Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
February 8, 2008
Anti-Human Trafficking Program Highlights
The United States Government has spent nearly $450 million for international anti-trafficking programs since 2001. The following brief summaries of G/TIP programs reflect the breadth of the issues addressed and strategies used to end modern day slavery and restore human dignity. They also suggest promising practices for future work.
South Central Asia: Confronting Debt Bondage
While debt bondage has been illegal in India since 1976, it is still pervasive, affecting millions in the country. Debt bondage involves the use of a bond, or debt, to keep a person under subjugation. International Justice Mission (IJM), with G/TIP funding, has worked alongside government authorities to free victims and help them secure rehabilitation payments and vital social services. Throughout the project, IJM worked with local authorities to ensure the release of 267 children, women and men from slavery and to develop follow-up care tailored to their needs. IJM also collaborates with local officials to see that perpetrators are punished. Together they secured a landmark one-year jail sentence against a perpetrator who held six young men as slaves in a sweets shop and factory—it is considered the longest sentence on-record for forced labor in Southern India.
Near East: Protection and Assistance for Victims of Trafficking
The International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) in partnership with Caritas Lebanon Migrants Center (CLMC) has been providing ground-breaking assistance to victims of trafficking in Lebanon, since 2003. The initiative was the first of its kind in the region, establishing a safe house where victims could find a secure and protective environment and have access to trauma counseling, social assistance and follow-up, legal assistance and medical aid. The initiative ultimately resulted in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Lebanon’s General Directorate of General Security which has given the team early access and unprecedented involvement in cases where female migrant domestic workers have attempted to escape abusive employers. To date, 393 victims were assisted of which 250 women had access to the safe house, where basic needs were met. Small grants were given to 124 extremely vulnerable victims to help them start a new life.
Europe: Challenging Legalized Prostitution – A Magnet for Sex Trafficking
The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), with funding from G/TIP, undertook critical work in both Bulgaria and Romania to educate elected officials, policymakers, and the public on the link between human trafficking and prostitution as its catalyst. Both countries were considering legislation to legalize prostitution when the grant started. Neither country now has such legislation under consideration. In Bulgaria, CATW partnered with the Institute for Democracy, Stability and Security in Southeast Europe and an extraordinary Minister of Parliament, Nadezhda Mihaylova. In Romania, CATW partnered with Caritas and a vibrant network of feminists, human rights and church groups. In both cases G/TIP funding facilitated the work of indigenous NGOs which sought not to allow prostitution to create an inherent vulnerability to TIP victimization. The project culminated with a conference at which a top government official publicly reversed course on his government’s support of legalized prostitution—a first in Bulgaria. As both an advocacy and policy project, the indigenous NGOs helped raise public awareness in profound ways.
East Asia: Preventing Child Sex Tourism
With G/TIP funding, World Vision completed a remarkable public awareness campaign that confronted demand for child sex tourism within Costa Rica, Thailand and Cambodia. Deterrence messages were placed at every step along the way for prospective child sex tourists—in U.S. airports, on television, in magazines, on the Internet and in airline in-flight videos. The campaign culminated in the targeted destination countries. For example, when tourists left the airport in Phnom Penh, they were confronted with a billboard message in English: “Abuse a child in this country, go to jail in yours.” In addition to their prevention efforts World Vision utilized their extensive presence in nearly 100 countries to work in partnership with local and U.S. law enforcement agencies to help identify child sex tourists and provide information that could lead to their prosecution and conviction.
Western Hemisphere: Raising Awareness and Mobilizing the Local Community
G/TIP funded Winrock International to implement a successful public awareness project in Brazil’s Bahia state, which has been identified as a main human trafficking route. Despite the high incidence of trafficking in the area, very few local NGOs were working on this issue. The project empowered six local NGOs to recognize human trafficking while actively engaging the public and facilitating the creation of an anti-human trafficking state committee which is currently developing an action plan. The committee was officially recognized by the Brazilian government as a model on the national level. The newly mobilized NGOs carried out unique community based initiatives to raise awareness about trafficking in persons, one of which was a play presented before 5,000 students at five middle schools.
Africa: Working Through International Organizations to Prevent Trafficking Before it Starts
The U.S. also works with international organizations like the International Labor Organization (ILO) to combat human trafficking. G/TIP supported a project in Côte d’Ivoire—a nation which has serious internal and cross-border trafficking problems. Tragically, impoverished children in rural villages, and even their parents, fall prey to false promises of work and wages and are vulnerable to exploitation by human traffickers. This project seeks to confront trafficking at its source by creating a series of Local Vigilance Committees (LVC), composed of community volunteers, who play a primary role in preventing trafficking, identifying and tracking traffickers, and repatriating trafficked children. As volunteers, they monitor borders and control cross-border movement of children. The creation at the local level of the LVCs has dramatically heightened public awareness. Since the inception of the project, 21 trafficking victims (six boys, 15 girls) have been withdrawn and placed in an apprenticeship program, under which 12 artisans are teaching them a craft.
Global: Groundbreaking Research on the Health Impact of Trafficking
Approximately 42 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS and sex trafficking plays a major role in spreading the epidemic. Globally, people in prostitution have a high incidence of HIV. For example, research supported by G/TIP and published in the Journal of American Medical Association found the following: HIV prevalence among women trafficked from Nepal and prostituted in India is 38%. The rate of HIV infection exceeded 60% among girls prostituted prior to 15 years of age. This data reflects the horror that is sex trafficking for the individual, particularly for children, and the impact it has from a regional and global health perspective. It also shows that organizations devoted to helping those with HIV must watch for potential victims of TIP to get them help for that other basis of serious trauma.