A couple of years ago, 3 South Asian women entered Singapore, with promises of a lucrative dancing career at a nightclub.
To be employed, they were required to sign a contract in English, surrender their passports, and stay in shared accomodation – all for a pay of S$900 (USD 660) per month, a veritable fortune in their eyes. As newbies to a foreign country, they thought this was normal. Their poverty-ridden background made them view the opportunity to earn Singapore dollars and send money back home, as a dream come true.
They had to provide sexual favours to nightclub patrons and work even when sick. They were barred from leaving their apartment. Unless their employers gave them access to a phone, they had no way to contact their families back home. Being unable to speak English proved a deterrent to contact the authorities. Plus, they were constantly threatened with social stigmatisation if they ever spoke out. Faced with seemingly insurmountable difficulties, they felt truly alone in a country where they knew no one, except their employers.
Just before Covid-19 made global headlines last year, authorities cracked down on the operations and rescued these women. And Singapore got its first ever conviction on labour trafficking charges. The ’employers’ were fined and jailed, and the women were returned to their home countries, and assisted with re-settlement.
This human trafficking story ended on a positive note. Not all do.
The United Nations defines human trafficking as:
“The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”
In simple words, human trafficking is “the process of trapping people through the use of violence, deception or coercion and exploiting them for financial or personal gain” (courtesy:antislavery.org).
So, to qualify as human ‘trafficking’, victims needn’t be transported overseas; they simply have to be forced into a situation of exploitation. Here are some mind-boggling statistics on this crime:
There are between 20 and 40 million people in modern slavery today.
About 71% of enslaved people are women and girls, while men and boys account for 29%.
Human trafficking earns global profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers; $99 billion comes from commercial sexual exploitation.
Advocates report a growing trend of traffickers using online social media platforms to recruit and advertise targets of human trafficking.
There are no countries or industries completely immune to the vice of human trafficking. Some high-risk industries are agriculture, fishing, textile manufacturing, hospitality and entertainment. Europe, North America, Middle East, and some countries in East Asia and the Pacific are popular destinations for trafficking victims.
Human trafficking takes many forms; people coerced into working as money/drug mules, sex trade, organ harvesting, cheap factory labour, domestic help, and children forced to serve as soldiers or commit crimes. Human trafficking is considered a hidden crime – nearly impossible to detect through traditional means. This is because victims almost never come forward – be it due to fear of retaliation from abusers, language barriers, or psychological/financial burdens borne by them.
The victims are all around us. They don’t carry placards or have their victimhood stamped on their faces. But look closer, and worrying signs may emerge; persons who appear timid, submissive and fearful in public, reluctant to speak, deferring to another in control, having few possessions or no personal identification. These are potential red flags that indicate trafficking.
Or not. There could always be perfectly valid reasons why someone behaves in a particular way in public. Unfortunately, this ambiguity in behavioural red flags and victims’ reluctance to point out their abusers, makes this crime extremely difficult to identify and convict legally.
Advances in technology has enabled more to join the fight against human trafficking. Financial institutions offer assistance through transaction monitoring and analysis that helps identify patterns in money movement, indicating the presence of human trafficking. Some fintechs have also developed machine learning models that can be trained to detect suspicious transaction patterns, and alert authorities. Yet another tool used to identify human trafficking red flags is social media analysis.
How can you help? First, be aware of the signs of human trafficking – that’s one of the best ways you can contribute. Volunteer your time at a shelter dedicated to victims of human trafficking. Be an informed consumer; find out where/how the products you consume are produced, and boycott companies connected to human trafficking. Together, we can help combat this evil and reduce the number of victims claimed every year.
Veena has experienced living in different climes of Asia - born and brought up in the hot Middle East, and a native of India from the state known as God’s Own Country, she is currently based in the tropical city-state of Singapore. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ Several years ago, she came across World Moms Network (then World Moms Blog) soon after its launch, and was thrilled to become a contributor. She has a 11-year old son and a quadragenarian husband (although their ages might be inversed to see how they are with each other sometimes). ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ On a professional front, she works in the financial sector - just till she earns enough to commit to her dream job of full-time bibliophile. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ You can also find Veena at her personal blog, Merry Musing. ⠀
Sex trafficking has been a huge issue in developing countries and an alarming issue has surfaced with regard to ISIS fighters and women they’ve captured. It has come to light that ISIS fighters use birth control to continue raping their captives.
A recent article has uncovered that women who are taken by ISIS become sex slaves. These young girls are part of the Yazidi religious minority who have been taken from their homes in northern Iraq to essentially provide sex for their captors, at any time. What’s even more disturbing is that young girls who are captured are being forced to take birth control pills to avoid getting pregnant. The origins of this unbelievable method stems from an old Islamic law, whereby a man has to ensure that his victim is not pregnant before having intercourse with her.
The reason behind dispensing birth control to these girls is to allow these fighters to share or sell the girls without the risk of any pregnancy. The fighters dispense oral or injectable contraception, or sometimes both, to ensure that no girl could get pregnant.
In the case of M., a sixteen year old victim whose captor was not convinced that she was not pregnant after being questioned, forced her to ingest a version of the morning-after pill by one of her buyers, which caused her to bleed. In addition, he injected a dose of Depo-Provera, an injectable contraceptive, on her thigh, to further ensure she would not get pregnant, before proceeding to rape her. What is surprising is that out of the 700 victims who have been treated for rape, only 5% have gotten pregnant while they were enslaved.
One of the ways women could get around this obscure law was a period of sexual abstinence by the captors during a woman’s menstrual cycle. This was an option that was deemed acceptable by the Islamic law, but not all Islamic fighters followed the rule and some were unaware of it or chose to ignore it. These women never know if their suffering from these men will result in more rapes or abandonment once they’re deemed as useless.
The plight of these women are filled with so much pain and suffering. It is unconscionable that these women be treated like animals to be shared or disposed of once their purpose has been met. As a Mom who can’t imagine the danger and barbarism they are subjected to daily, I can only pray that they escape their situation without further damage to their physical, mental and emotional psyche.
To view the original article that inspired this post here.
Had you heard this story? What do you make of it?
This is an original Post written for World Moms Blog by Tes Silverman of PinayPerspective
Photo Credit: By BetteDavisEyes at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.
The Super Bowl, an American Football Championship took place last night in Phoenix, AZ in the USA. The NFL, the organization that controls the league, has been under attack for their disappointing responses when it comes to violence against women and their players. Even further, if you tuned into part one of “A Path Appears” last week you may have seen the part when journalist Nick Kristof took viewers on a Super Bowl sting, where they caught over 70 “Johns” who were soliciting sex from women around the big game in a set-up. The three-part series is covering important topics such as human trafficking, early childhood intervention and the importance of educating girls around the globe.
Tonight, February 2nd, 2015, the 2nd part of the television series based on the book by Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn appears on PBS at 10pm EST (check local listings — it may be different where you live).
Part two focuses on the latest research that points to the importance of early child intervention in children, especially those under two years old. In order to get to children in poverty, effective programs must create a relationship with their mothers and teach them how to be nurturing parents. And books! These programs are geared to teach the parents the importance of reading to their children, or of just making up stories to the pictures. This type of intervention helps create children who are excited about school and feel secure later on.
“If you suffer trauma as a child, it changes the way your brain grows. If you have the stress of extreme poverty, the stress of abuse, that changes the actual way that your brain grows and develops.” — Jennifer Garner, actress
In order to reach the mothers, nurses or influential people in the local communities must be empowered to support local mothers by demonstrating nurturing parenting skills and sharing age appropriate books. Regular check-ins help moms stay on track and ask questions. These types of programs help to break the poverty cycle and give children a better chance in school.
The problem? The programs are underfunded.
What You Can Do to Help Break the Poverty Cycle for Children
As I continue to read the book, “A Path Appears”, (which I received at the Americares Airlift and at the AYA Summit) and watch the three-part television series, I’m learning that there are solutions to ending trafficking, to breaking poverty cycles. And the more people who trample on the same direction in the grass towards solutions, the paths begin to appear. Join us live on twitter tonight with hashtag #APathAppears.
Tune in on PBS in the USA at 10pm EST tonight, February 2, 2015, for part 3 of the series.
To sponsor a child’s early education in the US or abroad head over to Save the Children!
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by founder, Jennifer Burden of New Jersey, USA.
Photo credits to A Path Appears.
Disclosure: World Moms Blog was invited to the premier of A Path Appears in NYC by Save the Children. Author received copies of the book, “A Path Appears”, from the non profit organizations, Americares and ONE.org.
Jennifer Burden is the Founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award winning website on global motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. World Moms Network writes from over 30 countries, has over 70 contributors and was listed by Forbes as one of the “Best 100 Websites for Women”, named a “must read” by The New York Times, and was recommended by The Times of India.
She was also invited to Uganda to view UNICEF’s family health programs with Shot@Life and was previously named a “Global Influencer Fellow” and “Social Media Fellow” by the UN Foundation. Jennifer was invited to the White House twice, including as a nominated "Changemaker" for the State of the World Women Summit. She also participated in the One Campaign’s first AYA Summit on the topic of women and girl empowerment and organized and spoke on an international panel at the World Bank in Washington, DC on the importance of a universal education for all girls. Her writing has been featured by Baby Center, Huffington Post, ONE.org, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life, and The Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists.” She is currently a candidate in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the Executive Masters of Public Affairs program, where she hopes to further her study of global policies affecting women and girls.
#WorldMoms were thrilled to be invited by Save The Children to the preview screening and discussion of the new Documentary A Path Appears, Executive Produced and Directed by Maro Chermayeff, this past Thursday in New York City. The film is based on the book by the same title by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalists Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof. World Moms Founder Jennifer Burden, Senior Editors Kyla P’an and Elizabeth Atalay, and special contributors Maria Mostajo and Polly Palumbo attended the event held at the New York Historical Society. A Path Appears will air in the USA on PBS three Mondays in a row, starting tonight.
The first segment that airs tonight focuses on sex trafficking in the United States and uncovers the raw truth of its prevalence and pervasiveness in American society today. An estimated 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked into sexual slavery, and according to Nicholas Kristof a startling 10% of men in the USA buy sex online. The film points out the sad fact that most of the victims of sex trafficking are runaways, and the reality that often when a low income kid goes missing the first ones looking for them are the pimps. This powerful film gives a truly eye opening, and heart sinking look into the reality of the varied demographics involved in the human trafficking industry in this country, and highlights the need to prosecute the pimps and Johns perpetuating the industry, instead of the prostitutes who are actually the victims in it all.
As part of the Women and Girls Lead initiative, through heartrending, inspiring storytelling A Path Appears will take viewers on a journey across the globe, to drive home the universality of gender inequality and the roots of vulnerability. The series will lead viewers to a deeper understanding of these critical issues and the proven methods of bringing about change.-PBS Independent Lens
Save The Children, our hosts of last Thursday’s event, and one of the sponsors of the program, kicks off the film’s 2nd episode, “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty,” which will air next Monday, Feb. 2 at 10 pm on PBS. That episode will feature Save The Children’s early education program that we covered on World Moms Blog in an interview with Save The Children Artist Ambassador, Jennifer Garner in 2014. In the film Nicholas Kristof travels to West Virginia with Jennifer Garner to report first hand on the home visits that are so effective in literacy early intervention.
Early education is the best investment to break the cycle of poverty in America. All children deserve the chance to succeed in school and life. — Save The Children
Save The Children’s call to action is to sponsor a U.S. child which helps to provide home visits to pregnant moms, infants and toddlers, and elementary school literacy programs in some of the poorest, most isolated communities the nation. The earlier we reach children the better, and in fact, research shows that reaching babies under the age of 2 has the greatest affect on high school graduation rates and crime according to the book, “A Path Appears” by Kristof and WuDunn. The types of visitation programs that Save the Children provides for mothers of babies under 2 years old are underfunded, yet breaking the cycle and teaching mothers how to read to their children, and interact with their babies emotionally, is proven to be effective.
The third episode will take viewers into the largest urban slum on the continent of Africa, Kibera in Kenya. There viewers see the amazing story of transformation inspired by a man who grew up in Kibera, and founded Shining Hope community programs and a school for girls with his wife. The positive impact of which is rippling through the community.
We hope you will join us in watching this important documentary series, and that the world is inspired to action by the powerful stories told within.
World Moms founder Jennifer Burden at the event with Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Senior Editor, Elizabeth Atalay of Documama.
Photo credits to World Moms Blog and A Path Appears.
Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.