As Congressman of the Sarangani province in the Philippines, boxing champion Manny Pacquiao seems to be making the eradication of slavery and human trafficking a high priority. In July, about a month after being sworn into the House of Representatives, Pacquiao spoke at an anti-human trafficking event in Manila, “gamely posing for the media wearing red boxing gloves,” (as one report put it) and declaring “an all-out war against human trafficking.”
The latest news? There is zero budget in the government anti-human trafficking agency. And, Representative Pacquiao is fighting for funds. The Inter Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) was created after the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003. But, without funds, its power to prevent slavery is—as Pacquiao says—weak “against the more powerful and well-heeled human trafficking syndicates”
Pacquiao also said that Philippine law should be changed to allow disclosure of the identities of suspected traffickers, saying “It’s so unfair. It’s alright if we don’t divulge the real name of the victims, but not of the traffickers. How can our countrymen know who to avoid if the traffickers are protected by law?”
Currently, the Philippines is a Tier 2 country in the Trafficking in Persons Report, put out annually by the US State Department. Once a country falls to Tier 3, they can be ineligible to receive US foreign aid. Read the 2010 TIP report here.
In 2008, Free the Slaves gave the William Wilberforce Freedom Award to Amihan Abueva, founder of the Philippine-based anti-slavery organization ECPAT. ECPAT was created in 1991 to end sexual exploitation of children. They have a presence in more than 70 countries, and has helped the passage of a number of Philippine laws to punish perpetrators and protect survivors. They have collaborated with the global tourisn industry to prevent child sex tourism. Read more about Amihan and ECPAT here.
Change.org and California-based anti-human trafficking organization Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking just launched a petition calling for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign two pieces of legislation that seek to eliminate slavery in California’s supply chain. As part of ATEST, Free the Slaves has officially endorsed one of these bills—SB 657, the California Supply Chain Transparency Act.
Today it is estimated that nearly 12.3 million people—equal to nearly one-third of California’s total population — are working in some form of forced labor worldwide.
Across the country, existing state and federal laws make human trafficking a crime, while providing various remedies and supports to victims. Yet, state and federal laws have done little to address the growing markets that consume products tainted with slavery and trafficking.
In September 2009, the US Department of Labor released its “List of Goods Produced by Child or Forced Labor.” The report found nearly 122 goods from 58 countries that are believed to be tainted with forced and/or child labor.
Undoubtedly, many of those goods are consumed in California—home to the 10th largest economy in the world with hundreds of billions of dollars of imports pouring into the state each year. California consumers and businesses—by the nature and scope of their purchasing power—are uniquely positioned to eradicate slavery and trafficking through their purchasing choices.
Ron Soodalter, co-author (with Free the Slaves President Kevin Bales) of The Slave Next Door has posted a piece on Huffington Post, calling for support of the California Transparency in Supply Chains act. This bill would require California companies that make over $100,0000 a year to post what they are doing to ensure that slavery is kept out of their supply chain. The Slave Next Door investigates slavery within the US, and posits that slavery never really went away. The book is being released in paperback today, August 23—which just happens to coincide with the International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade.
This past June, Free the Slaves, along with our partners in ATEST, endorsed this bill in a letter to the California Assembly Judiciary Committee. You can download our statement here.)
Here is Soodalter’s post from HuffPo:
In just a few days, we will commemorate the International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade. Although most of us might be unaware that the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade lasted some 350 years, we do tend to believe that slavery is a thing of the past — that the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment banished it forever from our shores and that America has been slavery-free ever since.
Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. Most Americans are unaware of the extent to which both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens are victimized by human trafficking and various forms of slavery in our country today. And if we think that our own lives are untainted by the products of slave labor, we must think again. As Free the Slaves president Kevin Bales and I point out in the newly updated paperback edition of The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today (UC Press, 8/23/2010), there’s a very good chance that the clothes we wear and the food we eat have been tainted by slavery. Cotton, that symbol of bondage in the pre-Civil War South, is now being picked by slave labor on three continents, and marketed as clothing here at home. The orange juice and tomatoes we have with our burgers at lunch could very well have come from a Mexican or Guatemalan immigrant working under coercion. The rug we walk on at home could have been woven in India, Pakistan or Nepal by one of a hundred thousand child slaves, seven, eight, nine years old. Cell phones and lap tops require an element called tantalum; it comes from an ore that is mined in the Congo, often by slaves.