Thursday, January 30, 2014

What Does The Superbowl Really Mean for Human Trafficking?

This Sunday, thousands of excited football fans will flock to MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey, United States to attend the annually anticipated Superbowl game.  Aside from the increase in sportswear, consession stand snacks, and beer sales that are much anticipated by local businesses, some human trafficking abolition organizations have anticipating something else.

In 2009, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, described the Superbowl as the “single-largest human-
trafficking incident in the United States.”  The Florida Commission Against Human Trafficking estimated that "tens of thousands of women  and minors" were transported to Dallas to increase demand.  In the 2011 Dallas Superbowl, 93 "prostitution arrests" took place.  However, Rachel Lloyd, human trafficking survivor abolitionist and founder and executive director of GEMS, the nation's largest direct service provider to commercially sexually exploited and domestically trafficked girls and young women, stated in a blog post from 2012 that,

"For the last few years, the Super Bowl has been touted as the 
biggest trafficking event, especially for minors, in the country. 
While there have definitely been some reported cases, the statistics just don't 
bear out this claim. The real crime is happening when no one's looking 
and no one cares, not when every media outlet, 
advocate and cop has its sights set on it." 

This calls into question the true effects the Superbowl has on increasing the number of human trafficking occurrences at large scale sports events.  Traffickers and victims are not registered and so it is not currently possible to accurately quantify the influx of human trafficking that will take place.  During a Hearing on Human Trafficking at Superbowl, Carol Smolenski of Ench Child Prostitution and Trafficking - USA explains why a heavier focus on combating human trafficking at events at large scale sports events is important, 

"The demand side becomes more concentrated 
on one geographic location [in] a short period of time
before then dispersing again.  That's why we put 
so much focus on these sporting events." 

In an effort to proactively prevent human trafficking, New Jersey is has embarked on a $350,000 media campaign to combat human trafficking.  Even if the statistics during the Superbowl may be exaggerated, human trafficking is still an inhumane injustice that should not be tolerated. It is important to not become ignorant to a problem just because it has been exaggerated. This is an easily hidden trade. With a receptive audience, the efforts through this media campaign will help combat human trafficking during and after the Superbowl through the awareness it raises.  Other operations in preparation for this Sunday's big event, by the New York Police Department (NYPD,) has led to nearly 200 arrests on charges of sex trafficking and related crimes.  Also, hotel workers and transportation workers in both New York and New Jersey have received training over the past few months to detect possible signs of possible human trafficking.

If you are a football fan and are pumped to watch and even attend the Superbowl, I am by no means telling you to not go and not enjoy yourself!  I'll probably be tuning in for the game, myself.  So,  if you are a football fan, grab some friends, grab some snacks, and enjoy the game! However, it is important to always be aware.  Just as workers in New York and New Jersey are becoming aware of the signs of possible human trafficking cases, it is important for you and me.  You can read more on the signs of human trafficking HERE.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Remembering Comfort Women

All sides of the World Wars committed many atrocities. However, this month, a statue honoring women's plight as sex slaves during one of the largest cases of sex trafficking is in danger of being removed.

Crimes against women during the World Wars must not be forgotten or spoke of lightly. "Comfort women" were individuals forced into prostitution corps by the Japanese throughout their occupied-territories. Young women were trafficked from their homes and established in sex work at "comfort stations" to serve the Japanese Armed Forces. Beyond the euphemism, these women were sex slaves. 
Korean comfort women in Myitkyina Burma, August 1944
The idea behind comfort stations was to limit civilian rape by soldiers, prevent the spread of venereal diseases, and control of "the simmering discontentment of the soldiers could explode into a riot and revolt. That is why it provided women." 

The trafficking occurred in Japanese occupied spaces by tricking women with a false promise of work to coercion. However, the comfort stations did not prevent men from seeking women in the surrounding communities during campaigns. Women were raped as part of the Three Alls Policy also by kidnapping and raping civilians.

The Japanese government's cabinet secretary apologized in 1993. Many women did not accept the apology, however, in 2007, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe unequivocal denied that the country had forced foreign women into sex slavery during World War II. Some of these women contracted venereal diseases, suffer from infertility, and numerous other physical and mental after effects: Physical pain kept the women continuously taking medication, causing a problem of drug addiction. Furthermore, the women had to lead difficult lives due to psychological trauma like fear of disadvantage and social stigma, a sense of defeat, depression, and insomnia. As they were unable to become actively involved in social life and were not incorporated into the family system owing to the fact that they were comfort women, the women victims were cornered into a vicious cycle of poverty. Comfort women and their families demand full compensation and a sincere apology.

Watch the video below to learn more of the struggle of Korean survivors of Japan's military sexual slavery system for redress, peace, and reconciliation.

Over in America, forums and groups like the Korean-American Forum of California formed as national grassroots effort to continue to put pressure of the government of Japan and to raise public awareness regarding women’s rights not to be violated during wartimes. City of Glendale unveiled the Comfort Women Statue on July 30, 2013. This is the first installation of such a statue outside of Korea.

Japanese delegation requests removal, visits controversial Comfort Women statue
However opponents to the statue want to erase the struggle of comfort women and, in turn, evade the blame of atrocities committed by Japan and continued to be perpetuated in other cases of sex trafficking around the world. The "comfort woman" of Glendale not only commemorates the women interned by Japan, but sparks conversation with children. "Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it," George Santayana, aptly describes how we should approach education and outreach regarding crimes committed in the past and those today.

There is currently petitions wishing to protect the Peace Monument in Glendale Central Library. 

Related Resources and References:

Comfort Women Used to Prevent Military Revolt During War:

Military Prostitution and the U.S. Military in Asia:

The Politics of Apology for Japan’s ‘Comfort Women’:

2 lawmakers draw fire over 'comfort woman' statue:

‘Comfort Women’ Statue In Glendale Sits At Center Of New Controversy:

Comfort Women: A Lifetime of Blood and Tears:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Philippines: Post-Catastrophe

The Philippines, before the natural disaster, was and continues to be an island with coerced prostitution and forced labor and human trafficking.  

PBS: In the Philippines, a Fight to End Human Trafficking

After Super Typhoon Haiyan, help trickled in all over to assist in the recovery efforts. Two month later, hundreds are still un-buried. Thousands missing. Millions displaced. Little infrastructure remains. Scenes of chaos marked the immediate aftermath. The response and relief efforts in the typhoon zone included assistance from other nations, a loan from the World Bank, and tracking by the United Nations. Rebuilding successfully will take a few years under good governance and economic growth, but corruption is rampant and the nation remains primarily poor. However, desperate for food, medicine, and other resources, many weather-related catastrophes breeds a resurgence or increase of human trafficking. 

"A plea for help in SOS is painted on a road in an aerial view from a U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopter over San Jose, Philippines, Nov. 18, 2013."
(AP Photo/Wally Santana)
The UN Refugee Agency back in 2008 stated in regards to natural disasters that "Services exacted in order to deal with the consequences of the disaster and necessary for the life or well-being of the community shall not be regarded as forced or compulsory labour" and that there should be a continued prohibition of human trafficking and other forms of exploitation even during crises. Trafficking increases due to increased vulnerability of children, women, and other exploitable populations from social and physical dislocations. 

Weather-related disasters are often reported focusing on the short-term results of the catastrophe: deaths, destruction, dislocation. However, reports often fail to emphasize the long-term repercussions: homelessness, unemployment, and disability, which in turn feed violence and sexual harassment, and illegal labor and trafficking. 

"A Filipino girl waits to be airlifted from Tacloban to Manila."

Other Resources:

The UN Refugee Agency's PDF of Human Rights and Natural Disasters:

Human trafficking a worry in post-typhoon Philippines, says US:

20 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking:

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Child Webcam Sex Tourism

Sweetie. "Sweetie", a cute pet name referring to a loved one. But sweetie is actually Sweetie, a real person...or so one would have thought...


Children are often disregarded in thought and respect. In a way almost treated as a lower form of life due to their inability to survive without care from others. Their opinions usually shoved to the side or hung out to dry. However, they see clearly what we make excuses for. While the world is slow in taking their voices into consideration Terre des Hommes is an international federation that serves for child advocacy- individually and as a whole.

As stated on their about page, the federations consists of a network of ten national organizations working for children's rights and to advance fair and impartial development without discrimination (racial, religious, political, cultural, or gender-based discrimination).  The areas in which it operates encompass over 60 countries/territories such as these:

Taken from Terre des Hommes

Also with national offices are located in Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Switzerland, & The Netherlands.

As of November 4th,  2013 Terre des Hommes- Netherlands released what is quite a shocking video on a topic that is unknown to many, but becoming an increasing problem. CHILD WEBCAM SEX TOURISM! You may have heard journalists, politicians or NGO's refer to it in their rare discussions as cyber sex tourism, pay-per-view child porn, or cyber child pornography. It's an actual thing and is defined to be

"when adults pay to direct and view live-streaming video footage of children in another country performing sexual acts in front of a webcam."

 With apps such as Facebook Video, Skype, Oovoo, FaceTime, etc. child pedophilia can be increasingly practiced without worries of facing future legal issues. This new form of child exploitation has gotten thousands of children from just the Philippines- both boys and girls- as young as six years old involved. So what did they do about it? They created Sweetie. In less than two and a half months researchers were able to capture over 1,000 online predators from 71 different countries that were willing to fork out cash in return for the performance of sexual acts, using Sweetie. (Check out the video below).

Researchers spent a total of 1,600 hours over a total of ten weeks posing as Sweetie. Over 20,000 online predators from all over the world initiated contact. But the video explained that only six online predators have ever been charged of Child Webcam Sex Tourism (WCST). WHAT!? This statement alone raises multiple questions:

 1) Where is WCST occurring?
2) How is it possible that this phenomenon can take place?
3) What are governments doing about it?
4) How can it be combatted?

  • Although, the research performed by the Netherlands team was Philippines specific, where it is widespread a report by the Netherlands Police Department stated that it was highly unlikely that Webcam Child Sex Tourism only occurs within the Philippines.
  • WCST occurs because of a multiplicity of reasons. One would think that very undeveloped countries would have trouble procuring computers, or even internet access for its general population. However, a study done showed that forty percent of the world's population was using the internet by the beginning of 2013 and that from 2005 to 2012 the amount of individuals using the internet had increased by at least twenty two percent within the developing world. Another reason for the occurrence of WCST is it's high demand, and the easy income it brings for those with little financial stability. A lot of the times parents, families, and community members will even encourage or coerce their children into entering these chatrooms. Then, there is the added easiness because of online dating sites, social networking sites, or from "cybersex den" operators. Also the children completing these acts can readily gain access using any home computer, internet cafĂ©, or through the "den", which is often a windowless/dungeon like building in which women & children are held against their will. 
  • In response to this law enforcement agencies around the world have executed "reactive" investigation policies, which means action is taken until a victim or their parents have stepped forward to report the crime. Yet, children nor their parents come clean when it is one of the only sources of a reliable income for the families. Both the policy and unresponsiveness of the victims make it harder for these crimes to be proved. This sounds oddly familiar...probably because the same outstanding conditions facilitate human trafficking.
  • WSCT can be prevented by enacting proactive law enforcement policies within ALL countries. Terre des Hommes is willing to lend its hand to governments and agencies to track and I.D. predators using its virtual technology. The use of Sweetie does not violation individual privacy nor require the use of computer hacking making it legal. If demand is cut, supply can be curbed. It is everyone's responsibility to protect children no matter the place or situation.

All information published within this individual BASI document can be found at the Terre des Hommes website and documents found on the domain. 

Common questions and report of the extensive research for WSCT can be found within these Terre des Hommes published documents.

*Quick note: How does the destruction caused by the recent typhoon in the Philippines -where WCST and human trafficking are common- affect the population? What will happen to the new families without any shelter or food? 

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