Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NYT article and Polaris Project blog update

In addition to this very interesting NYT article on art projects with child soldiers, the Polaris Project blog has been updated. I strongly encourage you guys to follow it because it presents interesting responses to human trafficking.

Since the tradition began in 1954, the title of goodwill ambassador for United Nations’ agencies has usually been appended to names that might have been borrowed from the credits for a film festival: Danny Kaye, Audrey Hepburn, Mia Farrow, Susan Sarandon and, lately, Angelina Jolie and George Clooney.

But on Tuesday Simone Monasebian, the New York chief of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, introduced the next ambassador to be named for her office, a man well known in certain circles but not often followed by paparazzi: Ross Bleckner, the painter, who will be the first fine artist named to the ceremonial post.

Earlier this year Mr. Bleckner, whose mostly abstract work came to prominence in the 1980s and who has long been involved in AIDS-related causes, went on an official mission to the Gulu district of northern Uganda. Gulu has been terrorized for many years by the rebel force known as the Lord’s Resistance Army, which has abducted and conscripted thousands of children, forcing boys and girls to become killers and sex slaves.

Using thousands of dollars’ worth of paint, brushes and paper shipped from New York Central Art Supply in the East Village, Mr. Bleckner, 59, worked with a group of 25 children — former abductees and ex-soldiers — for more than a week at a Roman Catholic aid center. The children made 200 paintings that will be sold at a benefit at the United Nations headquarters next month at which Mr. Bleckner will be appointed goodwill ambassador. Several of the luminous paintings are now on view in the front window of the clothing store Moschino in the meatpacking district, whose company is providing money to support the Gulu project.

Finish reading the article here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Slavery on our streets

by Cassandra Clifford

As April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, events are taking place throughout the month to highlight the various forms of sexual assault which plagues millions of young girls across the globe. However one does not have to look outside our borders to see the face of modern slavery, nor does one have to look into the eyes of a foreign born national to see the pain and suffering for which it causes. Modern slavery, or human trafficking, is a problem that plagues us right here at home. There is no country immune to this disease of power and greed, which binds some 27 million people around the world, including the US and our Nations Capital. The average of entry into prostitution in the United States is 12-13 years-old, and DC streets ranked among the top 14 cities for human trafficking by the FBI, are see their fair share of young victims each night.

The US State department estimates that some 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year and about 80 percent of them are female and at least 50% are children. The numbers given by the State Department do not included the millions of victims which are trafficked with in countries borders, including the United States. The US government has stated that there are some 17,500 victims of sex trafficking in the United States each year, however all of these government figures are well understated and the true number of victims is unknown.

As brought to your attention in last weeks piece, The Dark Side of The Washington Post, DC is a strong hold for brothels posing as massage parlors, a fate which is sadly not unique to the capital, as seen in a report by MSNBC Undercover: Sex Slaves in America. The MSNBC piece gave great incite into the plight of those enslaved within the US borders, and is highly recommended as a starting point when looking into the depth and scale of this issue and how it effects cities across the country. You will see in the report a large focus on San Fransisco, which has made their message of non-tolerance for sex trafficking and slavery very clear, however is still tied by the hand of bureaucracy and is only beginning to scrape the surface of this enormous problem. San Fransisco is tackling the massage parlors, the ones that look just like those in every major city, and many not so major cities. While the issue of slavery is not the stated premise for the cities surprise inspections, the requirements of permits for masseuses, require girls to be covered from the neck down. Surprise raids have uncovered false walls reveals rooms where slaves are hidden out of the view of the public eyes, unable to leave, locked into fortress like buildings, under the watchful eyes of guards, cameras. The Task Force with the health department; they say they cannot fully eradicate trafficking but they are having some impact. The city of San Fransisco while not free and clean of slavery, is working to crack down on those who prey on the innocence of young girls. Those who use sex and fear to enslave women and girls for nothing more than greed and profit.

In DC the cities own Task Force on Human Trafficking, in addition to increased cooperation, training and awareness by the cities police force, other law enforcement agencies and NGOs, have been increasingly successful in raiding brothels since the establishment of the Task Force in 2004. However as seen in the Post piece the issues must be tackled from all sides, including demand, and while DC does require masseuses to be licensed, it is rarely a deterrent to illegal operations who often just reopen under a new name after raids. As San Fransico saw, surprise inspections and fines alone will not end the trafficking of women. As long as the demand continues women and children will continue to be forced into sexual slavery, and their lives will continue to be torn apart by greed and demand.

To better understand the effects of the demand for commercial sex services, on human trafficking, see Shared Hope's video Demand, which you can watch on-line or download, the video gives great incite into the fate of domestic victims of sex trafficking.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

An End to R-E-S-P-E-C-T for P-I-M-P-S

At the Karma Nightclub in Minneapolis a few days ago, April 5, there was a Players Ball.

Let’s stop for a minute. That’s a publicly-advertised wild bash at a nightclub, celebrating pimps’ business… What’s wrong with this picture?

It’s bad enough that we look at the record of arrests related to prostitution and we find that manifold more prostituted females are arrested and punished than pimping males. That is one reason the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2008 aptly requires statistics on those arrested in prostitution to separate the numbers of arrests for prostituted people from the johns and pimps.

Pimps regularly engage in the force, fraud, and coercion that under the law qualify them as sex traffickers – whether or not the females they victimize are foreign nationals or U.S. citizens. But what’s worse is a culture which lionizes pimps. Pimps are celebrated as hip – in film, in television, in music lyrics. They are seen as cool for “sticking it to the man.” They are treated like they are admirable iconoclasts rebelling against the Establishment.

But just think about how their true specialty is acting out against the woman. To the woman from whom they take every cent received from johns, upon threat of punishment — to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. To the woman they allegedly protect but regularly intimidate and beat. The regular violence pimps employ is far from the glamorized image in popular music, videos, TV, and films. Take it from Rachel Lloyd, a survivor of sex trafficking who leads Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS), “So what’s it really like for us? They never tell us that we’ll never see any of the money we make…the beatings, the physical torture we’ll receive.”

Read the rest of Ambassador Mark Lagon's blog post here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Will Iraq Crack Down on Sex Trafficking?

Ravaged by rights groups and upbraided by the U.S. for failing to take measures against human trafficking, the Iraqi government has been quietly working on a draft law to tackle the scourge. Baghdad was prodded into action late last year, after the release of the U.S. State Department's "Trafficking in Persons Report," according to Human Rights Minister Wijdan Mikhail Salim. "Let's say it was a tough report about the situation in Iraq, and in so many cases it was right," she says.

The report was damning. Baghdad, it concluded, "offers no protection services to victims of trafficking, reported no efforts to prevent trafficking in persons and does not acknowledge trafficking to be a problem in the country." As a story detailed, trafficking in Iraq is a shadowy underworld where nefarious female pimps hold sway and impoverished mothers sell their teenage daughters on the sex market. (See pictures of a women's prison in Baghdad.)

The situation is slowly changing. The draft law, a copy of which was obtained by TIME, imposes tough penalties, including life imprisonment and a fine not exceeding 25 million dinars ($21,000) for traffickers if the victim "is under 15, or a female, or has special needs." The same punishment applies if the crime was committed by kidnapping or force, or if the criminal "is a direct or distant relative or the victim's caretaker or husband or wife," a tacit acknowledgment that victims are often trafficked by people they know.

Read the rest of the article here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Meeting on Thursday!

Don't forget that there is a meeting this Thursday at 9 pm in RB 291! Hope to see you all there!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Human trafficking clinic to open at 'U' this fall

By Veronica Menaldi
Daily Staff Reporter On April 5th, 2009

A new University Law School clinic will be one of the first in the country to take aim at human trafficking — or, as one official calls it, “modern day slavery.”

The clinic will focus on a growing industry that now involves the illegal trafficking of 60,000 to 80,000 people per year across international borders — the majority of whom are women and children sold into sex industries, according to the U.S. Immigration Lawyers website.

Law School students will operate the clinic and provide legal representation to human trafficking victims in the United States.

The students will also work on international law reform projects to help strengthen anti-human trafficking laws in other countries.

Bridgette Carr, a visiting clinical assistant professor at the Law School, who worked on a similar project at the University of Notre Dame last year, will lead the clinic.

Carr said that while human trafficking most commonly takes place in the sex trade industry, this “modern day slavery” also exists in many other forms, for example, in businesses-like hair salons.

“It is estimated that worldwide slavery is more prevalent now than at any other time in history,” she said.

Aaron Wenzloff, a second-year Law student, said he plans to participate in the human trafficking clinic this fall. Wenzloff was involved in an Urban Communities Clinic led by Carr last fall and said he thought this opportunity would be a “great fit” for him.

Stemming the mounting trend in human trafficking involves more than simply stopping the traffickers, Wenzloff said.

“Part of the role of a lawyer is to tackle problems holistically, and that means helping find supportive housing programs, education programs, and other social services for the victims,” he said.

Read more here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

justice is what love looks like in public

Hey guys, I got an email from the Call+Response organization and it had some pretty neat ideas that we can talk about at our next meeting or something:

We wanted to let you know about a friend of ours who has written a fantastic book on the issue, recently released on paperback, entitled "A Crime So Monstrous".

Benjamin Skinner infiltrates trafficking networks and slave sales on five continents, exposing a modern flesh trade never before portrayed in such proximity. From mega-harems in Dubai to illicit brothels in Bucharest, from slave quarries in India to child markets in Haiti, he explores the underside of a world we scarcely recognize as our own and lays bare a parallel universe where human beings are bought, sold, used, and discarded. He travels from the White House to war zones and immerses us in the political and flesh-and-blood battles on the front lines of the unheralded new abolitionist movement. BUY HERE (I own this book and it's a really fantastic read. -K)

Want to get involved in the 21st Century Abolitionist Movement in other ways? Here are some free, but effective ways to make a serious difference:

1. Make your products SLAVE-FREE™: A picture - or a letter - could be worth a thousand slaves. With a camera and a slave-free logo, you can make companies take notice of the use of slave-labor for their products. Check out to get involved. Also, visit to shop for items that you commonly use. For each product chosen, an email will be sent to that company to let them know that you want their product chains to be Slave-Free™.

2. Tag You're Free: Let all who walk the sidewalks know about slavery, and
clean up product chains. Visit, get a stencil, and use cleaning products to stencil the symbol into the sidewalks. You can then geotag your stencil's location on the Tag You're Free world map.

3. Open-Source Activism: What is your idea for how to respond? We want to share it with the rest of the network. Upload a description of your response at We'll be looking for great ideas that need help for implementation. You may also win a grant from to make it happen!