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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Tech Tonic

Digital activism is permeating the anti-trafficking field. In an effort to raise awareness among a broad audience, social media, online petitions and websites such as the Slavery Map (intended to document global instances of slavery) and Slavery Footprint are being created to educate and involve the public in discussions on human trafficking. The latter website, for instance, is an interactive quiz that evaluates the extent to which the participant may be complicit in human trafficking activities in everyday life. Unfortunately, while the website taps into the oft-ignored issue of supply chains, it is accompanied by a “dramatic commercial depicting modern day slavery” that arguably detracts from the message delivered through the quiz. Cue the sex trafficked women and the cameo by Abraham Lincoln.

In any case, other impressive sounding tools, such as crowdsourcing (asking for ideas or donations from a large group of people using Facebook, for example), digital mapping (compiling data to create a virtual image, like the Slavery Map above), natural language processing (enabling computers to derive information from, for instance, advertisements for sex) and facial recognition have collided with efforts to intercept human trafficking. (more…)

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Collective action: seizing opportunities in opposition

This week TTRP are pleased to present a jointly authored post with SWEAT – a sex workers rights organisation based in Cape Town, South Africa. SWEAT works to ensure that sex workers’ rights are defended, that sex workers have access to health and other services and that sex workers are respected and valued members of society. The organisation takes a rights-based approach to its work and has three central programs: Advocacy and Human Rights Defence; Outreach and Development; and Research and Knowledge Management. Their goals are to: advocate for the decriminalisation of adult sex work in South Africa; to address health and human rights abuses with sex workers; and to support the development of self-representation of sex workers on a national and continental level in issues affecting them. 

TTRP and our blog guests have previously highlighted difficulties within the anti-trafficking movement, and the NGO sector more broadly, of collaboration. This lack of collaboration between stakeholders is a chorus repeated ad nauseum, but, often overlooked, are the less public, daily exchanges that take place between groups that create space for opportunity and constructive engagement. (more…)

Non-English speakers need not apply

Detective Chief Inspector Nick Sumner from the London Metropolitan Police spoke recently at a Home Office conference on labour exploitation and UK industry about a case in which he had achieved a recent prosecution. A Romanian man with mental health issues ended up in hospital as a result of the abuse suffered during his exploitation. However, the circumstances regarding his abusive treatment were not revealed to the medical professionals treating him as his exploiters accompanied him to hospital and were acting as his interpreters. When he was eventually found by a police officer, sometime later, wandering the streets after escaping the house where he was kept, she was unable to communicate with him. It was only upon contact with the Romanian embassy that the full extent of his experience became clearer. Worryingly, it was only at this point that the police became aware that a young girl was still in the house and had been horrifically exploited for several years. This scenario serves as an example in which language functions as an inhibitor to ‘rescue’ and perpetuated a method of control over victims. (more…)

Minor practicalities: adolescents in the sex industry

The idea of adolescents working in the sex industry is not socially or politically palatable. In fact, under international law, prostitution is considered to be a form of severe exploitation for any individual under the age of 18 and constitutes one definition of child trafficking that does not necessitate the use of force, deception or coercion. There is widespread agreement that children should not participate in any form of sex work. As a result, older adolescents, those aged 16 and 17 who undertake sex work, usually fall into a policy black hole in which they lack access to much-needed services. This can be further compounded by instances in which an individual may work in an illegal industry (where sex work is illegal) and/or commit employment offenses (due to migration or age). (more…)