Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Campaign against human trafficking held against Olympic backdrop


Campaign against human trafficking held against Olympic backdrop
As crowds throng London for the Olympics, passers-by are lured to enter huge boxes, only to be confronted with the horrors of human trafficking. The installations aim at raising awareness about a crime that – according to ILO figures – has claimed more than 20 million victims.
Article | 27 July 2012
GENEVA (ILO News) – Visitors thronging London for the Olympics might come across huge, brightly coloured gift boxes that promise passers-by a better life, only to reveal the harsh realities of human trafficking on the inside.

The art installations are part of the Gift Box campaign that aims to raise awareness about human trafficking, a crime which affects every country in the world in one way or another.

On the outside, the boxes are brightly coloured and full of promises such as “Earn more money and support your family”. The inside is black and white and displays the faces of victims and their stories, as well as information about human trafficking.

Every minute, of every hour, of every day, men, women and children are forced to travel around the world to make gold for someone else: they have been trafficked.” As thousands of athletes travelled to the UK to vie for gold, “every minute, of every hour, of every day, men, women and children are forced to travel around the world to make gold for someone else: they have been trafficked,” Gift Box says on its website.

“It is our responsibly to take this opportunity to alert the world to the reality of this tragic crime; to inspire visitors gathered in this city for the Games of the 30th Olympiad - residents from thousands of towns and cities – to become aware and take action to stop this crime.”

Three in 1,000 in forced labour

Nearly 21 million people are victims of forced labour across the world, trapped in jobs which they were coerced or deceived into and which they cannot leave, according to the ILO 2012 global estimate of forced labour.

Most forms of human trafficking can also be regarded as forced labour, and so the estimate captures the full realm of human trafficking for labour and sexual exploitation – seen by many as modern-day slavery.

The ILO estimate means that around three out of every 1,000 persons worldwide are in forced labour at any given point in time.

Ninety per cent of the victims are exploited by private individuals and enterprises, while 10 per cent are forced to work by the state, by rebel military groups or in prisons under conditions which violate fundamental ILO standards. Sexual exploitation accounts for 22 per cent of all victims and labour exploitation makes up 68 per cent of the total.

“The successful prosecution of individuals who bring such misery to so many remains inadequate – this needs to change. We must ensure that the number of victims does not rise during the current economic crisis where people are increasingly vulnerable to these abusive practices.” says Beate Andrees, who heads the ILO’s Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour.

The Gift Box campaign was created by the STOP THE TRAFFIK activist group and the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) formed by the ILO and other UN agencies as well as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Monday, July 30, 2012

Trafficking in Nigeria


Child Trafficking: JTF Intercepts 20 Vehicles With 103 Children

Posted: 38 mins ago by Emmanuel Udeagha

Members of the Joint Task Force (JTF) stationed in Lokoja, Kogi State, yesterday intercepted 20 vehicles conveying more than 103 children to an unknown destination. The JTF Commander, Lt-Col. Gabriel Olorunyomi, made this known in Lokoja yesterday. He said his men became curious when they discovered that the occupants of the vehicles were mostly children, accompanied by some men and women. He said the vehicles and the occupants had been taken to the Army Records Headquarters in Lokoja, where they would be screened to ascertain their actual destination. Olorunyomi, however, said that 103 of the passengers were children with ages between three and 16 years, while 79 others were of 19 years to 53.

He said preliminary investigations revealed that the vehicles were conveying the passengers from different communities in Benue, Cross Rivers and Kogi States.

“Most of the passengers are from Obi, Oju and Gwer Local Government Areas of Benue, while the remaining few are from Iyala Local Government Area of Cross Rivers and Olamaboro Local Government Area of Kogi,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that all the passengers, apart from giving similar excuses for their movement from their various communities, also said that they were all heading to Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, Oyo, Ogun, Lagos and Edo States.

NAN also learnt that most of the passengers conceded that they were heading to the South-West states for the first time in search of vacation jobs, while some said that they wanted to go and work in the farm in those states.

Two of the drivers, Bolaji Olusola and Adedeji Oluwaseun, told journalists that they picked up the passengers at motor parks.

They said some of the passengers paid their transport fares at the loading points, while some promised to pay theirs when they got to their destinations.

NAN recalls that the JTF on July 27 arrested a man conveying 10 children with ages ranging between six years and 16 in an ash coloured Camry car to Lagos.

The man, who was arrested on the same route, was later handed over to the police for interrogation.

Also speaking to journalists, the Commander of Army Records, Maj- Gen, Alphonsus Chukwu, said the children might be victims of child trafficking.

He said initial interrogations revealed that the children would be received at their destinations by some yet-to-be-identified persons, who would then pay their transport fares to the drivers.

Chukwu said the drivers were also suspected to be accomplices, as they failed to produce the passengers’ manifest and agreed to carry many of the passengers without collecting their transport fares at the loading points.

The army officer said the vehicles, drivers and passengers would be transferred to the police for proper investigations and action.

Chukwu, however, said that the development indicated that many parents had failed in their responsibility toward their children’s upbringing.

He urged parents to take proper care of their children so as to ensure that they did not fall into wrong hands.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Botswana’s illegal immigrants prone to human trafficking


Botswana’s illegal immigrants prone to human trafficking

A victim of torture in the Sinai Desert. Illegal immigrants in Botswana have been singled out at the most susceptible group to human trafficking by a US report PHOTO | HOTLINE FOR MIGRANT WORKERS |
By MTOKOZISI DUBE in GaboronePosted Friday, July 27  2012 at  13:01

The report, released recently, said Botswana is a source and destination for human trafficking with women and children subjected to forced labour.

Human traffickers in the southern African country are said to be targeting mainly jobless Zimbabwean immigrants, those living in poverty, farm workers and children orphaned by HIV/Aids.

“Some parents in poor rural communities send their children to work for wealthier families as domestic servants or as herders where some become victims of forced labour,” read part of the report.

Batswana (Botswana nationals) who employ Zimbabwean domestic workers reportedly restrict or control the movements of these workers or threaten to have them deported to their native country as a means to maintain their labour.


“Young Batswana serving as domestic workers for extended family in some cases may be subjected to confinement, verbal, physical or sexual abuse and denied access to education and basic necessities; conditions indicative of forced labour.”

The report further states that Batswana girls are exploited in prostitution within the country including in bars and by truck drivers along the major highways.

The report further revealed that Indian and Pakistan nationals are brought to the Botswana for forced labour in the agricultural sector by traffickers of the same nationalities.
Recently some victims of trafficking reported non-payment of wages, also claiming that their travel documents were being withheld.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Medical Professionals as Front Line Defense Against Human Trafficking


Human trafficking battle moves to the ER

Bio | Email

Posted on July 25, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Updated yesterday at 10:33 PM

FORT WORTH — A doctor at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth says human trafficking is a serious problem — and that it is growing.
But medical professionals can be on the front line of defense.
"The key is: If you don’t ask the right questions, you won’t ever know," says Dr. Sophia Grant, a physician who works with child sex abuse victims. Grant says many trafficking victims are children younger than 14.
"It’s a $32 billion a year business in the United States," she added.
Now, in a first-of-its-kind effort, she’s working to educate medical professionals about the signs of human trafficking among patients.
“My goal here at Cook Children's hospital is to try and train medical professionals, people on our front line, what to look for in a victim of trafficking,” Grant said.
Until now, there has never been a unified effort to do that in our hospitals. Grant says the impact can be significant.
Within the past six months, they’ve identified seven children who showed signs of being trafficked.
A few of the clues:
drug use
repeated medical treatment for unexplained injuries
infections and distinct tattoos
"It strips the identity of the child, and it makes that child know, 'You are my property,'" Grant explained.
She is working to educate emergency room nurses and others at the hospital to spot the signs, and hopefully make a difference in growing and very disturbing trend.
E-mail mmoore@wfaa.com

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

An Assortment of Stories on Child Trafficking


Mayor Michael Bloomberg On CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight: Police Officers Should Go On Strike To Get Lawmakers To Crack Down on Gun Control « CBS New York
newyork.cbslocal.com - NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – One day after suggesting police officers should strike to prompt tougher gun control action, Mayor Michael Bloomberg clarified his provocative remarks in his latest push for...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Human Trafficking Case Against Executives Is Dismissed

Human Trafficking Case Against Executives Is Dismissed
Published: July 21, 2012

HONOLULU (AP) — A federal judge on Friday dismissed human trafficking charges against executives and business associates of a labor recruiting company accused of exploiting hundreds of farmworkers from Thailand by confiscating their passports, putting them into debt and threatening to deport them.

The move came after prosecutors requested the dismissal of the case against two top officials of Global Horizons Inc., the chief executive, Mordechai Orian, and the company’s director of international relations, Pranee Tubchumpol.

Eight people were originally indicted, and three have pleaded guilty.

The authorities accused the company, which is based in Los Angeles, of manipulating 600 Thai workers it placed at farms across the United States. It was the federal government’s largest human trafficking case.

Mr. Orian’s trial had been scheduled to take place in Honolulu next month.

The case was in jeopardy after federal prosecutors abruptly dropped similar accusations against the owners of Aloun Farms in Hawaii last year. That case prompted an investigation that found that the federal government would not be able to prove the charges in the Global Horizons case, according to the dismissal order.

“Based on this further investigation, the government has determined that dismissal of this matter is in the interest of justice, because the government is unable to prove the elements of the charged offenses beyond a reasonable doubt,” the order said.

Michael Green, a lawyer for Global Horizons in Honolulu, called the dismissal a “moral victory” but said it did not make up for all the time, money and emotional effort spent fighting the charges.

“To dismiss a case with no intention of bringing it back as a new indictment is very unusual,” Mr. Green said. “You never see the government just walk away from a case that they spent millions of dollars on.”

After the accusations were dropped against the brothers who own Aloun Farms, Alec and Michael Sou, the fate of the Global Horizons case became unclear. The companies were accused of using the same tactics to keep foreign workers in their service.

The case against the Sous fell apart when the lead prosecutor, Susan French, conceded that she inaccurately stated to a grand jury that workers could not be charged recruiting fees when they traveled to Hawaii in 2004. The law was changed in late 2008 to prohibit recruiting fees.

Ms. French stepped down from the prosecution team shortly afterward because of unspecified health problems.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Internet & Free Speech Leaders Blast Village Voice Media over Child Sex Trafficking Controversy on Backpage.com


July 20, 2012, 11:51 a.m. EDT
Internet & Free Speech Leaders Blast Village Voice Media over Child Sex Trafficking Controversy on Backpage.com

SEATTLE, Jul 20, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Today a federal court will review a Washington state law targeting Backpage.com that requires classifieds advertising sites to check the age of individuals listed in ads for sexual services, two prominent internet freedom leaders are criticizing Village Voice Media for its abuse of free speech and free internet principles to maintain an unethical business operation in its classifieds site Backpage.com, where children and teens have been advertised and sold for sex.

Timothy Karr, senior director of Strategy for Free Press, the nation's largest digital rights and media reform organization, and Sascha Meinrath, Director of the New America Foundation's "Open Technology Institute," which works to strengthen communities and communications through technology development, applied learning, and policy reform, are denouncing Village Voice Media's attempt to hide behind the First Amendment and the federal Communications Decency Act, which states that online service providers are not responsible for the content of ads placed by third parties.

"We need a free and open internet and we need to abide by the Communications Decency Act; but it is morally reprehensible when a company like Village Voice Media hides behind the false pretense of Free Speech to profit to the tune of $22 million a year, while it knows children are being bought and sold via advertisements on its site. Village Voice Media needs to remove human trafficking from its business model," said Karr.

"Free speech is a foundation for participatory democracy, but it is no defense for the abuse of children," stated Meinrath. "When corporations like Village Voice Media claim that free speech allows them to abrogate the fundamental human rights of minors, they undermine the very underpinnings of civil society."

Wendi Adelson, an attorney, author and clinical professor at Florida State University College of Law, also addressed the free speech issue in a column last week on Huffington Post, writing: "Free speech matters critically to a free society, but free speech has never been thought critical to encompass facilitating criminal attacks on children."

The criticism against Backpage has come from many different directions and has been mounting since August 2011 when 51 of the nation's attorneys general wrote a letter to Backpage.com, demanding the adult services section of the site close. Since then, 700 multi-faith religious leaders, 53 leading anti-trafficking experts and organizations, 19 U.S. Senators, state and city lawmakers around the country, over a dozen prominent musicians, more than a quarter of a million citizens, and others have called on Village Voice Media to exit the adult ad business.

Last week, FAIR Girls, a social service organization dedicated to preventing the exploitation of girls worldwide with empowerment and education, launched an online and television ad that portrays the true story of a 13-year old girl who was repeatedly advertised for sex by her pimp on Backpage.com. The ad calls on the public to sign a petition on SignOn.org, demanding Village Voice Media shut down the adult section of its website. The ad also calls on the public to contact 26 major advertisers in Village Voice Media's 13 flagship publications, and ask them to discontinue their advertisements in Village Voice Media newspapers until the company permanently closes the adult section of Backpage.com.

As Malika Saada Saar, Executive Director of Human Rights Project for Girls, has stated, "Backpage is a rogue entity that has unapologetically made the exploitation of children its business model, and as such has disregarded the tech industry standard for protecting children that leaders like Google and Microsoft have set."

Human Rights Project for Girls is a human rights organization dedicated to protecting vulnerable young women and girls in the U.S.

SOURCE: Human Rights Project for Girls

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sandusky and Trafficking?


Mike Francesa Just Accused Jerry Sandusky Of Child Trafficking [UPDATE]

Timothy Burke
Mike Francesa dropped a bomb on his WFAN radio show today when he announced more Jerry Sandusky victims had come forward, one of which had been delivered by a fellow pedophile who also groomed his victims by operating some kind of Pennsylvania-based outreach program. It's the sort of allegation that, despite the disturbing details we already know, remains shocking.

You can listen to the bit above, and it's tossed out with little elaboration from Francesa. Thing is, this story hasn't been reported by any other news outlet, and we're curious where Francesa heard it. It's curious because of its similarity to a story that came out in November, when radio jock Mark Madden spread rumors that Sandusky was part of a child sex trafficking scheme. After Madden backed off on the story, we haven't heard much of it. Does Francesa know something we don't? Is he just making shit up? Let us know.

Update (3:06 p.m.): Francesa is apparently talking about this story, which involves no actual connection to Jerry Sandusky.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The BEST is yet to come

What a wonderful initiative in Miami...


What is B.E.S.T.?
B.E.S.T.™ – Building Empowerment By Stopping Trafficking, Inc., is a non-profit organization in Miami, Florida committed to meaningful interventions to assist girls, women and others being trafficked, prevent future trafficking and engage the community in a campaign to understand and stop trafficking. You can be the B.E.S.T. by joining us in our goals.
As our leaders in law and in the community come together to tackle the complexities of sex trafficking, our hopes are to put Miami and Florida center stage with successful methods in combating this not only international but domestic issue. Through years of research and development of best practices, B.E.ST™ and BEST’s LAWS™ will show effective and innovative means in addressing this multi-faceted problem. The commercial sexual exploitation of American youth is an unspeakable crime in which South Florida is a magnet and playground for traffickers and buyers alike. Miami and Fort Lauderdale are two cities in Florida that provide particularly luring destinations for both tourists and locals looking to buy and sell children in the sex trade. - SharedHope.org Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Report
While there are organizations that deal with human trafficking and domestic violence matters, few specifically target trafficked youth and adults with not only the goal to assist the victim but with the final realization of getting the trafficker. B.E.S.T.’s methods provide Education, Advocacy, Shelter, Empowerment and Prosecution alignment, based on a methodology that is a tailored, multi-disciplinary, multi-faceted approach to working with trafficking victims through the court system by closely aligning and training law enforcement to improve the quality of actionable information being provided to Federal and State Law Enforcement. By becoming part of the B.E.S.T. Method training, at a minimum, you will understand how the process of trafficking in persons affect the health of its victims and be able to determine appropriate strategies to be aligned with criminal justice practitioners to enable a victim to assist the criminal justice process. In addition, you will be able to recall forms of control of victims in sex trafficking in cases and explain the options for dealing with the main forms of control when working through the investigative stages of sex trafficking cases. Upon completion of this phase of the B.E.S.T. training program, users will be able to understand and appreciate the overall objective law enforcement interviews with victims of sex trafficking who are potential witnesses and outline key differences between interviews of suspected sex trafficking victims who are potential witnesses in court cases and those in other forms of crime. Users will be able to identify the five stages of a victim interview and understand the importance in planning for interviews, the practical steps that assist in planning the interview, and elements required to engage with a victim-witness of sex trafficking in an evidential interview. The B.E.S.T. method training process is a comprehensive cohesive method that aligns, custody and safety of the victim, with the law enforcement interview process, and the complete stages of the court processes, and the ultimate intent to identify with reliable information the trafficker and the buyer.
B.E.S.T. — Gets to the victim at the initial stage with law enforcement or before
B.E.S.T. — Provides LAWS and W LAWS
B.E.S.T. — Coaches throughout the entire process
B.E.S.T. — Trains throughout the entire process
B.E.S.T. — Provides safe harbor
B.E.S.T. — Aims for accountable information to target the trafficker and the buyer

Be part of B.E.S.T.’s:
EDUCATION – Training community members about recognizing and aiding victims.
ADVOCACY – Through B.E.S.T.’s LAWS™ and W LAWS™ projects, training lawyers, social workers, court personnel and other legal professionals to advocate for the victims of trafficking in multiple areas of law
SHELTER – Providing emergency shelter of trafficked women and girls who are in immediate danger
EMPOWERMENT – Coaching, mentoring, training, and providing mental and emotional therapy to victims to help them overcome the trauma of victimization
JOIN THE B.E.S.T. TEAM FOR THE B.E.S.T. CAUSE – Building Empowerment By Stopping Trafficking – Because YOU ARE THE B.E.S.T.

We hold these truths to be self-evident:
That human trafficking and sexual exploitation are unacceptable realities for a 21st century America.
That by bringing together all the right people, we can put a stop to this vicious practice.
That all people have the right to freedom – to choose their lives and have the opportunity to fulfill on those choices.

B.E.S.T. Services:
Acclimatization and reintegration method
Victim hotline and counseling
Community-specific trainings
General population awareness campaigns
Emergency shelter
Basic health services (first aid, HIV testing)
Advocacy training and advocates hotline

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sex, Lies and Suicide: What's Wrong with the War on Sex Trafficking

One of the commentators on my piece last week in Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wendi-adelson/children-dont-belong-on-t_b_1663726.html) suggested that I read this.  Good article. Love to hear your thoughts:


Sex, Lies and Suicide: What's Wrong with the War on Sex Trafficking
+ Comment now

At the close of the 2012 Personal Democracy Forum at NYU last week, I delivered a relentlessly logical argument that the anti-sex trafficking movement’s war on classified site Backpage.com shows an alarming lack of understanding of how the internet works.

We are fighting a war that can’t be won online. There is a better way – if we embrace technology instead of running from it.

Sara Critchfield at Upworthy said, “This Is The Most Unpopular Opinion On Child Porn You’ll Ever See — And I’m Asking You To Agree With It.”

I’ve heard from online sex trafficking experts, journalists, and feminists who agreed with me, and a feminist journalist who said I didn’t go far enough.

I’ve heard from a woman who helped fund anti-Cragislist efforts who said, “If there is a better way, funders would surely be open to the most effective investment of their time and money as they attempt to halt the sale of underage bodies.”

I’ve even heard from a victim of child sex trafficking who said, “As a survivor, I saw how many buyers and traffickers there were out there. Too many. I don’t think that will change by shutting down Backpage. I tend not to focus on how to deter buyers and traffickers; I almost think it’s impossible. Instead I try to focus on prevention and empowerment education for young girls.”

But I have not heard a word from Ashton and Demi, New York Times op-ed writer Nick Kristof, USA Today Board Member Kirsten Powers, New York City Councilman Brad Lander, Gloria Steinem, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women founder Dorchen Leidholdt, Polaris Project or any of these NGOs, attorney generals from 46 states,  Alicia Keys, The Roots, Talib Kweli and members of REM, or the 245,982 Change.org petitioners who think shutting down Backpage.com is anything more than a royal waste of time  that could be better spent figuring out how to make the internet a safter place for sex trafficking victims and prostitutes alike.

My argument starts with suicide.

About every two weeks, someone jumps off Golden Gate Bridge.

It’s less than one in a million people, but it’s enough to make Golden Gate Bridge the most popular suicide destination on the planet.

The Empire State Building, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Eiffel Tower and a volcano in Japan were hot spots too until they put up barriers and saw the number of jumpers plummet.

But not Golden Gate Bridge. They refuse to put up barriers, fences, safety nets, high-voltage laser beams or anything else that will ruin the view.

They cite non-physical barriers like the blue suicide hotline phones scattered across the bridge, or Officer Kevin Briggs, a motorcycle cop who’s talked down over 200 people without losing one over the side.

“The bridge is about beauty,” Officer Briggs told The New Yorker. “They’re going to jump anyway, and you can’t stop them.”

The suicide threat could be eliminated by simply tearing the bridge down. And if that sounds like a ridiculous idea, it’s exactly how we’re fighting sex trafficking online.

Our bridge is Backpage.com, a site for classified ads run by Village Voice Media. They have ads for rentals, jobs, automobiles and prostitutes.

The problem is, some of those ads are not exactly as advertised. They are posted by criminals to advertise minors and victims of sex trafficking.

How many victims is impossible to know, but one statistic that has made its rounds in the media comes from The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which reported 2,695 suspicious ads in 2011 alone.

The problem is, there are so many ads on Backpage for escorts, escorts with pimps, escorts with agencies, male escorts, transexuals, strippers and strip clubs, dom and fetish, body rubs, and “adult jobs” – those are actual categories – that it’s making it hard to find the victims.

How many ads, Village Voice isn’t saying, but one NGO called Polaris Project (using a ridiculously analog strategy) “manually counted the number of adult ads on Backpage on a few different days this year and came up with 14,000 to 19,000 ads.”

So let’s have some fun with numbers. If we assume 14,000 adult ads a day on Backpage, times 365 days a year, divided by 2,695 suspicious ads, we’re looking at something like 1/20 of a percent of the ads might be advertising something that shouldn’t be for sale.

Granted, this is a guestimate based on other guestimates. We don’t actually know how many ads are for victims, but one online trafficking researcher told me it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

This does not diminish the problem of online sex trafficking – but it informs how we should be fighting it.

So how do you find a needle in a haystack?

Spread the hay around to farms all across the planet, then look for the needle.
Get a magnet.
The anti-sex trafficking movement, with the support of attorney generals from 46 states, a long list of NGO’s and religious leaders, 245,982 Change.org petitioners, plus Ashton and Demi, Alicia Keys, The Roots, Talib Kweli and members of REM, says shut down Backpage.com. In other words, spread the hay.

Even Google thinks this is a good idea, indirectly at least. They just donated a bunch of money to anti-Backpage NGO Polaris Project.

(Several people, including a former Polaris Project employee, say I have unfairly characterized Polaris Project as anti-Backpage, but they are. Take a look at this interview with Executive Director Bradley Myles or this open letter to the Village Voice calling for Backpage to shut down.)

Village Voice, for their part, refuses to shut down Backpage.com.  They say it will just spread the ads over other websites and make it even harder to find the victims.

They should know – they were direct beneficiaries when Craigslist shut down their Erotic Ads section in 2009. SF Weekly saw a 569% increase in adult ads in the first week alone.

So they’ve been busy making Backpage safer.

Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon says:

All adult ad postings on Backpage require a credit card number, which can be subpoenaed by law enforcement.
An automated filter system precludes ads with suspect words and phrases.
Real-life human beings manually review all as for the adult and personal sections before they’re posted…. twice.
Ads that might be for minors are reported immediately to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Village Voice says we should be building barriers instead of burning bridges.

The anti-sex trafficking movement says they’re just saying that to protect their profits.

Kirsten Powers, a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors, writes in The Daily Beast that Backpage knows “they are helping sex traffickers sell kidnapped girls, and they don’t care.”

After all,” Powers writes, “Do American Apparel, Best Buy, Disney, H&M, IKEA, REI, T-Mobile and so many more mainstream companies want to be associated with sex slavery?  Unless they pull their ads from Village Voice Media’s properties, which serve nearly 400 markets, they are complicit in the buying and selling of kidnapped women and girls.”

Ashton puts it down in less than 140 characters: “Hey @disney @dominos are you aware that you are advertising on a site that owns and operates a digital brothel?”

Brad Lander on the NY City Council says, “The Village Voice should do the right thing and stop profiting from sex trafficking.”

You know who else is profiting?

Goldman Sachs, or at least they were till Nick Kristof at The New York Times revealed that “Goldman’s held a significant stake in a company notorious for ties to sex trafficking for more than six years.” Goldman unloaded their shares the next day.

Kristof was at least explicit about why he used his New York Times op-ed column and 1.2 million Twitter followers against Goldman: “To pressure Village Voice Media to get out of escort ads.”

But Village Voice is profiting mostly from sex ads, not sex trafficking. As in 99.95% mostly, according to our earlier guestimate.

So by shutting down Backpage, are we trying to stop sex trafficking or sex advertising?

For the anti-sex trafficking movement, it’s all the same.

That’s because they believe, “If there were no prostitution, there would be no sex trafficking.”

(I’m not making that up – it’s a direct quote from Taina Bien-Aime at anti-Backpage NGO EqualityNow, at a 2008 talk with Gloria Steinem. It’s a long talk; see 1:16:00.)

If there were no bridges, nobody could jump off of them.

See, they say they want to end sex trafficking, a cause every single one of us should get behind, but their strategy to get there is to abolish prostitution from the face of the internet.

They even call themselves the abolitionists. They believe prostitution (and pornography for that matter) is inherently harmful to women, so we should get rid of it.

In fact, some of the leaders of the war on Backpage are the same women who fought to make porn illegal in the 70’s. Gloria Steinem. Dorchen Leidholdt.

They lost that battle to free speech, but that was before the internet, when there were less than 90 porn publications in the entire country.

Maybe the same strategy will work now, on the internet.

Do Kirsten Powers, Nick Kristof, attorney generals from 46 states, a long list of NGO’s and religious leaders, 245,982 Change.org petitioners, Ashton and Demi, Alicia Keys, The Roots, Talib Kweli and members of REM have any idea how much internet is out there?

Because after we shut down Backpage, we’re going to have to go back to Craigslist, because the sex ads are back!

They’re just popping up in different sections, with code words like roses as in this m4m ad in Casual Encounters, “I wanna suck a dik for some roses” as if we won’t know what they’re talking about:

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Shelter for Victims of Sex Trafficking Offers Counseling, Schooling and Safety


A Shelter for Victims of Sex Trafficking Offers Counseling, Schooling and Safety
Published: July 14, 2012

HOUSTON — On the outskirts of the city, a two-story lodge with a wraparound porch is largely hidden on a 110-acre site in the woods. Horses graze in front of the building, and a volleyball court and educational center stand behind. Down winding paths are a ropes course, a pool and a lake.

But the name of the recently opened facility, Freedom Place, cannot be found, and its address is undisclosed: it is the state’s first privately run safe house that provides long-term housing for American girls who are victims of sex trafficking. The shelter represents a new solution for state legislators and county officials as they try to figure out how best to support such victims.

“Typical emergency shelters — girls would just totally run from them,” said Kellie Armstrong, the executive director of Freedom Place, which can house up to 30 residents. The staff arranges counseling, schooling and recreational activities.

In Texas, the effort to end sex trafficking of minors has shifted since the Texas Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that domestic minors younger than 14 involved in prostitution should be considered victims rather than criminals. But the state has no “safe harbor” laws that establish a systematic response for providing minors with necessary services without criminalization.

Girls can often be distrustful or so manipulated by their traffickers that they leave if not placed in secure facilities. Many of the young victims who are not charged with prostitution must be charged with related crimes like drug possession or truancy to ensure that they are not released back onto the street. According to the 2011 report provided by the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission to the State Legislature, 66 children were arrested for prostitution and 53 children were referred for prostitution in 2009.

Freedom Place gives victims a safe haven. “We can’t decriminalize and not have places for these kids to go,” said State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, Democrat of San Antonio, the co-chairwoman of the Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking.

Seven girls currently live at the facility, where they will most likely stay between 9 and 18 months. The first four residents were referred by the Harris County Girls Court, which focuses on sex trafficking cases.

The nonprofit organization Arrow Child and Family Ministries oversees Freedom Place, but religious activities are optional. The home has a $1.8 million budget for its first year, largely from private donations and grants. The girls are checked on at least every 15 minutes, but the facility, with carpeted floors and pastel walls, feels like a home.

“We need to have a place to bring girls that isn’t a place where they are considered offenders but they are victims,” said Robert Sanborn, president and chief executive of Children at Risk, a nonprofit group.

At least one more such facility in Texas is being planned. As part of a public-private partnership, the Letot Center in Dallas County has begun a capital campaign to finance a 96-bed residence to meet the needs of domestic trafficking victims and serve other young girls.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sex trade: The girls next door


Sex trade: The girls next door


Being made to work in strip clubs is the most basic form of sexual exploitation, says Det.-Sgt. Dominic Monchamp, and it’s the daily reality for countless women in the city.
Photograph by: MENAHEM KAHANA , AFP/Getty Images file photo
MONTREAL - In a drab room above a shopping mall one recent morning, Det.-Sgt. Dominic Monchamp has an unlikely request for his fellow Montreal police officers.

Imagine you are a stripper.

He’s not trying to poke fun. Thirteen years ago, when Monchamp started on the vice squad, he too thought little of the girls and women who chose to prostitute themselves for a quick buck and who told cops like himself to “fuck off” on a regular basis.

If they weren’t obviously breaking the law, he too walked away.

After all, these women are consenting adults, the argument goes. It’s their choice. We’re a free and liberal society.

But now Monchamp wants these cops, especially the men, to think about why these girls and women take their clothes off and turn tricks, and why they are so damaged by it. He wants cops to think of the girls as victims, not criminals, and to put themselves in strippers’ shoes.

You work in a club, Monchamp begins, often in a private booth.

There you are groped and fondled for $10 or $15 a pop.

The first woman who comes in is cute, she’s nice and fun, you dance, she fondles you. It might not even be so bad.

The second person is courteous and nice. Not so nice to look at, you wouldn’t necessarily want to go out with her, but business is business.

The third woman is ugly and drunk.

The fourth woman is drunk, too, but she is also disrespectful and laughs at you. She pinches your nipple as she pushes past you.

The fifth one has paid her $10 and she puts a finger in your ass. She’s not supposed to, but she does it real quick anyway. Just for fun. It turns her on.

And on and on it goes, hour after hour.

At the end of the night you arrive home with your pile of $10s and $20s. Your girlfriend looks at you and asks, is that all you made?

You’re a fucking loser, she says. You’ll have to work a double shift tomorrow to make up for it.

At the end of the exercise, the officers in the room sit in stunned silence. Monchamp’s portrait of a dancer has shaken the toughest cops here, some of whom have undoubtedly frequented the same strip clubs off-duty, all of whom now have a fresh perspective on sex in this city.

It’s not sexy, and not really about sex at all, Monchamp says – it’s about human trafficking, right here in Montreal.

Being made to work in strip clubs is the most basic form of sexual exploitation, he explains, and it’s the daily reality for countless women in the city, who more often than not are also subject to violence and sexual assault, followed by post-traumatic shock.

“It’s normal that these girls tell you to f-off. That they have bizarre reactions. It’s normal. Don’t look at the result but at the person and ask yourselves, ‘Why is she like that? What could have happened for her to be so screwed up?’ And that’s when you’ll be able to intervene and we’ll manage to help them.”

According to the United Nations, 2.5 million people worldwide have been trafficked at some point in their lives, 80 per cent of them for the purposes of sexual exploitation. The global sex trade is the fastest growing commerce and is worth $32 billion a year – second in value only to drugs, though unlike a kilo of cocaine, a girl can be sold over and over again.

But while the popular imagination may conjure the faces of women and girls found in containers at the Old Port, or tied to a bed in a sleazy motel in Belgrade, Monchamp and his fellow officers at the vice squad in Montreal are concerned about victims much closer to home, possibly the girl next door, and the economic forces that keep them in bondage.

Girls like Annie, a private school graduate from an ordinary family, who starts working at a strip club to pay her rent. When she tries to stop, however, her “partner” tells her to fork out $5,000 she doesn’t have. He knows where her sister and mother live, he tells her.

Or Linda, shuttled from her Longueuil home to the dance club by her pimp, not allowed to even look out the window.

Or Cindy, who at 17 went straight from a group home to turning tricks in the private booth of a strip club, never keeping a cent of her earnings.

Monchamp knows all three women, because he and his team helped them get out of the sex trade, and lay charges against their pimps.

These survivors – or “Survivantes” as they are called – now tell their cautionary tales to other vulnerable girls, and to the police, through a program started last year to change attitudes about prostitutes, especially among those in uniform. They want cops to understand that what may seem like a case of domestic violence, may really be a case of pimping, and that someone doesn’t need to be tied to a bed to be a victim of human trafficking.

In the majority of cases, Monchamp says, girls make their own way to strip clubs, massage parlours and escort agencies and return to their pimps at night with the money. Why do they do it? Why don’t they leave?

“If you’ve had a gun to your head, if you’ve been raped by five guys, you know what your trafficker is capable of. You know what will happen if you don’t bring the money back … That’s human trafficking and that’s what’s happening on our territory and those are the people we’re trying to help.”

The Montreal police don’t have figures for how many girls are beholden to how many pimps. The RCMP estimates some 2,000 people are brought into the country and are trafficked through Canada every year, but they don’t have statistics on “domestic” victims, because they are largely hidden behind legal fronts – like strip clubs and massage parlours.

Up against the very powerful lobby of the sex industry, the women themselves have no voice, and when they do speak, no one is listening.

The RCMP has calculated however that as of late February 2011, in addition to ongoing investigations, there were at least 46 human trafficking cases prosecuted by Canadian courts, involving 68 accused trafficking offenders and 80 victims. This, since human trafficking was recognized as a crime in 2004.

But police know that the demand for and supply of sex-trade workers is strong, with 30 strip clubs on the island of Montreal alone (compared to two in Vancouver) offering lap-dances or “danses à $10,” and more than 200 massage parlours.

Then there are the Yellow Pages, newspapers, and the Internet, with sites like Craigslist advertising Mermaid Massage – “They pretty and nice body and open mind. … You never feel disappointed” – and countless other agencies selling women of all nationalities, with big mirrors and showers in each room. Just call this number.

“In Montreal you can order a girl like a pizza,” Monchamp says. “You can choose her hair colour, the colour of her eyes, her measurements, her weight, and she will be delivered within half an hour.”

Last year, the U.S. State Department named Canada a major destination for sex tourism.

But it’s the pimps making all the money, Monchamp says – a lot of it. Each girl brings in $400 to $2,000 a night. Most pimps have at least two girls, who work six or seven days a week. The math is simple: $1,000 X 300 days X 2 = $600,000 a year.

“Now you see the images of guys … driving huge caddies or BMWs, range rovers.”

Not all pimps are gang members, Monchamp says, but most gang members are pimps.

“It’s the way they get their money. Buying a kilo of coke takes money and it has to come from somewhere. There’s armed robbery or fraud, but it’s much easier to seduce a girl and break her, and she brings home $1,000 a night. For free. She does it all alone. The money comes in.”

Cindy, for example, was a good worker.

Everyone remembers their first shift at a club à gaffe – the kind of strip club on the outskirts of town where for a certain price a client can do whatever he wants.

“It’s like remembering the first time you had sex,” says Cindy, who was 17 at the time.

“At first you’re insecure, you don’t know how it’s supposed to work, you go and flirt with the client, and get him to follow you into a private booth. I wasn’t super confident. I wasn’t a skinny girl with a perfect body. Then you realize it doesn’t matter. A woman is a woman whether she’s thin or fat.”

After her first 12-hour shift, paid by the song – a “complet,” typically including sexual intercourse or fellatio over three songs, fetches between $120 and $200 – Cindy went home and took a bath in liquid bleach.

“You feel dirty, you feel disgusting. Your pride takes a huge beating.”

That first night was the beginning of her descent into four years of physical and mental abuse at the hands of her pimp.

Like so many girls staffing the ever-growing number of strip clubs in the province, Cindy was willing to get into “dancing,” maybe even dabble in prostitution, to pay off a debt.

But then the door closed behind her.

Sitting in a small conference room recently at a police station in St. Laurent, Cindy, now 27, recounts how she ended up selling sex almost immediately after leaving a group home 10 years ago. She wasn’t abused as a child, she explains. But by the age of 14, she was a wild child – drinking and skipping school – so her mother handed her over to Quebec’s youth protection department.

“In a group home, they mix everyone up. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what you did, what your background is. It’s like a prison.”

There, she reconnected with a friend from elementary school and three-and-a-half years later, both of them were out on their own.

Her friend was going out with a guy in tight with the gangs. And he had a friend for Cindy.

With her jet black hair and unwavering blue eyes, large tattoos on each arm, Cindy doesn’t look like the kind of girl who gets pushed around. In her case, domination began with seduction.

She remembers how she and her man would talk for hours on the phone at night. They were going to build a life together. But to make that happen they got into fraud. And when a particular scheme didn’t work out, they amassed a huge debt. So he asked her to work in a club, to pay it off.

“I felt disgusting but he was there right behind me saying, ‘You see? You made some money, you’re beautiful, you shouldn’t think about what happens in the booth, just think about the money.’ There’s a lot of brainwashing involved and my pimp was really good at it.”

It wasn’t long, however, before the compliments turned to insults, and work and violence was all there was.

Like many sex trade workers who are being exploited – police believe 80 per cent of strippers, masseurs and escorts have been exploited at one point in their lives, typically handing over 50 to 100 per cent of their earnings to someone else – Cindy worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and didn’t get to keep any of the money.

Her pimp made sure she wasn’t “stealing” any money either, by routinely rifling through her handbag and strip-searching her when she got home.

Once, Cindy rolled up some of the bills she earned and put them in a condom that she inserted into her vagina. He found them. She took a particularly severe beating that night.

“After I started working at the club he changed completely. It was like he had a split personality. If I was late, he beat me, if I didn’t make enough money, he beat me. Any excuse would do.”

Cindy, who speaks quickly to begin with, picks up speed as she glosses over the myriad ways in which he hurt her:

“He would whip me with a belt, he would drag me around on the ground with a belt, he would hit me with an iron bar, hit me over the head, bash my head into the wall, into a mirror, he would burn me with a cigarette, threaten me with scissors …

“That’s when I realized I was in a fucking pattern. Even as big as I am, and he was not a big guy, when he decides to drag you around with a belt around your neck in the basement you remember it. And you think, did I really accept this? All the beatings I took, all the atrocious things he did to me I felt I deserved them because I had accepted them. You’re no longer there. You’ve lost your mind.”

At one point, Cindy tried to make friends at the strip club, but it was impossible. Her pimp wouldn’t allow it, and if he found a phone number on a piece of paper that couldn’t be explained …

“You’re so alone you hope one of the girls will be good to you and be your friend – you know, like in elementary school. It’s like that. You want a friend but ultimately you don’t have one.”

Still, Cindy looked forward to getting to work every day because she knew at least there she wouldn’t be beaten, injured or killed that day.

“In the end you’re afraid. You think you’re going to die. But do you have the courage you need to get away? Courage is a long way off at times.”

Then one night after work her pimp beat her unconscious.

Montreal police Commander Antonio Iannantuoni says nothing much has changed since he walked the beat, rounding up prostitutes considered a “nuisance” in the neighbourhood.

“In the ’80s and ’90s, we didn’t talk about human trafficking,” says Iannantuoni, in charge of the Survivantes program. “But it was the same thing, the same girls. We would pick them up, take their photo, fingerprint them and release them where they began. We were just doing stats. But if we don’t do things differently, nothing will ever change.”

Change is on the horizon, however. In the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough, where residents have been complaining about being solicited either by prostitutes or their clients on the way to the dépanneur, the borough mayor, Réal Ménard, wants to create a “tolerance zone” – where prostitutes would be left alone to ply their trade. He has asked the police not to apply laws against solicitation in that area.

Meanwhile in Ontario, the province has another nine months to come up with new legislation to replace the laws prohibiting common bawdy-houses (brothels), deemed unconstitutional by the Ontario Court of Appeal because they deny the right to free choice and security of person. Sex workers, it is argued, would be safer if they were allowed to work indoors.

Iannantuoni and his team, however, want to end the sexual exploitation. Period. And that begins with an understanding of who the clients, pimps and victims are.

Based on two years of research, they say the typical client – be he construction worker, cop or lawyer – is between 30 and 50, mid to high-income, most often married, and wants something quick with a young girl on the way to or from work, to do things he can’t do with his wife, or to exert power over her.

Invariably he thinks he’s helping her pay for her studies, by working in “the oldest profession in the world.”

The pimp, for his part, can be a lot like the glamorized version in a Snoop Dogg video – an extreme narcissist who’s into flashy cars, a master manipulator who uses women as “coin.” Then again he – or she – may be a lot more subtle.

Joëlle Ghosn-Chelala, a.k.a. Sabrina, was an Outremont real-estate broker by day, allegedly turned escort agent by night. She was arrested during the Grand Prix in June 2011 at a hotel in Place Dupuis, where police found $1.3 million in cash. She has been charged with two counts of living off the avails of prostitution and possession of the proceeds of crime.

Then there was Alain Jean-Pierre, a métro cop who recruited runaways on the job and had them working from residences in Brossard, Anjou and Toronto – each one thinking she was his one true love. When police notified them of the others, they agreed to talk about their experience with Jean-Pierre. In 2007, he was sentenced to five years in jail.

But to provide help, police and the various social organizations they are working with have to understand the victims as well. They may come from a variety of backgrounds, says Constable Josée Mensales. But the outcome is often the same.

Some may voluntarily enter the sex trade at a time of crisis. Women like Annie, for example. She needed to make $600 in two days to pay her rent, so she answered an ad for a “scantily clad masseuse.”

She ended up working the private booths of a strip club, and handing over 50 per cent of her earnings to a pimp. When she told him she was quitting, he demanded $5,000, or he would hurt her family.

“I may have chosen to get into prostitution, but I couldn’t choose to get out,” she said.

When Annie approached police for help, two female officers said with disdain, “You chose to prostitute yourself – do you have any proof?” (At the insistence of her boyfriend, Annie went back to the police, and was given a more sympathetic hearing.)

The hardest ones for police to reach, however, are those Mensales calls the Sex Slaves – girls who have been sexually abused, have zero self-esteem and are passed around like objects.

Nadine was one such case. Taken away from her parents by the youth protection department at five years old – she had been kept in a cage, and was unable to walk or talk at that age – she nevertheless thrived in foster care. But like Cindy, at 18 she was on her own, and fell in with the wrong crowd. When after weeks of partying she refused to prostitute herself to pay for her crack, a pimp held her by her ankles over the railing of the 13th-floor balcony of her apartment building. She went to work the next day at a massage parlour.

Monchamp, who was one of the investigators in Nadine’s case, readily admits that she would probably still be working in the sex trade if it weren’t for the involvement of a social worker, a woman who looked after her for 12 years while she was under the care of the youth protection department, and sensed something was wrong.

“If you had met Nadine, you would have seen a girl from a group home, a rebel, a girl on crack. We only managed to work with her because of that trusted person.”

In many cases, fear of dying stops victims from talking to police or anyone else about their situation, Monchamp said. But in 13 years, not one girl who pressed charges against her pimp was subsequently assaulted.

The police might also have overlooked Cindy, shuttled to and from work seven days a week, beaten and left unconscious on the floor.

When Cindy awoke, naked, badly bruised and bleeding, she decided she’d had enough.

She quickly dressed, grabbed the peanut butter jar filled with $1,000 bills and left with the proceeds from her years of abuse.

Cindy ran away to the Laurentians, and with the money she took started binging on cocaine. A few days later, she called her pimp and asked him for help. He said no, and told her not to bother calling her mother. “She knows you’re just a junkie,” he told her.

“I hid out for a month after that, thinking no one wanted anything to do with me. They want you to feel so alone, and it worked.”

Finally she called a childhood friend who came to get her and brought her back to her mother’s house. Her mother set up a room for her, and called the police.

With their help, Cindy pressed charges against her pimp, who was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, and living off the avails of prostitution.

She still has the marks from being cut with a knife and burned with a cigarette. But the deeper scars are from the mental abuse. She says she tends to be very aggressive, and has a hard time trusting people.

“Today I’m no longer in (physical) pain. But the mental violence, the insults, the manipulation, the betrayal is there for life. I rose above it, but there’s still part of your head and heart that is damaged and will stay damaged, no matter what you do.”

With the rest of the money from the peanut butter jar, Cindy paid for a large tattoo on each arm – the one on the right says “eternal,” the one on the left “life” – she quit drugs and went back to school. She re-did five years of high school in two, and is now studying to become a machine repair mechanic. She is also raising a three-year-old boy.

Meanwhile her pimp was paroled after serving three years of his sentence – less time than Cindy spent living in fear. No one bothered notifying her he was getting out.

“He’s probably pimping someone else now,” she says.


Twitter: @csolyom

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/trade+girls+next+door/6932392/story.html#ixzz20cDLZS4m

Friday, July 13, 2012

Child Trafficking in China


With a recent crackdown on child trafficking in China, a journalist recalls the shock of an earlier visit to the same remote Sichuan Province area where wretchedly poor women willingly sold their newborns -- and didn't want them back.
Last week, 181 abducted children were rescued (IvanWalsh.com)
By Zeng Ying
According to the Xinhua News official press agency, a unified command of the Ministry of Public Security organized a synchronized operation last week in 14 provinces of China. It broke up two infant trafficking gangs, arrested 802 criminal suspects and rescued 181 abducted children.
Among the 168 suspects from the southwest province of Sichuan, 16 of them are so-called “producers and traffickers of infants,” that is mother-traffickers who have sold their own babies.
This piece of news has started me thinking about of a report that I myself participated in 10 years ago.
On July 4 2002, the Public Security Department of Shouguang City, in the coastal Shandong province, uncovered a big baby-trafficking case. Eleven traffickers were captured and 11 newborn babies were rescued. The summer that year was so hot that these babies, aged between 2 and 4 months, were found in a critical condition. Some of them had dermatitis and the others suffered from omphalitis.
After some care, the newborns were out of danger. The Shouguang authority tried their best and found out that most of the babies came from Liangshan County in Sichuan. They contacted Liangshan’s local government to arrange to send these babies back to their parents. Although the local authority seemed to be caught in a dilemma, they nonetheless came up with a way of getting these babies home.
As a reporter, I witnessed the whole process of sending these infants back.
After three days of a bumpy journey on the train and a dozen more hours on a bus, the 11 babies finally reached their hometown. During the trip, so as to be able to identify them, the health care staff had numbered these babies on their foreheads. During the intolerably long journey where the temperature hit its highest level in 48 years, the babies behaved so gently and hardly cried. Maybe they felt they were approaching home, little by little.
However, when the bus arrived in the county township of Liangshan, no mother rushed forward to fetch their returned infant. No one covered their little darling with hysterical kisses as we had expected. The streets appeared extremely calm. The filming and interviews that the cameraman and I had planned came to nothing.
The infants were settled in two empty rooms at the local martyrs’ cemetery for their mothers to come and claim them. We waited outside the rooms with our cameras set up ready hoping to catch images of reunions of mothers and babies. Yet nothing happened.
After nearly a day of waiting, the local department of civil affairs posted a notice informing the families who had lost their babies to come and collect them. Still, nothing.
Someone's making a killing
Finally, a local told me that I was never going to see any mother come. “These mothers don’t want their babies anymore. These are the goods they have sold. Have you ever seen a shopkeeper who has sold his goods feel happy to see the goods returned?” he asked me.
His words shocked us.
So after some investigation, we found out that these babies were indeed born of parents who intended to sell them for money right from the beginning. It was said to be very common locally. The problem was that so many newborns were sold at the same period this time that it aroused the attention of the outside world.
According to the local people, a newborn was sold by their parents for between 1000 to 2000 RMB ($150 to $300). They were usually taken to faraway places and resold for more than five times the price.
The statement was confirmed by a human trafficker interrogated by the police. “It’s not a risky business. If a baby dies on the way, I just throw the dead corpse out of the window," he said. "Even if I get to sell only one out of two, I still make money.”
Being so intrigued by these mothers who sold their own flesh and blood, we tried to interview some of them. With the assistance of local inhabitants and a lot of effort, we found a mother who once sold her baby. We first took a four-hour car ride, then we changed to a tractor for two hours on a bumpy road, and then another three hours on a three-wheeled motor-moped. When we finally got to the remote mountainous village, I felt as if my bottom did not belong to me anymore.
There was no electricity in the village. The several rough stone cottages seemed interlocked together. Inside out, this was clearly a very poor village. It was very quiet everywhere, no one seemed to want to talk. Only the pigs and chickens scattered freely around the corners of the houses made some occasional sounds.    
It took us quite a while to find the woman whom we wanted to interview. She was in front of the door of her house chopping some herbs to feed her pig. Her hands were dyed green by the juice of the herb. The guide told us she was the woman who had sold her baby two years earlier.
We began to ask the woman questions very cautiously. But she was so calm, and nothing like what we had anticipated. “Look around and tell me, what is there in this house that would be worth 1000 Yuan, apart from a baby?” she asked us.
We looked in the direction her finger was pointing. In the dark house lay a crumbling bed. A deformed pot was hanging beside a stove. Underneath were a few jagged bowls. Further in the corner, stood a pig that was staring warily at us.
She shook her head and then said, “We just couldn’t think of any other way of making 1000 Yuan in just one go. That’s the equivalent of two harvests.”
“Don’t you care about the life and death of your child?” we asked.
“If one is doomed to be dirt-poor in life, one can never change that fate. That’s one’s fortune. That’s destiny.” She then raised her head and looked faraway. “Maybe, maybe he’ll be able to find a good home,” she said, seeming to be talking to herself as much as to us.
At this moment some unusual radiance flashed across her eyes, and we couldn’t tell whether it was joy or sadness.
On our way back to the county township, one reporter from Shandong remarked: “They are so poor that the only thing that they have got left is their fertility.”
Ten years have passed, and I don't know whether the situation in those poor rural areas has improved. With my whole heart, I, of course, applaud the combat against infant-trafficking crimes. But at the same time, the same importance should be given to fighting the poverty which nurtures such evil. That would be a real solution.    
*Zeng Ying is a blogger at Caixin media and a columnist for several Chinese newspapers and magazines
Read the original article in Chinese.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

China: Police Crack Down on Child Trafficking Rings


China: Police Crack Down on Child Trafficking Rings
Published: July 6, 2012

The police have arrested 802 people on suspicion of child trafficking and have rescued 181 children in a major operation spanning 15 provinces, the Ministry of Public Security said Friday. The recent operation broke up two trafficking rings and led to the arrests of the ringleaders, the ministry said in a statement posted on its Web site. China’s strict one-child policy has driven a thriving market in babies, especially boys because of a traditional preference for male heirs.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Vulnerable Kids in Florida



THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, July 5, 2012.......Florida child welfare officials are on the defensive this week after revelations that children in taxpayer-financed group homes are falling prey to sex traffickers.

Miami-Dade police last week arrested four alleged pimps in an ongoing investigation of the exploitation of abused and neglected children in foster care, the Miami Herald reported last week. On Sunday, the Herald broke news of a similar set-up in Jacksonville.

In South Florida, authorities said the four men lured teenage girls into prostitution, plying them with money, gifts and personal attention.  Starting in January 2011, members of the ring would arrange for the girls to have sex at a building in Homestead. The men collected the proceeds and paid the girls 40 percent.   In the Jacksonville case, the teen was advertised in Backpage.com.  In both cases, the alleged pimps also used teens as recruiters, police say.

Joe Follick, spokesman for the Florida Department of Children and Families, which oversees children in state custody, said the group homes are subcontractors that don't report directly to DCF.

"There is not a department employee specifically involved in these children's lives," Follick said. "We contract the care of foster children in the state to community groups who then often subcontract that work out too, whether it be group homes or case management organizations that work with these children."

Robin Hassler Thompson, an expert in human trafficking at Florida State University's Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, said it's disturbing that such crimes could happen right under the noses of so many caregivers.

"These are children who are being raped," she said. "So both the pimps and also the johns – the people who are buying sex with these children -- are raping them. It's that simple."

Florida is generally considered to be the third-ranked state in the U.S. for the prevalence of human trafficking. That's due to the many opportunities for trafficking to flourish – the large numbers of service jobs, the agricultural operations that attract migrant workers, the high transience rate, the presence of the sex industry in large cities, and the hotels and restaurants catering to the tourist trade.

Both sex trafficking and labor trafficking are mostly invisible to the untrained eye, said Hassler Thompson, which is all the more reason for caregivers to have proper training and awareness of such crimes.

Follick said as soon as DCF heard reports of trafficking in the group homes, the agency took action.

"Obviously we are ultimately responsible," he said. "But one of the things that I think we have learned from this lesson is the importance of communication in training all the way down, not just at the department but through the people that we pay to take care of these children."

Hassler Thompson credited DCF for having implemented training five or six years ago, under then-Secretary George Sheldon.

"They implemented training department-wide, including hotline workers and child protective investigators," she said. "DCF has been doing probably more than other state agencies where this issue of human trafficking comes to light…So, on the one hand, I think DCF has been doing a good job and being prepared. On the other hand, it's clear that a lot more has to be done."

Among those arrested, ironically, was a DCF child abuse investigator, 46-year-old Jean LaCroix, for having sex with a teen in foster care. LaCroix was arrested Saturday and charged with five counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor.

"What is the level of accountability for the people who are getting state money and who are providing this kind of supervision?" asked Hassler Thompson. "There has to be some level of accountability because it is so prevalent, we can't ignore it."

Follick says DCF is reviewing all aspects of its group homes and recruiting more foster parents to reduce the need for them.

"The arrest last week highlighted an awful problem, but what would make it worse is if we didn't do anything. And we're not going to let that happen. We're going to examine this, we're not going to shy away from it, and we're going to do everything we can to help every child in group care."

Fran Allegra, the CEO of Our Kids, Inc., which oversees foster care and adoption services in Miami-Dade – including one of the group homes in question – said in a statement that her agency's intervention nearly a year ago led to the larger investigation and ultimate arrest.

"Sadly, as evidenced by daily headlines, this is a terrible, chronic and pervasive issue that affects children here and across the country, she said. "Predators will stop at nothing to seek out and find youth to prey on where ever they are…The problem of prostitution in and of itself is very difficult to solve." Allegra noted that the teens "are victims and we must do everything possible to protect their privacy."

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Child Marriage=Not Awesome


Trafficking of girls closely linked to child marriages in Guntur: Activists
Roli Srivastava, TNN | Jul 5, 2012, 12.46PM IST

HYDERABAD: Child marriages in Guntur continue to remain a major concern and activists working in the area now say that trafficking of girls from here is closely linked to child marriages. Those fighting against both practices that are rampant in the district point out that while under-10 marriages get a lot of attention and have thus been curbed to some extent, marriages in the 15-16 age group are alarmingly high and need to be checked.
"Strangely, nobody considers 15-year-olds getting married as child marriage. There are many families in Guntur that are pushing their daughters into marriage soon after they complete their Class X. Not only is this a vulnerable age, but many girls are deprived of an opportunity to pursue higher studies," said Sumitra Makkapati, founder of Ankuram, a social group that works with girls and young women. The group has set up a rural resource centre to spread awareness and train these girls in vocational courses in Guntur.

Makkapati went on to say that child marriages are linked to trafficking. "When we interact with women, we find that most victims of trafficking were those married early. They had faced domestic violence, oppression which is commonplace in these marriages. They had either fled from their marital homes or fell prey to traffickers easily," she says.
While the police and also the judiciary have become active on this issue, there is much left to be done at the grass-root level, Makkapati said.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Enjoy Chocolate Guilt Free this Fourth

June 29th, 2012
Nestlé advances child labor battle plan
An independent investigation into Nestlé's cocoa supply chain has found numerous child labor violations and kickstarted an ambitious plan to eventually eradicate forced labor and child labor in its production cycle.
The study was carried out by the Fair Labor Association with Nestlé's support.
"Our investigation of Nestlé's cocoa supply chain represents the first time a multinational chocolate producer has allowed its procurement system to be completely traced and assessed. For too long child labor in cocoa production has been everybody's problem and therefore nobody's responsibility," said FLA President Auret van Heerden.
It means Nestlé is the first chocolate-maker to comprehensively map its cocoa supply chain – and can work on identifying problems areas, training and educating workers and taking action against child labor violations.
The FLA investigation found violations of Nestlé's own supplier code, including excessive hours and unpaid workers. It also found 72 percent of injuries were from workers using machetes.
Read the FLA-Nestle report
But child labor remained the primary concern for the FLA which said there were systemic and cultural challenges to overcome in Ivory Coast.
Jose Lopez, Nestlé vice president of operations, told CNN: "There is no way, that long term, a company like ours can accept a situation like this. So it's a matter of how fast, how well, and how many people have to participate in getting these sorts of problems behind us.
"We are determined to make real impact and hopefully also to be used as a lighthouse to show others that it's just a matter of getting started."
He added: "My sense is that what we want to do here is to prove that it can happen. We will work with the World Cocoa Foundation and be in schools, we will work with International Cocoa Initiative and gather the cooperatives and put people there ... to give training on the farmers. We will work with the government on the action plan, we will work with the certifiers.
"It is true that what is new is purely an expression of the will to assemble everybody, to break down these silos and to get the action moving, instead of each one of us trying to give his own interpretation and his own answer."
The FLA recommended Nestlé tell every person in its supply chain about the company's code of practice which bans child labor, and make sure people are trained and expected to uphold the code.
The FLA also said Nestlé has developed a strategy to improve practices by its Ivorian workers, including producing an illustrated guide to the supplier code by October and, in the longer term, train key suppliers to try to create a workforce dedicated to protecting children.
Van Heerden said: "By inviting FLA to completely map and document its cocoa supply chain, consumers will have the complete picture they need to hold Nestlé, the largest food company in the world, accountable for where its cocoa comes from ...
"Now that its supply chain has been mapped, Nestlé will be held accountable for the kind of sustainable and comprehensive changes that ensure a future of responsibly-sourced, code-compliant cocoa."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Jackie Chan Doing It Right in Myanmar

Jackie Chan To Combat Myanmar Child Trafficking

07/03/12 09:34 AM ET

YANGON, Myanmar — Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan is going to Myanmar this week on a three-day mission to help combat child trafficking in the Southeast Asian nation.

UNICEF announced Tuesday that in his capacity as a good-will ambassador, Chan will visit the agency's projects for supporting trafficked children under special care for trauma and distress. He also will meet with officials of the Social Welfare Ministry and members of the Myanmar Police Anti-Trafficking Task Force in Mandalay, Myanmar's second-largest city.

The U.S. State Department's annual report on human trafficking says thousands of children in Myanmar are forced to serve in the national army and ethnic military groups. However, Myanmar signed an agreement with the United Nations last week to ban the recruitment of child soldiers and demobilize those already serving.