Thursday, March 29, 2012

British Couple Face Trafficking Charges of Children in Pakistan

A Pakistani-British couple were arrested in Gilgit Airport for allegedly attempting to smuggle an infant out of the country, may be charged with human trafficking. They had arrived to adopt an orphan and were staying at a hotel. Their arrest lead intelligence agencies to a chain believed to have links with an offshore child-smuggling ring. "There are chances that other children may also have been smuggled out of this region in the past," disclosed an official. During preliminary investigations, the couple informed investigators that they were interested in adopting a child and that they had contacted a local woman running a private maternity home for assistance, who sold them a two-month old baby. She has allegedly facilitated adoptions of children before.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Societal Ills Behind Technology

Provided by:

Three Held For Human Trafficking in India

Three persons, including a woman, were arrested even as they were planning to sell a two-month-old baby after having purchased the little girl from her parents for Rs 5,000 [$102]. Shilpa Patel of Vadodara, Mansukh Rathod of Ved Road in Surat and Hasmukh alias Raju Solanki of Mumbai were booked for their alleged involvement in human trafficking of the two-month-old girl and were remanded in police custody by a local court. Police were tipped off by Manju Karia of Ashapuri Charitable Trust, Malad, Mumbai. Karia on Saturday called up Surat police to tell them that three people, who had bought a girl from her parents after paying them money, now planned to sell her. She told cops as she had not been contacted by the accused after they took custody of the baby and thus felt something fishy. The accused told police that the girl's parents had contacted them for help to send her to an orphanage as they were not in a position to raise her.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Learning to Bike

The average age a child learns to ride a bike is 12 years-old. The average age of a trafficking victim for commercial sex is 12 years-old. We can change this.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Warms the Heart

I just spent the morning with 12 women, ranging in age from 18 to 64, gathered together to read This is Our Story, and to learn about human trafficking. #feelingdelightedandinspired.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Federal Legislation and the Fight Against Modern Slavery

The Fight Against Modern Slavery

President Obama, in convening the annual meeting of his cabinet-level task force on human trafficking last week, noted the work the administration has done in law enforcement, aid to victims and diplomatic pressure to help the millions around the world who toil “under the boot of modern slavery.”


But a crucial element is missing in this important campaign. Congress has yet to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a law passed with strong bipartisan support in 2000 and reauthorized in 2003, 2005 and 2008. It expired at the end of 2011.

A Senate bill to reauthorize the act through 2015 cleared the Judiciary Committee in October but has not come to a floor vote. The bill, trimmed for lean times, cuts appropriations to $130 million, but toughens enforcement measures and modestly increases victim assistance to $25.5 million. A reauthorization bill has also been offered in the House, with wrongheaded Republican modifications. It would, for example, shift financing for victims’ services to the Justice Department from the Department of Health and Human Services, which is far better-suited for the job but has been a recent source of Republican obstructionism over contraception and health insurance.

Passing a law to fight human trafficking and slavery is one of those bipartisan no-brainers that Congress used to be able to accomplish — as it did three times in the administration of George W. Bush. But it’s a different era now, one in which conservative Republicans also find reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act unacceptable.

Allowing politics to hamper the campaign against human trafficking is especially tragic at a time when innovative approaches are making gains. A new trafficking hot line, financed through a grant by health and human services, for instance, has taken more than 49,000 calls, connected 5,770 potential victims with services and provided more than 2,155 law-enforcement tips. Those fighting modern-day slavery need support to find and help survivors. Congress should move quickly to keep this effort moving.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Laugh Brand to Give Percentage of Profits to Prevent Child Trafficking

See allShow me
1. Laugh Brand Initial Launch Video
1 day ago
Laugh Brand is a children's apparel company that gives back 30% of its profits to fight child trafficking and exploitation. Laugh Brand will launch Summer of 2012!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Anna and Modern Day Slavery

Check out and support this new film: Anna, a top-notch hacker is trying to expose a gang of human traffickers whose connections run deep into the political and business circles across the globe.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Where Pimps Peddle Their Goods

I WENT on a walk in Manhattan the other day with a young woman who once had to work these streets, hired out by eight pimps while she was just 16 and 17. She pointed out a McDonald’s where pimps sit while monitoring the girls outside, and a building where she had repeatedly been ordered online as if she were a pizza.

On the Ground

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Damon Winter/The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof

Alissa, her street name, escaped that life and is now a 24-year-old college senior planning to become a lawyer — but she will always have a scar on her cheek where a pimp gouged her with a potato peeler as a warning not to escape. “Like cattle owners brand their cattle,” she said, fingering her cheek, “he wanted to brand me in a way that I would never forget.”

After Alissa testified against her pimps, six of them went to prison for up to 25 years. Yet these days, she reserves her greatest anger not at pimps but at companies that enable them. She is particularly scathing about, a classified advertising Web site that is used to sell auto parts, furniture, boats — and girls. Alissa says pimps routinely peddled her on Backpage.

“You can’t buy a child at Wal-Mart, can you?” she asked me. “No, but you can go to Backpage and buy me on Backpage.”

Backpage accounts for about 70 percent of prostitution advertising among five Web sites that carry such ads in the United States, earning more than $22 million annually from prostitution ads, according to AIM Group, a media research and consulting company. It is now the premier Web site for human trafficking in the United States,according to the National Association of Attorneys General. And it’s not a fly-by-night operation. Backpage is owned by Village Voice Media, which also owns the estimable Village Voice newspaper.

Attorneys general from 48 states have written a joint letterto Village Voice Media, pleading with it to get out of the flesh trade. An online petition at has gathered 94,000 signatures asking Village Voice Media to stop taking prostitution advertising. Instead, the company has used The Village Voice to mock its critics. Alissa thought about using her real name for this article but decided not to for fear that Village Voice would retaliate.

Court records and public officials back Alissa’s account, and there is plenty of evidence that under-age girls are marketed on Backpage. Arrests in such cases have been reported in at least 22 states.

Just this month, prosecutors in New York City filed charges in a case involving a gang that allegedly locked a 15-year-old Long Island girl in an empty house, drugged her, tied her up, raped her, and advertised her on Backpage. After a week of being sold for sex, prosecutors in Queens said, the girl escaped.

Liz McDougall, general counsel of Village Voice Media, told me that it is “shortsighted, ill-informed and counterproductive” to focus on Backpage when many other Web sites are also involved, particularly because Backpage tries to screen out ads for minors and reports possible trafficking cases to the authorities. McDougall denied that Backpage dominates the field and said that the Long Island girl was marketed on 13 other Web sites as well. But if street pimps go to jail for profiteering on under-age girls, should their media partners like Village Voice Media really get a pass?

Paradoxically, Village Voice began as an alternative newspaper to speak truth to power. It publishes some superb journalism. So it’s sad to see it accept business from pimps in the greediest and most depraved kind of exploitation.

True, many prostitution ads on Backpage are placed by adult women acting on their own without coercion; they’re not my concern. Other ads are placed by pimps: the Brooklyn district attorney’s office says that the great majority of the sex trafficking cases it prosecutes involve girls marketed on Backpage.

Alissa, who grew up in a troubled household in Boston, has a story that is fairly typical. She says that one night when she was 16 — and this matches the account she gave federal prosecutors — a young man approached her and told her she was attractive. She thought that he was a rapper, and she was flattered. He told her that he wanted her to be his girlfriend, she recalls wistfully.

Within a few weeks, he was prostituting her — even as she continued to study as a high school sophomore. Alissa didn’t run away partly because of a feeling that there was a romantic bond, partly because of Stockholm syndrome, and partly because of raw fear. She says violence was common if she tried connecting to the outside world or if she didn’t meet her daily quota for cash.

“He would get aggressive and strangle me and physically assault me and threaten to sell me to someone that was more violent than him, which he eventually did,” Alissa recalled. She said she was sold from one pimp to another several times, for roughly $10,000 each time.

She was sold to johns seven days a week, 365 days a year. After a couple of years, she fled, but a pimp tracked her down and — with the women he controlled — beat and stomped Alissa, breaking her jaw and several ribs, she said. That led her to cooperate with the police.

There are no simple solutions to end sex trafficking, but it would help to have public pressure on Village Voice Media to stop carrying prostitution advertising. The Film Forum has already announced that it will stop buying ads in The Village Voice. About 100 advertisers have dropped Rush Limbaugh’s radio show because of his demeaning remarks about women. Isn’t it infinitely more insulting to provide a forum for the sale of women and girls?

Let’s be honest: Backpage’s exit from prostitution advertising wouldn’t solve the problem, for smaller Web sites would take on some of the ads. But it would be a setback for pimps to lose a major online marketplace. When Craigslist stopped taking such ads in 2010, many did not migrate to new sites: online prostitution advertising plummeted by more than 50 percent, according to AIM Group.

Alissa, who now balances her college study with part-time work at a restaurant and at Fair Girls, an antitrafficking organization, deserves the last word. “For a Web site like Backpage to make $22 million off our backs,” she said, “it’s like going back to slave times.”

Friday, March 16, 2012

Online Sex Trade Is Flourishing Despite Efforts to Curb It

Early this month, the social networking Web site fell into disarray after its founder, Kelly Surrell, was fatally wounded in a shooting while driving his Bentley in East Oakland.

For years, Mr. Surrell, 34, had profited by taking a portion of the earnings of his roster of women prostitutes. Then, like many Internet entrepreneurs, Mr. Surrell decided to capitalize on an expanding online community. On his Web site, which referred visitors to Mr. Surrell’s Facebook page and his instructional podcasts, pimps and aspiring pimps could post tips and swap advice about “the game.”

They will have to go somewhere else now, because Mr. Surrell’s social network is “currently undergoing maintenance,” according to a message posted there. But it appears that there are more places than ever for them to go.

The online sex trade is flourishing despite nationwide campaigns and pressure from government leaders. Two years after public and legal pressure prompted, the San Francisco-based online classifieds service, to scrap its “erotic services” section, visitors and revenue have soared on other classified Web sites, according to the Advanced Interactive Media Group, a consulting firm for the classified advertising market. Law enforcement officials in the Bay Area said other Web sites had emerged with suspected sex-for-pay advertisements.

The sites display ads for sex services, and they also serve as online communities where customers, pimps and prostitutes can arrange business deals, share police sightings and swap tips. Law enforcement officials said the online trade has, in some ways, made sex trafficking and solicitation easier, while giving the police new insight into a historically hidden, underground culture.

“It’s a great tool for us, to be honest,” said Detective Jeremy Martinez of the San Jose Police Human Trafficking Task Force. “I know there was a lot of applause when Craigslist’s erotic services got brought down, but for us it was a fishing pond we could go to.”

Casey Bates, who supervises the Alameda County district attorney’s human trafficking unit, said law enforcement officials have “a love-hate relationship” with online sex sites. “It’s despicable, what’s going on,” Mr. Bates said, “but they allow us to show a jury in very graphic terms what’s going on between provider and john.”

Law enforcement officials said the most popular sites for listing sex-related services in the Bay Area include the social media and review Web site and Village Voice Media’s classified advertising site Other sites offer additional features, from, which verifies escort-submitted photographs, to, which features an interactive map of adult massage parlors and user-submitted reviews of masseuses, down to detailed descriptions of their sexual prowess.

On, customers calling themselves “hobbyists” share reviews of “providers,” whose photos, phone numbers, services and prices are listed on their profiles. In some forums on the site, other users post photographs of women they see walking on the street, including on “Inty,” or International Boulevard in Oakland, the notorious stretch for prostitution known as “the track.” Many post warnings to other users, in real time, when they spot police officers, or claim to have been robbed or ripped off by a pimp, prostitute or customer.

“The Internet is that frontier out there,” Detective Martinez said. “Anyone can post, even if it’s about something illegal. The good thing about that is we have a place to look.”

At least one site owner does not find the idea alarming.

“These places have been around since the beginning of time, basically,” said Warren Newsome, a spokesman for, the only site to respond to an inquiry from The Bay Citizen. “We don’t play referee. We just provide a forum. It’s better to provide this medium where cops can get some info, rather than not have any.”
Earlier this month, the San Francisco Police Department received a report that a suspected pimp had kidnapped a young woman at 10th Street and Mission. With a description and photograph in hand, investigators with the special victims unit searched on for the missing woman, filtering the profiles by age and hair color. After finding her profile, a detective contacted the listed cellphone number and arranged to meet with her at a nearby motel, where officers took her into custody.

“It’s a good way to gather intelligence,” said Detective Vincent Repetto of the special victims unit. “You get this kind of information and it can dovetail with open investigations.”

Late last year, the police in South San Francisco arrested a couple after finding them and two 16-year-old girls, including one runaway, in their motel room. Mahendar Singh, 40, told the authorities that the girls were his stepdaughters, but the police found their profiles on In January, Mr. Singh pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiring to commit sex trafficking.

Challenging the sites legally has proven difficult. Legal experts said the Web sites are protected by the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which states that Web site owners are exempt from responsibility for the content of their users.

“The idea is that you hold the speaker liable, and not the soapbox,” said Rebecca Jeschke, director of media relations for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “It’s the foundation of the Internet you see now.”

In August, a judge dismissed a lawsuit against Village Voice Media that claimed was aiding and abetting sex trafficking by allowing users to post advertisements for sex.

Investigators said that trying to battle the Web sites in a public or legal arena is not the solution to the problem; providers simply write in code — offering “French lessons,” for example — or move to other Web sites. Some Web sites are hosted in other countries, such as, which lists its business address in Nicosia, Cyprus.

“Maybe the best thing to do is to block a site or take it down, but it just pops up in a different form,” said Mr. Bates, of the Alameda district attorney’s office.

Lawmakers have been slow to realize the scope of the problem. In 2007, two years after California lawmakers made human trafficking a felony, the attorney general’s office released a report on human trafficking in the state. The Internet was not mentioned.

But California is now leading the country in responding to the rapidly expanding online sex trade. In February, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris convened leaders from nonprofit, law enforcement and technology companies to gather information for an updated report on human trafficking in the state. Several researchers who are a part of the group, including some from Microsoft and the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, are developing a database that would allow law enforcement officials to search and map information from all of the Web sites suspected of advertising prostitution.

“This is an opportunity to observe the social behaviors which underlie the trafficking trade, which is essential if you want to combat it,” said Mark Latonero, director of research at the Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy. “We’re trying to crack the code.”

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Statement by the President on the Meeting of the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

Nearly one hundred and fifty years ago, in issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to the enduring cause of freedom. Then as now, we remain steadfast in our resolve to see that all men, women, and children have the opportunity to realize this greatest of gifts. Yet millions around the world—including here in the United States—toil under the boot of modern slavery. Mothers and fathers are forced to work in fields and factories against their will or in service to debts that can never be repaid. Sons and daughters are sold for sex, abducted as child soldiers, or coerced into involuntary labor. In dark corners of our world, and hidden in plain sight in our own communities, human beings are exploited for financial gain and subjected to unspeakable cruelty.
Slavery remains the affront to human dignity and stain on our collective conscience that it has always been. That is why members of my cabinet and senior advisors gathered at the White House today, at a meeting chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to lay out their plans for meeting this challenge. The United States is committed to eradicating trafficking in persons, and we will draw on tools ranging from law enforcement and victim service provision, to public awareness building and diplomatic pressure. Because we know that government efforts are not enough, we are also increasing our partnerships with a broad coalition of local communities, faith-based and non-governmental organizations, schools, and businesses.
To bring all these elements together, and to be sure we are maximizing our efforts, today I am directing my cabinet to find ways to strengthen our current work, and to expand on partnerships with civil society and the private sector, so that we can bring more resources to bear in fighting this horrific injustice. In the coming weeks the White House will build on this gathering on behalf of human dignity. I am confident that we will one day end the scourge of modern slavery, because I believe in those committed to this issue: young people, people of faith and station, Americans who refuse to accept this injustice and will not rest until it is vanquished. Today, I reaffirm that the United States stands with them, and that together we will realize the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation and our country’s ideal of freedom.

Mother Tries To Sell Son For USD 10,000 In Khabarovsk [Russia]

A resident of the Far Eastern Khabarovsk region was arrested after attempting to sell her five-year-old son for 300,000 rubles [$10,345], the regional investigation committee reported on Tuesday. According to investigators, the woman asked for 800,000 rubles [$27,588] for her son but the amount was reduced after negotiations with the buyer. The woman also has a seven year old daughter, who is cared for by her grandmother. "The suspect was twice brought to the attention of the administration in 2011 for failure to take responsibility for her children and for disorderly conduct," the committee said. Investigators filed a criminal case against the woman for human trafficking and if found guilty, she could face up to ten years in prison. The boy is now in social care in a hospital in the city of Bikin.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fil-Belgian Suspected Human Trafficker Nabbed In NAIA [Philippines]

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) personnel recently arrested a Filipino-Belgian woman, a suspected human trafficker, who was caught facilitating the departure of three undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. refused to identify the victims and the suspect, who was apprehended on February 4 at the NAIA 2 departure terminal. The victims were about to board a Philippine Airlines flight to Bangkok when they were intercepted by the BI's Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU). David said the BI personnel noted the inconsistencies in the answers of the victims on the questionnaires distributed to passengers about the circumstances of their trip. The questionnaire is a new requirement for departing travelers suspected of being human trafficking victims. David said the victims claimed that they paid the Fil-Belgian P500,000 [$11,658] each in exchange for facilitating their trip and employment in France.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Police Bust Massive Sex Trafficking Ring in Sweden

According to prosecutors, the trafficking ring is one of the largest of its kind ever uncovered in Sweden. … Last year in Gothenburg, 255 men were reported and fined for buying sex, a number which led local police to crackdown on the crime. … Further investigation led police to the discovery of the Romania-linked trafficking ring. … Prosecutors plan to present formal charges against the men during a press conference on Wednesday. Almost all of the women connected to the reported sex cases in Gothenburg are 18-years-old or older and are connected to the Romania-based ring. The women then performed sex acts for money in playgrounds, cemeteries and parking garages around the city, according to TT. Exactly how many women were selling sex on the streets in Sweden remains unclear, however.

Author's Day in Tallahassee

If you're in town, come on by and read This is Our Story: a novel about human trafficking and what happens next.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mother-In-Law And Sister-In-Law Guilty Of Human-Trafficking

In the first trial of its kind in New York state, a mother and daughter from Ramapo were found guilty of labor trafficking and assault in the case of a young woman from India who testified she was brutalized by her husband and his family when she came to the United States following an arranged marriage. Judge William K. Nelson, who oversaw the non-jury trial, found Parveen Jagota, 57, and Rajani Jagota, 31, guilty of two of three counts of labor trafficking, specifically of confiscating the 25-year-old victim's passport and Green Card, and threatening her with physical violence if she did not comply with their wishes. Both counts carry a maximum sentence of seven years. The two women, respectively the mother-in-law and sister-in-law of the victim, were also found guilty of second degree assault, a violent felony which carries a maximum sentence of seven years.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Alternative Spring Break Week

Dear readers,

I will be in Immokalee, Florida this next week, with a group of law and medical students. Posts will resume on Monday, March 12th. Have a great week!

Lincoln's Legacy

Lincoln's legacy fights modern slavery

By Athena Jones, CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sheila White was beginning to feel numb. She had been beaten numerous times by a man who forced her to work as a prostitute on the streets of New York City.

"I done got beaten up in front of the Port Authority in Times Square," she said, a reference to a bus terminal on the city's West Side. "When stuff like that happens out in the open, you really feel like you're not even a person."

White was eventually able to escape her pimp and now works with victims of sex trafficking throughout New York state. But her story is proof that slavery is alive and well in America, 150 years after it was supposedly abolished.

While modern slavery may look different from the old images of plantations, slave cabins and auction blocks, abuse, coercion and manipulation remain the order of the day.

According to the anti-trafficking organization the Polaris Project, hundreds of thousands of people are being forced to work at jobs they don’t want to do - in the commercial sex trade, on farms, in homes, in factories and elsewhere in the United States. They work for little or no pay and under constant threat of violence and even starvation.

Polaris estimates this modern slavery affects an estimated 12 million people worldwide and brings in some $32 billion. Other estimates put the global number of victims as high as 27 million.

White told her story as part of “Not My Life,” a documentary on human trafficking that aired on CNN last year, believed to be one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world. The film is featured in a new exhibit at President Lincoln's Cottage in Washington, part of a year-long effort by the cottage to celebrate the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation that freed slaves during the Civil War.

"(Lincoln) made some of the most important decisions during the Civil War here. He lived during his re-election here and he also developed the Emancipation Proclamation while living here," said Erin Carlson Mast, president of the cottage, which is a National Trust Historic Site. "This was really an opportunity to see how far we have come as a country in dealing with the issue of slavery."

How far the country has come is a complicated story, as the exhibit, called “Can You Walk Away?” illustrates.

Lincoln's proclamation was followed two years later by the 13th Amendment, which made slavery illegal in the United States. But instances of modern slavery still exist in all 50 states, according to Polaris, which partnered with the cottage on the exhibit.

Polaris was founded in 2002 and named after the North Star that helped guide slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. The organization operates a national hotline, taking calls 24 hours a day in more than 170 languages, from people who suspect trafficking is going on in their communities and from victims themselves.

The goal of “Can You Walk Away?” - which will be on display through August 2013 and includes photos and other data on numerous trafficking cases - is to increase awareness of the issue in the U.S. and thereby increase the risk to traffickers of getting caught.

"It's a much bigger issue in the United States than most people understand or realize," said Polaris' executive director Bradley Myles.

"The whole issue of trafficking is dehumanizing and objectifying somebody and saying, “You're not a human being, we can use you like property.” And what we're trying to do is humanize the issue and say this is how to connect with it on a very, very human level."

Victims in the United States span all ages, races and nationalities. A young man named Given tells the story of how he left Zambia to travel to America as part of a choir, hoping to raise money to help support his six orphaned siblings.

Instead of being paid, he had his passport taken from him and he was forced to work for free, with his handlers withholding food and threatening to deport him if he protested.

"We were not getting paid. Our families back home in Zambia were not getting paid as they were promised. The schools that we were promised back home were not getting built," he said in an interview for mtvU's “Against Our Will,” a documentary that is also used in this exhibit.

"I never spoke to my little sister the whole two years that I was in the United States. I never spoke to my brother. I never spoke to any of my siblings, so I had no way to let them know what was happening to me."

Angie, a teenager from Wichita, Kansas, ran away with two friends after trouble at home. The three girls ended up under the control of a pimp who forced them to prostitute themselves at a truck stop in Oklahoma City, threatening to harm them if they did not bring in enough money. Another trafficking victim, Debra, was forced to work 24 hours a day at a home in Falls Church, Virginia, cooking, cleaning and caring for children with no breaks.

Human trafficking is appealing to criminals because there is an "enormous amount of money to be made" and low risk of being caught as long as the community is not aware, Myles said.

"I think it is harder to eradicate in certain ways, because it's already made illegal, and so there's this ecosystem of human trafficking and modern slavery that's developed. And we have to fight that ecosystem, and the ecosystem morphs, it changes, it's very nimble," he said, an acknowledgement that existing laws against trafficking only serve to push the practice underground.

Myles said Polaris is looking for people “to be the eyes and ears, looking for trafficking, and if they can call in and be the good Samaritan to break a case."

"But we're also trying to build a national, systemic response system almost like the national 911 for trafficking, where every single time there's a case, there's a response ready to help in that local community, so that those victims aren't falling through the cracks."