Posts

Internet_sex_trafficking
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 Backpage.com and even Craigslist.org 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
Sources:
End Slavery Tennessee, Polar is Project

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

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!

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

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

afghanistan-refugees
As citizens of the United States, we hear a lot about the war in Afghanistan. We hear about what the U.S. is doing, our withdrawal timeline, attacks and progress. What we don’t hear about is how the war has affected Afghan citizens, and what life has been like for them.

Right now in Afghanistan, there is a mass exodus of teenage boys who are fleeing Afghanistan. These Afghan child refugees are headed on a 10,000-mile journey towards Europe, where, if they are lucky enough to live and arrive in Europe, they may be able to seek asylum. Teens are forced to trust in smugglers who transport them in secret compartments in vans and truck, or take them on dangerous water crossings with low survival rates.  Many of the boys who take on this journey die in the process, with estimates as low as 35% of boys making it to Europe.

Additionally, Afghan boys are at risk for sex trafficking on their journey. Many of the boys are sexually abused, or turned into sex slaves by their smugglers. They are powerless to the smugglers, who control their livelihood and safety. Many children may also be diverted into menial jobs as they try to save money to pay smugglers for future legs of their jouney. Boys disappear often, and anonymously. They are incredibly vulnerable and very susceptible to kidnappers.

The deaths and disappearances of these boys are, in part, a result of their vulnerability and poverty. The poorer and less educated the boys, the bigger risk they may suffer. Additionally, some of the children may be experiencing post-traumatic stress from the war-related events that they may have witnessed in Afghanistan. The children are also subject to the constant threat of deportation, as most of them do not have legal status or documentation.

The lack of legal status can have many implications on the children. They could be exposed to organized crime, physical abuse, and child labor, as well as the previously mentioned sex trafficking. In several of the countries through which the boys travel, such as Greece, unaccompanied children are not guaranteed asylum or refugee status. Those children who are caught, deported, and sent back to Afghanistan may be at an even greater risk if returned. The plight of young Afghans is undoubtedly a serious human rights violation and one that should be more widely covered by mainstream media.

– Caitlin Zusy 

Sources: 60 Minutes, 60 Minutes, UNHRC
Photo: The National

Apps for Aid HackathonLast month at the International Women’s Hackathon, female university students from around the world in countries such as Brazil, Australia,  Pakistan, and Kenya participated in a focused competition to develop applications that would help combat human trafficking. With technology acting a huge catalyst in carrying out kidnappings and sex trafficking, a new trend has emerged that brings together technology, business, and humanitarian efforts.

At the University of Washington, one of the dozen or so schools participating in the event, students are working on the blueprint of an application called ‘Blossom’. While it is disguised as a lifestyle and pop culture-based app, featuring celebrity gossip and fashion tips, the app will actually allow young girls who are being trafficked to access a chat room and receive help through a hotline number, among other resources.

Some may become skeptical when realizing apps require mobile smartphone access. However, based on presentations and research from the hackathon, the audience these apps are designed for usually have smartphones. Now whether we would like to digest this information with a grain of salt, keep in mind that sex trafficking doesn’t just happen in developing countries. In fact, in 40% of sex trafficking cases undergoing investigation by the Department of Justice from 2008-2010, 83% of the victims were U.S. citizens.

Reverting back to the hackathon, which was sponsored by Microsoft, the event gives females studying computers, technology, and engineering an opportunity to gain a sense of empowerment by coming to understand the profound effect they can have on changing the world. Although they may not be able to go out and capture traffickers directly, their energy, creativity, and knowledge are no doubt going to save lives as these applications are put to the test and developed.

– Deena Dulgerian
Source: npr

Super Bowl Sex Trafficking_opt
Human trafficking is one of the most prevalent, discerning issues of our time. The fact of the matter, which has been professed by organization after organization for years now, is that there are more slaves now than there have ever been in the history of mankind. In the US alone, The Huffington Post has estimated that the industry brings in over $9.5 billion annually.

While this truth is distressing, there is a silver lining. At no point in mankind has there ever been so much support against human trafficking, nor the technology or infrastructural support to combat it, as there is now.

Human trafficking generally implies either forced labor or sex trafficking, the latter occurring in higher frequency around large gatherings of people, where there may be a larger pool of potential clients. An example of such a situation was the Super Bowl XLVII, which passed on February 3rd.

Fionna Agomuoh of The International Business Times writes that there was an “estimated 10,000 women and minors that were trafficked in the Miami area during the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., according to the Florida Commission Against Human Trafficking.” One can only assume that the issue of trafficking around this annual event has only increased in the four years since then.

In anticipation for sex trafficking at Super Bowl XLVII, local businesses, advocacy groups, and law enforcement agencies joined together in a public campaign to support victims and make themselves available to individuals looking to escape the sex work industry by raising awareness in the form of “handing out pamphlets to local clubs and bars detailing how to spot and what to do if sex trafficking is suspected, as well as distributing bars of soap to hotels with hotline numbers etched on them to aid victims looking to escape.”

USA Today also posted a full-page ad against human trafficking prior to the Super Bowl and the “A 21 Campaign, established in 2008, released several Super Bowl-related info-graphics about human trafficking this year.”

Awareness will breed more advocacy on the issue, of course, so while sex trafficking is one of the largest understated issues of American life, much like poverty, arming ourselves and our communities with knowledge and facts about the issue is definitely a step in the right direction.

– Nina Narang

Source: International Business Times
Photo: ChicagoNow