Modern "Abolitionists"
Tim Ballard, a former CIA Agent and Homeland Security operant from Utah, spent over a decade working to disrupt child trafficking both domestically and internationally. His passion for this work led him to form a new organization to combat the issue plaguing the world. Ballard formed the nonprofit organization Operation Underground Railroad (OUR).

OUR uses a network of former military officers, medics, nurses, cops and others to directly free children forced into the sex trade. The organization relies heavily on high-level connections for donations and for cooperation with governments and police forces abroad. Though OUR has faced the common criticisms that follow all raid based programs, Ballard and his team defend the mission, emphasizing that these children are in dire, forced circumstances and freeing them is ideal. Also, OUR uses local government and police agencies to make the actual arrests and then sets up the rescued children with some type of assistance, be it financial or through local programs.

The program has played off of the general publicity that comes with raid and rescue type intervention programs and spun it even further. The team itself is something to behold, with physically fit and mentally sharp experts in their field, they are entrancing to watch. Which is why the organization is on the verge of making a deal for a TV show accompaniment. In fact, a large part of donations come from wealthy individuals who in turn for their donations get direct access to view the raids from afar. The entertainment aspect of the program has been substantial for funding to say the least.

The program has also gained popularity through its marketing as modern “abolitionists” and the website entices potential donors with the tag line “give a Lincoln, save a slave,” which urges donors to give a monthly five dollar membership due. By using terms that play on 1800s slavery emancipation, the organization further highlights the slavery element of the child sex trafficking world, emphasizing that this is a tremendous injustice.

Despite OUR’s success, the organization’s highly mormon roots, entertainment element and raid styled approach have worried some experts. The strong religious association may cause further cultural resistance in certain areas and in certain groups, which could halt other efforts working to combat sex trafficking. The entertainment element and how the group is giving back to donors in the form of live raid video access- brings up ethical questions. While thus far the approach has worked and brought attention to the problem of child sex trafficking, there is the risk of the organization becoming too entertainment focused and the actual mission being overclouded. With the potential for a television show the raids become cinematic and less real-life-nitty-gritty, making the very real problem seem far from home and even fictional.

The classic criticisms of raid style intervention programs persist with the OUR abolitionists. Common concerns are that they are doing little to help the child recover and succeed after freedom. Also the program needs to address the fact that many members of the sex trade are not directly forced into it but arrive there because of a lack of opportunity and desperation. Also of those that are forced, as the program does try to target children, many children develop drug addictions while working that lead them back into the practice.

OUR is new and seems to have a good amount of leverage with high paying donors and political connections that could provide the means to address the problems or concerns now to develop an unstoppable force against sex traffickers. For now the program is working on developing software that will flag computers containing child pornographic material, particularly belonging to tourists, in areas where the sex trade is prominent, to come at the problem from that angle also. Further strengthening of the current and new programs that help rescued children recover and stay away from the sex trade is essential in for OUR to make a long-term impact. The entertainment aspect of the program is an interesting new approach that seems to have short-term success, but does hold some risk down the line. However the program does deserve credit for its efforts and with continued development, could become a major player in foreign assistance. OUR serves as a prime example of how small-scale efforts can transform into larger operations through raising awareness and how non-governmental and non-profit organizations can often times avoid the restrictions that are unavoidable for their counterparts.

Emma Dowd

Sources: Foreign Policy, Maxim, OUR
Photo: The Florida Villager

Pornography is a business globally worth $57 billion, with the United States accounting for over $11 billion. Pornography was first developed as a means to help individuals fulfill their sexual fantasies and serve as a criminal deterrent against violent crimes, but pornography has just made sex more violent. Just as the pornography industry began to flourish, a survey of U.S. college girls showed that 69.8 percent of them had been “verbally coerced” into having “unwanted sex.” And in the United Kingdom in 2006, 33 percent of all women say that they have been forced into sex. Pornography has been further exacerbated through the Internet and the emerging trend to use child victims. Statistics indicate​ that upon the legalization of pornography, emerging growth rates of failed marriages have occurred, as well as an increase in sex-related crimes.

In 2013, child pornography arrests grew by 2,500 percent. It is attributed to the demand and an impoverished supply. Families under economically desperate conditions utilize their children as vessels of income. Pornography pretends to offer economic gain to the vulnerable, many of whom are led by coercion, force or kidnapping. In general there is an issue with the way in which the poor are represented in media. The media’s use of impoverished people objectifies them, as does pornography.

Sex industry recruiters and sexual deviants alike choose from a pool of candidates who have experienced various levels of previous exploitation and remain economically desperate. In countries such as Kenya, children as young as the age of six are sold and used in child pornography. The documentary “ Working Lives” is about child sex tourism and pornography in Kenya’s coastal towns. It discusses how in Kenya, some parents send their children to have sex for foreigners for as little as one dollar.

Due to limited options, some parents choose to knowingly rent their children for pornographic or sex slave purposes. In “The Secret Child Sex Trade Hiding in Kenya’s Tropical Paradise,” viewers are introduced to a six-year-old girl suffering from signs of rape, sodomy and beatings, that occurred on film for pornographic purposes.

In the Philippines, there was a major case involving a made-to-order porn operation, with charges that include murder and torture. An Australian made a global business of using impoverished victims for sexual and violent performances based upon customer request. Here he monopolized on the poverty and was strategic when choosing the cities, local child recruiters and victims. Often, he would utilize the other poor local children to establish connections and lure in street children. The documentary “ Catching a Monster” covers methods of grooming and deviant practices to recruit the needy for pornographic use.

His youngest performer was an 18-month-old girl name Daisi, of whom he created a series of pornographic videos of her sexual abuse. All of the children used in these videos had parents that had been coerced by false promises and the opportunity to provide a better life for their children.

Many people are victims to poverty and more so generational poverty, that has passed down impoverishment from the previous generations. Many of those in vulnerable populations experience exploitation and are forced to become workers in the sex industry. For the extreme poor, many questionable work opportunities arise; pornography is one of them. Ending poverty can help to decrease victimized children in pornography.

– Erika Wright

Sources: Oh My News, Feed the Right Wolf, Huffington Post, The Crime Report,

More than 400 human rights advocates, including actors, directors, fashion designers and many more signed an open letter to Amnesty International asking the organization to vote against the decriminalization of the sex industry.

The proposed policy that these advocates are referring to backs the legalization of brothels and pimping. The policy asks for the support of all acts of selling sex to be lawful, but for sex buying to remain illegal.

After learning about Amnesty International’s intention, hundreds of noticeable individuals joined an international public campaign. The campaigners urged the organization to reevaluate their plans and to stand with those who are oppressed in the sex trade.

The letter declares that advocates agree that those who are prostituted must not be outlawed by law enforcement, and that the legalization of selling sex contributes to poverty, homelessness, sexual abuse and discrimination.

Many young children who are forced into the sex trade will not earn an education and will likely contract sexually transmitted diseases. Without healthy and educated citizens, a developing area cannot improve economically.

The cycle of poverty continues because poverty contributes to the sex trade. According to Medical News Today, many families in impoverished areas sell their children into the trade. Sometimes, children and young adults will seek out the trade to earn wages for food and shelter.

Former Irish prostitute Mia de Faoite said that the policy proposal advocating these means of earnings is absolutely unacceptable.

“I can find no justification for those crimes, and I believe that no one is able to justify such human wickedness,” de Faoite said.

She also said this policy move contradicts the organization’s ideals for human rights.
“Amnesty would agree with me, I am sure, and would fight alongside me to find justice, if I asked,” de Faoite said. “This is confusing to me, and it makes no sense because, on the other hand, they are prepared to sanction the behavior that led to this crime.”

A petition that petitions a “non-profit industrial complex” by Amnesty International agrees with de Faoite. The petition states that with this new policy, the organization will ultimately be harming those who Amnesty International claims to help.

“With this proposal, Amnesty International is moving away from human rights advocacy,” the petition said.

About 500 members of the international human rights organization will meet in Ireland for Amnesty’s 32nd International Council Meeting, where they are projected to approve the decriminalization of sex work. The vicious cycle of poverty will be promoted by Amnesty International’s proposal if there is not a change similar to the one proposed in the open letter.

The letter was signed by celebrities such as author Hannah Pakula, poet Rose Styron, actress Meryl Streep, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Anna Quindlen, chef Alice Waters and 2008 Amnesty International Human Rights Award winner Lydia Cacho. Other celebrity signers include Emily Blunt, Lena Dunham, Anne Hathaway, Lisa Kudrow, Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson.

This level of support for the change has helped achieve such a grand presence in human rights that there is now a campaign on for the modification. The letter is still open for more signatures.

To sign the letter and learn more about Amnesty International’s policy, click here.

Fallon Lineberger

Sources:, Look to the Stars, Medical News Today, Independent News Ireland
Photo: Vanity Fair

Defined as the illegal movement of people, usually for forced labor or sexual exploitation, human trafficking is a lucrative business and global issue. The International Labor Organization estimates that human trafficking generates $150 billion per year, with $99 billion coming from sexual exploitation. Traffickers often approach potential victims with enticing offers, such as jobs, educational opportunities, or even marriage abroad. Upon accepting such offers, victims are told they must pay back the cost of traveling to their destination. Upon arrival, they often find themselves trapped in forms of modern-day slavery, with little to no chance of escape.

It is estimated that there are currently 20.9 million trafficking victims worldwide, of which one point two million are children. 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, 80 percent of which are female and 50 percent of which are minors. Human trafficking is a much larger problem than many realize: it is the fastest growing form of international crime. It is the second largest source of illegal income worldwide, behind only illegal drug trafficking. However, human trafficking is appealing to many organized crime groups as it can bring a higher profit than drug trafficking.

For decades, human trafficking in Cuba has been at the center of the trade. Adults and children alike have been tricked into prostitution and forced labor. The most vulnerable group is young people between the ages of 13 and 20, who are often victims of child prostitution or sex tourism. There have been reports of forced labor with Cuban government work missions abroad, which the government denies. Some claim these missions were completely voluntary and well paid, while others say they were coerced or forced by government officials who withheld their passports or restricted their movements.

Historically, Cuba has not complied with minimum standards for preventing human trafficking, but in recent years, the nation has been making significant efforts to combat sex trafficking. The U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report, released in July, no longer lists Cuba as a country that fails to combat human trafficking. Since 2013, the Cuban government has prosecuted and convicted numerous sex traffickers and provided services to their victims. The Ministry of Labor and Social Services is leading a committee to combat gender and sexual violence, including sex trafficking. Furthermore, the Federation of Cuban Women, an NGO, is providing outreach to victims and information about the abuses that female trafficking victims experience.

These efforts are important, but there is much more work to be done. Currently, the government does not recognize forced labor as a widespread issue and has not reported significant efforts to stop forced labor. Actions against trafficking need to be more extensive and new legislation prohibiting all forms of trafficking needs to be drafted, passed, and enforced. Authorities must continue investigating and prosecuting those responsible for trafficking and all victims should have access to support services. These recent improvements have benefitted many, especially sex trafficking victims, but more efforts are needed to prevent other forms of forced labor in Cuba.

– Jane Harkness

Sources: BBC, Stop the Traffik, US Department of State
Photo: Flickr

Thousands living in poverty and inhumane conditions are forced into slavery for their survival. Many of the victims are woman and children who flee countries in search of refuge but, instead, are captured by human traffickers and sold into what is known as modern-day slavery.

Many of those who end up in modern slavery rings are fleeing persecution in their native countries. This is a particularly prominent issue in African countries that neighbor South Africa. South Africa is a desired destination for many Africans who suffer from poverty and corruption in other countries. It is on their travels from other nations to safety that they unfortunately get sucked into the horrors of modern slavery in Africa.

Some children are forced into becoming child soldiers, while some, along with women, are sold into sex trafficking. Others are used to provide cheap or unpaid labor in agricultural work, factories or domestic work. The number of people enslaved are staggering, with approximately 193,000 in Ghana and about 762,900 in the Congo.

It is important that, instead of just ignoring modern slavery like many have been, we know the power we have in ending slavery around the world. Modern day slavery has been uncovered everywhere, even in the United States in the last 15 years. Ignoring the horrific acts just won’t do.

How can we not only show that we do not support this atrocity but also want to work towards its end?

Many enslaved people are those who make the products we use every day. This includes agricultural goods, clothes and other items. Many who use slaves use other terminology in order to hide the atrocities. Many people are enslaved to make clothes and products in factories, working for inhumane hours at a time for either very little or even no pay. There are ways for consumers to research quickly online about where their products come from and how those who make the clothing are treated.

Much of this information is provided by advocacy organizations that have dedicated time and research into finding these victims.

There are many organizations that work to find and free enslaved individuals, while also dismantling groups that enslave them. One international organization is “Free the Slaves.” Free the Slaves is an advocacy group that speaks for those throughout the world who have fallen victim to such atrocities.

For more information about how everyone can make a difference and end modern slavery in Africa, go to

– Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: Free the Slaves 1, Free the Slaves 2, African Holocaust
Photo: Rita Bay’s Blog

Things you didn’t know about the Sex Trafficking Industry
Below are the top five things you didn’t know about the sex trafficking industry.

1. Trafficked children are treated and tried as criminals even though federal law defines anyone under the age of 18 as a victim.

U.S. Federal law states that no one under the age of 18 is able to give consent to any sexual acts. However, children under the age of 18 are tried as prostitutes and criminals every day. There is an inherent flaw in the U.S. judicial system, which seems to allow survivors to be treated as criminals. Most of these children were forced into the industry and have no means of escaping except through the law, but when law enforcement officials are after them as well, it is no wonder that so many children feel trapped.

2. Many children in the trafficking industry do not believe they are victims.

When children are first recruited into the sex industry they are brainwashed. The younger the child the more they are convinced that working in the sex industry is the only job for them. Most survivors believe that they owe their “pimps” something, that there is no life for them outside of the trafficking industry because they have seen so many horrible things. For this reason, many sex trafficking survivors do not immediately seek assistance.

One survivor explained her thought process to the Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS), stating that the reason many “victims” dislike the term victim is because they are truly survivors. These men and women have survived horrible conditions and have seen things that no one could ever imagine, yet they persevere and survive through it all.

3. Boys make up 50 percent of the children trafficked in the U.S.

While the typical image of a trafficking victim is a young girl, clueless about the situation and finding herself having to tough it out on the rough streets, this excludes half of the trafficked population. Many young boys are taken and sold as workers or sex workers. These young men are especially susceptible to suicide and drug abuse because society does not accept them. The most dangerous areas for trafficking are New York City, Florida and California.

4. There are an estimated 27 million adults and 13 million children around the world who are victims of human trafficking.

There are more slaves in the world at this moment than there have ever been at any point in history.

5. Pregnant women are some of the most trafficked individuals.

Surprisingly, many pregnant women are at higher risk to be trafficked. Women who get pregnant while in the trafficking industry will often profit off of the pregnancy. Traffickers sell newborn babies to black market industries and split the profits between the doctors, lawyers, shippers and caretakers, leaving the mother with a small sum of money in place of a child.

Many organizations are working to crack down on the sex-trafficking industry and hopefully, with better surveillance and harsher laws, a new beginning can be found.

– Sumita Tellakat

Sources: Alternet, Facts, Polaris Project
Photo: All Girls Allowed

In many parts of the world, including the United States, brothels exist. They have astounding symmetry in areas with high rates of  poverty and gender inequality. Workers receive little to no pay. Often former victims of human trafficking and prostitution become brothel owners. Women make up the majority of owners. The end of the road for women and children who have been trafficked for commercial sex purposes is usually a club or brothel.

Sadly, what many do not realize is that the women found in brothels are often not forced, but only do so as a result of economic desperation. However, some of the younger victims are held captive, sold by their families or born into the brothel.

Born into the Brothel refers to children of brothel workers, whose other female family members have been brothel workers. These children grow up living in the brothel. Recruitment for brothels is often easy due to the extreme poverty and vast need for economic resources. Essentially, brothels target low income areas as a primary source for recruitment.

Brothels generally avoid areas with a high concentration of NGOs and law enforcement. Therefore, rural areas absent of NGOs are now being targeted by brothels. In these areas, there is a lack of law enforcement involvement and organizations to empower women. The recruitment efforts are based on the use of economic exploitation.

Recruitment is often done by elderly women who are either former brothel workers or came from impoverished communities. Now, having obtained their own brothels, they exploit their own past experience of economic need. These women send older prostitutes back to their own villages or villages known to be poor to recruit new staff for their establishment.

Recruiters have direct and personal knowledge of an area, and know exactly which families to target. They are aware of who is struggling the most, which families have too many daughters and which families have had the death of a parent or a marital breakdown.

According to reports from UNICEF of the women that end up in brothels in Asian countries such as Nepal, 86 percent did not know that they were going to become apart of the sex market when they left home. Furthermore, of those victims, 82 percent were promised jobs that did not include working at a brothel in prostitution. Families that covet advanced earnings due to economic need, willingly send their daughters. In regions such as Southeast Asia, husbands are permitted to sell their wives to brothels legally. Rural areas have become breeding grounds for girls who become forced into the sex industry. The supply is continuous due to the cycle of poverty in these regions.

– Erika Wright

Sources: Hist-Chron, UNICEF
Photo: Flickr

human trafficking

There are numerous causes of human trafficking, but the root of most causes is money. Reaping approximately $150 billion and victimizing close to 27 million people, human trafficking is the fastest-growing illicit industry in the world. It includes sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, domestic servitude, forced child labor and the unlawful recruitment of soldiers. The common factor lurking behind the different causes of human trafficking is the victim’s vulnerability to exploitation.

Characterized by low costs and high returns, human trafficking is an extremely lucrative enterprise. Harvard’s Siddharth Kara discovered that the cost of today’s slaves is, on average, $420 and modern slaves can generate more than 500 percent in annual return on investment. In comparison, the cost of slaves in 1850, after adjusting for inflation, was between $9,500 and $11,000. During the time, the return on investment from a slave was significantly lower, around 15 to 20 percent in annual return on investment. Furthermore, traffickers face low risks, although more governments around the world are actively penalizing human traffickers, and have a steady stream of vulnerable people to exploit.


Poverty & Causes of Human Trafficking


Although the world successfully reduced global poverty by 35 percent in the past 27 years, 767 million people still live in poverty and make up a portion of the pool of those vulnerable to human trafficking. The structural causes of human trafficking are poverty, lawlessness, social instability, military conflict, natural disasters, weak law enforcement and racial and gender biases. These structural causes represent the broader, necessary requirement for human trafficking to thrive: vulnerability.

Many times, poor families will give their children away to traffickers posing as agents promising their children better lives. Refugee camps are prime locations for this kind of exploitation. Where displaced people lack many forms of proper care, shrewd traffickers build relationships with corrupt officials and freely prey on the weak.

In a more recent example, migrants who cross the Sahara to escape war and terrorism are often captured by traffickers in northern parts of Africa. The International Organization for Migration reported that many of these migrants are falsely promised jobs and then are sold publicly in Libyan slave markets. Many do not make it to Europe.

Human trafficking can happen anywhere, as long as the environment contains vulnerable conditions. The New York Times estimates that one-fifth of homeless youth are victims of human trafficking in the U.S. and Canada. In West Africa, traffickers pose as teachers and enslave optimistic students to become beggars. In 2015, the Associated Press discovered that young migrants and impoverished Thais were forced to catch seafood that later ended up in the world’s seafood supply, including on the shelves of America’s major retailers and supermarkets. Thai agents recruited children and the disabled, some of the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in the world.

Today, many countries are collaborating together to reduce the causes of human trafficking. The U.S. State Department Trafficking-in-Persons Report is the world’s most comprehensive resource on anti-trafficking efforts, including 188 countries and territories. Countries that fail to meet the report’s minimum requirements fall to tier three status, which can result in sanctions on the country. In 2016, Thailand was recognized for making significant strides in eliminating human trafficking.

Locally, ordinary people and nonprofits are continually impacting their communities. Nonprofits, such as Mango House in Chiang Mai, Thailand or FOREFRONT in India, continue to address these structural issues that breed vulnerability.

– Andy Jung
Photo: Flickr

Sex trafficking exists in the United States. Sex traffickers target women and children with histories of addiction, abuse and even issues with debt and use manipulation to keep these victims trapped in the sex trafficking industry. The leaders in sex trafficking use violence and threats against the victims loved ones as means to force these victims to work against their own will. Accordingly, 83% of sex traffic victims are United States citizens. This issue is larger than most people realize and exists in the form of strip clubs, fake massage businesses, hostess clubs and even online escort services.

The internet is the number one center for sex trafficking in the United States. For example, pimps use websites like and even disguised as massage services to escort victims for services. Thus, these women are forced into sex trafficking at a young age mostly by older men. Most of the services that are offered on Craigslist are in the form of recruiting. Women post pictures of themselves and answer customer’s calls referencing the ads placed on Craigslist. These women are not willingly posting these pictures, but are in constant fear of their own lives. In addition, these pimps use not only force but the false promise of a better life and threats to harm the victims’ loved ones. Victims are coerced into trafficking by pimps posing as model scouts, or nannies and house maids being recruited and then captured by these sex traffickers.

Because trafficking is unique when based in the internet it has become extremely profitable and it is easier to reach a larger audience. Anyone can post ads on these sites and these ads can be seen by thousands of people in addition to being unnoticed by the police. The average age range these victims enter the sex trafficking industry is 11-15 and due to the vague description of age with words like “young,” these operations slip by unnoticed by authorities.

In addition, many women in places like Nigeria, Thailand, and other places suffering from global poverty are involuntarily forced into sex trafficking. The geological approach to sex trafficking shows high numbers of victims in areas stricken with poverty, as well as remote areas where women are more likely taken from to an area of global capitalization and tourism. These high traffic areas are promoted through the use of the internet and smartphones. Because of the accessibility to these websites, where a brothel can be located in under a minute generates high revenue for the owner.

Accordingly, President Barack Obama released a statement saying “We’re turning the tables on the traffickers. Just as they are now using technology and the Internet to exploit their victims, we’re going to harness technology to stop them.”

To illustrate the alarming statistics of this issue the US Department of Health and Human Services show that 90% of runaways end up in the commercial sex trade industry and in Tennessee 94 children are trafficked every month. Human Trafficking has become a larger issue than most realize and will be addressed accordingly to the advancement of technology.

– Rachel Cannon

Photo: CNN
End Slavery Tennessee, Polar is Project

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