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Human Trafficking

Tag Archives | Human Trafficking

U.S. Foreign Policy on Coerced Labor: Eradicating Global Sex Trafficking

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Anti-trafficking campaign

Anti-trafficking campaign

Currently more than 12 million people around the world are enslaved. Of those, about 9.8 million are victims of sex trafficking, while others are involved in agricultural work, mining, or labor in small factories. This modern slavery unravels economies, incites violence, infringes upon families, undermines the notion of an individual’s inalienable rights, weakens public health, affronts the value of human life, and is one of the fastest growing criminal industries. This debasement to humanity is a worldwide, $32 billion industry and remains prevalent in 177 countries.

Despite numerous organizations, existing international partnerships, and legislation that targets the cessation of human trafficking, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center states that there are approximately 800,000 to 4 million men, women, and children transported across international borders and coerced into labor annually. The time has come to actively work to eradicate this repulsive crime. President Barack Obama emphasizes that human trafficking “ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime.”

Despite various legislative measures taken by the U.S. and other nations to combat trafficking in persons, modern slavery is still a prevalent commercial enterprise that destroys countless lives. UNICEF reported that of the estimated 12 million current victims of human trafficking, 2 million are children subjected to forced prostitution in the international commercial sex industry, which leads to long-lasting psychological trauma, disease, drug addiction, unintended pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism, and death. As of 2013, only 116 countries of the 177 countries with human trafficking have passed some form of legislation that prohibits all forms of coerced labor. Despite positive efforts and current prohibitive legal measures, modern slavery remains ubiquitous.

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“Muslim Women Let’s Get Topless”: Off the Mark with FEMEN

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FEMEN protest in Paris. Joseph Paris/Flickr

FEMEN protest in Paris. Joseph Paris/Flickr

“If you are interested [in registering], it’s not complicated. You just have to take off your t-shirt.”

– Eloise, Femen co-ordinator in France, Sep 19, 2012

The founding of the anti-prostitution outfit, Femen, had and still does have, a genuine basis of protest. Exploitative sex-tourism in the Ukraine is something women and men would understandably take a strong stand against, and local resistance has been scanty (no pun intended). Ditto numerous countries where sexual slavery has found itself growing on the coat tails of globalisation and corrupt governments. But as has been noted by commentators in, for want of a better term “industrialised” countries, rarely does the conversation move beyond the shock photo stunts the group wishes to disseminate. In other words, the conversation becomes less a matter of revolution than a sense of whether one’s sets of breasts are better than another’s. When the message of protest gets mired in tactics rather than aims, it’s bound to get lost in the hubbub.

The attempt by Femen to project a more European-broad protest – bare-breasted, of course – has been announced, with the ladies of the group taking their tops off in various European capitals. So far the group have lacked a “base” to launch their indignation. Paris has been greeted with the Femen flavour, and the website of Femen France features “Nudité, Lutte and Liberté” in the tricolour scheme, all against a backdrop of taut, curvy flesh. Products can be purchased as well – the Femen Handbag, the Femen Hoody, and an assortment of shirts such as “F’Kamikaze.” The latter is surely ironic – a topless women’s outfit that makes money selling tops. Themes of protest do move in mysterious ways.

Paris is now the base for the first ‘training centre’ which will school feminist recruits on the art of dodging security forces. In the words of one of the outfit’s more notorious figures, Inna Shevchenko, “We’re opening the first international training centre for feminists…who want to transform themselves into soldiers.” To celebrate the occasion, the protestors marched through a largely Muslim neighbourhood in the 18th arrondissement. “Muslim women, let’s get naked.”

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Products with a Purpose

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Fair trade coffee beans being sold in West Bridgewater, Mass. uusc4all/Flickr

Fair trade coffee beans being sold in West Bridgewater, Mass. uusc4all/Flickr

In Eli Marmar’s life story, water is a recurring theme. “I was raised in the Bay Area as a competitive swimmer and spent my formative years in the ocean surfing. It rained on my wedding day. My son was born in a birthing tub.” No surprise then that he launched his company Freewaters with one mission: provide clean drinking water, one pair of sandals at a time. That’s right, sandals. San Francisco-based shoemaker Freewaters represents a new breed of social enterprises that have philanthropic agendas built explicitly into their corporate DNA.

Beyond the traditional selling points of price and presentation, companies like Freewaters are offering products that directly support a humanitarian purpose—and the concept is catching on fast.  But while the entrepreneurs behind these socially conscious start-ups have tapped into consumer demands to play donor, they also raise questions about whether applying the profit motive can achieve positive and sustainable developmental ends. Advocacy as part of the business model is nothing new.

The iconic Vermont-based ice cream manufacturer Ben and Jerry’s has promoted social activism since it was founded in 1978. The company has paid a “livable wage” to its employees nearly twice the national minimum wage, sourced Fair Trade-certified ingredients for its products and utilized environmentally friendlier hydrocarbon freezers. From 1985 until the company was acquired by Unilever in 2000, Ben and Jerry’s committed 7.5 percent of the company’s pretax profits to philanthropy.

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Women’s Rights in Malaysia

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Zainah Anwar, the founder of Sisters-in-Islam.  Image via U.S.-Islamic World Forum

Zainah Anwar, the founder of Sisters-in-Islam. Image via U.S.-Islamic World Forum

The mostly Muslim nation of Malaysia has always walked a fine line between protecting the rights of Malay women and acknowledging the role that Islam plays in the daily lives of its citizens. Yet many of the obstacles facing Malaysian society disproportionately affect women. These include endemic poverty, human trafficking, environmental degradation, a rise in the numbers of refugees, civil unrest, crime and a resurgent Islamic movement. Nonetheless in this mostly Muslim country of nearly 30 million people, by comparison with other Islamic nations, the fight for greater protection of Malaysian women’s rights has had some success.

This balance between a secular and sectarian society has largely been the result of Malaysia’s former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad. In contrast to Malaysia’s largest neighbor, Indonesia, Mr. Mohamad did make significant concessions to Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS), Malaysia’s largest Islamic party, to placate religious conservatives.

The emergence of politicized Islam has posed a challenge to civil society groups determined to uphold democracy, human rights, and women’s rights. Women groups in many Muslim countries are at the frontline in challenging the religious establishment and their justification of the subordination of women and discrimination against them. Yet their efforts are constrained by religious norms that make even basic women’s rights appear radical.

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U.S. to Pursue Joseph Kony

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Lord’s Resistance Army’s Joseph Kony

Lord’s Resistance Army’s Joseph Kony

Late last week, President Obama announced that he was ordering 100 armed advisors to be sent to central Africa to bolster efforts on the ground to combat Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) operating in Uganda and neighboring countries. For years, the LRA has systematically used rape as a weapon, burned villages to the ground, killed countless unarmed civilians and taken as prisoner, young girls, to act as sex slaves for Kony and his followers. Additionally, the LRA has forced many of its young prisoners to take up arms against their countrymen.

Originating in Uganda over two decades ago, the LRA under the leadership of Joseph Kony, a cultlike personality, has spread its activities into neighboring South Sudan, northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and eastern Central African Republic (CAR). What differentiates the group from other rebel groups throughout modern history is that it operates without clear political objectives and is notable for its fondness for committing rape, abducting children and enlisting them as child soldiers and the indiscriminate killing of unarmed civilians.

While this development would be a muscular increase of America’s role in the region, and while the American advisors will be armed, the development was hailed by a number of human rights groups and activists who are intimately familiar with the real world developments on the ground. Among those arguing for a more robust engagement on the ground to help the Ugandans and others combat the LRA is Human Rights Watch.

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