Tears of Color hosts “Abolishing Human Trafficking”

Tears of Color hosts “Abolishing Human Trafficking”

When people think of human trafficking, they often associate it with distant locales like Thailand or Eastern Europe, notes Elena Fesiuk, the director of Tears of Color, an organization working to educate the community about human trafficking. Unfortunately, however, victims of human trafficking — which the organization calls “the modern version of slavery” — are found across the country, closer to home than anyone would wish to acknowledge.

Tears of Color

“North Carolina is a primary destination state,” says Fesiuk: Victims (mostly teen girls) are brought to the state and used for labor and, most often, forced into prostitution, she explains. Most of these women are lured into slavery with false promises of work; many are runaways or come from troubled families, Fesiuk continues. And others are sold into sexual slavery. There are more than 27 million people living in slavery today, 80 percent of which are women, the organization reports.
In an effort educate the community and create a safe space to talk openly about this serious, emotionally weighted topic, Tears of Color will host a concert-for-a-cause called Abolishing: Human Trafficking, slated for Friday, May 7, at The Orange Peel. The evening will feature Americana/roots songstress Shannon Whitworth and pop/rock/classical-opera singer Mariya Fesiuk (sister in-law of Tears of Color’s director). In addition, Center Stage Dance Studio will present a dance piece focusing on the issue of trafficking. Art donated by Blend Photography, Jonas Gerard, Bernie Smolnik Photography, Vadim Bora Studio-Gallery and Mozingo Photography will be auctioned throughout the evening.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the global organization The A21 Campaign, aimed at abolishing injustice in the 21st century, and will also support a Western North Carolina organization called the Hope House Project.

The Hope House shelters teenage women who were victims of human trafficking. The organization provides counseling, therapy and educational support for victims to help them recover from physical and psychological abuse. A video documentary focusing on the story of a young woman recently sheltered at the Hope House — an American teen whose father sold her into sexual slavery for $5,000 — will be screened, and a community discussion will follow.

“Her story is absolutely tragic,” says Fesiuk. “This young girl began working for a pimp — 10 hours a night — starting at the age of 12.” In sharing this story, Fesiuk hopes to “educate the community about this issue and tell people how they can get involved.”

“It’s shocking because you look at these girls and think, you should be getting ready for your prom, thinking about college, living a normal life,” says Fesiuk, who works as a volunteer at the Hope House. “That’s why it’s so important for us to come together and stand up for this cause.”

Abolishing: Human Trafficking will be held on Friday, May 7. The silent auction begins at 6 p.m. and the evening program kicks off at 7 p.m. at The Orange Peel (101 Biltmore Ave., Asheville). Cost: $15. Tickets: theorangepeel.net. For more information, see http://www.tearsofcolor.com, http://www.hopehousenc.com and http://www.thea21campaign.org.

Government to build shelters for victims of human trafficking

Accra, May 4, GNA – The government would soon build two shelters in Accra and Kumasi to accommodate victims of human trafficking, Madam Hawawu Boya Gariba, Deputy Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs (MOWAC) disclosed on Tuesday.

She said this in a speech read for her at a three-day workshop in Accra organised by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Ghana, with the theme; “Protecting People on the Move in the ECOWAS Space.”

The workshop was organised by International Labour Organisation in partnership with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, High Commissioner for Human Rights and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

About 16 participants from four countries including Ghana are expected to participate.

Madam Gariba described human trafficking as a crime which needed to be eradicated in the society and that women and children were the most vulnerable victims.

She called for collective efforts in the fight against the menace and said government was committed to caring for the victims of human trafficking.

Madam Dyane Epstein, Chief Mission of the IOM, said the purpose of the workshop was to bring together a wide range of key stakeholders in the area of protection of migrants in order to build their capacity.

This, she said, would enable them to work in unison to implement the recommendations from previous meetings and strengthen mechanisms in place for nationals in the implementation of the ECOWAS Free Movement Protocol.

Madam Epstein said since 2000, IOM had worked with the ECOWAS secretariat to pilot various initiatives aimed at building the capacities of both the secretariat and member states.

“These activities reinforced the ECOWAS response to the challenges posed by migration in the region,” she said, adding that the co-operation had resulted in the organisation of a large regional conference on protection in the framework of mixed migration flows.

Mr Eric Boakye Peasah, Field Manager, Counter-Trafficking and Irregular Migration of IOM, Ghana, said a common approach on migration management was adopted during the 33rd Conference of Heads of States and governments of ECOWAS held in Ouagadougou in January 2008.

He said subsequently, on 3rd April 2009, the member states adopted a policy that would provide the region with the legal mechanism for protecting and assisting victims of trafficking.

“This policy seeks to establish and maintain a supportive and friendly environment that would provide victims with equitable access to facilities as well as to facilitate their integration and enable them to become functional members of society,” he said.

Mr Peasah added that the regional policy on protection and assistance to migrants marked a significant shift towards a more protection-focused response to mixed migration flows in the sub-region. GNA


She Survived Human Trafficking

Women and children sold for sex and labor and some of them end up dead.

An Oklahoma native says she was she was smuggled to Las Vegas and sold for sex in California, Florida, North Caroline, New York and many other states across the country.

This week advocates from Oklahomans Against Trafficking Humans (OATH) and Stop Child Trafficking Now are meeting for a conference in Norman, Oklahoma to better educate parents, law enforcement and advocates against human trafficking.

Sex slaves trapped in a tragic reality with their captors selling their bodies.

“I thought I was going to die. I thought my body was going to be a Jane Doe,” says “Jules”.

The survivor still living in fear doesn’t want to reveal her true identity.

“The traffickers I dealt with are not your local pimp they are bigger than me and you,” says “Jules.”

So big it’s known to work like a mob, organized crime where woman, teen girls, toddlers are smuggled and used as commodity.

“There are pedophiles that want really small children,” says “Jules”.

An underground market that “Jules” says is booming right here in this country.

“Organ trafficking, sex trafficking, illegal adoptions, identity theft also used as labor factories,” says “Jules”.

It’s a business and the younger the women, the more money they’re worth. “Jules” was 19 when she was trafficked for sex but she says she could be sold as a 13-year-old girl.

“I told this one client the truth and he said I bought $5,000 worth to be with a minor and that’s what I want. It wasn’t about ‘oh my goodness you’ve been trafficked let me help you’. None of the clients,” says “Jules”.

The only escape was to run away and countless times she would be punished or beaten with crowbar, yet she would still run.

“[They] put me in a bathtub filled up with ice and naked that way they wouldn’t see the bruises,” says “Jules”.

However, the real torture came from watching what happened to others.

“They would chain her to a bed and have a line of men raping her and beating her and we had to watch and that was a sign to let us know that you don’t disobey me,” says “Jules”.

“I remember as a child in Sunday school, ‘oh I would never want to be in the fires of hell’ to me this was the fires of hell.”

So “Jules” says it was only God that could help her escape.

“I am still surviving I don’t think I could ever finish surviving and Oklahoma is my home and I want to share my awareness,” says “Jules”.

The survivor says she was a foster child but the 50 to a thousand teen girls and women she met were recruited weren’t always people with a rough childhood.

“Jules” says many traffickers will pose as talent agents pretending to cast musicians, actors and models.

She also cautions teens what they post on Myspace, Facebook, online chat rooms and blogs.

“‘I am angry with my mom cause she made me do the dishes cause it wasn’t my turn’ and then that is a sign for any trafficker or pimp to go online and I understand what you are talking about. Do you want to go chill at my place and she’ll say sure where do you live?” says “Jules”.

America’s underground sex trade is considered a $3 billion industry.

Oklahoma is lawmakers are considering making human trafficking a felony if convicted it would be no less than a 10-year-prison sentence.

Trafficking Victims Protection Act: Progress and Promise

Luis CdeBaca
Ambassador-at-Large, Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Department of Justice’s National Human Trafficking Conference
Washington, DC
May 3, 2010

As prepared for delivery

Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to be here today to discuss the Trafficking Victims Protection Act: Progress and Promise.

Thank you James Burch for that kind introduction. The last time I attended the Department of Justice’s National Human Trafficking Conference it was as a federal prosecutor. Today, I’m humbled to be here with all of you, my friends and former colleagues, in a new capacity as an inter-agency partner in the “whole of government” effort to combat human trafficking.

Modern history has witnessed as many manifestations of enslavement as there are attempts to define and respond to it in both the domestic and international communities. These manifestations have been to the detriment of victims, as exemplified in the United States v. Shackney case, where Luis Oros, his wife Virginia, and their five children were held in peonage in 1964, even as so many marched for civil rights. The definitional and response seesaw left the Oros family, who were immigrants from Mexico, in a lurch. As the appellate court ruled that a threat of deportation is not a legally recognizable form of coercion. A victim, the court stated, can choose to leave and get deported – even if it’s a bad choice, it’s still a choice.

While the 13th Amendment to the United States’ Constitution affords freedoms to every person in America, it was clear through a series of appeals, such as the Shackney case that Congress must take a more hands-on approach to combat this abuse of human rights. Because when there’s no progress on delivering on the promise of freedom, it’s not an intellectual or analytical issue. It’s real people, wondering if they will ever escape from bondage. And so another generation passed, with no progress.

Ten years ago, the United States and the United Nations each made yet another attempt, but this time there was a marked difference. Instead of focusing on one form of compelled service over another–forced labor, bonded labor, slavery, forced prostitution–the United States engaged in an effort to put forward the concept that all forms should be criminalized, victims of all forms deserved protection, and prevention of all forms was a worthwhile endeavor to attack the problem at its core.

This concept captured in the United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 is what we now know by the umbrella term “trafficking in persons” and respond to through the “three Ps”: protection, prevention, and prosecution. But whatever the particular euphemism we see used, as Secretary Clinton recently said to the President’s Cabinet: “Let’s call it what it is, a modern form of slavery.”

Secretary Clinton is right; we are fighting a modern form of slavery, a crime that U.S. law enforcement has battled since the Civil War and continues today. Our modern efforts are easily broken down into three categories: pre-TVPA, the 10 years since, and the path ahead. I would like to share some thoughts on that with you this morning.

It seems like just yesterday there were a few federal prosecutors, some here in this room today, that pursued and prosecuted criminal cases that today would be termed trafficking cases. Cases that we all know, such as U.S. v. Flores, a case of agricultural slave labor; U.S. v. Mahtani, an example of domestic servitude; or U.S. v. Kim, Phan, and Ortiz, a case of forced prostitution and sexual exploitation. At the time, these cases were not called human trafficking, even though all of the elements existed.

When the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) uncovered more than 250 brothels in 26 American cities, known as Operation Lost Thai, there was no “whole of government” response. There were no uniform guidelines in place to respond to this undefined crime. And it was very hard to convince people even in government that a prostitute could also be a modern-day slave, and should be treated with dignity.

While we knew crimes were being committed, we pursued them under other federal statutes. Not only did it affect our prosecution methods, but it also affected our victim response. We faced issues with detentions and deportations–some of the same issues that we continue to face today–as well as lack of shelters and services. Prior to the passage of the TVPA we were limited in our ability to aid victims through “S” visas because of stringent guidelines.

In the mid-1990s, then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton became interested and focused on this issue through her work with women and children. At the time, the most visible form of trafficking was women and girls from the former Soviet Union. There were duped by false advertisements for work in Western Europe only to find themselves trapped in brothels and strip clubs. The image of the blonde, beautiful, and vulnerable victim, reminiscent of anachronistic approaches to this problem back in the 1800s, garnered worldwide attention, but also demonstrated the weaknesses of that old legal regime. In the meantime, cases in the United States still involved men, women, and children–United States citizens and foreigners alike–in both sex and labor trafficking.

It became clear that a holistic approach was needed, one that focused more on the exploitation than merely on the movement of people for immoral purposes. Then-First Lady Clinton, along with Attorney General Janet Reno and Secretary of State Madeline Albright, were instrumental in bringing this issue to the attention of policymakers in Washington. Out of it was borne the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA).

The TVPA emboldened states to pursue and enact legislation to combat trafficking at the state level. In fact, the successes of the TVPA and effectiveness of state law is clearly shown in a recent case, Ramos v. Texas where the legal pitfalls exemplified in the Shackney case were bridged. In fact, the Ramos case recognized that the threat of deportation is indeed coercion and a factor in determining a victim of trafficking in persons, even if the victim walked out through the front door rather than escaping through the window or in the middle of the night. The Ramos case is a prime example of what we can achieve through solid legislation and implementation of federal and state-level laws.

That same year, the world embraced international standards, known as the Palermo Protocol, to combat modern slavery. Currently, 137 countries have adopted it. The legal and policy achievements of the last decade have helped rehabilitate thousands of victims and led to the arrest and prosecution of thousands of traffickers.

Since the international and domestic efforts were rooted into law, we have seen a global growth of understanding of the issue and an expanding response through the “three Ps.”

We know human trafficking is a human rights abuse; a byproduct of conflict; a threat to national security, public health and democracy; a labor and migration issue; and an ever-growing global phenomenon. It is also a crime: a crime akin to murder and rape and kidnapping.

We also know that modern slavery exists in communities and cultures spanning the globe. It is a fluid phenomenon, responding to market demands, vulnerabilities in laws, weak penalties, natural disasters, and economic instability.

International studies indicate that more people are trafficked for forced labor than commercial sex. We see in the field that there is less duping and kidnapping of naïve victims than there is coercion of people who initially agreed to do the work. In the last 10 years, we have learned that movement is not required to be considered trafficking in persons and that this crime is not limited to one gender, faith, or geographical area. In addition, traffickers use rape as a weapon against women, whether in a field, factory, brothel, or suburban home.

The Palermo Protocol mandates the criminalization of human trafficking, and the TVPA is enforcement driven, because a policy solution to a heinous crime problem must involve freeing the victims and punishing their tormentors.

No country, including the United States, has attained a sophisticated or truly comprehensive response to this massive, ever-increasing, ever-changing crime. Ten years of focused efforts is the mere infancy of a movement. Every country is still learning what trafficking is and what works in response to it. More must be done by the international community to fulfill the promise of the Palermo Protocol, as the vast majority of people enslaved today around the world have yet to see any progress.

The Obama Administration’s response builds upon 10 years of the “three Ps” in practice, which has illuminated a new path of promise for the future. I believe that the vision of the “three Ps” is more nuanced and better understood than it has been at any point in our 10 years working together. But it won’t be realized unless we all hold one another accountable to it.

The TVPA helps us do so with important new tools that stands for the proposition that ignorance is not an excuse. The strip club owner who looks the other way as so-called talent agents enslave women: that’s not a bystander; that’s an accomplice. The landlord who turns a blind eye and collects rent from “massage parlors” where foreign women are held for forced prostitution: that’s not rent; that’s complicity. So too for the grower who is comfortable with farm labor contractors using force and threats to harvest the crops as long as they get picked on time. To those who have turned a willfully blind eye to the exploitation in front of them, the updated law puts down a marker: whether you partake or profit, you’re accountable. Period.

The United States has been a world leader in the fight to combat trafficking for a host of reasons, including the work all of you do. You are instrumental change agents on the front lines of this movement: you enforce the TVPA and implement its victim-centered approach. I thank you for your leadership and dedication against trafficking. The United States continues to share best practices with other countries based on what we see working and not working in our communities around the country.

As is the legacy of the United States throughout its history, we are looking to “lead by example” once again in the fight against modern slavery. This year, in the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report, the United States will rank itself along with more than 175 other countries. This ranking is not meant to be a reprieve or a rebuke. It is to be a fair and real assessment based on the minimum standards outlined in the TVPA–the same standards to which the State Department ranks other countries. This ranking will not only strengthen our partnerships around the globe but also strengthen our partnerships here at home and allow us to take a closer look at what works in our victim-centered approach and to gauge what is not working.

Already, we know that our research and data collection must be more quantitative and evidence-based to ensure that all of you, the members of the 40 taskforces throughout the country, are equipped with the tools you need to identify and assist victims. As we press forward, we must find ways to expand the quality of information encapsulated in the Human Trafficking Reporting System so that it includes greater field information from the areas across America that do not have human trafficking task forces. Through the interagency coordination group’s research subcommittee, we are working hard to sharpen our understanding of this scourge.

The promise we seek to fulfill will be bolstered by what has now been coined as the fourth “p” – partnerships. We must strive toward better coordination with our interagency partners within our “whole of government” approach, but also partners from unlikely or untapped resources.

Non-governmental organizations have historically been strong partners in the anti-trafficking movement. Today, we are working to build on our historic relationships and cultivate new partnerships with the private sector, namely private business and corporations so that we can leverage the resources, expertise, and talents against trafficking.

Partnering with the private sector is essential to scrubbing modern slavery out of the supply chains that create our every day products–food, clothes, and cell phones to name a few. But, it’s also an unmistakable opportunity to go back to the victim-centered approach and partner with businesses across the United States to provide victims in-kind assistance through job-training and employment.

In the last 10 years we have undoubtedly experienced progress thanks to many of the people in this room today. Building on that progress we see the promise that President Obama outlined in his proclamation earlier this year for Human Trafficking Awareness month.

As President Obama stated: “The victims of modern slavery have many faces. They are men and women, adults and children. Yet, all are denied basic human dignity and freedom. Victims can be abused in their own countries, or find themselves far from home and vulnerable. Whether they are trapped in forced sexual or labor exploitation, human trafficking victims cannot walk away, but are held in service through force, threats, and fear. All too often suffering from horrible physical and sexual abuse, it is hard for them to imagine that there might be a place of refuge. We must join together as a Nation and global community to provide that safe haven by protecting victims and prosecuting traffickers. With improved victim identification, medical and social services, training for first responders, and increased public awareness, the men, women, and children who have suffered this scourge can overcome the bonds of modern slavery, receive protection and justice, and successfully reclaim their rightful independence.”

Through partnership, we must secure the safe place of refuge the President referred to; we must “lead by example” as we are known and expected to do; and we must allow every victim to realize his or her God-given potential. The United States has made historic progress on this issue, still in its modern infancy. We must devote ourselves to never again letting a generation go by without forward progress. Bursts of activity, and successes, in the early 1900s, the 1930s, and the early 1980s were allowed to fall dormant. We must not allow that to happen again. We can, and we must, get it right this time. Working toward a world without modern slavery is no doubt a bold proposition, but it is one that we must work toward. Thank you again for having me here this morning and for all you do to fulfill the promise of freedom in America.

The reality of human trafficking for American children is just as bad as the ones in Thailand

For the past few months, I ran into too many people who are not familiar with what human trafficking is. And even if they are, they think that it only happens somewhere in Thailand or Eastern Europe. Sadly, human trafficking happens in the U.S. just as often as it does in Thailand. If not, it could be worse in the U.S. than Thailand because of its market size and influx of trafficking victims into the U.S. In fact, today’s news report on Oklahoma’s human trafficking victim is a classic example evidencing that human trafficking is happening right around the corner regardless of what state you live in the U.S.

The human trafficking victim speaks up

Though the sex slavery happened 10 years ago, she still was afraid of revealing her identity. She also said that the underground market for human trafficking is big, and it is run by organized crime. Children, teens, and even infants become trafficking victims, and they are involved in organ trafficking, sex trafficking, illegal adoption, and identity theft. She too was smuggled into Las Vegas, New York, California, Florida, and many other states for prostitution. She made multiple attempts to run away from the mob. But, when she got caught, she was brutally punished by the criminals: