Author: Michelle Lillie

Will the Trans-Pacific Partnership Alleviate Forced Labor?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the largest regional trade deal in history. Talks to create the TPP began over seven years ago and it was finally drafted on October 5, 2015. The twelve member countries, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam covers 792 million people and make up 40 percent of the world’s economic activity. 

Brazil’s Dual Reaction to Forced Labor

In 1888, Brazil became the last nation in the Western Hemisphere to formally abolish slavery. Over the course of 300 years, an estimated four million Africans were brought to Brazil to work as slaves in sugar plantations and gold mines. Although no longer institutionalized, the tradition of slavery has yet to end in Brazil and still exists in the form of forced labor, debt bondage [and] degrading conditions that violate human rights or overwork that threatens life or health. The 2014 Global Freedom Index estimated that 155,300 people are currently enslaved in Brazil, most of whom are involved in agricultural or mineral production as part of a supply chain for large multinational corporations.

Eight New Bills to Combat Human Trafficking

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, applauded House passage of eight bipartisan bills this week to combat international human trafficking.  Among the bills passed by the House this week, are two that were passed unanimously by the Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this year. The House passed H.R. 2283, the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act, which is sponsored by Rep Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.  H.R. 2283 would elevate the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to a Bureau within the State Department to better prioritize the fight against human trafficking without increasing the size of the Federal Government.  The bill was passed by the Committee with unanimous support on June 26. The House also passed H.R. 4449, which is sponsored by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY).  H.R. 4449, requires that certain State Department personnel undergo training to identify victims of human trafficking around the world.  The bill passed the Committee with unanimous support on May 29. On passage of the eight bills, Chairman Royce said:“The passage of these bills is important in our ongoing effort to combat the modern day slavery that is international human trafficking.  As I’ve long known from my work in countering human trafficking, these crimes are not only committed against faceless victims in faraway countries, but also in our...

Bolivia Legalizes Child Labor

While many countries in the developing world are banishing domestic child labor practices, the government of Bolivia went in the opposite direction and recently announced that it would be lowering the working age for children from 14 to 10 years old. This law violates the common international child labor standards, which forbid children from under the age of 14 from workings (and from doing any hazardous work until they are 18 years old). As signatories of the United Nations International Convention on Child Labor developing countries such as Bolivia are allowed to have children as young as 12 or 13 years old work as long as it is with parental supervision and does not interfere with the education of the child. The lowering of the legal working age of children to 10 years old is meant to reflect the reality of life in Bolivia where thousands of children work alongside their parents everyday selling food or goods in the market place or the streets. While it might be an accurate depiction of poverty in Bolivia, legalizing child labor is still a major human rights violation. The law specifies that children age 10 and up are allowed to work with their parents and children ages 12 and up are allowed to work as “contract employees” for other employers. The law begs the question, what reputable employer would hire a 12...

Sex Trafficking at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil

Human trafficking thrives at large sporting events such as the Olympic Games, Super Bowl and the FIFA World Cup for many reasons. The crowds at large sporting events are usually predominantly composed of men and this year’s FIFA World Cup was no different. More than 3.16 million spectators attended the FIFA World Cup games in Brazil from June 12 to July 13, 2014.  Of the millions of spectators at the FIFA World Cup, 75 percent were men and the vast majority of attendees were tourists flying in from their home countries for the games. The common adage applies: where there is tourism; there is also sex tourism. Traffickers follow the standard economic principal of supply and demand, which is the reason they target large crowds of mostly male tourists. When men want to pay to have sex with prostitutes, traffickers happily provide the trafficked women for a hefty profit. It is common knowledge within the anti-trafficking community that large sporting events are the perfect venue for prostitution to flourish and Brazil is the current hub of sex trafficking since it is home to both the FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. There are many organizations and NGOs that worked to combat sex trafficking at the FIFA World Cup, but few were successful. The Brazilian government ran a short-lived and poorly conceived campaign called Happy Being a Prostitute,...

Slavery in the Thai Seafood Industry

It is not a new revelation that slavery plagues the global food system. Men, women and children are enslaved in the fishing industry of Ghana, banana plantations in South America and tomato farms in the United States. Yet a recent investigative report by The Guardian that revealed the depth of the slave labor used in shrimp production in Thailand has caused public outrage in the U.K and U.S. The American and British public seem less shocked that slave labor is used in the global production of food and more incensed that major Western corporations are working with and financing companies that enslave and abuse their employees. The six-month investigation conducted by The Guardian exposed that men are held against their will on boats off the coast of Thailand and the shrimp that they catch are sold into the top four global retailers: Wal-Mart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco. The Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons 2014 Report (TIP), caught on early to Thailand’s slave driven seafood market and down-graded the Southeast Asian country from a Tier 2 to the lowest Tier 3 ranking—a distinction that places the country in the same category as North Korea, Syria and the Central African Republic. Even with the TIP report and the Guardian investigation suggesting otherwise, the Thai fishing industry refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing with it’s official spokesperson telling the press: right now...

Trafficking in Persons Report 2014 Released

“We each have a responsibility to make this horrific and all-too-common crime a lot less common. And our work with victims is the key that will open the door to real change—not just on behalf of the more than 44,000 survivors who have been identified in the past year, but also for the more than 20 million victims of trafficking who have not. As Secretary of State, I’ve seen with my own two eyes countless individual acts of courage and commitment. I’ve seen how victims of this crime can become survivors and how survivors can become voices of conscience and conviction in the cause. This year’s Trafficking in Persons Report offers a roadmap for the road ahead as we confront the scourge of trafficking.” — John F. Kerry, Secretary of State The Report The 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report report is available in PDF  formats. Due to its large size, the PDF has been separated into sections for easier download. To view the PDF file, you will need to download, at no cost, the Adobe Acrobat Reader. PDF Format –Introductory Material (PDF) [8975 Kb] –Country Narratives: A-C (PDF) [4743 Kb] –Country Narratives: D-I (PDF) [3882 Kb] –Country Narratives: J-M (PDF) [4105 Kb] –Country Narratives: N-S (PDF) [5513 Kb] –Country Narratives: T-Z and Special Case (PDF) [3105 Kb] –Relevant International Conventions/Closing Material (PDF) [963...

Beyond Boko Haram: Human Trafficking in Nigeria

The radical Islamic group Boko Haram, whose name loosely translates to Western Education is Forbidden, is most well known for its abduction of 200 teenage girls with the goal to sell them into slavery. The impact of Boko Haram in Nigeria is much greater than the kidnapped girls. The radical Islamist group has been taking over villages in the northeast, killing and terrorizing civilians and political leaders as they make a comeback from a year-long military offensive. Since the violence began in 2009, hundreds of thousands of Nigerians have been displaced from their homes. The number of internal refugees coupled with the poverty and violence in Nigeria make it a breeding ground for human trafficking. According to the State Department’s  2013 Trafficking in Person’s Report, Nigeria is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking. As a source country, women and girls are trafficked into the sex trade from Nigeria into West Europe. Nigerian girls and women make up an estimated 60 percent of the prostitutes in Italy and Belgium. Most of the women and girls agree to be smuggled into Europe expecting to find work in stores and restaurants but instead are forced into prostitution to pay inflated smuggling fees. The trafficking of women and girls into Italy has become so common in the past forty years that Nigerian gangsters have taken up residence outside Naples to...

Human Trafficking and the Taliban

From 1996 to 2001 the Taliban, a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist group controlled and oppressed the Afghanistan population. During its five years of power, the Taliban focused their terror campaign on women. The Taliban often argued that the brutal restrictions they placed on women were actually a way of protecting them. Yet once the Taliban fell, the dirty secrets of the women they sold for sex and traded as awards for jobs well done slowly leaked to the press. The sexual hypocrisy of the Taliban is astounding. The same government that forced women to stay inside, cover their heads and leave the house only with the supervision of a male relative–for their safety–was also involved with forcing women into prostitution. While the Taliban was in control, they played both sides of the issues, publicly stoning women to death for prostitution while privately abducting women from villages to serve as sex slaves to the soldiers. Long after the Taliban fell from power, the organization was still asking parents of the grown  up daughters to marry them to militants or face dire consequences. This was a slightly gentler approach from the past when the Taliban would simply abduct the young women and forced them to marry the soldiers. In a country where the purity of women is sacred and rape brings shame upon a family, the few women who survive their ordeal...

Human Trafficking in China

Human trafficking is an international problem that must be handled domestically. This becomes particularly difficult in a country known for its disregard of human rights and civil liberties. In the U.S. State Department’s most recent Trafficking in Persons Report, China was controversially downgraded from the Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 3, the lowest possible score in the report. China was demoted to Tier 3 after nine years of failing to put into place practices to stop human trafficking. Forced Labor Although China officially prohibits forced labor, it is a rampant and widespread practice throughout much of the country, and what makes it worse is that in China, only women and children can be legally recognized as trafficking victims. Domestically an estimated 2.9 million people are trapped in forced labor in China. Internationally, Chinese citizens are trafficked into Thailand, Malaysia, Europe and the United States. Victims are trafficked from Vietnam, Burma, Myanmar and rural parts of China to work in brick kilns and factories. While the Chinese government is aware of human trafficking in the country, it also perpetuates it with at least 320 state-run institutions— “re-education through labor” camps. Sex Trafficking China is home to a thriving sex trade. Much of it comes from trafficking and selling young women and girls for marriage. Decades of the one child policy and the Chinese preference for male children resulted in...

Is Pimping Ever Legal?

Prostitution is an internationally controversial topic, yet the majority of countries allow legalized prostitution or partial legalization like the United States where eight rural counties in Nevada run legal brothels. A simple Internet search will turn up thousands of articles and websites devoted to the legalization of prostitution. While there is much less information about the legality of pimping, there are several countries that allow men to make a living from pimping women. Pimping is legal in nine countries: Bangladesh, Ecuador, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Legal Pimps as Human Traffickers Both prostitution and pimping are legal in Nicaragua and Bangladesh but left unregulated by the government. In Nicaragua, prostitution is legal for persons 14 and over but the age of consent is 18. Through these ill-conceived laws, children can legally be forced into sex work under the control of a pimp. This is as shocking as it is confusing: how can a 14 year old be paid for consensual sex that she won’t be old enough to give consent for until she is 18 years old? In Bangladesh there are laws against the trafficking of minors under the age of 18, but if the victim is over the age of 18 then there aren’t any laws to protect them. Pimping is legal and most pimps still operate as exploitative traffickers in Nicaragua and Bangladesh...

National Foster Care Month

May is National Foster Care Month and in honor of that distinction, our first blog of the month will be dedicated to the connection between human trafficking and the child welfare system. Late last year, we published a blog called An Unholy Alliance: The Connection Between Foster Care and Human Trafficking which was also the title of a research paper the OLP Foundation presented at the 2013 University Nebraska-Lincoln Human Trafficking Conference. The research found that minimally half of the commercially sexually exploited children on the streets today were at one time living in foster care or a group home run by the state. Since the research has been presented, the connection between human trafficking and foster care has become increasingly public—so much so that the President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Proposal allocated $10 million towards domestic human trafficking. Part of the $10 million goes towards two projects focused on effective housing solutions for children and youth survivors who are runaways, homeless or in foster care. This is double the $5 million that the president allocated in 2013 signifying the immensity of the problem. This year is also the first time the fiscal budget has associated vulnerable children in the language of runaways, homeless and foster care youth. A childhood of abuse and neglect greatly increases the chances for children to be lured into commercial sexual exploitation. It...

Human Trafficking: Not All Black or White

The link between domestic sex trafficking and racial discrimination—while undeniable, is not immediately clear. What is clear; however, is that the demography of domestic sex trafficking is very different from the racial make up of the United States. In a recent report by the Office of Victims of Crime, of the confirmed sex trafficking victims, 40.4 percent of victims were African-American. This is almost four times higher than the percentage of African-Americans living in the United States, which the US Census Bureau currently lists as 13.1 percent of the total population. The FBI claims an even more surprising statistic for arrests under the age of 18, black children make up 55 % of all prostitution-related arrests in the U.S. White / Caucasian women and girls represent the second highest number of sex trafficking victims as 25.6 percent. This number is drastically lower than the current amount of White / Caucasian people in the United States, which as the majority ethnic group, makes up 75.1 percent of the country’s total population. According to the report by the Office of Victims of Crime, women and girls who are African-American or White / Caucasian are more likely to become victims of sex trafficking than any other ethnic group in the United States. But why are African-American victims overrepresented and White / Caucasian victims underrepresented in sex trafficking? Some argue that it is...