Sunday, December 13, 2009

World's Weirdest Brothels? + sex trafficking info

Yesterday, a friend of mine and fellow abolitionist, forwarded me a very troubling email.

A reporter from NineMSN in Australia was requesting "leads on bizarre bordellos dotted around the world... The stranger the better." The reporter, David Wilson, is planning to write a "travel" story for NineMSN titled "World's Weirdest Brothels."

I emailed David and expressed my concerns, saying that I felt his story would further exploit the women and girls who are forced to work in brothels. "The women and girls in these brothels are not travel destinations," I said. "Many of them are victims of horrible crimes..." I asked him to reconsider his story, and to -instead - write about the harsh realities of sex trafficking.

David's response was that, he is "100 per cent against trafficking of any kind" and is "only covering licensed brothels."

Unfortunately, even licensed brothels are populated with women and girls who have been trafficked.

Now, if you follow the Nowhere2Hide blog or Twitter account, I assume it's because - like us - you want human trafficking and modern-day slavery to end. You want the sexual exploitation of women and young girls to end. Many of you have asked how you can be involved in the fight against slavery. This is a very simple way.

Please email David Wilson (wilscoop@yahoo.com) and ask him not to write this story.

Remind them that this kind of media attention hinders our ability to fight and end the sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls.

Reporters and news outlets have powerful, influential voices that are heard around the world. We need them to be our allies in this fight. The millions of slaves we're fighting for need the media to fight for them, too. Ask David Wilson, and NineMSN, to join the fight.

-----------------------------------------------------------------
Great suggestion about posting some additional info!
Here are a few statistics:

According a U.S. State Department report from 2005, about 1 million children are exploited by the global commercial sex every year.

The 2007 U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons report estimated that about 80% of all trafficking victims are women and children. That equates to about 21.6 million women and girls.

Of those 21.6 women and girls, about 70% are trafficked into the commercial sex industry. In other words, about 15.1 million women and girls are forced into lifestyles in which they are raped for profit every day of their lives.

You can find these and other statistics on a Fact Sheet, created by Polaris Project.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sex Trafficking in America

Human trafficking is not just an "other countries" problem. It's an American problem.
Bridgett Carr is a professor at the University of Michigan. She also directs the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School.
Her opinion piece on human trafficking in America appeared on CNN's website this past Wednesday.
I highly recommend reading it. Please pass this along to others who may question the urgency with which we need to address human trafficking issues in the United States.

Monday, November 2, 2009

At the End of Slavery

Posting the extended trailer for IJMs new documentary At the End of Slavery.
Organizations, churches and individuals all across the country are hosting screenings of this incredible film. Find one in your area. See the film. Join the movement.
We can end slavery. History is on our side.


At The End Of Slavery - Extended Trailer from International Justice Mission on Vimeo.



"When our grandchildren ask us where we were when the voiceless and the vulnerable of our era needed leaders of compassion and purpose, I hope we can say that we showed up, and that we showed up on time." - Gary Haugen, IJM President and CEO

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Real Balloon Boys

A week ago, people across the nation (and around the globe) were glued to TVs and computer screens, watching a JiffyPop-like balloon float serenely across the Colorado sky. The gentle image was oddly juxtaposed against the fear and panic felt by many who believed there was an 11-year-old boy trapped inside.


When the balloon landed sans cargo, everyone feared the worst.
Hours later, the boy was found at home, hiding in the attic. We soon discovered that the whole thing was a hoax, contrived by the boy's attention-seeking father who hoped to parlay the incident into a reality TV show.

The nation (and the world) was outraged to learn it had been duped.
But what's more outrageous is that fact that we got so caught up in the drama caused by this little boy, and yet we ignore the very real dangers faced by tens of thousands of boys around the world everyday.

Just this week, the FBI's Innocence Lost Initiative rescued over 50 kids from forced prostitution. A story about 50 kids who were in real danger, who were rescued from serial rape and abuse, was barely a blip on the collective media radar screen. And those 50 are just the ones that could be found, identified and rescued here in the U.S. There are thousands more out there.

In it's 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report, the State Department cited "boy victims of commercial sexual exploitation" as a topic of special interest. Many, if not most, instances of sexual exploitation go unreported by boys because of cultural and societal stigmas. "The beaches of Sri Lanka, Mexico, and Dominican Republic are host to men seeking sexual encounters with boys who are pimped by men or other boys," the report says.

Those who aren't trafficked for sexual exploitation are subject to slave labor. UNICEF's "Manual to Fight Trafficking in Children" cites a 2000 report from the ILO which estimated that the total number of trafficked children, globally, was 1.2 million.

And an April, 2008 report from Reuters quoted a Chinese newspaper as saying that children were being "sold like cabbages" into slavery. Unless something significant has changed between then and now, those kids are still enslaved.

I don't fault the Heene family for trying to use our overly-eager media and 24-hour news cycle to their advantage. I do, however, think we all need a friendly and stern reminder that there are real balloon boys out there to which the media pay almost no attention at all. If the general public, ordinary people like you and I, don't pay attention and advocate for them, who will?

The Hennes have had their 15 minutes (and then some). Let's turn our attention to boys who are in real trouble, and need real rescuing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Sin of Omission

Last Saturday, Detroit news station WXYZ ran a story called "Tricks and Truckers" about commercial sex activity at a Detroit truck stop, across the street from Greater Apostolic Faith Temple. I wish the story was still on their web site, but I couldn't find it this morning.

The premise of the story was this: prostitutes were soliciting truck drivers at a local truck stop, and people from the church were offended and wanted the prostitutes to either be arrested or "chased away." The story, like so many others, vilified the prostitutes but said little about the people who exploit them.

I don't know the individual stories or situations of the women in this story. What I do know is that, statistically speaking, some of them are likely victims of sex trafficking - forced into prostitution by a pimp, "boyfriend", "friend", etc. A vital piece of information that was glaringly absent from this report.

Needless to say, I was disappointed that the investigative reporter, Heather Catallo, didn't use this opportunity to educate her audience about sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women and girls.

I emailed Heather a week ago, immediately after I read the story. I expressed my disappointment, shared some statistics about sex trafficking and also shared stories of women who had been trafficked and sexually exploited in the Detroit area. I asked her to run a follow-up story sharing accurate information about sex trafficking in America.

I have not received a response.

The fact that her story has been pulled from the website is a small victory - at least the misinformation isn't out there anymore - but it isn't enough. Reporters have a responsibility to report the truth, and her story didn't do that. As a result, she aided in perpetuating the stigmas surrounding prostitution, and made criminals out of women who may very well be victims of numerous crimes.

Please join me in asking Heather Catallo to report an accurate story about sex trafficking and prostitution in America. One that calls out the real criminals - the Johns and the pimps. Urge her to report the truth about the criminal sexual exploitation of women in this country and around the world.


photo: freespiritteen on Photobucket

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Help End Child Trafficking: A Call to Action

Urge Congress to Prioritize Child Protection

In the mid-19th century, novelist Herman Melville, commenting on the wave of immigrants coming to the U.S., was quoted as saying “You cannot spill a drop of American blood without spilling the blood of the whole world.”

We can draw two conclusions from this statement: 1) it is more accurate today than ever before, and 2) the reverse must also be true – to spill a drop of foreign blood is to spill the blood of an American. The men, women and children of the world are our brothers and sisters, and to the degree that we are able, we must guard and protect them.

That is the motivation behind House Resolution 2737 – The Child Protection Compact Act. First introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-4th), the bill seeks to increase funding for the State Department’s Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons (G/TIP) and forge partnerships between the United States and other countries that are committed to eradicating child trafficking.

More specifically, H.R. 2737 would:
  • Allocate $50 million over three years to the G/TIP Office;
  • Enable the U.S. to enter into formal partnerships (compacts) with 2 - 3 countries that have demonstrated the political will to combat human trafficking, and;
  • Designate the $50 million for “training anti-trafficking police and investigators, creation of victim-friendly courts, development of appropriate after-care facilities,”[1] and more in those countries.

This is an exciting piece of legislation for those who are passionate about ending child trafficking. It has been carefully crafted to ensure that money is spent on programs that actually work. This isn’t someone’s best guess. It was written by people who have been in this fight for a long time; people who know what it takes to save and protect children from this horrible crime.

If passed as written, the Child Protection Compact Act has the potential to significantly impact global efforts to combat child trafficking and the exploitation of children by driving resources deep into a select few countries rather than spreading it thinly across the globe.

Though the bill has been introduced, it still has a long way to go. Most bills never make it out of committee because there are just too many bills and too little time. And when I say “most”, I mean 90 percent or more. H.R. 2737’s chances will increase if we raise our collective voice.

Now that Congress is back in session, I urge you to call your Representative, and ask for movement on the Child Protection Compact Act.

Find your Representative.

Read the Child Protection Compact Act.


[1] Source: Text of H.R. 2737, Section 6.d.2

Monday, September 28, 2009

Economic Consequnces of the TIP Report

For all the fanfare surrounding the State Department's release of its annual Trafficking in Persons report back in June, we haven't heard much since.

We certainly didn't hear (at least I didn't) about the memo from President Obama, which authorizes the withholding of "certain funding" to some countries as a result of the report. And since you may not have heard about it either, I thought I'd share some of the information.

Section 110 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act states that "it is the policy of the United States not to provide nonhumanitarian, nontrade-related foreign assistance to any government..." that does not comply with the TVPA minimum standards and makes no effort to comply. Subsection (d) details the action that can be taken against such countries (I'll spare you those details...)

The memo breaks down as follows:
The State Department is authorized to withhold certain funding from Burma, the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Eritrea, Fiji, Iran, and Syria.

Of those countries, a partial waiver is allowed for Burma, Eritrea, Fiji, Syria and Zimbabwe. The partial waiver allows funding to continue for programs that are believed to promote anti-trafficking efforts or are "otherwise in the national interest of the United States."

The President acknowledges that the following countries are not making efforts to comply with the TVPA, but believes that assistance from the U.S. should continue, as it supports programs that promote anti-trafficking efforts or are "otherwise in the national interest of the United States": Chad, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mauritania, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

The memo, dated September 14, accounts for all 17 countries on this year's Tier 3 list.

I, for one, am glad to know that the TIP report continues to get attention and results in actions against countries that are not making efforts to combat human trafficking.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

No More Wheels

A couple of months ago, I was contacted by a university student who is passionate about human trafficking. She's just finishing up an internship in Washington, D.C. so we've only talked via email and phone, but the conversations have been exciting and productive.

I recently met another university student as well who has a similar passion for raising awareness and getting people involved in bringing modern-day slavery to an end.

My conversations with these two young women have been encouraging and inspiring.

Interestingly, our individual conversations have led us to the same conclusion - we need to get everyone working together. We don't need to start another organization; no need to re-invent the wheel - there are lots of excellent "wheels" out there already, doing deliberate, effective work to rescue trafficking victims, prosecute traffickers and raise awareness.

What we feel compelled to do is get as many of these people and organizations as possible into the same room, and get them talking and networking. So, in an attempt to encourage collaboration, we're planning to host an event in October for any and all people/organizations in Southeast Michigan that are involved in the fight against human trafficking! We're very excited and are hopeful that the event will be well-attended.

There aren't any specifics to post, as of yet, but we're planning to nail down a date and location by sometime next week.

If you know of an organization that is - or would like to be - involved in the anti-trafficking movement in Southeast Michigan, leave me a comment that includes contact information.

I'll be sure to regularly post updates on our progress.
Wish us luck!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Help for Trafficking Victims

First, my apologies for the long, long, delay in updating my blog. I've been busy with other, trafficking-related things, and the blog has had to wait. The good news is that I've made some great local contacts here in Michigan; people who want to raise awareness and put an end to human trafficking. We're trying to plan an event for September, about which I'll keep you all updated.

In the meantime, I've been reading a lot of reports and articles about human trafficking. One of them, the Attorney General's Annual Report & Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons, has some great information!

To follow is a list of organizations that reach out to and assist victims of human trafficking. If one of these orgs is in your area, I highly recommend checking it out!

This first set of organizations manages local chapters of a Health and Human Services program called Rescue and Restore, the purpose of which is to "increase the number of trafficking victims who are identified, assisted in leaving the circumstances of their servitude, and connected to qualified service agencies and to the HHS certification process so that they may receive the benefits and services for which they are eligible."
If you belong to, or know of, an organization that does this type of work, but isn't listed, it can be registered here.

  • Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition
  • Empire State Coalition of Youth and Family Services (NY)
  • Opening Doors, Inc. (Sacramento, CA)
  • International Center of Atlanta
  • Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia
  • World Relief-Nashville
  • The Salvation Army of Greater Columbus, OH
  • YWCA of Greater Cincinnati-Alliance for Immigrant Women
  • SAGE Project, Inc. (San Francisco, CA)
  • International Institute of St. Louis
  • Catholic Charities of Portland
  • U.S. Committee of Refugee and Immigrants, Raleigh (NC)
  • Salvation Army Network of Emergency Trafficking Services of Las Vegas
  • Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark (NJ)
  • International Rescue Committee (Phoenix)
  • The Salvation Army Family & Community Services STOP-IT Program (IL)
  • Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence

This next list contains organizations that conduct street outreach services "to help identify victims of trafficking among populations they already serve."

  • Alternatives for Girls - MI
  • Breaking Free - St. Paul, MN
  • Catholic Charities Community Services - Phoenix, AZ
  • Center for Social Advocacy - San Diego, CA
  • Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking of California
  • Farmworker Legal Services of New York
  • Girls Educational and Mentoring Services - New York City
  • International Rescue Committee - AZ
  • Mosaic Family Services - Dallas, TX
  • Polaris Project - NJ
  • Positive Options, Referrals and Alternatives - IL
  • SAGE Project - San Francisco, CA
  • Salvation Army - IL
  • Southeastern Network of Youth and Family Services of Alabama
  • Southeastern Network of Youth and Family Services of Florida
  • Tapestri - GA
  • Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid

There's other good information in this report, which I will write about in the days to come.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Countries respond to U.S. Trafficking Report

It didn't take long for countries about the world to begin responding to the U.S. report on human trafficking. Though I can't possibly mention every story out there, here are some of the highlights:

-----------------------------

The Philippine government called its country's Tier 2 Watch List status "demoralizing" and said it plans to submit a letter to the U.S. government. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the letter would not be a protest but an explanation. According to Ermita, the Philippines currently has over 250 human trafficking cases pending, and intends to explain to the U.S. why the cases have not yet been settled. Justice Undersecretary Ric Blancaflor, head of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking said their biggest challenge is getting victims to testify.

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A story out of Tel Aviv focused on the report's assessment of Israel, which is still considered a destination country for men and women who are trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation. In 2008, the Israeli government invested over $1m in an NGO that provides shelter for sex trafficking victims. Israel does not currently have shelters for victims of labor trafficking, however, and this was mentioned in the report. Director-general of the Ministry of Justice, Moshe Shilo said he was satisfied with the report and an attorney from the Hotline for Migrant Workers acknowledged "the great progress the government has made in the past three years..." while also acknowledging that they have a long way to go.

----------------------------

The Times of India also ran a story on that country's listing which, unfortunately, was not good. Having been placed on the Tier 2 Watch list, India now has a limited window during which to make improvements before it is automatically moved to Tier 3.

----------------------------

Two of the more negative responses to the U.S. report came from the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia.

The U.A.E. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, said the government is "deeply disappointed" at being put back on the Tier 2 Watch List, calling it a "subjective and inaccurate" report. According to the story, which appeared on the Maktoob Business website, the U.A.E. recently passed numerous measures intended to clamp down on human trafficking, but there are doubts as to how well those measures are being enforced. The main point of contention seems to be related to forced labor. The U.A.E sees no correlation between what it calls "labor rights violations" and human trafficking. As such, it does little to curb forced labor, as cited by the U.S. report.

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The other cry of "foul" comes from the government in Malaysia, which has done more than just protest the country's Tier 3 rank, it is asking the United States for an explanation. Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said the purpose of the request is to "identify the real allegations and claims" that caused Malaysia to be ranked in the bottom tier. While he says the government is willing to do whatever it can, he also warns that some border security issues are out of their control. One government deputy speaker called the U.S. report's Tier 3 ranking of Malaysia a "political ploy."



More stories are likely to emerge as countries review their rankings and the reasons for them. The good news is that countries are paying attention to this annual assessment, and most seem to be taking it seriously, seeking to address any issues outlined in the report and improve their overall strategies in the fight against human trafficking.

You can read the full Trafficking in Persons Report, including a country-by-country assessment, here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"So.. how are we doing?"

That's the question that ran through my mind as I started sifting through the U.S. State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report.

The TIP Report is one of the most comprehensive available on the state of human trafficking around the world. It is a country-by-country assessment of laws, prosecutions, rescues and other efforts being undertaken by the world's governments and NGOs in order combat and end human trafficking.

It's a thick report (over 300 pages) and some of the information is unpleasant. But it's true that knowledge is power, and the more we understand the better equipped we are to fight.

The TIP report ranks countries by Tiers; Tiers 1, 2, and 3, based on requirements laid out in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Tier 1 countries are doing well. Tier 2 are making a significant effort but aren't quite there yet and, Tier 3 countries are making no effort. In addition, there is a Tier 2 Watch List which indicates that a country appears to be making an effort but still has high instances of trafficking. Or perhaps they're efforts are dwindling.

Though I couldn't find this link myself, Diana Scimone has - on her blog - a link which lists countries by Tier. You can also read through the entire report - section by section - here.

Though I still have a lot of information to sift through, there are a couple of things that I want to comment on right away.

First, there are still - around the world - so many instances of trafficking victims being treated like criminals. Some of them seek help, only to be arrested because they're lacking identification, a passport or visa. Others try to escape and are arrested. They may be returned to their slave owner, or possibly deported, shipped back to their home country where they may or may not have a home to which they can return. And where they certainly won't receive the aftercare necessary for physical, psychological and emotional healing.

The training of law enforcement officials is vital to the effective eradication of human trafficking. Victims need to know that they will be protected and that every effort will be made to help them heal, and live productive lives.

Second, cultural stigma is a significant obstacle which many women and girls must face if they've been victims of sex trafficking. In many countries, women or girls who are raped are not viewed as victims who need help. Instead, they are told they have brought shame on their families, and they are likely to be ostracized by the very communities from which they need support.

These stigmas prevent women and girls from asking for help. Some will not admit that they've been trafficked, as they don't want to face the prospect of returning home. Ambassador DeBaca put it best when he said that "culturally, we need to see through to each individual's humanity and recognize how traffickers exploit their victims..." I don't know how we overcome decades, or centuries, of cultural beliefs, but for the sake of these women and girls we need to figure it out.

In her comments about the Trafficking in Persons Report, Diana closes with the same quote that I had planned to use. Because she posted her comments before I posted mine, I can't say that she stole my ending :)

Rather than trying to write an alternate closing - and because I believe these words are worth repeating - I'm also going to quote Ambassador deBaca:

"This report is their [trafficking victims'] story," he writes. "It is the story of governments, organizations, and individuals who give such survivors a chance for freedom. It is on their behalf, and in the spirit of a common humanity, that we seek a global partnership for the abolition of modern slavery."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Smuggled or trafficked?

Over the past week, I've read several news stories that use the phrases "human smuggling" and "human trafficking" interchangeably, and it has concerned me. I'm not alone. Several people and organizations have contacted me or commented about it on blogs, and even on Twitter.

I emailed those who published the stories, and offered definitions for the two phrases, pointing out why it's so important that a distinction be made between them.

People who are smuggled across borders typically pay someone to take them. They go willingly. Someone, however, who is trafficked doesn't have a choice, and typically ends up working as a slave either in manual labor, a retail establishment, someone's home, or a brothel. Referring to someone who's been trafficked as someone who's been smuggled turns a victim into a criminal. It's these types of misunderstandings that hinder the aide and rescue of trafficking victims.

The co-founder of Project Exodus, Mike Masten, wrote a fantastic letter to the Associated Press and included additional resources that explain the differences between human smuggling and human trafficking. I encourage you to read them. The better educated we are, the more progress we can make in ending this horrific crime.

Monday, June 1, 2009

500 Miles in Chains

I love running. I know. I'm crazy.... people have already told me that. :) But it's true. There's something about it that fills me with energy... just makes me feel good.

But the thought of running 500 miles does NOT fill me with energy. And running 500 miles in CHAINS? No thank you.

But that's exactly what a man named Eric Proffitt is doing. Beginning August 1st, Eric is running 500 miles across the United Kingdom, and he's doing it with chains on his hands and feet.

Why?

Here's his reason, in his own words:
"My intention for this extreme run from London, to Bristol, to Liverpool, to this year's FREEDOM FESTIVAL in Kingston-Upon-Hull is to help rescue victims of trafficking, prevent future exploitation, and to stop the demand for Modern slavery.

This extreme marathon event is about awareness, consumer responsibility, and of course funding!

It is about triggering a tipping point whereby people all over the world become involved in the abolition of modern slavery."


Watch his video on YouTube. Check out his website. Get some friends together to sponsor a day or two of his run. He's doing something big, something radical, to raise awareness and put an end to human trafficking. Let's all commit to doing something small: give some money, forward this blog post to friends, buy his song "500 Miles"... to support him.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

T Minus 10!!

It's hard to believe that we're just 10 days away from our IJM fundraising event!

So far we've had a pretty great response, considering the fact that it's our first event. We were initially in the Vernors room at the Crofoot in Pontiac, Michigan. But we sold it out in about 4 weeks and were moved to a bigger room.

Our artists have been on the radio, and a couple of the newspapers have run our press release. We haven't gotten the media attention I would have liked, but we're in the Motor City were the news is "all things auto". Tough competition.

Carol's EP is finished. The cover art is done. The final product is on it's way. We have books, CDs, DVDs, t-shirts and even some temporary tattoos to give away. And we have LOTS of IJM donation envelopes and information.

Now that we're getting so close, I'm getting really excited! I can wait to hear Carol's new music! And, I'm looking forward to the opportunity to talk to people about IJM, the work they do, and how people can help!

I want to give a HUGE shout-out to the IJM staff for all of their help. They've provided so many resources and fun things for this event. Their support has been incredible. Hanna Schmidt and Austin Graff... you guys ROCK!

Now that we're in a bigger location, we have tickets available! If you're in/near Pontiac, Michigan, PLEASE come support this event! Visit www.push-event.com for ticket pricing and to order tickets online.

Pass this on to anyone you know who might be interested in supporting or attending the event!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

A long obedience.

Back in March I had the unbelievable privilege of gathering with nearly 1,000 other people at International Justice Mission's annual Global Prayer Gathering. It was 2-1/2 days filled with stories of victims rescued, perpetrators convicted, hope rising, and the power and grace of an almighty God who is at work in the fight against human trafficking.

Many things from that weekend have stuck with me. But one sentence stands out - above all else I saw and heard, this resonates in my heart, and causes me to stop and consider the depth and sincerity of my own commitment to this fight.

In his final words to the friends and family gathered at the GPG, Gary Haugen encouraged our continued commitment to the people who are on the front lines of this fight: the victims; the investigators; the law enforcement officials; the after care workers; and so many others who are efforting to make a difference.

"These people," he said, "don't need our short spasms of passion, but our long obedience in one direction."

I don't know about you, but short spasms of passions are much easier for me. They don't require much thought, or much sacrifice. Just a response in the heat of the moment; a response that is quickly forgotten. I can pray and mourn over the tragic devastation caused by human trafficking - especially during a weekend like GPG - and then very quickly push it to the "back burner" when I return to my normal, everyday life. I hate admitting that I can be so fickle about something so awful, but the propensity exists - whether I admit it or not.

Knowing this about myself, Gary Haugen's word's have all but haunted me these last few months. What, exactly, are my efforts in the fight against human trafficking? Is this the beginning of a long obedience, or just another passion spasm? I want to believe it's the former. I want to believe that this will be a life's work; that I will look back at the end of my time on earth and see that I've spent decades engaged in this fight.

The purpose of this post is not so much to bear my soul (though I guess I am, to some degree). It is meant, instead, to be an encouragement to those who are on the front lines.

Because Gary is right.

You deserve consistent, committed support. You experience things I could never imagine. You put your lives at risk in order to rescue people that the rest of the world has forgotten (or chooses not to see). And you do it everyday of your lives. I can't begin to express the admiration and respect I feel towards those of your who are involved in such a dark, difficult and costly work.

Right about now, I could easily begin making grandiose statements about my lifelong commitment to support those who are fighting such a difficult fight. I could promise to continue doing my small part to raise awareness - about them, their work, and the truths of human trafficking.
I could.
But I won't.
Instead, I will let time (and my actions) speak for themselves.

To those who are on the front lines, know that we're with you. Know that you are remembered, prayed for, believed in and supported. We may not know all the details of your work, but we know you're out there. Know that, even when you feel like you're standing all alone, you are continually remembered by those of us who strive to do our very best to support you.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Anti-Trafficking Event Sells Out, Moves to Bigger Venue

I'm excited to announce PUSH has sold out its venue and been moved to a larger location!

PUSH is an event aimed at raising awareness about human trafficking and modern-day slavery, and raising money for International Justice Mission.

Detroit singer/songwriter Carol Clayton will be debuting her EP at the event, which is being held at the Crofoot in Pontiac, Michigan on Thursday, May 28th.

Tickets are just $10 in advance, or $13 on the day of the show.
If you live in or around the Detroit area, buy a ticket and come hang out! If you don't live in the area, but would still like to support our efforts, Carol's CD will be available on iTunes beginning May 28th (or possibly sooner).

For more information, visit www.push-event.com.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Trafficking Victims to get help

A charity organization in London has been awarded a $4.4 million grant aimed at bolstering it's effort to rescue and support victims of human trafficking.

The Poppy Project, which is based out of South London, has been helping trafficking victims since 2003, providing refuge to hundreds of men, women and children.

Read the full article here.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sex Slaves Freed

From the Herald in the United Kingdom:

"A network of organised criminals transporting women around the country for sexual slavery has been broken up in one of the biggest operations to tackle suspected human trafficking in Scotland.

Police have carried out a series of raids and rescued women who were being forced to work as prostitutes."


Read the full article here.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

National Human Trafficking Hotline

I first heard about the Polaris Project at an IJM advocacy training event.

The Polaris Project was founded in 2002 and is named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. It has programs all across the United States, aimed at identifying and helping trafficking victims.

One of those programs is the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. It's a toll-free, 24-hour anti-trafficking hotline that works to improve the national response to victims of human trafficking in the United States. You can call to report a tip, to connect with anti-trafficking services in your area, to request training or technical assistance, or to get general information.

888-3737-888

The Resource Center is equipped to handle calls from every region of the United States.
If you have reason to suspect someone in the U.S. is a victim of trafficking, this is the number to call.
If you want more information about anti-trafficking efforts in the U.S., you can get it here.

Keep it in your purse or wallet.

888-3737-888

Print it on flyers and business cards and leave them around town.

888-3737-888

Spread the word that help is available to trafficking victims in the United States.

888-3737-888

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Live in Royal Oak, MI? Urge Congressional Support of Anti-Trafficking Legislation

If you live in Royal Oak, Michigan, this post is especially for you.
It will probably be followed up w/ a post for all Michiganders, so if you're not a Royal Oak-er, don't feel left out!

If you follow my blog at all, you've heard (read) me mention a piece of draft legislation called the Child Protection Compact Act of 2009. It's a bill that asks for $50 over three years to fund programs aimed at eradicating child trafficking in three or four key countries.

When I was on Capitol Hill at the end of March, this bill was the focus of my conversations with both Senate and Congressional aides. It's an exciting piece of legislation that would fund programs which have already been proven effective at greatly reducing instances of child trafficking.

If you live in Royal Oak, will you take a moment to ask Congressman Gary Peters to co-sponsor this bill?
Here is a link to his Congressional contact page.
And below is a short note that you can simply cut and paste into the form. Let's flood his office with emails from constituents who want to see an end to child trafficking.

If you're not from Royal Oak, but would like to contact your Senator or Representative, you're welcome to copy and modify the text. Go to www.senate.gov or www.house.gov to find the appropriate contact information.
Thanks in advance for your support!
----------------------------------------------------

Dear Congressman Peters,

On Monday, March 30th, your legislative aide, David Weinberg, met with Stephanie Hamilton, a resident of Royal Oak. Their main topic of conversation was a piece of draft legislation called the Child Protection Compact Act of 2009. This legislation authorizes an additional $50 million over three years to designated focus countries to assist in the eradication of trafficking in children. Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) will be introducing the Child Protection Compact Act of 2009 in the House of Representatives and I respectfully ask you to consider becoming an original co-sponsor.

This legislation would fund programs that have already been proven effective at significantly reducing instances of child trafficking.

Human trafficking is an issue that needs our attention. It is the third largest criminal enterprise in the world, behind drug and weapons trafficking, and it is the fastest growing. It is estimated to be a $30 billion/year enterprise, and as a result, there are more slaves today than at any point in history (an estimated 27 million).

Please review the Child Protection Compact Act and lend your support to the eradication of child trafficking.

Thank you for your time.
----------------------------------------------------

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dear Madame Secretary

During her confirmation hearings in January, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had this to say about human trafficking:

"As Secretary of State I view these issues (human trafficking) as central to our foreign policy, not as adjunct or auxiliary or in any way lesser from all of the other issues that we have to confront. I too have followed the stories: this is not culture, this is not custom, this is criminal … I’ve also read closely Nick Kristof’s articles over the last many months on the young women he’s both rescued from prostitution and met who have been enslaved, tortured in every way: physically, emotionally, morally and I take very seriously the function of the State Department to lead the U.S. Government through the Office on Human Trafficking to do all that we can to end this modern form of slavery."

As Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton is in a unique and powerful position to stop these horrific crimes.

Please take a moment to send Secretary Clinton a letter asking her to leverage the political will and resources of the United States to fight and end human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

PUSH promo video

Check out this awesome promo video, done by a good friend of mine from Freshly Ground Productions, for our IJM fund-raising event.
If you're in the Detroit area, BUY TICKETS! :)
If you know someone in the Detroit area, get THEM to buy tickets!


Push Promo Video from John Miller on Vimeo

Saturday, April 11, 2009

You can help. Really.

Human trafficking and modern-day slavery are big problems. BIG.
Big enough that most people think there isn't much they can do to help.
But you can help. Really.

At a conference a couple weeks ago, I was reminded that every person who's rescued matters. It can be easy to dwell on the many who are still enslaved (and there are so many), but every life is valuable. Every life counts. And every person who's freed from the dehumanizing abuses of slavery matters.

It's like that story - you've probably heard it - about the little boy who was walking along the beach after hide tide, throwing starfish back into the ocean. A grown-up comes along and tells the little boy that there are just too many starfish... thousands... "you'll never make a difference."
The little boy picks up a starfish and tosses it back into the ocean.
"I made a difference to that one," he says.

We may not ever see all 27 million of today's slaves set free. But we make a difference in the life of every one whom we do help.

If you live in the Detroit, Michigan area - or know people who do - I can offer you a great way to help fight human trafficking and modern-day slavery. It's an event called PUSH, that's happening on Thursday, May 28th. I've mentioned it before. It's an awareness-raising, fund-raising event, with all profits going to benefit International Justice Mission. IJM is remarkably successful at fighting human trafficking and slavery. Their multi-layered approach of rescuing and caring for victims, prosecuting perpetrators and helping build adequate justice systems works. And it works well. They have seen, in a couple of cities, instances of child trafficking reduced by about 70%.

PUSH will feature Detroit-area singer/songwriter Carol Clayton, and her debut CD will be available for purchase. She will be sharing the stage with other Detroit artists - Silent Violet and Wurfel.

Tickets to this event are just $10 in advance. Ten bucks. C'mon... that's the cost of two of your (my) favorite specialty drinks from Starbucks. :) It's the price of a movie ticket.
Here's a page from IJM's website that shows just what our collective gift from this event could accomplish.

So join us on Thursday, May 28th at the Crofoot in Pontica for a night of great music, to support a great cause. Tickets can be purchased online at the Crofoot's website.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Funding for a Real Solution

I posted this about a week ago (-ish), but wanted to re-post it in hopes it will reach more people. Because Congress is in recess this week and next, your Senators and Representatives are home and may be reachable via phone. Please take a moment to contact them and ask them to support this important piece of legislation.
----------------------------------------------------
This past Monday, I had the incredible opportunity to spend some time on Capitol Hill, meeting with legislative aides in various offices to talk about an exciting piece of legislation.
I know... "exciting" and "legislation" don't seem like words that belong together, but I mean it when I say this bill is exciting! It's still in draft form, so the name may change, but it is currently called the Child Protection Compact Act of 2009.

The Child Protection Compact Act was written by the Director of Government Relations at International Justice Mission, and - if it's passed as written - could significantly reduce instances of child trafficking in key countries.

The bill currently asks for $50 million over three years to be allocated to the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP for short). The money would be used to fund anti-trafficking programs in three or four "focus countries". The countries haven't been decided yet, and would be selected based on their willingness and ability to meet some very specific criteria.

The money would fund things like police training, and investigative and legal work all aimed at fighting child trafficking.

What makes it exciting is that it would fund programs that already have proven success.
For example, police training and legal work have resulted in a 70% reduction of child trafficking in a couple of cities in Cambodia. A city in the Philippines has seem a similar reduction.

We don't know for sure when the bill will be introduced, but most likely after the upcoming Congressional recess.

Please take a moment to contact your Representative and ask him or her to consider co-sponsoring the Child Protection Compact Act of 2009 that's being introduced by Representative Chris Smith from New Jersey.

Also please contact your Senators and ask them to sponsor counterpart legislation in the Senate.

This is money that would be well-spent on proven programs that can spare hundreds of children from the trauma and abuse of being trafficked.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dozens Dead in Failed Trafficking Attempt

From the BBC:

Pakistani police have found 44 bodies inside a shipping container in what appears to have been a failed attempt at human trafficking.

Some 150 people are said to have been inside the container, most of them Afghans. The victims suffocated.

A number of survivors are being treated in hospital in the city of Quetta, in Baluchistan province.

The container reportedly belongs to a firm supplying Nato in Afghanistan and the driver's whereabouts are unknown.

It is believed that the container was en route to Iran from Afghanistan, via Pakistan.

Rasool Bakhsh, a senior police official in Quetta, said that police had opened the container following a tip-off.

The stench from the container suggested some victims might have been dead for days, he was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

Traffickers have used south-western Pakistan frequently to smuggle illegal migrants from the region to Europe.

At least 35 illegal migrants were found dead inside a container opened in Quetta in March 2006.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"You want these people?"

A movie was released in 1993 called Schindler's List. It was about a German man who took it upon himself to rescue a handful of Jews from the Nazis. He did it by employing them in a factory which produced nothing. He secured their freedom the old fashioned way; he bought it. The German soldier he bribes is shocked... "You want these people?" he asks. "These people", Schindler replies. "My people. I want my people."

One of the most powerful scenes of this movie is near the end. The war is over, Nazi's defeated, and Oskar Schindler is reflecting on this unusual work he's done the past few years. Rather than celebrating the fact that he was able to rescue some, he's overcome with sorrow, realizing he could have saved more.

Here is the dialogue between Schindler and Itzhak Stern, a Jewish accountant who assisted Schindler:

Schindler: I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don't know. If I'd just... I could have got more.
Itzhak: Oskar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them.
Schindler: If I'd made more money... I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I'd just...
Itzhak: There will be generations because of what you did!
Schindler: I didn't do enough!
Itzhak: You did so much.
Schindler: [looks at his car] This car. Goeth would have bought this car. Why did I keep this car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people. [Removes Nazi pin from his lapel] This pin. Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would have given me two for it, at least. One more person. A person, Stern, for this. [begins sobbing] I could have gotten one more person... and I didn't! And I... I didn't!
--------------------------------------------

I was thinking of that scene this past weekend during a trip to Chicago. I was standing in line at a Starbucks, and noticed - on the wall - this elaborate display of digital picture frames. There must have been 10 - 12 of these things, all arranged to look very modern and artsy, displaying images of everything from waterfalls and sunsets to coffee beans. What do you think that display cost?

I've discovered a shocking reality about human trafficking and modern-day slavery; the actual dollar amounts in each individual case are often very small. I've read about women who have been enslaved for the rest of their lives because they had to borrow $25 to pay a child's medical bill. $25. It's the price of a concert ticket. But mom doesn't have it, so she enters the employ of a slave owner, ostensibly to "work off" her debt, but somehow the debt never gets repaid. So she is a slave for the rest of her life. In all likelihood, her children become slaves as well, and her children's children. Generations enslaved over just $25.

Young girls are sold to brothel owners for similar amounts of money. Maybe more... $50 or $75... To us it's a night out. The people in developing countries, it's 3 months wages. And it's the cost of buying and selling a 12 year-old-girl into a life of forced prostitution. Rape for profit.

I think of these stories when I look around our country at the thousands (millions) of dollars we spend (waste) on superfluous things. I wonder if we will ever stop to ask ourselves if there isn't a better use of our money? Will we ever seriously consider the possibility that we could use our wealth for something more valuable than a new Coach purse, a plasma screen TV or a fancy cup of coffee?

I'm not suggesting that we pay off corrupt slave owners; that would only compound the problem. But it should give us pause when we realize that the same amount of money we spend on dinner at our favorite restaurant could spare someone from the horrors of slavery.

There are organizations like International Justice Mission that, for the price of a Red Wings ticket, can secure someone's freedom from a slave owner or a brothel. They can conduct an investigation, and gather the evidence necessary to put a trafficker in jail. All for the price you or I would spend for a night of entertainment.

We have the means to end slavery and human trafficking in our lifetime. But first we have to consider whether freedom is more important than a latte. Will we look back and regret all that we could have done?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Snippets

"snippet" - noun.,
a small piece..., a small bit.., a fragment
-------------------------------------------------
I've finally started reading through the United Nations Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, and over the next few posts, I'll share some of what I read (for those of you who don't want to read all 292 pages yourself). If you have specific questions, post them as comments, and I'll try to find the answers in the report.

For now, I want to share some of the report's opening remarks as written by Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.


---
"The term trafficking in persons can be misleading: it places emphasis on the transaction aspects of a crime that is more accurately described as enslavement. Exploitation of people, day after day. For years on end.

After much neglect and indifference, the world is waking up to the reality of a modern form of slavery. The public and the media are becoming aware that humans prey upon humans for money....

Over the past few years, the number of countries that have taken steps to implement the foremost international agreement in this area - the UN Protocol against Trafficking in Persons - has doubled. However, there are still many countries, particularly in Africa, that lack the necessary legal instruments...

... as of 2007/08, two out of every five countries covered by this report had not recorded a single [trafficking] conviction. Either they are blind to the problem, or they are ill-equipped to deal with it...

We still lack a global understanding of the subject, and of how its components interface to make the whole... The crisis we face of fragmented knowledge and disjointed responses intensifies a crime that shames us all."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

PUSH Benefit Concert

On Thursday night, May 28th, at The Crofoot in Pontiac, Metro-Detroit singer/songwriter Carol Clayton will be the featured artist at a fundraising event to benefit International Justice Mission.

This show is celebrating the release of her first EP which was recorded especially for this event.

IJM is a human rights agency that seeks justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and oppression. IJM has a team of lawyers, investigators and other professionals who work to secure freedom for victims and bring their perpetrators to justice. Learn more at www.ijm.org. All profit from ticket sales and 100% of donations from EP purchases will go to IJM.

Carol is happy to share the stage with some very talented friends, Detroit’s own Silent Violet and Wurfel.

This show is an invitation for you to partner with Carol as we aid the tireless efforts of IJM on behalf of victims of human trafficking. Tickets are just $10 in advance, $13 at the door and can be ordered online at The Crofoot's website.

PUSH against injustice. PUSH ourselves out of apathy and into action. PUSH.

16 Children Missing Daily in New Delhi

According to an organization called the Naujawan Bharat Sabha (NBS) about 16 kids are reported missing everyday in India's capital city, New Delhi. Many of them fall victim to human trafficking.

The kidnapping and trafficking of children is so prevalent that NBS has found children who keep sand in their pockets as a means of defense, intending to throw it in the face of anyone who tries to take them. Some are even taken from their homes while their parents are working.

Many of the children are poor, which is a common theme in human trafficking. Many, if not most, trafficking victims around the world are extremely poor. Some are lured away by the promise of a good paying job in another country, only to find - upon their arrival - that they are slaves in a brick kiln, a brothel, or a wealthy person's home. Others are sold by family members who forsake the child's safety in exchange for a few dollars.

Source: Bernama (Malaysian National News Agency

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

FBI Rescues 48 Children

The F.B.I. posted a press release yesterday, announcing great success with a weekend long operation aimed at rescuing child prostitutes.

The operation, called Operation Cross Country III succeeded in rescuing 48 children who had been enslaved in forced prostitution rings. In addition, over 550 people were arrested on state and federal charges of domestic child trafficking.

Twenty-nine cities, from California to Maine, participated in the operation.

The operation was part of a larger nationwide initiative called Innocence Lost, which aims to combine the efforts of federal law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and social service providers to address the growing problem of forced child prostitution. Since its inception in the Spring of 2003, Innocence Lost has recovered over 630 children who may otherwise have endured the daily abuse of forced prostitution for the rest of their lives.

These stories often come as a shock to people who think forced prostitution, slavery and trafficking don't happen on U.S. soil anymore. Though the problem isn't as prevalent in America as in other countries, it remains a problem here none-the-less.

Read the FBI's press release
See the list of cities involved in the operation

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Jordanian Government Adopts Anti-Trafficking Laws

In another bit of good news, the Jordanian government has adopted legislation aimed at fighting and preventing human trafficking. The move comes in response to complaints from the international community that local companies are sending foreign workers to Iraq against their will.

Passed on 25 January, the legislation calls for the creation of an anti-human trafficking commission that will not only implement new anti-trafficking laws, but will also open a shelter for trafficking victims.

A report from IRIN states that, in 2008, several Amman-based companies were accused of forcefully transporting Asian workers through Jordan and into Iraq. In August of that year, a Nepalese man filed a lawsuit in which he stated that he and several others were offered bogus jobs as kitchen and wait staff for local Amman restaurants; but after accepting the jobs, their passports and other identification were confiscated and they were sent to Bagdad. The lawsuit also claims that twelve of the man's friends, who were in Bagdad under the same false pretenses, were killed there.

Labor leaders in Jordan have said the new anti-trafficking law could not only help prevent human trafficking, but improve working conditions for tens of thousands of foreigners employed within the country's borders.

Source: IRIN News

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Shelter for Trafficking Victims Opens in Syria

It was an event that when largely unnoticed, and was - of course - not covered at all by our media here. But it was significant none-the-less.

During the first week of February, a shelter for victims of human trafficking opened in Syria's capital city of Damascus. The shelter will provide not only protection, but a chance for women and children who have been brutally victimized to begin rebuilding their lives. A story published on the Integrated Regional Information Network's (IRIN) website says the shelter has 20 beds, a communal area, kitchen and bathroom. Additional rooms are available for psychological and medical care, and also for legal advice.

Though Syria now officially recognizes that human trafficking is an issue, it does not yet have any laws against the trafficking of persons either to, from, or through its borders. The U.S. State Department's Trafficking in Person's Report listed Syria as both a destination and transit country - meaning that trafficking victims either pass through Syria on their way to a neighboring country, or they are sold within its borders.

The lack of protection has caused some countries - like the Philippines - to ban their citizens from working, or even looking for work, in Syria.

Despite Syria's dismal record in the prevention of human trafficking and protection of its victims, the opening of this shelter is cause for cautious optimism. Plans are already underway to open a 2nd shelter in the northern part of the country. And the government is currently drafting its first-ever counter-trafficking legislation.

Source: IRIN News

Monday, February 2, 2009

More about the World Cup

In my continued search for information about the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, I found an article warning about the dangers of child trafficking during the event. Again, is isn't something I would have thought about, but it makes sense.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Update on 2010 World Cup

I have to say, I'm a little shocked.
I actually got a response from a member of the Democratic Alliance of South Africa.
Sadly, her response wasn't especially helpful as all she sent me was an article dated January 28th, 2008.

None-the-less, below is her response:
-------------------------------------------------------------------

"Dear Stefanie,

Please read this statement which details this situation and the DA’s position.

Arts committee hears call to legalise prostitution for 2010

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA Jan 29 2008 13:40



An African National Congress MP on Tuesday proposed that
prostitution be legalised during the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

The suggestion of George Lekgetho was met with groans of protest and chuckles from other MPs at the portfolio committee on arts and culture in Parliament.

"If sex working is legalised people would not do things in the dark. That would bring us tax and would improve the lives of those who are not working," he added.

Democratic Alliance MP Sydney Opperman disagreed, saying one could not commercialise relationships.

"You cannot attach a price to the deepest union between a man and a woman and link it to our tax base."

They were speaking following a presentation to the committee by the Arts and Culture Department on its plans for and views on social cohesion for 2010.

Another ANC MP, Christopher Gololo, said the matter should be "thrown to the public" to debate. Arts and Culture Department Director General Thembinkosi Wakashe agreed with this."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Crazy opportunity

Sometimes God opens doors that truly leave me flabbergasted (yes, flabbergasted!).

A few weeks ago, I sent an email to the Ambassador-at-Large who oversees the U.S. government's fight against human trafficking, asking questions about some recent legislative decisions that I didn't agree with.
I sent the same email to the Director of Government Relations at International Justice Mission. I didn't have high expectations about getting a response from either person, only because I know how busy they must be, and my questions aren't going to be a huge priority.

On Monday, I got a thoughtful and rather extensive email from the person at IJM. At the end of the email she suggested I might like to get involved with the Justice Campaigns at IJM, which focus on legislation, etc. I agreed, and later that day received an email from the Director of Justice Campaigns offering to set up meetings with Michigan Senator's offices for me. Me!! Wait... me??!?

That was just two days ago, and since then, here's what's happened:
- I've been invited to an Adovcay Day event on March 30th in Washington, D.C.
- The Director of Justice Campaigns has offered to set up meetings w/the D.C. offices of our Michigan Senators.
- I've also been connected with the people (or person...) who oversee Church mobilization for IJM, who are willing to offer resources and support for me to talk to local congregations and church leadership about IJM.

It's crazy.

The primary purpose of scheduling Senate office meetings is for me to deliver several hundred "Abolition Pledge" postcards to each office. The postcards encourage our Sentors to support anti-trafficking legislative agendas. We currently have 400 postcards that have been signed by Michigan residents. I'm hoping to collect a LOT more between now and my trip to D.C. I'm getting several hundred sent to me, so don't be surprised if, the next time I see you, I ask you sign one. :)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sex and Soccer

Sometimes, in my search for information about human trafficking, I find stories from places I wouldn't expect. Today's post is about one of those stories.

I read an article this morning about attempts that are being made in Vancouver to stem the tide of human trafficking ahead of and during the 2010 Olympics. Commendable and encouraging. What was not so encouraging was a short comment (one sentence) condemning South Africa's attempt to legalize prostitution in time for the 2010 World Cup.

I spent an hour searching for additional news stories, and only found one - also from the BBC. I've included a link to the story here. As you'll see, it's dated July, 2008. It's hard for me to believe that nothing else has been written or documented since then; but if it's out there, I couldn't find it. I don't know if this attempt is ongoing, has been defeated, or if the laws have already been changed.

Needless to say, I'm disgusted that - once again - a country, whose government is supposed to protect it's people, is putting money and profit ahead of the health and well being of women. Legalized prostitution gives sex traffickers a place to hide. It allows for the legalized rape of women who have been sold as slaves.

According to the BBC article, one of the strongest opponents to this campaign is the South African Democratic Alliance. I went to their web site as well to try and find additional information, but found none. There is, however, a contact page which I have used to submit an inquiry - asking about the state of this campaign and the laws governing prostitution in South Africa. I would encourage - even plead - for all of you to do the same. Contact this organization and ask questions. If any of you get a response, please post it here as a comment. If I get a response, I will do the same.

For any of you who are interested, here is the U.S. State Departments "Trafficking in Person's Report" for South Africa for 2008.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

you know I have to say this

Today we saw a new President take the oath of office. There was (and still is) lots of talk about how far we've come, and how much we've overcome.
And while I don't want to deny or overlook the strides we've taken as a nation, I also cannot deny that - as a global community - we still have far to go.
Yes, we've taken huge steps against slavery. That Obama took the oath of office using Abraham Lincoln's bible was profound and poetic.

But we can't forget that, for many around the world, slavery has not ended, and freedom does not ring. We can't allow our senses to be dulled to the unpleasant reality that the battle rages on in places like India, Cambodia, and Thailand. Freedom for the people of one nation is not enough. In fact, I would argue that freedom has not been achieved until it is enjoyed, defended and celebrated in *every* nation, by *every* people.

We have come far, but we have not come far enough.
Let our progress and our victories be, not reason for lazy complacency, but reason to continue raising our voices and demanding for others the same freedoms which we are celebrating amongst ourselves today.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

IJM Featured in the New Yorker




International Justice Mission is one of the organizations that I most respect when it comes to the fight against human trafficking. Their team of investigators, lawyers and after-care workers has rescued hundreds of people from lives of slave labor, forced prostitution and bonded service. IJM has also prosecuted numerous traffickers, pimps, brothel & slave owners; many have spent significant time in jail as a result of IJM's efforts.

This month, Samantha Power of The New Yorker wrote an excellent article about International Justice Mission.

I invite you to read it here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dear State Department

Below is a copy of an email I just sent to Mr. Mark P. Lagon - U.S. Ambassador-at-Large and Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
A few words of explanation before I post the letter:
Two things are mentioned in the email with which most people are unfamiliar: 1) The Trafficking Victims Protection Act and 2) the Trafficking in Person's Report.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) was first passed in 2000. For budgetary reasons, it has to be reauthorized every two years, which is why the years 2005 and 2008 are mentioned in my email. TVPA is important legislation that creates laws and standards around the fight against human trafficking. Section 108 of the TVPA lists minimum standards for fighting and preventing human trafficking. Each year, these standards are used to create the U.S. State Department's Trafficking in Person's report, or TIP, which is a country-by-country breakdown of human trafficking activities and preventions. Each country is ranked based on their adherance to the mininum standards listed in the TVPA. The rankings are simple - Tiers 1 through 3, with Tier 1 countries fully complying with all the minimum standards, Tier 2 not fully compliant but moving in that direction, and Tier 3 not compliant and not moving in that direction.

As I've read these acts and reports, some questions have been raised in my mind. I've submitted those questions to Ambassador Lagon, and also to the Vice-President of Government Relations at International Justice Mission. I'll let you know if I receive any response. I also encourage you pose these questions yourself, either to Ambassador Lagon or to the House Representatives members who sponsored the ammendments to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. I'll include links with contact information at the bottom of this post.

Here is the email:

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Ambassador Lagon,

About six months ago, I was made aware of the appalling prevalence of human trafficking around the world. Needless to say, I was shocked.


I've spent the last several months reading as much information as I can find on human trafficking and what ours and other countries are doing to fight it. My questions center around the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and the State Department's Trafficking in Person's 2008 report.

Last night, I read the Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Acts from 2005 and 2008. I noticed that in 2005, an amendment was made to add "measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts and for participation in international sex tourism..." as part of the minimum standards countries must adhere to in combating human trafficking. I also noticed that an amendment to strike this standard was made to the 2008 reauthorization act.

I'm trying to understand 2 things: 1)why this standard was removed and 2) why countries like Australia and the Netherlands, where prostitution is legal, were given a Tier 1 status in the 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report. The TIP report itself states, on page 23, that "Sex trafficking would not exist without the demand for commercial sex flourishing around the world", and "turning people into dehumanized commodities creates an enabling environment for human trafficking." How is it then, that countries in which it's legal to turn people into dehumanized commodities through a commercial sex industry are said to "fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking"?

Perhaps the simple answer to these questions is "politics"; that the U.S. can't be too hard on friendly countries. And perhaps the questions themselves are naive and idealistic. Still, if you or someone on your staff has time, I'd appreciate a response. I know you're all extremely busy, so I'm not expecting a speedy reply. But if I don't put the questions out there, they will just roll around in my brain like a pesky fly that won't leave me alone.

Thank you for your time.
Best Regards,
Stefanie Hamilton"

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sponsors of the 2008 Trafficking Victims Reauthorization
Contact page for Ambassador Mark P. Lagon

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Reasons

There are numerous reasons why I chose to start this blog, but they all center around a common theme: human trafficking, the modern-day slave trade.

Many people are surprised to learn that an estimated 27 million people are currently enslaved. That means there are more slaves today than there were during all 400 years of the African slave trade.

This reality can be especially hard for people in America to swallow. We point to the Emancipation Proclamation, the Thirteenth Amendment, and other such things and say "But look, slavery has been outlawed for over 100 years."

Outlawed - yes.
Ended - no.

The modern-day slave trade is now called "human trafficking" and there are laws against it in almost every country on earth. Despite the ink & paper laws, human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar-a-year business. Yes - multi-BILLION. In 2003, the U.S. State Department estimated that revenue and earnings from human trafficking exceeded $25 billion. Estimates today, in 2009, put that amount over $50 billion. Monies made by the modern-day slave trade are exceeded only by those made through drug- and weapons-trafficking.

My goal with this blog is to raise awareness, and move people to act. I chose the tile "Nowhere to Hide" because that is my dream and my vision for human traffickers; that people the world over would be so aware of and involved in the fight against modern slavery that those who practice these atrocities would have nowhere left to turn. Like cockroaches, they hide in dark places. They hide in places where the weak and the poor have no voice, no advocate; places where poverty makes people desperate and legal infrastructures are inadequate or uninformed. Every neighborhood, city and country into which the light of truth shines is one less neighborhood, city or country where these people can carry out their deceptions and abuses.

This blog will not only include steps anyone can take to get involved in the fight, it will include information about countries where human trafficking is especially rampant. It will include stories of those who have been rescued, and stories of their rescuers. It will include information on legislation pending, passed and enacted that aids the fight against human trafficking.

I hope that many of you will choose to take this journey with me. It won't be an easy one. It will be heart-breaking and overwhelming; but every victory will be sweet. And there WILL be victories. There will be battles won, victims rescued, criminals prosecuted, and hope and dignity restored to those who thought they'd been forgotten.