Walk Free Foundation has published the Global Slavery Index for 2013. It ranks 162 countries according to the number of individuals trafficked, married as children, and smuggled in and out of the country. Mauritania, Haiti, and Pakistan performed worst in the index, while three countries–the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Iceland–tied for the best performance this year.
In May 2013, Stepanka Korytova met with the Global Leaders Network of the Indiana University Kelly School of Business to discusses the business of human trafficking. Watch it here!
U.S.-based child sex trafficking made the news this week following a multi-state FBI sting (full story can be found here). However, Dr. David Finkelhor, an expert on child exploitation at the University of New Hampshire, says that the sting operation may be too little, too late. Country-wide arrests may make good headlines, but according to Finkelhor, “…it is only through a multidisciplinary comprehensive mobilization of dedicated child welfare, social service, mental health, drug rehabilitation, educational systems — working together with law enforcement — that we will find a solution to young people being sold or selling sex for money and survival.”
Finkelhor’s July 31 CNN Opinion piece includes some surprising facts about child sex trafficking in the U.S., including the high number of boys in the sex trade and the ways that technology (internet, cell phones) allows both boys and girls to engage in the trade without the involvement of a pimp.
A Kenyan domestic worker who escaped her Saudi “employers” in Irvine, California made the news today, but before stepping onto U.S. soil she was just one of an estimated one million foreign workers employed in domestic work in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, like other Gulf States, draws large numbers of migrants from nearby East Africa and South Asia. Those migrants often find themselves unprotected by local laws and exploited by the powerful elites for whom they work.
2014 will be a big year for international sports. Sochi, Russia will host the Winter Olympic Games in Febrary 2013. Just a few months later, football powerhouse Brazil will host the summer 2014 FIFA World Cup. Both countries are also continuing preparations beyond 2014, Brazil for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Summer Olympics and Russia for the 2018 World Cup.
Brazil’s upcoming big events have already pushed the government into preemptive actions including a May 2013 military crackdown operation on drug trafficking and illegal immigration of Haitians, Bangladeshis and others through regional neighbors including Peru and Guyana. And anti-trafficking advocates in Brazil and abroad are raising concerns about a spike in child sexual exploitation that might coincide with the month-long World Cup tournament. Coastal cities and known sex tourism hot spots Fortaleza and Recife are among the twelve cities set to host matches. Similar concerns are regularly raised by U.S.-based advocates in the run-up to major national sporting events including the National Football League’s Superbowl championship. However, according to trafficking experts and journalists alike, reports of sporting event-related spikes in sex trafficking are frequently unsubstantiated and misleading.
Anti-trafficking and human rights activists would do well to pay attention to another aspect of major sporting events: construction. Olympics-related construction practices have received unprecedented scrutiny since 2008, when Beijing, China hosted the Summer Olympics. Human rights abuses related to Olympic preparations included labor exploitation (wage theft, unsafe working and living conditions) and a lack of access to state-guaranteed social services that affected migrant workers in particular.
Last month, Russia was downgraded to the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report Tier 2 “Watch List,” in part due to State Department concerns that local Sochi officials and the Kremlin have turned a blind eye to the explicit exploitation of Central Asian guest workers in the construction of sporting venues. A Human Rights Watch report released last year reported that tens of thousands of workers had been cheated of wages or even denied wages “for weeks or months.” Many worked long hours without weekends or days off, had their passports confiscated, and were denied employment contracts. HRW reported one instance in which 200 workers lived “in one single-family home.”
The links between major sporting events and human trafficking are complex. Advocates and researchers alike should take advantage of 2014′s big events as opportunities for the kinds of intelligent awareness-raising and study that may inform future trafficking prevention efforts in Brazil, Russia, and Qatar, a newcomer in the world of major international events now preparing to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The US Department of State released its 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report last week. The report, released annually since 2001, summarizes trafficking-related developments around the world. Each country is ranked according to a three-tier system, including Tier 1 (governments praised for their responsiveness to human trafficking), Tier 2 (governments making progress towards prosecuting and preventing human trafficking offenses), and Tier 3 (governments condemned for negligence or complicity in trafficking). The Tier 2 “watch list” is reserved for those countries who might expect to receive a Tier 3 status from the State Department if substantial changes in trafficking-related policy and practice are not made.
The TIP Report, particularly its tier ranking system, has been criticized frequently. For instance, governments that rank poorly are frequently those that eschew positive diplomatic relations with the United States. The Report also determines geographic and thematic eligibility for organizations and service providers seeking grant funding from the U.S. government. Year-to-year changes can cause difficulties for grant applicants, particularly as they related to consistency and sustainability of existing programs.
Nonetheless, the TIP Report continues to serve as a valuable tool for policy makers, advocates, and service providers around the world. In addition to country briefings, the Report includes educational material: a 2013 thematic focus on victim identification, global trafficking-related law enforcement statistics, and a section called “TIP Report Heroes” that honors the outstanding efforts (and best practices) of anti-trafficking advocates. Finally, it should be noted, the Report carries clout. A poor ranking is more than a diplomatic slap on the wrist. It can affect a country’s overall eligibility for U.S.-backed international aid, and can potentially serve as a much-needed impetus for building a new foundation for anti-trafficking efforts nationally or regionally.
“Four years ago, 21 men with intellectual disabilities were emancipated from a bright blue, century-old schoolhouse in Atalissa, Iowa. They ranged in age from their 40s to their 60s, and for most of their adult lives they had worked for next to nothing and lived in dangerously unsanitary conditions.” Check out the entire story here.
Undocumented construction workers in Texas suffer from wage theft on a regular basis. Human trafficking, wage theft, and other forms of worker exploitation are closely related phenomena arising from similar economic pressures to increase profits.
Last month, Equality Now unveiled a new web-based project that seeks to put a face to sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women. The first featured story belongs to Alma, a Filipina waitress forced into prostitution to service U.S. nationals near a large U.S. Army base in Olongapo City.