Sofia, a former victim of sex trafficking. Photo courtesy of Nicole Bengiveno, New York Times.

Some of them run away. Some of them simply have nowhere to go.

But the lives of prostitutes—often coerced into sex slavery—are usually misunderstood.

Trafficking is considered the third largest industry for organized crime, generating billions of dollars annually.

Here’s a news roundup of some recent news stories about sex trafficking:

New York Times: “Shining Light on the Role of Drivers in Prostitution” by Christine Haughney:

Sofia, a sweet-voiced and cherubic 24-year-old, was one of the lucky ones: She managed to escape much of the suffering shared by the millions of sex workers trafficked throughout the world, and even saw two of her traffickers forced out of the country and back to Mexico.

But the young woman said she still feels that complete justice has eluded her, because the drivers who ferried her from john to john, her de facto bosses, remain at large.

Deseret News: “Stolen Innocence: The battle against modern-day slavery in the US” by Elizabeth Stuart:

ATLANTA — Maybe it was the defiant glint in her eye. Maybe it was the way she dragged her feet on the way to join the other underage girls in tube tops and 8-inch heels hawking their bodies in a bad part of Atlanta. Keisha Head wasn’t sure. But somehow Sir Charles always knew when she was considering trying to escape.

“You better not be thinkin’ ’bout leaving,” the pimp would say. “You know what’s gonna happen.”

CBS News: “Captive sex slave for 10 years tells her story” by CBS News:

 For 10 years, Tanya Kach, of McKeesport, Pa., was held as a sex slave under her abductor’s complete control. Now, she’s come out to tell her amazing survival story.

In 1996, Kach was a 14-year-old girl carrying around grown-up problems. Her parents were splitting up. And, like most girls that age, adjusting to the teenage years was tough.

Read more>>

Links: Slavery in the News

Skyline of Baku, Azerbaijan, where the USAID and OSCE signed an agreement last week to cooperate to combat modern-day slavery.

In this week’s news, several organizations have made attempts to not only aid the victims of human trafficking, but also to introduce new resolutions to combat slavery. Both New York’s Legal Aid Society and the U.N. Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human trafficking launched projects to assist formerly trafficked humans through financial, humanitarian, and legal aid. Other efforts include global partnerships working to strengthen systems of justice internationally. Read below about these inspiring initiatives!

  • Latimes.com: New sex-trafficking law in New York clears prostitute’s record: “A new New York law that recognizes minors forced into the sex trade as victims not criminals was used Wednesday to cleanse the record of a former Bronx prostitute.”  After eight years under the control of pimps, twenty-two year-old Leni Johnson has shed her former convictions. In addition, New York’s Legal Aid Society “launched a pilot project focused on the comprehensive needs of women who are victimized at a young age.”
  • Trend: The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and USAID join forces to combat modern-slavery in Azerbaijan: The United States Agency for International Development has signed a grant agreement with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to combat human trafficking. “The grant will also strengthen access to justice, fund legal resource centers in Sheki and Lankaran, and provide free legal assistance and information to the public.” U.S. Ambassador to Baku, Mathew Bryza, explained, “There is already strong cooperation between the U.S. and Azerbaijani governments in fighting this form of personal slavery.”
  • Examiner.com: Fight against sex trafficking linked to immigration reform: National Immigration Reform has been deemed essential in fighting human trafficking. “Those who are either victims or witnesses are reluctant to report criminals for fear of being arrested themselves or deported,” allowing Arizona to become a hub for human trafficking. In other news, Mexico’s two most important newspapers have agreed to stop publishing sex ads, “a staple of the papers’ advertising revenue.”
  • U.N. News Centre: World must do better to tackle human trafficking, stresses Assembly President: In the second ministerial meeting of the Group of Friends United Against Human Trafficking, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser called “for redoubling efforts to ensure that the rights and freedoms of every person are upheld.” His proposed plan calls on the international community to adopt “good governance” and to provide debt relief, measures that should help limit the supply and demand for trafficking. The U.N. Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking launched a project to aid the victims of human trafficking.

The University of Michigan Law School is continuing to be a groundbreaking, legal resource for the U.S. anti-slavery movement.

In 2009, the school opened the country’s first legal clinic dealing exclusively with human trafficking. Directed by Professor Bridgette Carr, the Human Trafficking Law Project (HTLP) and  Human Trafficking Clinic (HTC) is a practical testing ground for the implementation of U.S. anti-slavery laws. “Human Trafficking laws are new and untested,” the clinic’s website says. Students who take part in the program “will and continue to be instrumental in protecting victims’ rights, in shaping the policy conversation, and in drafting the language used in amendments to trafficking laws.”

INTERACTIVE DATABASE OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING CASES

Now, the clinic has launched a public, interactive database of U.S. human trafficking prosecutions and law suits. This is an invaluable resource for everyone in the anti-slavery movement. Here is what the the HTLP says about the database:

“The goal of the project is to provide information for advocates, lawmakers, law enforcement, governments, nongovernmental organizations, and media to use in combating human trafficking. For example, lawyers could use the information in the database to frame their cases and research what other tactics have been most successful in the past.”

You can access the database here!

CROSS BORDER PARTNERSHIP

Last September, the clinic received federal funding to open another human trafficking legal clinic at a law school in Mexico, to address the “push factors” that force people into trafficking situations. Carr told the National Law Journal, “[H]ere in the U.S., we can do a lot as far as assisting prosecutors and victims of trafficking, [but] what we can’t work on as much is prevention, because we’re sitting here in Ann Arbor.”

Links: Slavery in the News

Mexican flags flying in the wind

  • Energy Publisher: Human trafficking begins to eclipse drug trade in Mexico: “Unfortunately, [Mexico's President] Calderón’s attack on drug cartels has left few resources to combat human trafficking. Mexico has tried to address the issue through legal changes to combat trafficking as recently as 2007, when ‘federal legislation to prohibit all forms of drug trafficking’ was passed. Nonetheless, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking of Persons Report 2010, ‘some local officials tolerate and are sometimes complicit in trafficking, impeding the implementation of anti-trafficking statutes.’”

Read about University of Michigan’s Law School opening a new legal clinic in Mexico.

  • CTV: In Winnipeg, Canada, MP Honors Survivors of Human Trafficking: “Timea Nagy was the daughter of police officer in Budapest, Hungry. In 1998, she answered an ad to be a nanny in Toronto, but when she arrived the ‘agency’ that brought her to Canada made her work at a strip club and in the sex trade instead… ‘You don’t know who to trust and you don’t know anything about Canada or the Canadian people. The only thing you know is what they’re telling you in your own language, which is Canadians are going to take you and rape you and kill you,’ Nagy said. Nagy rescued herself after two and a half months by buying a dictionary to learn English and getting help from other employees at the strip club.”

Read about Canada launching a major human trafficking awareness campaign.

  • The Nation: The Wall Comes Tumbling Down: “At a news conference on a farm outside of Immokalee in southwest Florida, Jon Esformes, operating partner of the fourth-generation, family-owned Pacific Tomato Growers—one of the five largest growers in the nation with more than 14,000 acres in the US and Mexico—declared, “In a free society, few are guilty, but all are responsible.” And with that he announced an agreement with the 4000-memberCoalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to implement a penny per pound pay raise—which stands to increase workers’ annual earnings from about $10,000 to as much as $17,000—and establish a code of conduct that includes an external complaint resolution system, shade and protective equipment in the fields, and a worker-to-worker education process on their rights under the new agreement.

Read how “Miguel” was enslaved in Florida’s orange groves, and found freedom with the help of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

University of Michigan professor Bridget Carr launched the first U.S. student legal clinic dealing exclusively with human trafficking.

Last year, the University of Michigan Law School opened the country’s first legal clinic dealing exclusively in human trafficking. The clinic is run by professor Bridgette Carr—who, earlier this year, helped open a similar legal clinic at Alexandria University in Egypt, focusing on human trafficking and domestic violence.

Last week, it was announced that the University of Michigan Law School received a $300,000 grant from the U.S. State Department to create a human trafficking legal clinic at a law school in Mexico, Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas, Unidad Académica de Derecho. The clinic will work in collaboration with Centro de los Derechos del Migrante (CDM), the first Mexico-based legal advocacy NGO to focus solely on the rights of migrant workers in the U.S.

Carr told the National Law Journal yesterday that this cross border partnership can help comprehensively combat slavery, because the push factors that result in migrant workers becoming vulnerable to trafficking will be addressed. Currently, she said, the Michigan clinic is limited in its ability to prevent the crime, “because we’re sitting here in Ann Arbor.”

One law student who works at the clinic said, “Like many people I was under the misconception that [human trafficking] was an international problem. More of a foreign problem. And the clinic has dispelled my notions. It’s a domestic problem as well.”

Cases that the University of Michigan’s Human Trafficking Clinic has worked on include the sex trafficking of college students from Europe who thought they were coming to the U.S. in a study abroad program—but were forced to work in a strip club in Detroit, servicing clients for no pay, beaten, and in one case, systematically raped.

Find out more about the University of Michigan’s Human Trafficking Clinic—and watch a video about their work—here.