The Indian government recently announced it would “establish about 330 more anti-human trafficking (AHT) units across the country that would train around 10,000 police personnel in three years on rescue and rehabilitation of victims.”
This announcement comes just months after India’s Secretary of Labor Prabhat C. Chaturvedi denied the existence of slavery in India, saying, “We are aware of the problem of bonded labor, and also [the] problem of child labor in this country.” But, he said, “I would certainly not like to bracket this as slavery.” Chaturvedi’s comments were in response to CNN’s coverage of Free the Slaves’ anti-slavery work in India. Read Free the Slaves’ response to Chaturvedi’s statement here.
The Indian government’s efforts to beef up anti-slavery efforts are a good indication that people in power are serious about eradicating modern-day slavery. But law enforcement and governance are only part of the solution. To eradicate slavery on our lifetime, a holistic, well-rounded approach must be put into place, which targets the root causes of slavery.
This is why FTS launched our Free a Village Build a Movement initiative in India. In certain regions, entire villages are trapped in debt-bondage slavery—sometimes for generations. The system of debt-bondage can be so ingrained that people can see no way out.
But FTS and our frontline partners in India have found that when villagers know their rights (slavery is outlawed in India), and are empowered to organize and stand up to their slaveholders, lasting change can happen. We have seen entire villages come to freedom.
Through the Free a Village Build a Movement initiative, villagers receive job training, and get micro loans to help start their own businesses, so they can become economically independent. Local vigilance committees are organized to keep traffickers at bay. Schools are established so children can be educated. Villagers learn to advocate on behalf of those still in slavery and pressure the police to do their jobs and enforce anti-slavery laws.
We have found that freedom is contagious. When one village comes to freedom, it inspires other villages to demand their freedom as well.
Bringing villages to freedom is not just a “charity exercise.” When people are free, they create what Free the Slaves President Kevin Bales calls the “freedom dividend”: entire communities prosper. Local economies thrive when formerly enslaved people start their own businesses. The economic benefits can be passed on for generations
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Earlier this month, it was reported that Delta Air Lines became the first U.S. airline to sign on to the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism (The Code), pledging to train employees to identify and report potential instances of human trafficking—and also educate travelers about modern-day slavery through their in-flight magazine and website.
At a conference on modern-day slavery in the Vatican last week, U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (R–NJ) made note of Delta Air Lines’ groundbreaking efforts. Smith has long been a supporter of anti-slavery efforts. Last July, he took part in a Capitol Hill briefing on how airlines can work to help stop human trafficking, in which he said, “It has come to my attention that U.S. airlines are being exploited as trafficking routes into the United States. Women and children are being transported to lives of slavery in broad daylight, shrouded only by the lack of awareness or inaction of these around them.” Read Smith’s full letter here (PDF)
Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, head of the U.S. State Department’s human trafficking office was also in attendance at last week’s Vatican conference. He reaffirmed the importance of businesses—such as major airlines—incorporating human trafficking awareness and prevention techniques into their staff training programs. The Ambassador said, “It will take private-sector corporations collaborating with countries across regions to … figure out where trafficking exists and how to fight it.”
UN-affiliated NGO Airline Ambassadors International (AAI)—in collaboration with anti-slavery group Innocents at Risk—has also taken action to bring airlines into the anti-slavery movement. They created a training program to educate airline professionals to spot signs of human trafficking. AAI President Nancy Rivard says that airline workers are in a unique position to monitor and thwart trafficking as it happens.”Flight attendants and pilots can play a key role as eyes and ears for international security efforts,” she says. she has called for all U.S. airlines to incorporate human trafficking prevention into their staff safety training, and to make the human trafficking hotline available to passengers.
CNN’s year-long Freedom Project continues to churn out great coverage on modern-day slavery. We were excited to see Amanda Kloer’s (editor of Change.org‘s Human Trafficking blog) recent article highlighting the importance of the U.S. government appointing a special envoy to Congo—a position that Free the Slave actively supports.
Earlier this month, several U.S. Senators joined the chorus calling for the special envoy appointment. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and a bipartisan group of 14 other Senators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to take swift action to help stabilize the Great Lakes region. Read the letter here (PDF).
The ongoing conflict in Congo is the deadliest war in the world. Millions have already lost their lives in the battle between warring rebel militias and the national army and the associated decay of infrastructure and institutions. The battle to control the country’s vast mineral wealth and the slave labor that harvests those minerals is fueling the continuation of the fighting and suffering.
Since September 2009, FTS teams have been working in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to uncover the extent of slavery and develop effective strategies for ending it.
Earlier this year FTS joined seven other human rights organizations (Africa Faith & Justice Network, A Thousand Sisters, Enough! Project, Falling Whistles, Friends of the Congo, Jewish World Watch and STAND) to urge President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and others in the U.S. State Department to appoint a Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
FTS believes that the appointment of a Special Envoy is of utmost urgency. Congo’s elections are just months away, and many more long-term challenges ahead, it will be impossible without a senior-level envoy to achieve a coordinated U.S. and international policy in time to have the needed impact on these elections and other progress.
A special envoy has the potential to bridge the divides that currently exist between various U.S. agencies and embassies working on issues in the Congo. The envoy would report directly to the Secretary of State or the White House and would would play an instrumental role in pushing forward a comprehensive policy for Congo—especially with regards to eradicating slavery in the mines.
Further strengthening the rationale for a speedy appointment, a Special Envoy to the Great Lakes is a legal requirement under Public Law 109-456. It was President Obama himself, as a freshman senator in 2005 and 2006 that proposed the bill that became PL 109-456 AND the bill was co-sponsored by then Senator Clinton and passed with bipartisan support.
WHY IS THE APPOINTMENT TAKING SO LONG?
Many challenges exist to the appointment of a special envoy, despite PL 109-456. Budget realities confront the present administration and have created a wariness to support an additional special envoy in the administration. Furthermore, previous efforts to appoint a Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region have reportedly been met with resistance from State Department officials who feel it might disrupt conventional chains of command. Read more about FTS’ position and others, like Ben Affleck that are advocating for a special envoy in the Congo.
In this week’s round-up of slavery news in the U.S. and around the world we have: possibly a new school for Texan Johns; Missouri cracks down hard on traffickers and increases support for victims; Columbia, Italy, and Taiwan receive high praise for their efforts to eradicate trafficking inside their borders; and a new report highlights U.S. as a “hot spot” destination for enslaved people from Argentina. Here are the links:
- Researchers commissioned by the U.S. Department of State recognized Columbia, Italy, and Taiwan as the top three countries that “deserve high recognition for [their] efforts to eliminate cross-border human trafficking.” The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, issued annually by the U.S. Department of State, reported that “Taiwanese authorities took various corrective measures to fight trafficking in 2009, including banning for-profit marriage brokerage firms and implementing the Human Trafficking Prevention and Control Act,” which went into effect in June 2009. Read more at Focus Taiwan.
- Texas may be getting a “John School.” In an attempt to attack the demand side of the equation that creates the market for trafficking women and girls into sex slavery the Texas House has passed a bill which would authorize “the creation of first-offender programs at the local level for eligible first-time prostitution and trafficking offenders.” Read the full story at OpposingViews.com.
- The Missouri legislature is aiming to crack down hard on traffickers in their state. They have passed and sent a bill to the governor that would “give victims a minimum $100,000 award and further assistance through the Department of Public Safety.” The bill was passed unanimously by both houses. Read the full story at CBS St. Louis.
- The Latin American and Caribbean Coalition Against Human Trafficking has released a new report that “suggests that over 80 percent of those trafficked [from Argentina] to the US work as sex workers under false pretenses.” In addition to the U.S., Thailand, Japan, Israel, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy are ranked as top destination countries for forced labor and forced prostitution. See PressTV’s coverage here.
If you missed our earlier coverage of slavery in the news, get caught up on all your slavery current event reading by checking out our earlier post. Links: Slavery in the News (May 12).
Editor’s note: This blog post was written by Benjamin Skinner, a longtime friend of Free the Slaves who won the 2009 Dayton Literary Peace prize for his book A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery. To learn more about Mr. Skinner’s work as an investigative journalist and abolitionist, check out his website here.
Sex Slaves-UK, which premiered this past Sunday, May 22, at 9pm EST, documents the efforts of the British police to root out sex trafficking networks. Human bondage is a problem as old as recorded history, and England is where the organized fight against it began.
There, in the late eighteenth century, the first international human rights movement took shape when Wilberforce, Clarkson, Equiano and others pressed to abolish the slave trade, an effort magisterially portrayed in Adam Hochschild’s Bury the Chains. Those vanguard abolitionists inspired their brothers and sisters across the pond, including Douglass, Garrison, Truth, and Tubman. That American struggle culminated in the Civil War—the sesquicentennial of which we mark this spring—the Thirteenth Amendment and the Emancipation Proclamation.
Not to be outdone, in the late nineteenth century, British journalists reclaimed the abolitionist mantle by first crusading against sex slavery in urban England, then by uncovering the extent of Belgium’s slave empire in the Congo Free State. E.D. Morel, who conducted the Congo investigations, triggered the third abolitionist movement, also magnificently described by Hochschild in King Leopold’s Ghost.
Now, at the start of what Kevin Bales—President of Free The Slaves, the American wing of Wilberforce and Clarkson’s organization—has dubbed The Fourth and Final Abolitionist Movement. Britons are once again trying to slay the 5,000-year-old snake. As I explain in The Huffington Post, the modern British effort is a far cry from its eighteenth century forebears, but it certainly makes for engrossing television. Sex Slaves-UK is worth a watch.
(post script: As long as I’m given the opportunity to gratuitously plug Hochschild, his latest, To End All Wars, out this month, is typically brilliant.)
Last year, Ben Skinner was featured on CNN’s Larry King Live, along with Dan Rather, Mira Sorvino and Julia Ormond. The topic was modern-day slavery. Watch a clip here.