills and training to only help them find employment, and to enable them to recognize a trafficker’s ploys and secure legal work contracts guaranteeing proper wages.An additional 30,000 women will receive education to help them learn their rights and find employment as part of the Work in Freedom Project.

Other focuses of Britain’s international support involve child labor. The plan includes keeping girls under 16 years old in school and teaching women to recognize ‘recruitment fees’ and other unethical charges traffickers place as a burden on families in their ‘recruitment’ schemes.

The Work in Freedom Project also hopes to build momentum in governments, employer, and labor unions to cooperate in addressing the issues associated with human trafficking. It calls for employers in the private sector to step up their regulation to prevent hiring trafficked workers.

Work in Freedom demonstrates the United Kingdom’s commitment to international aid. Their new five year program tackles one of modern society’s biggest issues and provides assistance for thousands of women without a voice by giving them education, the power to stand up for themselves, and economic opportunities.

– Allison Meade

Sources: U.K. Government Press Release, Health Canal International Labor Organization
Photo: [email protected]

Supreme_court_ruling_USAID_v_AOSI
On June 20, the United States Supreme Court delivered their decision in the case of US Agency for International Development (USAID) v. Alliance for the Open Society Institute International (AOSI). The highest court in the country ruled 6-2 that USAID had violated the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution by requiring private organizations to take a pledge not to provide funding for HIV prevention to sex workers. The landmark decision means that HIV/AIDs prevention organizations all over the world will now be able to seek USAID funding without having to sign a pledge that would exclude the very people they are trying to serve.

In 2003, USAID implemented a new law that required all groups receiving U.S. government funds for international HIV/AIDs work to adopt policies opposing prostitution. The “anti prostitution loyalty oath” mandated that these organizations take the official position on prostitution that the U.S. government does, which is that all forms of sex work are illegal. The oath resulted in the defunding of numerous HIV prevention organizations who deliberately serviced sex workers.

The government, and by proxy USAID, officially equates prostitution with human trafficking. These organizations, however, take the stance that not all sex work is the result of trafficking and that some women and men willfully enter into prostitution. They want to make sex work safer for those involved, recognizing that it will continue despite attempts to stop it.

In September 2005, AOSI began challenging the loyalty oath in federal courts, labeling it unconstitutional. They argued that the oath was in violation of private organizations’ first amendment rights because it required them to adopt the government’s point of view and restricted what they could say or do. The Supreme Court agreed. This ruling brings the U.S. one step closer to accomplishing its goal of eradicating HIV. Instead of adopting policies that contradict their objective, USAID will now have to align itself with it.

– Allana Welch

Sources: Huffington Post, Johns Hopkins, PR News Wire
Photo: Politics PA

apne-aap-women-worldwide
22 women from Mumbai’s red light district who had a vision of a world where no woman can be bought or sold joined together to form Apne Aap. In its founding stages, Apne Aap provided women a safe place to meet, mend clothing, sleep, and receive mail. Throughout the years, it has grown into an influential organization that now provides self-empowerment programs to women and girls trapped in prostitution in Bihar, Delhi, and West Bengal.

Sadly, all of the founding members have passed away from hunger, suicide, and AIDS related complications, serving as an important reminder of the need to empower women in India. Today, Apne Aap provides women and girls safe places to access education, improve their livelihood options and receive legal rights training. The organization reaches more than 15,000 women and girls and is continuing to fight to keep women and girls from being treated as commodities.

Apne Aap is working to increase choices for at-risk girls and women. The organization follows two Ghandhian principles perpetuating resisting violence to the self and others and upliftment of prostituted girls and women.

The leader of Apne Aap, Ruchira Gupta, has led a career focused on highlighting the link between human trafficking and prostitution laws. She also lobbies policy makers to shift the blame from the victims to the perpetrators. Gupta has achieved international acclaim for her humanitarian work and was awarded the 2009 Clinton Global Citizen Award and the Abolitionist Award at the U.K. House of Lords as well as an Emmy for her documentary titled “The Selling of Innocents,” which inspired the creation of Apne Aap. Gupta has widely challenged the belief that slavery and prostitution are inevitable.

Gupta works vigorously to change Indian trafficking laws. She wants to see the Indian anti-trafficking law known as ITPA be amended and to focus more heavily on the responsibility of the perpetrators and not the girls and women. She advocates for enhanced prosecution of traffickers, procurers, pimps, brother owners, managers, and other groups responsible for the proliferation of human and sex trafficking in India. Gupta’s work and the work of Apne Aap provide meaningful and invaluable services to women and girls trapped in the prostitution industry in India.

– Caitlin Zusy 
Source: Apne Aap, Ruchira Gupta
Photo: Change Her World

HumanTrafficking
The Assistant Foreign Minister for Legal Affairs, Dr. Abdul-Rahim Al Awadi, expressed that fighting human trafficking “depends largely on addressing poverty and weakness, as well as on building national capacities to tackle such crime.” According to him, the U.A.E. has been committed in its contribution to this fight, which included the creation of a trust fund to aid those affected by human trafficking, and the release of a trafficked person’s report in 2012 for the first time. Dr. Al Awadi pointed out that addressing human trafficking is not merely a job for the countries where these crimes are taking place, instead, it is a “shared responsibility,” a cooperation with the countries where these trafficked persons came from. He says that coordination should occur between labor exporting countries and labor importing countries.

The U.A.E. has dealt with these crimes in accordance to international measures since the creation of the Comprehensive National Campaign for Anti-Human Trafficking in 2006; they established trials for those accused of trafficking, protected victims, and fortified global partnerships. Also, in 2006, the U.A.E. put the Federal Anti-Trafficking law into action, which is the “first law of its kind in the Middle East.” The state has also used the media to spread awareness and implemented procedures at entry ports.

In hopes of fighting human trafficking, and especially focusing on trafficking of women and children, the U.A.E. joined the U.N. Convention against trans-national organized crime. Further more, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi granted 15 million dollars to the United Nations initiative on human trafficking which was launched in 2008. Lastly, to the countries where persons are more prone to becoming victims of human trafficking, Dr. Al Awadi suggests that they avert the very factors which lead to human exploitation, and that they ensure that women are not falsely recruited and then exploited instead.

– Leen Abdallah
Source: Khaleej Times