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She writes about two child victims of trafficking -- Rosa and Mila -- exploring their journey as they are caught in a life of domestic servitude and commercial sex exploitation. Together with their immigration lawyer, Lily, the young women fight an unjust system.
Cohosted by Emerge Miami and Sweat Records, This Is Our Story is meant to encourage awareness of human trafficking and the circumstances suffered by its victims. Adelson says she also hopes to prove that public interest law is a viable career choice for "people who want to do good in the world."
Public interest lawyers devote their careers to "helping a child with asthma petition her landlord to remove mold from her building; assisting an abused immigrant woman with self-petitioning for her immigration status; advocating for a disabled adult to receive certain benefits from social security, etc," Adelson says. But involving more lawyers in the field of public interest law is just one part of the solution. At the end of the day, Adelson says, educating people about human trafficking is the best step to take toward ending these crimes.
This isn't the first time Adelson, a Miami native and graduate of the University of Miami School of Law, has written about this issue. She also blogged about her experiences representing victims of human trafficking at the prominent blog Ms. JD, and regularly speaks to her students about these issues in her well-regarded seminars.
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Sofia, a sweet-voiced and cherubic 24-year-old, was one of the lucky ones: She managed to escape much of the suffering shared by the millions of sex workers trafficked throughout the world, and even saw two of her traffickers forced out of the country and back to Mexico.
Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times
But the young woman said she still feels that complete justice has eluded her, because the drivers who ferried her from john to john, her de facto bosses, remain at large.
As prostitution has shifted off the streets and into hotels and apartments, the drivers who transport prostitutes have emerged as some of the industry’s most powerful players. Sofia, who uses a pseudonym because she fears retribution from traffickers, said that when she was enslaved as a prostitute, her drivers organized her schedule, drove her to appointments and took half of her earnings before she turned over the remainder to her pimp.
“They are more important than the pimps because they’re the ones who decide everything,” Sofia said softly in Spanish. Her words were translated by a counselor and a lawyer from Sanctuary for Families, a nonprofit group that works with domestic violence victims. “I want all of them in jail, or back in their countries. I don’t want to see them working like this.”
On Wednesday, Sofia will testify, from behind a screen, before a joint hearing of the City Council’s Transportation and Women’s Issues Committees, on two pieces of proposed legislation that would penalize drivers who knowingly transport prostitutes.
The first proposal, introduced by Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, would raise the fines on drivers who knowingly transport trafficking victims, and would direct the Taxi and Limousine Commission to add training for all its drivers on the subject of sex trafficking.
The second bill, introduced by Councilman James Vacca and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, seeks to punish those who operate unregistered cars as liveries, with misdemeanor charges, fines and possible prison time, noting that many of the drivers fail to register with the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
“Who would have thought that black cars or livery cars were going to become a point in the issue of sex trafficking?” said the Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, who noted that this would be the Council’s fourth hearing on sex trafficking this year. “We have to hit every way we can to crack down on that effort.”
David S. Yassky, the chairman of the taxi commission, said he wanted to work with the City Council without adding costs for drivers. He suggested that the agency could issue a pamphlet about sex trafficking.
“I don’t know if we need full-blown classroom instruction on this particular topic,” Mr. Yassky said. “We would like to do what we can at the T.L.C. to make sure that car services, livery bases are not participating in reprehensible human trafficking.”
Reporting of sex-trafficking cases seems to be growing more frequent. Lori Cohen, a senior staff attorney with the Anti-Trafficking Initiative of Sanctuary for Families, said that the number of victims it advised had jumped to 293 in the 12-month period that ended June 30, compared with 85 in the previous 12 months.
Sofia estimates that she worked with 70 drivers, who brought her to 5,000 clients. Clients often found drivers’ phone numbers in advertisements placed in newspapers or on cards handed out on the street. When business was slow, her pimp would give her a list and have her call the drivers directly. Her drivers took more of her earnings if she did not finish her appointments within 15 minutes, she said.
Sofia said that the drivers rarely spoke to her, except when they tried to recruit her away from her pimp. “They promised us a better life,” Sofia said. “I know a lot of girls who said they left the pimp they were working with. In the end they just worked for the driver.”
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Nestle 'to act over child labour in cocoa industry'
Global food giant Nestle says it has taken a major step to end child labour on cocoa farms supplying its factories.
The firm, one of the world's largest chocolate producers, says it is going to work with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) on tackling the problem.
The FLA is set to examine Nestle's cocoa supply chains in Ivory Coast in January, the firm said in a statement.
Critics ask why it has taken Nestle so long to act if it knew children were involved in its cocoa production.
Nestle and the world's other biggest chocolate producers signed a cocoa protocol - an international commitment to end child labour in the cocoa industry - 10 years ago.
During my visit to Ivory Coast earlier this month, it was easy to find child labour and difficult to see substantive measures to prevent it.
The sight of children carrying machetes or pesticide equipment is common throughout the country's cocoa belt.
More than 800,000 children there are believed to do some form of cocoa-related work. I found a group walking along a muddy path towards trees where bright yellow cocoa pods hung ready for harvest.
Silently, the children squatted down and started work. They wore torn and grubby shorts and T-shirts. There was no laughter or play.
On their legs were scars from machete injuries. There was no first-aid kit around or any protective clothing.
One - a 12-year-old - said his parents lived far away and he had not seen his family for three years.
The trafficking and selling of children is still commonplace. The Nestle announcement came within days of the report being broadcast.
Earlier this year, a report commissioned by the US government found that the chocolate industry's funding since 2001 had "not been sufficient" and it needed to do more.
Nestle, in its statement, said the "cocoa supply chain is long and complex" - making it "difficult for food companies to establish exactly where their cocoa comes from and under what conditions it was harvested".
The firm said the FLA would send a team of independent examiners to Ivory Coast - where Nestle buys most of its cocoa - to map the supply chain.
The results of its assessment will be published next year and will guide future operations there, the firm said.
"Child labour has no place in our supply chain," said senior Nestle executive Jose Lopez.
"We cannot solve the problem on our own, but by working with a partner like the FLA we can make sure our efforts to address it are targeted where they are needed most".'Moral obligation'
The US government-backed report by Tulane University, published in March, found that more than 1.8 million children in West Africa were involved in growing cocoa.
Earlier this month, the BBC's Humphrey Hawksley travelled to Ivory Coast and found children using machetes to hack open cocoa pods to extract the beans.
One boy told him that he had been sent by his father to the farm to work, and had not seen his family for three years.
Gilbert Kone Kafana, Ivory Coast's minister for labour and social affairs, said there was a "moral obligation" on chocolate companies to help rebuild the country ravaged by years of civil war.
"We need to build roads, schools, hospitals and social centres; anything that would allow Ivory Coast to progress," he told the BBC.
"This development is necessary for farmers to have a good life, and it is in the interest of the industry to work with us."
Monday, December 12, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
China children rescued in swoop on traffickers
Police in China say they have rescued nearly 200 children after uncovering two child-trafficking gangs.
More than 600 people were arrested in raids in 10 Chinese provinces.
A BBC correspondent in Beijing says the staggering numbers in the investigation reveal the scale of the country's child-trafficking problem.
Critics blame China's one-child policy and lax adoption laws, which they say have created a thriving underground market for buying children.Thousands missing
The Ministry of Public Security said 178 children had been rescued in the joint investigation. It did not give their ages and said they were being cared for while officials sought to trace their parents.
The ministry described the crackdown as "one of the biggest victories for anti-trafficking".
A statement said 5,000 police had co-operated for six months before arresting suspects last week.
"Police departments will continue to crack down on child trafficking and ensure that involved children are kept out of the reach of buyers," the statement said.
It appears police stumbled on one trafficking gang while investigating a road accident in the southern province of Sichuan in May.
Links were found to at least 26 other trafficking gangs in China, the statement said. A second gang was uncovered in August in the south-eastern province of Fujian.
The BBC's Michael Bristow in Beijing says it remains unclear how many more cases remain undiscovered.
Our correspondent says many people blame China's one-child policy because it creates a demand for children - particularly boys.
Families may also buy trafficked women and children to use as extra labour and household servants, as well as brides for unmarried sons.
Clear data is hard to obtain but correspondents say thousands of children are snatched from their families each year and sold in China. Despite government efforts to counter it, child trafficking is a growing problem.
Greater freedom of movement that came with China's economic reforms is thought to have made it easier for trafficking gangs to operate.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Child abductions and trafficking are rife in China, despite repeated police crackdowns -- a problem that many experts blame on the nation's strict "one-child" policy and lax regulations on adoption.
The public security ministry said in a statement that police in the southwestern province of Sichuan had chanced on clues that a child trafficking gang was operating there when dealing with a traffic accident in May.
Then in August, police in the southeastern province of Fujian discovered the existence of another gang involved in widespread child trafficking.
After a long period of evidence-gathering, more than 5,000 police officers from 10 different provinces across China launched a joint offensive on November 30, arresting 608 suspects.
They rescued 178 children, who have now been placed in welfare agencies, in what the statement called "the biggest victory yet for anti-trafficking" operations.
It did not say how old the children were, or whether they had been reunited with their parents.
Lax adoption rules for childless couples in China have led to a thriving underground market for kidnapping, buying and selling children.
Many academics also blame the problem on the nation's strict "one-child" policy, which has put a premium on baby boys, as many families want a male heir.
As such, some parents who are unable to have a son or want a second child opt to buy one, and baby girls are also sometimes sold on to traffickers.
Authorities have repeatedly launched crackdowns on trafficking, but scandals keep emerging.
Police said in July they had freed 89 children in a crackdown on trafficking launched this year, arresting 369 people in the operation.
In November, police in the eastern province of Shandong also broke up a human trafficking gang that bought babies from poor families and sold them on for as much as US$8,000.
And in 2007, in a scandal that shocked the nation, authorities found that thousands of people had been forced into slave labour in brickyards and mines across the nation.
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Chicago just hosted an infuriatingly insightful show and tell on sex trafficking, with a West Side pimp providing the sordid show and a prominent legal scholar providing the tell.
It happened last week as Catharine MacKinnon packed a University of Chicago Law School auditorium for a lecture on “Trafficking, Prostitution and Inequality” just as a federal courtroom revealed the thankfully short run of United States of America v. Datqunn Sawyer, a k a “Daddy,” “P,” “P Child,” “Pharo,” “Pimpin’ P” and “Rabbit.”
When I mentioned this later, Ms. MacKinnon wasn’t aware of the coincidence. It didn’t matter. Worldwide, she’s encountered many people like Mr. Sawyer — who was convicted Monday of running a prostitution ring — and their mostly female victims.
“The underlying allegations fit perfectly into the world I study and engage,” she told me. “Going after this pimp is exactly what should be done, and the facts are standard,” she added, alluding to Mr. Sawyer’s violent ways.
Ms. MacKinnon is a charismatic, even intrepid, scholar and feminist activist who helped pioneer the legal claim for sexual harassment. She serves as special gender adviser to the International Criminal Court, she helped win a case establishing the rape of Bosnian women by Serbs as an act of genocide, and she is one of the most-cited legal scholars in the English language, said Michael Schill, the law school dean.
“She is one of the most dynamic, creative and influential legal thinkers of the past 30 years, having had extraordinary influence raising consciousness about international human rights violations in the realms of rape, prostitution and other forms of sexual abuse,” said Geoffrey Stone, a prominent University of Chicago law professor.
Richard Epstein, a colleague of Professor Stone with a libertarian and contrarian bent, is more qualified: “She is an angry feminist with a strong sense of right and wrong. In some work this manifests itself in libertarian directions by seeking out the perpetrators of mass violence against women. In other cases she is a strong egalitarian in favor of equal wage policies and the like. Always passionate, sometimes informed.”
The lecture was sponsored by the university’s Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. Ms. MacKinnon, who once taught at the university, had rock star trappings and she did not disappoint. Now at the University of Michigan, she mixed compelling analyses with dark-suited elegance and the air of a tall and graying Katharine Hepburn.
She eviscerated distinctions we tend to make — between adult and child prostitution and forced versus voluntary labor, for example. She pilloried some academics’ notion of prostitutes as “sex workers” who act voluntarily and gain a certain liberation, even sexual equality, by being compensated.
Legalization only accelerates illegal prostitution, she said, and most prostitutes never exit poverty. Such exploitation was clear in the Sawyer trial, where David Peilet, a defense lawyer with a hopeless task, did not contest the core allegations.
Testimony showed that nine females who worked for Mr. Sawyer were often homeless and destitute; one was a chronic runaway with bipolar disorder. He impregnated three of the mostly underage girls. They often worked along Cicero Avenue, beside railroad tracks, in cars and alleys, and occasionally in hotels, including a W.
He beat them with a studded belt, his fists, a hammer and the heel of a shoe. In her lecture, Ms. MacKinnon spoke of a diabolically effective strategy by which pimps enforce dependence by “distancing the body and psyche” through brute force and drug addiction.
Mr. Sawyer took in from $100 to $1,000 from each one daily and kept them impoverished, as detailed by Michelle Nasser and Marc Krickbaum, the prosecutors. If they did well, he might let them sleep in a bed with him. Otherwise, it was on a couch or the floor of a small apartment.
Like many Americans, I associate sex trafficking with faraway lands.
“Trafficking happens here and men are spending tiny sums of money, relative to their incomes, to get sexual profits and pleasure out of people who would not be there were it not for child sexual abuse, domestic violence and destitution,” said Kaethe Morris Hoffer, legal director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation.
When I spoke with the prosecutors after the quick verdict, I wondered about Mr. Sawyer’s victims.
The government is trying to help them. Yet, as Ms. Nasser said with fittingly tragic understatement, “It messes them up for a long time.”