US house logoThe House of Representatives approved a range of proposals Tuesday to combat sex slavery in the U.S., including training for police to recognize trafficking cases and treat victims appropriately, a ban on advertising sex for sale with children, and an initiative for sex slavery survivors to receive restitution from pimps.

“While an interest in human trafficking has long been a focus of conservatives, the issue has attracted significant bipartisan interest in recent months,” reports the New York Times. “Representative Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia and the House majority leader, held a news conference on Tuesday to push the legislation, an usual amount of attention for low-profile measures.”

Cantor has launched a webpage dedicated to modern-day slavery. “The scourge of human trafficking remains one of the most horrific crimes that plagues our world,” the webpage notes. House Republicans have also created a YouTube video called “Together, Let’s End Human Trafficking.”

“Measures to combat human trafficking were already listed as part of the House’s spring agenda, but they gained momentum amid reports of the abduction of Nigerian girls by extremist group Boko Haram,” reports The Hill.

Five bills passed the House with broad bipartisan support, along with a resolution condemning the Boko Haram kidnappings, according to CNN:

  • H.R. 4058: Requires states to identify and address sex trafficking of minors in foster care.
  • H.R. 4573: Directs the State Department to give “advance notice of intended travel” of those convicted of sex offenses against children and asks other nations to reciprocate.
  • H.R. 3530: Imposes additional financial penalties on sex traffickers and helps increase the amount of restitution victims could receive.
  • H.R. 3610: Encourages states to put in place laws that treat minors who have been sex trafficked as victims rather than criminals.
  • H.R. 4225: Makes it a federal crime to knowingly advertise for the commercial sexual exploitation of minors and trafficking victims.

The 2013 Walk Free Global Slavery Index estimates that there about 60,000 people in various forms of slavery inside the U.S. You can learn more about slavery in America in the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report.

If you can invest just one hour to learn about modern-day slavery and what can be done to end it, you should watch the new documentary film #standiwithme. After premiering in 30 U.S. cities earlier this year, the movie is now available to watch online. People who watch it via the player below on the FTS blog will help support Free the Slaves; a portion of every screening sale goes to FTS.

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Only a 9-year-old would dream a lemonade stand could free 500 enslaved children. After seeing a photo of two enslaved boys in Nepal, Vivienne Harr is moved to help in the only way she knows how: by setting up her lemonade stand. With the goal of freeing 500 children from slavery, she sets up her stand every day, rain or shine. In telling Vivienne’s story, #standwithme examines the realities of modern-day slavery, the role we play in it as consumers, and the importance of knowing the story behind what we buy.


#standwithme shows what you get when you combine the world-class photography of Lisa Kristine, the innovative front line anti-slavery projects of Free the Slaves, and a vivacious 9-year-old California girl who decided she wants to help end child slavery. This powerful documentary spreads the message that slavery still exists but can be overcome. It chronicles how artistry and activism can build bridges to freedom for millions trapped in slavery around the world.

The film tells the story of Lisa Kristine’s heart-stopping photographs of slavery hot spots where Free the Slaves works. (Purchase Lisa’s prints and book here – proceeds benefit Free the Slaves.) A California family saw Lisa’s slavery photos in her gallery – and decided to snap into action. Vivienne Harr raised thousands of dollars for the anti-slavery movement by selling lemonade. Her family has started bottling the recipe and selling it online and in small grocery stores. Free the Slaves is one of several organizations that benefit from Make A Stand Lemon-Aid sales.

If you’re unable to stream on your mobile device, visit this link from a desktop computer.

ILO-logo-1A new report underscores how profitable and widespread modern-day slavery has become. The U.N. International Labor Organization (ILO) this morning estimates that trafficking generates $150 billion in illicit profits each year. The figure is three times more than previously estimated.

The ILO report, Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labor, says two thirds of the profits – about $99 billion – comes from sex slavery, while another $51 billion comes from forced labor slavery such as domestic work, farming, mining, fishing, construction and logging.

“This new report takes our understanding of trafficking, forced labor and modern slavery to a new level,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.” Forced labor is bad for business and development and especially for its victims. Our new report adds new urgency to our efforts to eradicate this fundamentally evil, but hugely profitable practice as soon as possible.”

The ILO says “income shocks and poverty” are the main economic factors that push individuals into slavery. Other factors include a lack of education, illiteracy, gender and migration.

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“We must now focus on the socio-economic factors that make people vulnerable to forced labor in the private sector,” said Beate Andrees, head of the ILO’s Special Action Program to Combat Forced Labor. Andrees called for a series of measures:

  • Bolstering social protection floors to prevent poor households from abusive lending or indenture in the event of sudden income shocks;
  • Investing in education and skills training to fortify job opportunities for vulnerable workers;
  • Promoting a rights-based approach to migration to prevent irregular employment and abuse of migrant workers; and
  • Supporting the organization of workers, including in sectors and industries vulnerable to forced labor.

“If we want to make a significant change in the lives of the 21 million men, women and children in forced labour, we need to take concrete and immediate action,” the ILO Director-General said. “That means working with governments to strengthen law, policy and enforcement, with employers to strengthen their due diligence against forced labour, including in their supply chains, and with trade unions to represent and empower those at risk.”

Free the Slaves Programs Director Karen Stauss says the new report underscores the need to increase funding to combat modern-day slavery. “Trafficking is one of the world’s largest criminal enterprises and the estimate of its profitability continues to rise, yet the level of funding to combat it has not kept pace and remains remarkably low,”  Stauss says. “Slavery can be conquered if governments, international institutions, foundations, corporations and civil society join together to marshal the funding and political will to get the job done.”


Unchosen, an anti-trafficking charity that organizes film campaigns to combat modern slavery in the U.K. and Ireland, is launching its 2014  Short Film Competition. The aim is “to challenge what people choose not to see.”

“The more people that know about the matter, the more likely it is to cause effective change,” says Unchosen.


Film entries from 2013 featured shorts on domestic servitude, sexual abuse and forced labor. Last year’s winner was titled “The Trip,” directed by Prano Bailey-Bond. It dramatizes the true story of Hung, a young Vietnamese man trafficked abroad on the promise of a job and a new life, only to be forced to work in a cannabis factory.

You must register by May 23 to be considered for this year’s competition, and complete your film by August 13.

Dan Elkes Joins FTS Board

Elkes_Daniel1Free the Slaves is pleased to announce that philanthropist, business strategist and biotech executive Daniel Elkes has joined the FTS board of directors.

Dan currently works in the biotechnology industry as the director of the pipeline and portfolio planning group at Genentech, where he uses his expertise in strategic planning, decision analysis and pharmaceutical development to help guide work developing treatments for life threatening diseases. He was previously employed at Medarex, where he was part of the team that developed a revolutionary immunotherapy for oncology, and has also served as a management consultant.

Dan received his Ph.D. in genetics from Harvard University, and earned a Certificate in Public and International Affairs from his undergraduate studies at Princeton University, where he graduated with an A.B. in molecular biology. He has a strong background in Japanese culture and language, and learned Japanese and studied Japanese business practices at Matsushita Electric in Hirakata, Japan.

“I am delighted that Dan has decided to join the board,” says FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg. “He brings a great passion for eradicating slavery and a superb, diverse set of skills, including a remarkable capacity for thinking long-term and strategically. His commitment and ability to “think big” will be great assets to Free the Slaves.

“We are pleased to welcome Dan to the board,” says FTS Board Chair Jane Covey. “He brings deep personal commitment to ending slavery as well as strategic thinking, both of which enhance our capacity to govern effectively.”

Dan has a passion for service and has dedicated his career to the mission of improving the quality of life for those around him.  He serves as a trustee of the Elkes Foundation and lives in San Carlos California with his wife and three children.