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Friday, April 11, 2014

Child Labor, Chocolate and Makeup: Two Industries

For many people, “child trafficking” invokes terrible images of children locked in dark spaces, being transported, tortured, forced to have sex and left alone, confused and terrified.  Although these images are lived nightmares for many trafficking victims, another reality of child trafficking is forced labor.  Forced labor comes in many forms though the images described above can also be applied to the lives of child laborers.  In recent years, two industries known for using child laborers have received media attention due to well-known companies being involved in purchasing products from these producers: cocoa farmers in West Africa (Huffington Post, 2012; Forbes, 2014) and Indian mica producers (The Guardian, 2014).
The Hershey Company recently faced a lawsuit regarding their potential violation of federal child trafficking laws that prohibit the use of cocoa from known child laboring sites in Ghana and Ivory Coast.  What is still up for debate is whether or not the company knew that its suppliers used child labor (though cheap cocoa means cheap methods of production which raises questions about the ethics of a supplier’s production).
Cosmetic makeup companies like Lush and L’Oreal have taken steps to stop the use of mica, a common ingredient in makeup due to its glimmering property, from Indian producers who use child labor.  Cosmetic companies are trying to find ways to ensure that they won’t contribute to the problem.  For example, the British cosmetic company Lush has announced that they will no longer use mica in their products and L’Oreal’s mica supplier in India, Merck, has conducted social auditing of mica producers.
The Hershey and makeup cases illustrate two different approaches to the issue of child labor and its involvement in world trade.  The Hershey Company took an unfortunate risk which has had negative outcomes – Whole Foods Markets Inc. has discontinued selling the Hersey’s artisan chocolate brand Scharffen Berger in their stores and a public pension fund threatens to sue the company if it is proven that they were aware that their cocoa producers were using child labor.
               In the cosmetic industry, various methods have been used to avoid incorporating products from producers known to use child laborers.  Although not every method is 100% fail-proof (for example, social auditing can still miss cases of child labor that are covered up before the audit), at least the companies are doing something which is more than Hersey can say.
               In a competitive market, nothing can ruin your brand like involvement in social injustice.  While most people would argue that it’s wrong to support producers who use child labor, cheaper products – as a result of forced labor – are coveted in a world where economic growth is a life force.  From these two examples though, a simple lesson can be learned: avoid contributing to the issue of child labor in the first place or gamble your company’s reputation and revenue.

Cited sources:


Contributed by Annie Vulpas

Friday, March 21, 2014

Talibés: Victims of Forced Begging


Annie Vulpas is a MPH intern from The University of Illinois - Chicago with IOFA.  She reflects on her experience studying abroad as an undergraduate student in Senegal and bearing witness to a human rights violation.

               It wasn’t until recently that I realized I had been a witness of child trafficking everyday for nearly a year.  To the group of American women studying abroad at the Université Gaston Berger in Saint Louis, Senegal, the talibés were mainly a nuisance and many techniques were employed to avoid the filthy, poorly dressed little boys begging for money.  Sometimes we changed directions or crossed the street while walking when we saw a talibé coming; other times, we rudely ignored them or told them “bayyi ma!” (leave me alone!).
               The word talibé is from the Arabic word for student – talib.  The talibés in Senegal are young boys enrolled in Qur’anic schools, called daara in Wolof, where they live, often hundreds of miles from home.  In many of the daaras, boys are sent out early in the morning and forced to beg all day long for money, about $1-2 (500-1,000 fCFA), rice and sugar each day.  Failing to return with the required amount of goods or cash, the talibés will not be fed and are often brutally beaten.  The Qur’anic teachers, or Marabouts, are responsible for the treatment of these children and support their schools, which are often unsanitary and built out of poor building materials such as plastic and corrugated tin.
               As a young woman in my early 20’s, I acknowledged that something was wrong with the talibé situation in Senegal but acceptance of talibé begging by the general population clouded my understanding of the issue.  Many people saw the talibé experience as a rite of passage and since they begged as children, it only made sense that their children would also enroll in a daara under the tutelage of a Marabout.  Now, interning with IOFA and learning of the various ways that children are trafficked, I can see a bigger picture and, sadly, understand the crime that I bore witness to in Senegal.
               According to the 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report, Senegal – categorized as a Tier 2 country – is a “source, transit, and destination country for children and women who are subjected to forced labor, forced begging, and sex trafficking.”  Other forms of trafficking in Senegal include prostitution, domestic servitude and forced labor.  The government supports various shelters and rehabilitation programs in Senegal that provide shelter, food, medical and psychological care to victims of trafficking but statistics related to trafficking prosecutions and convictions are not maintained or published.  It is believed that approximately 50,000 boys between the ages of 3 and 19 are forced to beg for their daaras.
               Reflecting on my interaction with the talibés during that year, I feel a sense of guilt.  Although I was kind – or hoped I was kind to them – I feel guilt for being aware of the issue and instead of addressing my beliefs, letting others dictate my understanding of the situation.  The widespread moral disengagement of the Senegalese, or self-conviction that ethical standards do not apply to certain situations such as the forced begging of talibés, is fueling the abuse of these children.  Efforts have been made by various organizations in recent years to end the forced begging of talibés as awareness of the issue is growing, but such an obvious violation of human rights must be ended.  The boys of Senegal deserve to spend their days in classrooms learning rather than out in the streets begging and being rudely told to “go away” by unknowing and apathetic passersby.

For more information on this topic, please refer to the following sources:


Friday, February 7, 2014

What’s in a word: “Prostitution”

The FBI's recent recovery of 16 juveniles in a joint operation targeting commercial sex trafficking in New Jersey around the Super Bowl demonstrates law enforcement's vigilance and effectiveness in combating the sexual exploitation of children. However, it also conjures a somewhat misleading image of juvenile victim's experience in the commercial sex trade. 

IOFA program development intern, Alexa Schnieders, shares her thoughts on "child prostitution" and how our terminology reflects the identity we impose on a subject: 

I sat in on a discussion recently that began with, “Sex trafficking should be called rape trafficking.” Others in the room cringed over the harsh four-letter word. All innocuous and/or glamorous connotations of the sex trade disappeared as the reality of violence and exploitation took their place. Does semantics wield that much power? When speaking about sex trafficking, misuse of the term “prostitution” has the ability to strip sexually exploited women and men of all victimhood.

Prostitution is generally defined as “the act of engaging in sex acts for hire,” necessitating both consensual sex and received payment. According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), victims of sex trafficking engage in sexual acts under “force, threat or coercion.” This definition of sex trafficking aligns with rape, i.e. victimhood, however in sex trafficking situations there is the added element of rape for the profit of someone other than the survivor/victim.

The word “prostitution” becomes further problematic when it is partnered with the word “child.” Just as the TVPA informs us that someone forced to engage in sexual acts under force, fraud, or coercion is a survivor/victim of trafficking, so too does it state that any child under the age of 18 who engages in a commercial sex act is the survivor/victim of sex trafficking. Based on this legislation, a “child prostitute” simply cannot exist.

While the difference between the terms “survivor/victim of child sex trafficking” (also correctly referred to as “commercially exploited children”) and “child prostitute” may sound like a matter of political correctness, it is much more than that. Using the correct terminology signifies that children are the survivors or victims of a heinous, brutal crime. “Child prostitutes,” on the other hand, are young criminals. While the term “child prostitute” may more effectively grab the attention of a public who responds to sensational language, calling exploited children “prostitutes” perpetuates incorrect notions that these children willingly engage in sex (to which they are too young to consent) and that they are to blame for a choice (that they did not make).

This difference must be understood by all of us, including partners in the field. As advocates, learning and employing the appropriate terminology is our first step towards making change. Our language conveys our understanding of the issue as well as our intentions in our work. While we adopt language that correctly describes the population of survivors and victims we serve, it is our responsibility to encourage our partners to do the same. As the anti-trafficking movement uses this language more consistently, it is our hope that it will begin to affect the language used by those around us as well and that, little by little, the larger paradigm will shift towards one in which survivors of child trafficking are recognized as just that – survivors.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Human Trafficking and the Super Bowl

As sports fans prepare for a showdown between the Broncos and the Seahawks just outside of New York City, conversation about human trafficking is heating up. There is a lot of discourse about a peak in human trafficking surrounding the Super Bowl, but as our partners at the Sex Worker Project and the Urban Justice Center explain, that may be just a myth:

While we commend efforts to raise awareness about human trafficking, allegations that large sporting events, like the Super Bowl, increase the number of persons trafficked into prostitution are simply unfounded. Investigations from past Olympics, World Cups, and Superbowls, have not found large numbers of persons trafficked to these locations by force to engage in commercial sex. These claims can lead to raids and police harassment of adult sex workers, increasing danger for this population. This is a misuse of scarce resources better aimed at preventing human trafficking.

While it is critically important to understand and tackle the root causes of human trafficking and provide resources to those who are currently in trafficking situations or who are survivors, erroneous links to sporting events are not helpful toward these ends. They also distract from real issues surrounding large sporting events that do deserve our attention and are often under-reported, including instances of unsafe labor conditions for construction workers who build sports arenas, and the large scale trafficking and deaths of migrant workers.

The media’s fixation on trafficking into the sex trade has led to an unfortunate misperception about human trafficking, and missed opportunities to halt human rights abuses. We encourage journalists and members of the public to support more just working conditions in all labor sectors where trafficking exists, including restaurants, private homes, landscaping, construction, and agriculture; this will help us recognize and assist victims in need.



Written by: Sienna Baskin, Esq. Co-Director Sex Workers Project Urban Justice Center www.sexworkersproject.org

To learn more about the intersection of human trafficking and large sporting events, please see these sources:

Trafficking in Human Beings and the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Migration Research Series no. 29 , International Organization for Migration (2007), (stating that “the estimate of 40,000 women expected to be trafficked [in Germany surrounding the World Cup] was unfounded and unrealistic”).

What’s the Cost of a Rumour? A guide to sorting out the myths and the facts about sporting events and trafficking, Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (2011).

Urban Legends and Hoaxes: How Hyperbole Hurts Trafficking Victims, Huffington Post, Rachel Lloyd, (2012), (stating that while “there have definitely been some reported cases, the statistics just don’t bear out this claim.”).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

IOFA forges ahead: Join us at our third training in Onondaga County!

NYChildRight Trainings
IOFA logo

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS)
&
The International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA)
are pleased to invite you to

As part of IOFA's NY ChildRight project, join us for free one and two-day trainings in Onondaga County on child trafficking.
 
RESPONDING TO CHILD TRAFFICKING
(ONE-DAY TRAINING)
TUESDAY
October 22nd, 2013
From 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
 
Eventbrite - Responding to Child Trafficking in Onondaga County

IDENTIFYING AND ASSISTING TRAFFICKED CHILDREN
(TWO-DAY TRAINING)

WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY
October 23rd and 24th, 2013
From 8:30 a..m. to 5 p.m.
 
 
Eventbrite - Identifying and Assisting Trafficked Children in Onondaga County

Monday, October 7, 2013

Our ChildRight: New York Trainings on Child Trafficking continue! Join us in Rochester!

NYChildRight Trainings
IOFA logo

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS)
&
The International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA)
are pleased to invite you to

As part of IOFA's NY ChildRight project, join us for free one and two-day trainings in Monroe County on child trafficking.
 
 
RESPONDING TO CHILD TRAFFICKING
(ONE-DAY TRAINING)
TUESDAY 
October 15th, 2013
From 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Eventbrite - Responding to Child Trafficking in Monroe County

IDENTIFYING AND ASSISTING TRAFFICKED CHILDREN
(TWO-DAY TRAINING)

WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY
October 16th and 17, 2013
From 8:30 a..m. to 5 p.m.
Eventbrite - Identifying and Assisting Trafficked Children in Monroe County

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Register for our Training Series on Child Trafficking in Westchester County!


NYChildRight Trainings
IOFA logo

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS)
&
The International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA)
are pleased to invite you to

Please join us for an upcoming training series being held in Westchester County on child trafficking.
 
RESPONDING TO CHILD TRAFFICKING
(ONE-DAY TRAINING)
WEDNESDAY
September 25th, 2013
From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Eventbrite - Responding to Child Trafficking in Westchester County

IDENTIFYING AND ASSISTING TRAFFICKED CHILDREN
(TWO-DAY TRAINING)

THURSDAY AND FRIDAY
September 26th and 27, 2013
From 8 a..m. to 4 p.m. 
 
Eventbrite - Identifying and Assisting Trafficked Children in Westchester County