Christian Engagement in US Anti-trafficking Activism: Precedents and Contexts (Part 1)

This is the first of a two-part post adapted from Letitia M. Campbell and Yvonne C. Zimmerman, “Christian Ethics and Human Trafficking Activism: Progressive Christianity and Social Critique,” Journal of the Society for Christian Ethics 34:1 (2014). Part 1 examines briefly the history and impact of Christian activism on anti-trafficking initiatives in the United States. Part 2 will focus on feminism, evangelicalism and anti-trafficking. 

Yvonne is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio near Columbus, OH and Letitia is a Ph.D. candidate and Woodruff Scholar in religion, ethics and society at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. Since 2012 they have been collaborating on developing analyses of and response to human trafficking from a progressive Christian perspective that includes queer, feminist and antiracist commitments.

The significant involvement of evangelical Christians in anti-trafficking activism and advocacy has been widely noted by politicians, legislators, scholars, activists, and social service providers — sometimes approvingly, sometimes with concern. The historical roots of this involvement are less widely discussed, but they are nonetheless critical for understanding the ways that Christian theologies have shaped the goals and strategies of the contemporary US movement to end human trafficking.


Smarter Funding for Anti-Trafficking Work

This post is by Rebecca Napier-Moore and Mike Dottridge, who have just edited the September 2014 issue of the Anti-Trafficking Review published by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women. The issue is themed Following the Money: Spending on anti-trafficking. Six authors contributed research to the volume and five others wrote opinion pieces on how to best spend 10 million dollars in anti-trafficking work. Rebecca and Mike also trawled through mountains of data on anti-trafficking funding to compile a Global Funding Information Sheet and wrote an article (Do We Know Where the Money for Anti-Trafficking is Going?) for discussion at a workshop last year. No research had been done previously on money trails in anti-trafficking work.

Rebecca Napier-Moore is Editor of the Anti-Trafficking Review. She is also a consultant, working most recently for the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development and UNWomen and has published on women’s empowerment, migrants’ rights, and accountability in anti-trafficking.

Mike Dottridge was guest editor of the September 2014 issue of the Anti-Trafficking Review and is a consultant on human rights issues, based in the United Kingdom. He has previously worked for Amnesty International and for Anti-Slavery International, where he was Director. He is a trustee for the United Nations Voluntary Fund on contemporary forms of slavery, a fund that gives grants worth about USD 0.5 million a year, with about half going to assist people who have been trafficked.

Lots of people talk about money in anti-trafficking work. The ILO has tried to estimate the profits related to forced labour, with a figure of USD 150 billion a year gaining traction. Others have tried to estimate the ‘cost of a slave,’ though we are not sure what this kind of estimate is supposed to achieve apart from fundraising and PR. Governments and businesses are starting to try to ensure ‘trafficking free’ investments and supply chains.

Very rarely does anyone talk about the money that governments and philanthropists give to end trafficking. Doing so involves critiquing a sector that most people see as doing unqualifiedly good work. Critiquing the way money is spent or how much of it is spent involves ‘biting the hand that feeds’ and funds the work. No development/aid sector is perfect, however, and frank conversations about financial transparency are vital to accountability – accountability not only to funders, but also to the people who are supposed to benefit from anti-trafficking funding. (more…)

A work shift? The labour approach to trafficking for forced labour in the Greater Mekong Subregion

This week’s contribution to the blog is written by Marja Paavilainen and Anna Olsen. For thousands of migrant workers in the Greater Mekong Subregion trafficking for forced labour is an everyday risk. This article explores ways that a ‘labour approach’ can prevent such exploitation and protect the rights of victims, particularly measures included in the ILO’s new legally binding Protocol on forced labour.

Marja Paavilainen is Chief Technical Adviser of the Forced Labour Action in the Asian Region (FLARE project) in the ILO Decent Work Technical Support Team for East and South-East Asia and the Pacific, based in Bangkok. Anna Olsen is Technical Officer, Tripartite Action to Protect the Rights of Migrant Workers in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS TRIANGLE project) in the ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, also based in Bangkok. To find out more on ILO work on forced labour, trafficking in persons and labour migration in the Asia Pacific region, please visit: AP-Forced Labour Net and AP-Migration. 

The link between voluntary migration, trafficking in persons and forced labour is expressly recognized in the new Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29). In the Greater Mekong Subregion, there is already broad recognition that trafficking for forced labour occurs primarily where migrant workers from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam are deceived or coerced into exploitative situations during the process of voluntarily moving from their homes in search of decent work. The moment when voluntary migration transforms into a trafficking or forced labour experience is hard to pinpoint; it can happen in the country of origin, when debt bondage conditions are placed on the migrant, or in training centres when freedom of movement is restricted. Or, it can happen after arrival in the country of destination, as in the example below. (more…)

Au pair?: the tenuous protection of live-in nannies

I have embarked on the journey dreaded by any London parent – the search for affordable childcare. My search so far has shown that rather than spending the average minimum of £12,000 a year, I could get childcare for as little as £3 per hour (well below the national minimum wage), plus bed and board, by getting an au pair. While nurseries and childminders (individuals who care for a limited number of children in their own home) are regulated and inspected by OFSTED, and nannies are considered formal employees and thus due relevant rights, the world of the au pair, who lacks the status of “worker” seems absent from oversight.  The result is that au pairs (often young women) are potentially vulnerable to harsh and inappropriate working conditions. (more…)

Clearing the Slate for Trafficking Survivors

We would like to warmly welcome a post by Suzannah Phillips, International Women’s Human Rights Clinic Fellow at CUNY School of Law.  Suzannah supervises students in the anti-trafficking project at CUNY School of Law’s International Women’s Human Rights Clinic (IWHR Clinic) to assist trafficking survivors to clear criminal convictions from their record. She is also a primary author of a new report published by the IWHR Clinic entitled Clearing the Slate: Seeking Effective Remedies for Criminalized Trafficking Victims.

All too often, individuals who are trafficked into or within the sex trade come into contact with the criminal justice system following arrest for offenses that they are compelled to engage in as a result of the trafficking situation. Rather than being recognized as victims, many are prosecuted and convicted and are then haunted by these criminal records long after they have escaped from the trafficking situation.

Because sex work is a crime throughout the majority of the U.S., individuals trafficked into or within the sex trade are at risk of arrest for prostitution and loitering for prostitution. Trafficking victims also may be compelled to engage in—or may be arrested for or convicted of—other illicit behavior as a result of the trafficking, particularly where an arresting officer is unable to document sufficient facts for a prostitution charge. Trafficking victims involved in the sex trade are vulnerable to arrest for vagrancy, trespass, disorderly conduct, crimes against nature, larceny, and drug and immigration offenses. (more…)

Improving the Statistics and Prevalence Data on Human Trafficking in the United States

Lisa Fedina is a PhD student in the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Her research interests include family and gender-based violence, sex trafficking, trauma, and violence prevention. She has worked with adult and child sex trafficking victims and also managed a statewide anti-trafficking initiative led by the Illinois Department of Human Services in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She is a member of the National Research Consortium on Commercial Sexual Exploitation.


Nearly 15 years have passed since human trafficking was first legally recognized and criminalized under the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons (2000) and the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2000). To date, the U.S. federal government has allocated over 500 million dollars to combat human trafficking domestically and internationally; yet, only 2,515 domestic human trafficking incidents were investigated by law enforcement between the years of 2008 and 2010; and only 46,000 human trafficking victims were identified worldwide in 2012 (note: this is the most recent data available). Similarly, the U.S. Department of Justice prosecuted only 125 human trafficking cases in 2011, though this was a 19% increase from 2010 and the highest number of cases prosecuted in one year. Human trafficking has certainly received a great deal of attention over the past decade and the number of trafficking prosecutions seems to be improving, but our understanding of the overall scale of the problem and the number of victims in the U.S. and globally remains unknown. Attempts have been made to measure the problem, but these estimates are unreliable, based on flawed or unscientific methodologies, and are vastly disproportionate from one another. (more…)

‘Our Voices’: hearing from young people affected by sexual violence

This week’s guest post is written by Claire Cody. Claire is a Research Fellow at the International Centre: Researching Child Sexual Exploitation, Violence and Trafficking at the University of Bedfordshire. Claire is Project Lead for ‘Our Voices’, a three-year pan-European project funded by the Oak Foundation. Prior to joining the Centre, Claire worked for Plan International’s Headquarters and was Oak Fellow at the Centre for Rural Childhood where she developed Home: The Child Recovery and Reintegration Network.

‘Our Voices’ builds on work undertaken by a team at the International Centre. The Centre prioritises children and young people’s participation. Recent projects include: working with young people living in gang-affected communities to develop short films related to stopping sexual violence; and supporting young people to develop resources for professionals and other young people about health and sexual exploitation as part of the ‘Be Healthy’ project. One of the Centre’s current project’s, Making Justice Work, uses participatory research methods with young people to understand their experiences of the justice system and to explore how the system could be improved for those affected by child sexual exploitation.



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