Brainstormed Solutions

Christian Science Monitor has been working on a fascinating project to analyze best-practices in combatting human trafficking and recently put together a list of 6 innovative and effective solutions. Check them out here!

 

Human trafficking: 6 solutions that are working

By: Michael Holtz of the Christian Science Monitor

January 25, 2016

 

1. ‘Fair food’ labeling for US produce

Farm workers in Immokalee, Fla., have pushed corporations such as Walmart to submit to “clean labor” audits to cut down on the exploitation of largely Mexican, Haitian, and Guatemalan migrants. Their efforts have helped spur the use of “Fair Food” labels for produce that is grown and packed ethically.

 

“In the past three years, [the tomato fields in Immokalee] have gone from being the worst to the best” in the country, according to Susan Marquis, dean of the Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, Calif.

Last fall, Giant and Stop & Shop, two grocery chains in New England, began carrying the label. Similar labels such as “Food Justice Certified,” which expands farm worker protections to organic products, are also beginning to crop up on supermarket shelves across the country.

Such sourcing clues tap directly into the portion of the US consumer base that has begun to turn once routine shopping decisions into moral guideposts. Labor experts see a lot of promise in using labels as a tool to spread the reforms seen in Immokalee to other agricultural centers around the US.

2. Empower migrant workers and trafficking victims

One of the biggest challenges human trafficking victims face is what to do once they’re back on their own.

In Thailand, the Issara Institute helps formerly enslaved migrant workers by directly giving them cash with no strings attached. The philosophy behind the program is simple: No one knows the needs of human trafficking victims better than the victims themselves. Yet they often lack the resources to address them. By giving them the ability to make their own decisions, the unconditional handouts provide a sense of autonomy that these individuals haven’t experienced in months, if not years.

Across the United States, a handful of nonprofit organizations are working to connect with isolated domestic servants to show them that help is available.

Damayan Migrant Workers Association, a grass-roots group in New York that assists Filipino trafficking victims, provides a model for how to transform a cycle of victimization. Former victims become advocates for others, demanding changes to legal and economic structures that facilitate the trafficking of domestic workers. They also formed a co-op, allowing the former victims to become their own bosses.

They have pressured embassies when diplomatic immunity was shielding traffickers from prosecution, and have helped some women win financial settlements. Damayan’s members played a key role in New York becoming the first of several states to pass a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

3. Joint police-NGO task forces

A small antitrafficking team in Seattle is showing how legal action can be an effective tool in fighting forced labor when detectives, prosecutors, and social workers learn to collaborate.

In its first decade of operations, the task force investigated more than 140 cases of potential human trafficking and prosecuted 60 of those. Given the difficulty of bringing such cases, this is well above average for a prosecutorial district. In September, Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the task force an “extraordinary partnership.”

Experts say the force’s success stems from its ability to bridge the worlds of nongovernment organizations and diverse law enforcement agencies. Where antitrafficking efforts in some other cities have broken down, the members of this team “have come back to the table” after setbacks, says Kirsten Foot, the author of “Collaborating Against Human Trafficking.”

4. Labor trafficking lawsuits in US courts

In February 2015, a federal court awarded five Indian workers $14 million in a labor trafficking lawsuit against Signal International, a maritime construction company, for abuses they faced while repairing offshore oil and gas facilities damaged by hurricane Katrina.

Five months later, Signal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to implement a $20 million settlement with more than 200 other workers who had their own lawsuits pending. It was, lawyers say, the largest monetary penalty ever in a labor trafficking lawsuit, making it a model for how to fight labor trafficking – both in the courtroom and out.

In Mexico and the US, advocates say abuses that can add up to trafficking in the agriculture industry often go unchecked because foreign workers are required to leave the United States at the end of each season. Back home, they are far away from the US legal system that might help them push for justice against abusive or exploitive employers.

To correct this, lawyers, NGOs, government representatives, and migrant advocates have worked together pursue cross-border justice. This includes finding plaintiffs in Mexico and other countries willing to testify in US courts; many don’t know that they are entitled to legal recourse. The work is painstaking and time-consuming, but provides a path to reducing labor trafficking and migrant worker exploitation.

5. Make foreign recruiters register with the state

From Silicon Valley to the Central Valley, California industries rely on about 130,000 foreign guest workers to do everything from tech jobs to picking grapes, peaches, and almonds. Three out of four of them are hired through labor contractors, according to rough estimates. A new law has the potential to transform the way those contractors do business – and protect vulnerable workers.

The California Foreign Labor Recruitment Law, the first of its kind in the nation, requires recruiters to meet certain conditions and register with the state. Taking effect in July, it forces businesses that want to use foreign-labor contractors to work with only those that are registered, and to tell the state which contractors they are using. It provides a host of protections for workers, including a rule against charging them any fees.

“People should be able to look up in a registry who is legitimate and who isn’t,” says Kay Buck, executive director of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking in Los Angeles. “With transparency, the prevalence of modern slavery decreases.”

6. Supply chain transparency

A cluster of California class-action lawsuits against corporations such as Costco is pushing the envelope on accountability for human trafficking in supply chains. The keyword is transparency: If companies are forced to disclose when labor abuses are involved in making a product, they may be more likely to vigorously police their suppliers.

That level of disclosure would go significantly beyond the letter of a 2010 law. The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act requires large retail and manufacturing companies to disclose on their websites what, if anything, they are doing to eradicate trafficking and slavery among suppliers.

In the global cocoa industry, efforts to clean up supply chains have already helped address widespread child labor abuses. Each of the world’s top five chocolate producers – from Nestlé to Mars to Hershey’s – are developing or expanding third-party inspection systems meant to, among other goals, eliminate child trafficking and child labor by 2020 on the farms where they source cocoa.

Meanwhile, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire – together responsible for about 70 percent of global cocoa output – have responded to international pressure by passing laws prohibiting child trafficking and overwork, and mandating primary school attendance.

7. How you can help

  • Here are some of the organizations featured in our series on human trafficking:
  1. The Association of People for Practical Life Education is a Ghana-based organization that works to free trafficked children, including those in the cocoa industry.
  2. Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, the first transnational migrant workers’ rights organization based in Mexico, seeks to improve the conditions of low-wage workers in the US.
  3. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is a Florida-based human rights organization that works to protect migrant farm workers and promote consumer awareness through its Fair Food Program.
  4. The Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking is a Los Angeles-based organization that assists labor trafficking victims and works toward ending all instances of human trafficking.
  5. The Damayan Migrant Workers Association is a grass-roots group in New York that assists Filipino domestic workers to fight for their labor, health, gender, and migration rights.
  6. Free the Slaves is a Washington-based organization that works in human trafficking hot spots across the world to liberate slaves and change the conditions that allow slavery to persist.
  7. The Global Workers Justice Alliance is a New York-based organization that aids transnational migrants through a cross-border network of worker advocates and resources.
  8. The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center is a US-based organization that leads national efforts to hold human traffickers accountable for their crimes and to raise awareness of victims’ rights.
  9. The Issara Institute is a Bangkok-based organization that aids human trafficking victims through unconditional cash transfers and other services such as legal support, medical care, and job placement.
  10. ProDESC, the Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights Project, is a Mexico-based organization that works with migrants, miners, and indigenous communities to defend and advance their rights.
  11. The Southern Poverty Law Center is an Alabama-based group that uses litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy to fight human trafficking and other forms of civil and human rights abuses.
  12. The Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network is a coalition of non-governmental organizations that provide direct services to victims of human trafficking in the State of Washington.

 

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Sex Trafficking: Survivors Share Their Stories

Video

Teresa Flores and Jeanette Bradley discuss their struggles as survivors of sex trafficking with candid intimacy. This video is powerful and very real. I’m not going to say much about it~~I want to let these women speak for themselves.

A Word on Sexual Abuse

I know this is not exactly human trafficking, yet in some cases, trafficking is an extreme version, an extension, of sexual abuse. Across the world, girls and women, in particular (but boys as well) are abused– made to dress, touch, suck, perform, and surrender– in ways that no one deserves to be treated. This is not an issue specific to a single population, it is not confined by race or socio-economic status or education. It is an issue that manages to transcend all boundaries.

According to RAINN (the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) every 2 minutes, someone in the US is sexually assaulted. 54% of those assaults are never reported to police, and 97% of rapists never have to step foot in a jail. They never have to spend a single day, living with the consequences of their crime. Yet the survivors of assault — they live with the consequences every day.

These girls are among us. Some of them are us.

Project Unbreakable has risen up as an outlet for pain, and a blinding light of exposure to the pervasiveness of sexual assault. Their mission is to “increase awareness of the issues surrounding sexual assault and encourage the act of healing through art.” Since the project began in 2011, over 2000 photos have been collected, featuring victims of sexual abuse holding posters of quotes from their abusers.

Right Here, Right Now

Video

An amazing documentary on human trafficking made by Alexa Nazarian, a fellow student of mine at Notre Dame High School, intended for young audiences, but really applicable to anyone.

Finish Line

“Ruth was 12 years old when her mother’s boyfriend raped her. She ran away and was picked up by a pimp who forced her to have sex for money. Today, she’s a brilliant poet and spoken word artist who dreams of one day becoming an architect and building schools for children in Africa. Here is a poem written by Ruth, detailing her painful past and her powerful ability to overcome adversity.” – Equality Now

 

FINISH LINE

You see me; I can’t let this go on any further…

So I’m going to let the finish where it starts.  

I’m going to help shed light on the places that are so-called too dark.

Oh yeah; I’ve been through some of it all:

The gang banging, the street walking & having sex in the park.

See, none of this would have happened if I had help from the start.

See, for me, it started in this place that sometimes felt like hell,

But I still had to call it home.

It even included a mother, a sister, even a niece that is only a few years old.

But even when they were home, I still felt all alone.

By alone, see, I was all alone when that light skinned 6 foot tall grown man raped me.

See, no one was in this place I was to call home where I had a bed;  

I cried inside because I was fighting a light skinned 6 foot battle all alone,

But I soon went to war when I ran away from this place

With the unbelievable name of home.

At night I was never alone, walking down pimp city road.

I was only 12 years old.

Walking up and down what we call the stroll.

See, to him it did not matter if I was cold or if I was hungry,

All he cared about was me bringing in that money.

Let me let you in on something I find real funny:  

That sex trafficking is a nonviolent felony.

But in this life, violence became my “frienamie.”

Now I’m going to shed my light on this place that is so-called too dark,

See, I was hit and beat for things that weren’t my fault

And when I would say something smart,

I was raped and called dumb.

I never thought this day would come.

See I’m not just saying this, this is coming from the heart.

Yes, maybe I want to get a new start.

But I want my voice to help others whose world has fallen apart.  

My best friend is a victim even though she is now 17.

She is a victim of our pimp, she is a victim of the streets.

She wants to be free, but she can’t do it all alone, she needs me.

And I need a team to help me finish where it starts.

If only you can feel the pain in our hearts.

To feel 2 inches tall when 5’1” is where you started.

Me and a little girl parted when all this trauma started.

See our lives are getting tough and we really don’t have time to toughen up.

And now look, I’ve reached the finish line, my time is up.

But that doesn’t mean that I give up.

 

Hunger for the Meat of Women

Walking in the door,
The initial shock of meat,
The tender flesh of exposed breasts,
Those red and swollen arms undulating.

The girls in the window,
Illuminated in red,
Displayed like mannequins,
As if they are showing off purses to be sold.

But what are they selling?
They are selling their bodies,
Their dreams, their desires,
Their worth and their dignity.

And for what?
For incessant beatings,
For looks of hunger and greed
Coming from clients who just want that meat.

They have to serve them diligently,
Despite hunger, discomfort, pain.
Have to relinquish power over their own bodies,
Give over to these paying customers.

But who gets the money?
Not the girls, no, not them at all.
It goes to the pimps, to bribing the cops,
So that the brothel will forever stay in business.

Their eyes are haunted,
Their lips are shut,
Except for when they are forced open.
Their bodies convulse with the –

-pain, overcoming, overbearing,
Dominating every moment of their lives.
No hope for a day off,
For some moments of peace.

Every moment is a working one

In the red light district.