Sending Wrong Messages on Human Trafficking

I wonder where the whole Invisible Children and KONY 2012 thing has gone to?  If you watched the video that went viral about 3-4 months ago…now THAT was a conflicted message!!! The three young guys who started this organization probably initially meant well for the sake of those children in Sudan and Uganda who were caught in the brutal web of Joseph Kony. Also, I wonder if Kony really will be captured and brought to world justice by the end of this year???

The reason I have gotten involved with the whole issue of human trafficking and trying to help eradicate it was the three plus years I spent in Kazakhstan (teaching in Almaty and Astana). To me, there seems to be a spirit of slavery and non-freedom that exists in that country, at least in those two Russified cities.  Contrast that with the Kazakhs living in the outback areas and hard-to-get to places who probably have a strong sense of independence and warrior spirit. Sadly, those Kazakhs who were “domesticated” during the Soviet period have maybe lost the will to fight to declare who they really are as Kazakhs. What a proud heritage from the long ago past.  Yet there are those vulnerable individuals from Central Asia who live in today’s contemporary society. They WANT to get out of their miserable economic situation. They have been duped by the lies of traffickers. Somehow I could relate to the book I read titled “Two Kyrgyz Women.”

I have probably gotten about 40 other people to read this book as well, ten were my Kazakh students in Astana.  I have handed out so many copies of this short book written by Marinka Franulovich that I am pleased to report that it is now on line FREE!  What good news to see this gem out there on the Internet for more people to read and become aware of the trafficking problem in Central Asia. My hope is that someone will pick up on these two stories of brave women who came forward and make it into a movie for a wider audience to know the truths in this book dealing with Central Asian culture and how women get trapped into slavery.

Unfortunately, there is a wrong message being sent out just below the description of this book that is free on-line.  Because it deals with the sensitive nature of prostitution and women being trafficked, there is a sensually provocative book also being advertised that is the exact opposite of what lessons should be learned from “TKW.” (sigh).  I told Marinka about this conflict and she wrote to the e-book distributors but I think there is not much that can be done about this.  Check out this link in order to get the free download of “Two Kyrgyz Women.”

Another wrong message I witnessed yesterday was Will Smith’s wife who posed nude in a short video clip to promote something concerning human trafficking.  Talk about a conflict of interest, what was Smith’s point in doing that?  I saw the interview where Jada Pickett Smith explained what she did, but it escaped my understanding. Okay, so her daughter Willow Smith got her started on this topic of human trafficking after she had witnessed the KONY 2012 video.  I wonder what good will come of this video that Jada Smith did? Building awareness about trafficking by going nude?! Apparently Mr. and Mrs. Will Smith were in the audience of some gathering on June 19th where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a talk on human trafficking.

I hate to admit that I have never been a fan of Hillary’s but I DO respect her firm stance against human trafficking. She is consistent as a fighter against this tragedy and it is outlined in the speech she gave below.  Check out the link and see the report that just came out this month from the State Department about what is going on in the world with trying to eradicate human trafficking.

SECRETARY CLINTON: “Thank you. Thank you all very much. And I am delighted to see a standing room only crowd here in the Benjamin Franklin Room for this very important annual event. I welcome all of you here to the State Department. And I want to begin by thanking Ambassador CdeBaca and his team for all the hard work that goes into this report, and the passion that they bring to the fight against modern slavery. I would like, Lou, for you and your team to either stand or wave your hand if you’re already standing. Could we have everyone from – (applause) – thank you. I so appreciate what you do every day, not just when we roll out the report, and I’m very proud to be your colleague.

I also want to welcome our 10 TIP heroes, whose work is making a real difference. You will hear more about each one individually when we recognize them, but I want, personally, to thank them because they do remind us that one person’s commitment and passion, one person’s experience and the courage to share that experience with the world, can have a huge impact. And I am delighted to welcome all of our TIP heroes here today. Thank you. (Applause.)

And I will join Lou in thanking Jada Pinkett Smith and Will for being here, and through you, your daughter. Because, as Lou said, it was their daughter who brought this issue to Jada’s attention, and I am so pleased that she has taken on this cause. And we look forward to working with you.

In the United States today, we are celebrating what’s called Juneteenth. That’s freedom day, the date in 1865 when a Union officer stood on a balcony in Galveston, Texas and read General Order Number 3, which declared, “All slaves are free.” It was one of many moments in history when a courageous leader tipped the balance and made the world more free and more just. But the end of legal slavery in the United States and in other countries around the world has not, unfortunately, meant the end of slavery.

Today, it is estimated as many as 27 million people around the world are victims of modern slavery, what we sometimes call trafficking in persons. As Lou said, I’ve worked on this issue now for more than a dozen years. And when we started, we called it trafficking. And we were particularly concerned about what we saw as an explosion of the exploitation of people, most especially women, who were being quote, “trafficked” into the sex trade and other forms of servitude. But I think labeling this for what it is, slavery, has brought it to another dimension.

I mean, trafficking, when I first used to talk about it all those years ago, I think for a while people wondered whether I was talking about road safety – (laughter) – what we needed to do to improve transportation systems. But slavery, there is no mistaking what it is, what it means, what it does. And these victims of modern slavery are women and men, girls and boys. And their stories remind us of what kind of inhumane treatment we are still capable of as human beings. Some, yes, are lured to another country with false promises of a good job or opportunities for their families. Others can be exploited right where they grew up, where they now live. Whatever their background, they are living, breathing reminders that the work to eradicate slavery remains unfinished. The fact of slavery may have changed, but our commitment to ending it has not and the deeply unjust treatment that it provides has not either.

Now the United States is not alone in this fight. Many governments have rallied around what we call the three P’s of fighting modern slavery: prevention, prosecution, and protection. And this report, which is being issued today, gives a clear and honest assessment of where all of us are making progress on our commitments and where we are either standing still or even sliding backwards. It takes a hard look at every government in the world, including our own. Because when I became Secretary of State, I said, “When we are going to be issuing reports on human trafficking, on human rights that talk about other countries, we’re also going to be examining what we’re doing,” because I think it’s important that we hold ourselves to the same standard as everyone else.

Now, this year’s report tells us that we are making a lot of progress. Twenty-nine countries were upgraded from a lower tier to a higher one, which means that their governments are taking the right steps. This could mean enacting strong laws, stepping up their investigations and prosecutions, or simply laying out a roadmap of steps they will take to respond.

But this issue and the progress we’ve made are about much more than statistics on prosecutions and vulnerable populations. It’s about what is happening in the lives of the girls and women I recently met in Kolkata. I visited a few months ago and was able to meet with some extraordinary women and girls who were getting their lives back after suffering unspeakable abuses. One young girl, full of life, came up and asked me if I wanted to see her perform some karate moves. And I said, “Of course.” And the way she stood up so straight and confident, the pride and accomplishment in her eyes, was so inspiring. This was a child who’d been born in a brothel to a young mother who had been forced and sold into prostitution. But when her mother finally escaped and took her daughter with her, they were out of harm’s way and finally able to make choices for themselves.

Now I don’t know what’s going to happen to that young girl, whose image I see in my mind’s eye, in the years and decades ahead. But I do know that with a little help, her life can be so much better than her mother’s. And that’s what we need to be focused on, and it’s what we need to try to do for all victims and survivors.

That’s why in this year’s report, we are especially focused on that third P, victim protection. And in these pages, you’ll find a lot of proven practices and innovative approaches to protecting victims. This is a useful and specific guide for governments looking to scale up their own efforts. What kind of psychological support might a victim need? How should immigration laws work to protect migrant victims? How can labor inspectors learn to recognize the warning signs of traffickers? And what can you and all of us do to try to help?

When I met with the people who were working with victims in Kolkata, I met several young women from the United States who had been inspired by reading about and watching and going online and learning about what was happening in the efforts to rescue and protect victims. And they were there in Kolkata, working with organizations, NGOs, and the faith community, to do their part. So this is a moment for people to ask themselves not just what government can do to end modern slavery, but what can I do, what can we do together.

Ultimately, this report reminds us of the human cost of this crime. Traffickers prey on the hopes and dreams of those seeking a better life. And our goal should be to put those hopes and dreams back within reach, whether it’s getting a good job to send money home to support a family, trying to get an education for oneself or one’s children, or simply pursuing new opportunities that might lead to a better life. We need to ensure that all survivors have that opportunity to move past what they endured and to make the most of their potential.

I’m very pleased that every year we have the chance to honor people who have made such a contribution in this modern struggle against modern slavery. And I’m also pleased that this is a high priority for President Obama and the Obama Administration. It’s something that is not just political and not just a policy, but very personal and very deep. You might have seen over the weekend a long story about Mrs. Obama’s roots going back to the time of our own period of slavery and the family that nurtured her, which has roots in the fields and the houses of a time when Americans owned slaves.

So as we recommit ourselves to end modern slavery, we should take a moment to reflect on how far we have come, here in our country and around the world, but how much farther we still have to go to find a way to free those 27 million victims and to ensure that there are no longer any victims in the future.”

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