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This week we welcome a guest post by Mike Dottridge. The author was the director of Anti-Slavery International between 1996 and 2002. For the past decade he has worked independently as a consultant on human rights and child rights issues. In 2002 Mike was one of the experts invited by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to help prepare a set of Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking(issued by the High Commissioner in May 2002). He is the author of numerous publications on issues linked to exploitation and trafficking, including a UNICEF reference guide on child trafficking.
It was in August 2013, when UK Home Secretary Theresa May announced that she intended to present a Bill on ‘modern slavery’, that Britain once again began invoking the memory of William Wilberforce and the 200-year old campaign against slavery in its efforts to combat human trafficking. Caroline Parkes has already pointed out weaknesses in the provisions of the draft Bill published last December.
So what are the reasons for and against using the term ‘modern slavery’ to describe the patterns of exploitation occurring in the UK today that many British MPs and other people think should be illegal? (more…)
The inevitable media backlash against the trials and convictions of “celebrities” for the sexual exploitation of girls has begun in the UK. The long-simmering idea that children could be complicit in, and indeed consent to their own abuse, has surfaced. For example, Eddie Shah, a former owner of the Today newspaper, found not guilty of six counts of rape of a girl under the age of 16, said in an interview:
Rape was a technical thing – below a certain age. But these girls were going out with pop groups and becoming groupies and throwing themselves at them… If we’re talking about girls who just go out and have a good time, then they are to blame. If we talk about people who go out and actually get ‘raped’ raped, then I feel no … everything should be done against that.
A column by Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail focused heavily on the dropping of sexual offences charges against another entertainer, Jim Davidson, accusing the associated police operation, Yewtree, of becoming a witch-hunt. These public pronouncements, notably by men, have been matched by worrying developments in a recent sexual assault case in which the prosecuting barrister, Robert Colover, described the 13-year-old victim as “predatory in all her actions and she is sexually experienced.” The defendant was found guilty of sexual activity with a child, among other offences, but was given a suspended sentence. Criticism, including from the Lord Chief Justice, was levelled at the judge in the case for his comments at sentencing that the victim “looked and behaved older”, a factor he took into account when deciding the sentence. (more…)
The mere mention of human trafficking gangs suggests a seedy, clandestine underbelly of organized international criminal syndicates focused on profiting from the exploitation of vulnerable individuals. The terms “gang”, “syndicate” and “organized crime group” are bandied about the anti-trafficking world on a regular basis as descriptors for those who undertake, facilitate and/or enable exploitation. But when interrogated, the terms become slightly opaque, perhaps challenging perceptions about the actors complicit in human trafficking. (more…)
Officially launched in January 2012, The Trafficking Research Project is celebrating the successful completion of our first year. In retrospect, we’ve been busy – diving head-first into what has ultimately proven to be a productive and interesting initiation into the world of human trafficking research. Our first few months entailed extensive desk-based research on trafficking, alongside an effort to (re) establish connections to local and global expertise to inform our work. Luckily, Singaporean civil society organisations, researchers, and foreign representatives were receptive to meeting with us. This work provided us with an insight into human trafficking (and efforts to combat it) in Singapore as well as allowing us to develop an understanding of the sector and where we could best add value. It also resulted in a happy confluence of our previous experience and our organisational goals: to occupy the space between policy, research and practice. (more…)
Another anti-trafficking event; another tear-streaked verse of “We Shall Overcome”. Nothing divides a conference like the predictable videography of trafficked individuals set to music. The reaction is palpable, split between professionals working in the field (those who’ve begrudgingly attended) who avert their eyes out of embarrassment or jaded passivity and the newcomers, moved by visual imagery and heartbreaking accounts. Having attended scores of practitioner and advocate conferences on diverse and sensitive issues, including domestic violence, child abuse, sexual violence and gangs; never have we been subjected to such emotional appeals in a professional environment as in the field of human trafficking. This is not limited to Singapore, of course. At the Oslo Freedom Forum, Julia Ormond reportedly “ended an otherwise thoughtful talk on supply-chain slavery by singing ‘Amazing Grace’. With an echo effect.” (more…)