The Human Impact

Where does human trafficking happen? Right in front of you

Human trafficking has many faces and forms. There’s the pimp enslaving and exploiting young girls in cities across the United States – where an estimated 100,000 girls are trafficked at present. There are the men who buy young boys in Ghana, forcing them into lives of servitude and hard labour, spending long days in flimsy boats in the Lake Volta region, hunched over their fishing lines under a scorching sun.

Not My Life, a powerful documentary by Academy Award-nominated director Robert Bilheimer, tells the stories of survivors of human trafficking around the world, painting a picture of this horrific crime that many people still think of as a phenomenon confined to remote corners of the developing world.

But virtually no country is free of trafficking and most of the victims are poor, said panelists following a screening of the film in New York this week. It’s a crime characterized by three main elements: force, fraud and coercion – which can happen  anywhere.

UNICEF’s Emily Pasnak-Lapchick, a specialist in human trafficking, said key to soliciting action against trafficking is to make people understand that it’s happening “right here in our own backyard” because “most people don’t know,” she said.

The film also stressed this point by, for example, telling the story of Angie, a young woman from Kansas, who was trafficked into prostitution when she was a teenager who had run away from home.

Slavery beyond the sex trade

In Haiti, it’s the little girl who is kept home from school and forced to clean her sister’s house or else be beaten with electric cables.

Thousands of miles away in India, it’s the shy, young woman left at the mercy of an agent who finds her a job as a maid but takes her earnings. In Bahrain, it’s the Filippino domestic worker who, abused and exploited by her employer, cannot leave.

Millions of people around the world today are trapped in slavery, like seven-year-old Wisline was in Haiti.

London Olympics: The sex-trafficking event that wasn’t

Media reports predicting that London would be overrun by women trafficked to Britain to service spectators with sex during the Olympics reinforced negative stereotypes and diminished the complexity of trafficking, an expert has said.

Georgina Perry, who manages Open Doors, a service for sex workers in London run by Britain’s National Health Service, said fears the Olympic Games would create a surge in sex trafficking were unfounded. The hype around this issue also drove vulnerable sex workers from health care services out of fear they would be treated as criminals, putting them at risk, she added.

Although London’s Met Police are investigating one case of trafficking for sexual exploitation linked to the Olympics, there was no rise in trafficking directly connected to the event, Laura Godman, a spokeswoman for the Met Police, said.

“Rampant feminist” Cindy Gallop tackles love, sex, porn

Easy access to hardcore pornography on the Web and a general lack of sex education for youth is changing attitudes about lovemaking, according to entrepreneur Cindy Gallop.

“I date younger men – they tend to be men in their 20s – and in dating younger men I encounter the real ramifications of the creeping ubiquity of hardcore pornography in our culture,” Gallop, 52, said during an interview at London Web Summit, where she gave a presentation.

“I can personally testify we now have an entire generation growing up that believes that what you see in hardcore porn is the way that you have sex.”

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