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


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.