Monday, July 25, 2011

Rescued. Twice!

If you haven't seen it yet, here's the newest video from International Justice Mission called Ray Of Hope. This 12 minute documentary shares the story of Suhana who was trafficked and rescued TWICE by IJM colleagues in India. She bravely told her story so others could be rescued too.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Village Voice vs. Ashton Kutcher: The Debate Over Child Trafficking Statistics In America.


There has been considerable bickering back and forth between several high profile reporters and members of several anti-trafficking groups about the actual # of US kids trapped in sexual exploitation here in the States. One of the main skeptics being from the Village Voice, who questions the veracity of the statistic that there are between 100 and 300 thousand kids forced into illegal prostitution and pornography every year in the US. The same Village Voice who owns (and profits greatly from), which has a prolific adult services section that has been well documented to facilitate prostitution and has also been used as a vehicle for the exploitation of minors. (After Craigslist shut down their Adult services section in the US Backpage's revenues jumped 15% the next month, online prostitution ads in 23 U.S. cities increased to $1,671,685 for the month of September.)

What's worse is the Voice singled out Ashton Kutcher, and then proceeded to berate him for what they percieved as poor movie choices, poor acting, and poor anti-trafficking activism, degrading Ads run by Kutcher's anti-trafficking non-profit as "frat boy humor". Below, one of the Ads from the Demi and Ashton Foundation that Kutcher founded with movie star wife Demi Moore. The ads are built around the slogan "real men don't buy girls".

The Village Voice article, smugly entitled, "Real Men Get Their Facts Straight". Like countless abolitionists and government officials, Kutcher has used a range of 100,000 to 300,000 when estimating how many kids are involved in domestic trafficking.

The Voice argues the 2001 University of Pennsylvania study that Kutcher and others quote estimated only the number of children who are "at risk" of commercial sexual exploitation, not the actual number currently trafficked. And it castigates Kutcher for not clarifying. Kutcher responded with a series of Tweets (he has 7 million followers) attacking Village Voice Media for the adult classifieds in its alternative weekly and on its website

"It is true that Village Voice Media has a stake in this discussion," responded Voice editors, "But the facts speak for themselves." This seems a somewhat peculiar if not open admittal of the causal link between the trafficking of children and the adult services section of the Voice's publications.

“Adult services sections are little more than online brothels, enabling human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children,” says Connecticut’s attorney general Richard Blumenthal.

Dear Village Voice, does it really matter if there are one to three thousand or a hundred times that many kids trapped in prostitution in the US?? I mean if it were your daughter, one child would be enough. What do you have the problem with? Does irresponsible reporting somehow offend your sense of impeccable journalistic standards? What about irresponsible business practices? Does it endanger children if the statistics are skewed in the wrong directions, inflated by the passions and good intentions of the tireless abolilitionists on the front-line of the anti-sex trade fight? Or does the real danger come when those with money on the line pollute the discussion by disingenuous, half-hearted arguments with suspect motives. What are you doing to stop child trafficking? Why not follow Craigslist's example and shut down your Backpage adult services section. If anything, the statistics in question will go down. What do you have to lose- besides a little face, and oh yeah, a lot of cash. Real papers don't sell girls.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Haiti And Child Trafficking

Haitian Slum

90 minutes from Disney World on the western half of the Island of Hispaniola Haitian children are at constant risk of sexual exploitation. Haiti's eastern neighbor, the Dominican Republic features picturesque island getaways where affluence affords European and American tourists the opportunity for every sort of decadence, including the use of a Haitian child to fulfill their most perverse fantasies.

Dominican paradise

Since the 2010 earthquake it is estimated that up to 10 thousand children have been trafficked across the Haitian border into the Dominican, often with the complicity of the authorities, always with evil intent. The Miami Herald reports:

"[O]n a recent night, reporters — and tourists — watched a police supervisor stand over a teenage prostitute as she rubbed his belly from a chair. The cop and the girl laughed.

Another young man who introduced himself as a tour guide boasts that he has "Haitian girls of all ages." The young man described in aberrant detail the shape of the developing body of a 12-year-old. "Her (breasts) are still growing."

"Men who have been here before are confident that the police won't arrest them if they pick up the younger girls," said one Dominican girl.

Many of the newcomers seem to be younger than 17 and, despite wearing heavy makeup, skintight dresses and stilettos, often appear embarrassed and awkward when they offer tourists their bodies for less than $30."

According to the Herald:

"All the officials know who the traffickers are, but don't report them. It is a problem that is not going to end because the authorities' sources of income would dry up," said Regino Martínez, a Jesuit priest and director of the Border Solidarity Foundation in Dajabón, a Dominican border town.

Reporters witnessed smugglers carrying children across a river, handing them to other adults, who put the kids on motorcycles and speed off to shanty towns. Border guards, charged with preventing this very operation, witnessed the incidents and never reacted, the reporters found.

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive acknowledged that there has been a lack of political will to tighten the porous 230-mile border between the nations, which he called a "no man's land and an opening for bigger trafficking."

"There is not one person who feels they have an interest in controlling the frontier," Bellerive told The Miami Herald. "There are people on the Haitian side who are profiting because they are the ones who organize the trafficking. The same on the Dominican side."

Haitian children wait for relief in the first days after the earthquake. Their parents dead or missing, the children are half naked, lonely and scared, with many in a state of shock. A stranger proffering kindness in the form of food or shelter may seem heaven sent, but may in fact be a malevolent opportunist.

Nelta, a 13-year-old Haitian, told The Herald that she walked for three days with two other young girls to reach Santiago de los Caballeros in the Dominican Republic. She said a female trafficker left them at a hideout in that town. "A man raped me in the shelter," said Nelta.

The buscones (hustlers), as the smugglers are known, not only deliver children on request. They also deliver them a la carte to strangers. "You choose the age, what sex, and skills of the Haitian kid you want," one smuggler told an El Nuevo Herald reporter."

Herald reporters repeatedly watched smugglers transport children across the borders unhindered. With the bulk of the child smuggling concentrated in the northern border of the island of Hispaniola, between the towns of Dajabón, 180 miles from Santo Domingo, and Oanaminthe in Haiti, separated by the Masacre River.

The Masacre River, dubiously named, shallow (above) and narrow (below) enough to navigate easily Haiti's porous border with the Dominican.

A chaotic, bi-national wholesale market opens every Friday and Monday in Dajabón. Thousands of merchants and buyers show up, allowing smugglers to pass money — usually $1
— via Haitian bag men to Dominican officers, who look the other way as the child cargo moves amid the chaos.

The devastation left by the earthquake, the lack of civil infrastructure, and the aggravated poverty in Haiti have left the vulnerable ever more so. And with 300,000 dead and 2 million more displaced from the earthquake, the Dominican has become a place of hope for many of Haiti's downtrodden. Traffickers make promises that desperate Haitians want to believe, and many, especially the newly orphaned, fall victim to the lies.

Megan Boudreaux, founder of Respire Haiti, says the actual numbers of trafficked children may never be known. She adds, "Unfortunately, in a country where there is a population of 9 million people and there are nearly 1 million orphans, there is lots of exploitation of children. After the earthquake it was estimated that between 25 and 100 children were crossing the border to the Dominican Republic EVERY DAY! Many of the children came from the largest slum in Haiti, City Soleil. It’s only a matter of minutes when a young woman and her baby walk into City Soleil, before someone is offering to buy her child. Sadly, because SO many of these children lack paperwork and proper documentation, they are easily trafficked without people even knowing they are gone."

Megan believes the solution is education, more precisely the opportunity for an education for Haiti's impoverished youth. With only 45 percent of children attending primary school and less than 15 percent enrolled in secondary school there is an educational crisis in Haiti. To this end Respire is building a school (below) for 300 children in the city of Gressier. You can help Respire and Megan end the cycle of hopelessness here.

As always, from all of us at Conspiracy Of Hope, thank you for caring about justice. Thank you for being a voice for the voiceless. Thank you for sharing Haiti's story with your friends, and for supporting groups like Respire Haiti in their efforts to rescue Haiti's most vulnerable and restore both dignity to their lives and hope to their hearts. None of us would expect any less for our own children.