Archive for the ‘GLOA 491’ Category

“…[T]he [US Trafficking Victims Protection Act] defines human trafficking as “a form of modern-day slavery,” yet no other forms are identified; it defines “severe forms of trafficking” but does not specifically define nonsevere forms; “trafficking” is not synonymous with “movement,” as it is in common usage; and the term “abolition” has been co-opted such that it now refers to the eradication of prostitution, not the eradication of slavery.” (Miriam Potocky, PhD. The Travesty of Human Trafficking: A Decade of Failed U.S. Policy, in Social Work 55:4. 2010. p. 373).


The passage above perfectly describes the vague definitions of and vague boundaries between sex slavery and human trafficking previously alluded to in earlier posts. Dr. Potocky argues that as a result of these inconstant, vague definitions in public policy, researchers, social service providers, and the public at-large must often draw conclusions about forced sex work by piecing together information from disparate sources with still more variation in definitions. Nowhere is this truer than in the US. Because of the difficulty finding information on forced sex slavery in particular, my research on forced sex work in the US is based primarily on information from two categories of sources: secondary sources that document forced sex slavery specifically, and primary sources with empirical data about general trends in sex trafficking. This latter category includes data on forced sex work, voluntary sex work, and varying degrees in between.

For the purposes of my research, human trafficking (or just trafficking) refers to the movement of people across or within international borders. This includes people who migrate voluntary and involuntarily. Sex trafficking is a subset of this category; some individuals are knowingly trafficked into prostitution, while others are deceived.

Slavery/slaves refers to forced labor exchanged for little more than the meeting of basic human needs (rather than monetary compensation).  A slave does not have freedom of movement or control the terms of her labor.  My research examines sex slave retailers in particular, those who exploit saves for profit. The work conditions imposed upon the person being exploited, as well as the conditions for compensation, are factors which determines whether a laborer is being enslaved. Agency of laborers is a key concept in the definition of slavery. Are laborers performing work voluntarily or under threat of physical violence? Are they free to stop working or will this result in physical violence?


Nigerian Baby Farm

Posted: November 14, 2011 in GLOA 491
Tags: , , ,

Back in June 2011, The Guardian posted this article about a “baby farm” in Nigeria where girls between primary school age and 20 years old were forced to give up their newborn babies “to people who may use them for rituals or other purposes,” such as illegal adoption. While the babies were bought for up to $6,400, the girls were paid between $161 and $192 for their sacrifice. Sadly, many of the children are “killed as part of witchcraft rituals because they are thought to make charms more powerful.”

Paola probably already knows this, but I learned from this article that human trafficking is the third most common crime in Nigeria, with about 10 children being sold per day. Trafficking of children for religious purposes is not something I have thought about in my research on the business of human trafficking, but I would be interested in learning more about it. Though my research is related to the business of sex trafficking in particular, trafficking for rituals could fall under this category if sex is part of some of these rituals or if the children are sexually exploited outside of the rituals. The Guardian references a recent UNESCO report on Nigerian human trafficking. One of these days I will take a look and see what I can glean about this topic.

Not too long ago I wrote a post about Rances Amaya, a member of MS-13 who was arrested in Springfield, VA on accusations of running a prostitution ring composed of minor females. Between then and now, I have been able to obtain some of the court documents filed in the case, including an affidavit filed by a the FBI in support of the criminal complaint. The supporting affidavit documents some of the observations made by Federal law enforcement agents that led to the charges against Mr. Amaya. Without walking you trough the specifics, I would like to highlight some details that I learned about the case which touch on concepts that we’ve discussed in GLOA 491. Keep in mind that these are only accusations, and not necessarily facts (though most are supported by witnesses):

  1. Beginning in the Spring of 2010 Amaya employed 4 underage runaways as prostitutes. He recruited approximately 15 clients around this period for the girls to service. We’ve all heard horror stories about victims forced to service 20 clients a day, so Mr. Amaya’s business seems relatively moderate in comparison, though this would probably be of little comfort to Mr. Amaya’s victims.
  2. Mr. Amaya provided the underage girls with condoms and the morning-after pill. Forced use of contraceptives and abortions seems to be a widely used, but not universal, practice in the forced sex trade. Frequency of use in the Amaya case is unclear.
  3. Mr. Amaya is accused of verbally abusing, threatening, and physically abusing the girls, yelling at a girl on at least one occasion, “bitch, you better fuck!” On another occasion, he assaulted one of the runaways for trying to leave a hotel room. Threat/use of force and restrictions on freedom of movement are key differences between the voluntary and forced sex trades.
  4. At least one girl was said to have a hand in some of the administrative functions of the business by obtaining and distributing condoms and accompanying the other girls during transportation to clients. This reminded me of the former sex slaves in Thailand and Moldova who moved on to become recruiters for their former abusers.
In researching the Amaya case, I learned that it actually had its roots an another case, USA v. Ormeno, in which another man, Alonso Ormeno, also associated with MS-13, was charged with sex trafficking of a minor and recently sentenced to nearly 25 years in Federal prison. I have also obtained the court filings for the Ormeno case and will be skimming through them over the next few days/weeks. The Ormeno case filings contain a lot of detailed information because the case is completed so all of the details have been documented, as opposed to the Amaya case which only recently started.
Let me know if you want info on how to obtain documents filed in Federal courts for your research; it is really easy but can take up to a week or two to get your info processed initially. Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) charges $0.10 per page to view docs, but won’t send you a bill until you have $10.00 in charges. So if I understand correctly, you won’t get billed at all as long as you view less than 100 pages.


Posted: November 4, 2011 in GLOA 491
Tags: , ,

I recently watched the move Taken about an American whose daughter is kidnapped in Europe and sold into sex slavery. I was wondering about a couple of things:

  • One part of this movie talks about how traffickers used to deceive women into sex slavery, but now (in 2008 paris) they just kidnap travelers to “save on transportation costs”. Based on my research I would say that this is a dramatization. For example Kara notes that most sex slavery victims are coerced, not kidnapped.  Kidnapping strangers in high-profile places like a Paris airport seems risky; what if you kidnap someone prominent, like the daughter of an American spy (or something more realistic)? Is there any evidence of women being kidnapped against their will and sold into sex slavery?
  • At a slave auction near the end of the movie, slaves were sold to rich buyers for as much as $500k. This is definitely a dramatization, because slaves usually only sell for a couple thousand dollars at most. Are there any real-life scenarios in which slaves would sell for 10’s or 100’s of thousands of dollars?

I am coming to discover an interesting intersection of money and religion in the fight against human trafficking in the US. In July the Village Voice posted this article about inflated estimations of human trafficking in the US. The article claims that US anti-trafficking groups allow or even encourage an overestimation of the problem because Congress allocates a great deal of money to fight it; the bigger the trafficking problem, the more money for these organizations. The article also claims that many recipients of this money “have clear religious or prohibitionist agendas”. It turns out that this is due to Bush-era faith-based initiatives, which “directed more social service contracts to faith-based groups”. One of the groups identified in the article, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, was recently denied a $4.5 million federal grant to assist victims of human trafficking in a controversial decision by the US Department of Health and Human Services, according to this article by the Washington Post. In the review process, the bishop’s conference scored higher than the groups who were ultimately awarded the money. However, there were well-founded concerns that the bishop’s group “would not refer victims for abortions or contraceptives” due to religious beliefs, so they were not awarded the grant. The article notes that while federal funding is generally not permitted for abortions, it is allowed in cases of rape.

Another example is given by the Kansas City NBC affiliate, which  posted an article about the organization Stop Child Trafficking Now (SCTNow). According to the affiliate’s investigation, SCTNow raised over $30,000 at a recent Kansas City fundraiser, but when pressed, the organization’s national campaign director couldn’t name any local organizations that were going to receive a share of the donations. This is despite the fact that the funds were promised to be used in KC,  and despite the fact that there are several reputable victims assistance organizations operating in KC that seem to be deserving of the money. SCTNow operates under its parent organization, Strategic Global Initiatives, which was founded by Pastor Ronald Lewis and raised almost $825,000 in 2010. Total amount of grants made by the organization during this same period? $43,000. The sole recipient? A North Carolina church founded by, you guessed it, Pastor Ron Lewis.

Even with all of the money flying around trying to address the problem of human trafficking in the US, I get the impression that not much real effort goes into helping victims or even considering what their best interests might be. In class we discussed how attention was originally drawn to the US human trafficking problem by Evangelical government employees in the late 1990s/early 2000s, some of whom went on to work in anti-trafficking or victims assistance. It seems at this point that several of the victims assistance organizations that were founded on religious principles are not doing as much as they could be to actually assist the victims. Victims should be more than just poster children for fundraising events.

Thought I’d share this blog post as a follow up to my post about the State Department’s 2011 TIPS numbers: US decision on India regarding human trafficking questioned.

In April of this year I spent two weeks in Dallas doing some work as a contractor for the US Army. We had lunch a couple of times at this little sports bar called Founder’s Grill. In the doorway at Founder’s, there is a sign posted that caught my attention. I snapped a picture with my phone:

Human trafficking warnings are publicly posted in some parts of Dallas.

What really struck me was that a former Confederate state, today home to a very diverse population (especially in Dallas), needs reminding of the ills of slavery. I thought, considering the South’s historical relationship with slavery, hadn’t these guys already learned their lesson? I mean, it’s 2011; do we really need signs to tell us that slavery is illegal and to provide a number to call in case we find a slave?

Yes. Especially in Texas, which plays a key role in North American migration patterns. A couple of hours outside of Dallas, Houston “is either the leading trafficking site in the U.S. or very near the top, along with Los Angeles, Atlanta, New Orleans, and New York City… [It] sits at the center of major highways between Los Angeles and Miami and between the U.S. and Latin America,” according to this 2010 article in Texas Monthly. The reason that I stumbled across this sign is because I was in the middle of a major migration hub. It is also worth noting that Founder’s is located directly across the street from Dallas’ Union Station, a potential medium for moving trafficked persons.

The abundance of strip clubs in the Dallas area is also worth noting. Driving down the highway, it is impossible not to notice the billboards featuring barely dressed women advertising free food & drink ’till 5:00am, with no cover charges. If you’re from DC, land of the $8 beer and the $20 cover, this may be hard to imagine, but Dallas club owners don’t need to charge for entry or concessions because they can recoup their costs in other ways. They know that patrons will drink and buy lap dances, and in some cases possibly illicit sexual services. With the sheer abundance of cheap strip clubs in Dallas, I suspect that many are involved in illicit sex trafficking, either directly or indirectly. The volume of licit establishments also makes it easier for the illicit ones to blend in.

There was one more factor that helped me better understand why I had seen the slavery sign in Dallas. Earlier this month the anti-trafficking organization Stop the Traffik posted signs in Manchester, England as a public awareness campaign effort. Mancunians awoke one morning startled to find official-looking signage plastered on lampposts across the city that read, “WARNING: Human Traffickers Operate Here.” This progressive country that abolished slavery 204 years ago still struggles with the problem to this day. Back in Texas, a place at the crossroads of several major migration routes with lax strip club regulations and a history of standing up for slaveowner rights, similar problems are faced.

Seeing a slavery warning in a former Confederate state is sad. On a positive note, efforts are being made to call public attention to the problem and Texas has created a Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force to address it. I shouldn’t have been surprised to see the sign in Dallas because slavery, like many global problems, is pervasive. It permeates borders, cultures, social status, and other factors that usually divide people. Public awareness campaigns are a necessary element in human trafficking prevention and mitigation efforts.