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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A year in review: TTRP blog turns 2

The Trafficking Research Project has gone from strength to strength in our second year.  We have expanded our geographic scope to include the United States, gained high profile contributors and seen our blog “hits” increase substantially.  TTRP also launched our new logo, with credit and thanks to Alex Kim.  We continued to strategically define our organisational purpose and value, made a number of submissions to consultations and inquiries, were active participants in Singapore’s civil society forum on trafficking and monitored the development of legislation in a number of jurisdictions.

TTRP kicked off the year by responding to a call for submissions from the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade.  Treading well-worn ground, the inquiry sought to “assess the operation of the current legal settlement on prostitution in England and Wales”, our submission focused on highlighting the dangers of criminalising sex workers and the problems with the much lauded Swedish model.  We also critiqued the consultation process for the UK’s draft Modern Slavery Bill.  In Singapore, we highlighted our concerns about the State’s response to the riots in Little India, and commented on to the US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report’s assessment of the Singapore’s approach to trafficking. (more…)

Singapore’s National Plan of (In)Action: two years on.

March 21st marks the two-year anniversary of the Singapore Inter-Agency Taskforce’s launch of an Action Plan to combat human trafficking. Mirroring 2012, 2013 produced little substance in the way of anti-trafficking initiatives. As Singapore’s landscape shifts, it becomes clear that the anti-trafficking Taskforce is operating in a silo, failing to engage with broader underlying labor concerns affecting exploited individuals. TTRP has previously commented on the lack of action by the Taskforce in both our response to the US TIP Report and our six-month review of the NPA. Continued silence by Government on human trafficking enables an easy review of 2013: a lack of transparency and substantial collaboration with NGOs has resulted in a failure to account for progress achieved across all stated objectives of the plan. (more…)

After trafficking. The (re)integration needs and experiences of trafficked children.

Regular contributor Rebecca Surtees from the NEXUS Institute is back this week. This post focuses on one of the findings identified in “After Trafficking. Experiences and challenges in the (re)integration of trafficked persons in the GMS”, a regional study of (re)integration in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS). The research study was commissioned by the six COMMIT governments as part of the 2nd and 3rd COMMIT Sub-regional Plan of Action (2008-2010 and 2011-2013). The study, conducted by NEXUS Institute, analysed the effectiveness of (re)integration processes and structures from the point of view of trafficked persons and the service providers that support them, uncovering whether and to what extent services currently offered to trafficking victims and their families are meeting their (re)integration needs, including any unmet assistance needs. The study was coordinated by the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) and was overseen by a Regional Working Group comprised of Save the Children UK, World Vision International, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), NEXUS Institute and UNIAP. 

This study was based on in-depth interviews with 252 trafficked persons from all six countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) about their experiences of (re)integration, including successes and challenges, as well as future plans and aspirations. The study included persons who had been identified and assisted, as well as those who were not identified and/or did not receive assistance. Understanding the diverse and complex post-trafficking trajectories sheds light on a wide range of issues and dynamics at play in the (re)integration processes in the GMS. It also highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of existing (re)integration mechanisms and processes. (more…)

Visually affected. Campaigning the post-Oscar sexy.

At a human trafficking event at the National University of Singapore in September 2012 journalist Benjamin Skinner spoke about the conditions of quarry workers in India to “put a human face on statistics”. He proceeded to tell the audience, “the vast majority [of slaves] are born into debt bondage” and predicted, “in the US, every half hour one person becomes a slave” (I can find no evidence for either statistic). As I sift through post-Award season media reverie commending the success of 12 Years a Slave and the Director’s subsequent recruitment as Patron of Anti-Slavery International and Ambassador of Polaris Project, I am reminded of a similarly unquestioned use of conflating narratives.

The intent of this post is not to vilify campaigners, or anyone involved in the film. It is intended to highlight another missed opportunity to engage in critical discourse with the public about the complications of human trafficking. There are clear lessons to be learned through international and intercultural dialogue, but that dialogue should be inclusive of conversations about weaknesses and differences, not only success. It should also be contingent on cultural and geographic context, mindful of impacts, especially in countries with emerging policy change. In discussions facilitated by this movie, we hope to see the production of evaluations completed by organizations that highlight the outcomes of such campaigns on public understandings of human trafficking. (more…)

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