Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Report

HUMAN TRAFFICKING DEFINED

The TVPA defines “severe forms of trafficking in persons” as:

a. 
sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or

b. 
the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

A victim need not be physically transported from one location to another in order for the crime to fall within these definitions.

WHO CAN IDENTIFY TRAFFICKING VICTIMS?

For reasons discussed throughout the Report, it is important for a variety of government officials, private sector professionals, community workers, and others who may encounter trafficking victims to be trained, legally empowered, and given incentives to identify victims. Individuals who maybe particularly well placed to identify trafficking victims include:

Government officials who inspect or have access to establishments where trafficking may occur are uniquely positioned to identify trafficking victims: labor inspectors, port inspectors, factory inspectors, food industry inspectors, consular officers, agricultural inspectors, housing inspectors, tax authorities, and postal workers.

Private sector employees who may encounter trafficking victims in the places in which they work— employees of hotels, restaurants, bars, beauty parlors, and grocery stores.

Law enforcement officers who are on the front lines of crime and are often those who have primary contact with trafficking victims—all police (sometimes trafficking victims are identified through investigations of non-trafficking crimes), immigration officers, and border guards.

Health care professionals who often encounter trafficking victims—emergency room personnel, health clinics, doctors, nurses, dentists, OB/GYNs, and practitioners at family planning clinics and HIV/AIDS clinics.

Transportation professionals who often encounter trafficking victims either being transported or otherwise exploited—truck, taxi, and bus drivers; train attendants; flight attendants; and employees at truck and rest stops.

Education officials who are uniquely positioned to identify children who are being exploited—principals, guidance counselors, teachers, and school nurses.

Trafficking victims may seek assistance from institutions for related matters. Those well positioned to identify human trafficking victims can include religious leaders; officials in organizations that work with immigrants, children, the homeless, refugees, and other vulnerable populations; social workers; and employees and volunteers in shelters for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault, runaway youth, or the homeless.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND TECHNOLOGY

In the fight against modern slavery, technology can be a double-edged sword. Traffickers use technology to advertise their services widely and develop new methods to recruit, manipulate, and lure potential victims. Meanwhile, governments, anti-trafficking advocates, and technology companies are collaborating to leverage technological tools to turn the tables on the traffickers.

• Innovations in prevention include mobile and SMS technologies that allow users to send alerts about human trafficking or allow payments to workers to be traced so that they are less vulnerable to the threat of bonded labor. Social media platforms can be used to engage the public at large and raise awareness of this crime worldwide.

• Technology can also help protect victims. Mobile devices and SMS technologies may also enable survivors of human trafficking to more readily reach out to service providers and seek help. Victim identification by law enforcement is made easier through facial-recognition software that is able to locate the images of minors who are being exploited online – even when copies of the image have been digitally altered.

• Prosecuting human traffickers requires evidence; technology makes the crime more traceable. The cell phones and computers of traffickers and victims alike contain archives of text messages, voicemails, geo-tagged data, and web browsing history, all of which can be “evidentiary gold mines” for law enforcement. Pattern recognition and data analysis used to detect money laundering can also help expose human trafficking schemes.

Some technology giants have joined the fight against human trafficking. These are but a few examples of how corporations have leveraged their own resources and technology to help eliminate modern slavery:

• Google funded a new global data sharing collaboration by granting $3 million to anti-trafficking organizations Polaris Project, Liberty Asia, and La Strada International to connect anti-trafficking helplines to help identify illicit patterns and provide victims more effective support.

• Palantir Technologies, a major software company, initiated a partnership in 2012 to provide the analytical platform and engineering, training, and support resources to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center to enable the study and application of data derived from its call records.

• Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit and Microsoft Research collaborated to support researchers in 2012 to highlight the harmful role that technology plays in the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

• LexisNexis established the Human Trafficking Awareness Index, a tool that tracks and analyzes the volume of published news articles related to human trafficking produced by 6,000 of the most influential news sources from more than 120 countries.

• The NGO Thorn convinced tech companies to better identify and share evidence of child exploitation and to reduce demand by micro-targeting internet users who may visit suspect sites.

COMMON DREAMS LEAD TO COMMON ABUSES

Around the world, domestic work provides jobs to millions of people—mostly women and girls, and mostly in private homes. The promise of steady employment and good pay as a domestic worker often draws people away from communities and conditions where opportunities are scarce.

Yet even with so many people pursuing better lives in this industry, domestic work remains largely unregulated and beyond the reach of law. Rather than workers in a recognized service sector, domestic workers are often viewed more as informal help. At the same time, domestic work usually takes place behind closed doors, where workers are isolated. Because of these factors, domestic workers—especially migrants—face a particular vulnerability to trafficking.

For example, domestic workers may find themselves at risk of trafficking before they even enter employment. If a recruiter charges an applicant an up-front fee for placing her in a job, that worker may find herself owing a burdensome debt from day one. In other cases, domestic workers have reported arriving at a promised job only to be subjected to brutal conditions, ranging from exhausting hours with no days off, to horrific physical and sexual abuse. Yet because of the isolation—sometimes amounting to forced confinement—inherent in the domestic work setting, victims often struggle to escape their situation or inform someone in a position to help.

Aspirations for a better life will continue driving women and men around the world to seek new opportunities. Traffickers will continue seeking zones of impunity where lax regulation and poor oversight make workers vulnerable. And so long as domestic workers remain outside the protections governing other industries, the risk of trafficking will continue to plague this sector.

COMMENDABLE INITIATIVES IN VICTIM IDENTIFICATION: ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR VICTIMS TO SEEK ASSISTANCE

Trafficking victims may have periodic contact with police, immigration officials, hospital staff, and other authorities, for years before being identified and freed from enslavement. A progressive approach to victim identification involves a basic, underlying assumption that “the more you look the more you find,” and that periodically identifying trafficking victims can be an indicator of progress, rather than failure. A growing understanding of coercion and debt bondage has led governments to develop more innovative, holistic ways to uncover trafficking victims. It is governments’ responsibility to create more opportunities for victims to escape and come forward. While no country’s response is perfect and most governments can do more to attain a truly comprehensive response to this crime, below are some good examples of some effective victim identification approaches for governments:

Empowering front line responders beyond just the police to identify victims: Many trafficking victims actively avoid law enforcement. Creative approaches to identify trafficking victims involve social workers, religious institutions, and other community leaders because of their ability to build trust within local communities. For example, the Belgian government has a cooperation project with hospitals to improve detection of potential trafficking victims seeking medical care. Preliminary findings from the pilot project verified that trafficking victims are more willing to talk to medical staff than police.

Recognizing that offenders can be victims: Unidentified trafficking victims are often punished for crimes committed while under coercion. Some countries recognizing this protection need have developed laws or policies to allow courts to forgive trafficking victims for unlawful acts they have committed during the course of their trafficking experience. In the United States, for example, some states have passed “safe harbor” statutes to ensure children are treated as victims and provided services rather than being prosecuted for prostitution, or enacted laws to allow victims to petition the court to vacate prostitution-related criminal convictions that result from human trafficking.

Establishing regulations, agreements, or standard operating procedures with NGOs to identify victims: In Taiwan, foreign workers are screened at detention centers for indicators of trafficking. If individuals are identified as potential trafficking victims, they are offered services in a shelter and a reflection period to come forward as a victim. If they report their trafficking experience by the end of the reflection period and are confirmed by Taiwan authorities to be victims of trafficking, they are entitled to remain at the shelter and receive comprehensive services including help obtaining employment. In Scotland, local law enforcement officials facilitate better victim identification by taking children from cannabis farms to safe houses instead of into detention centers.

Employing a taskforce model or multidisciplinary approach: By encouraging collaboration in victim identification, governments ensure stakeholders can find victims between potential front line responders and NGOs. In the Netherlands, the “barrier-model” views trafficking as a business model, with different barriers to be overcome before traffickers can start making money (entry, identification, housing, work, and financial situation) and attacks trafficking at these stages: local governments may detect trafficking through housing inspections, and tax or fire protection inspectors may find irregularities that can trigger a law enforcement investigation into trafficking.

NARROWING THE SCOPE OF TRAFFICKING: “BUYING OR SELLING” PROVISIONS

Many countries have trafficking laws that require proof of a person “buying or selling” a trafficking victim to convict the person of human trafficking. Other countries’ courts have read a “buying or selling” requirement into their interpretation of national trafficking laws. Such a practice, however, risks missing the vast majority of trafficking victims in the world today, because they are never bought or sold. These requirements also exceed the proof required under the definition of human trafficking in international law. While the Palermo Protocol definition does include payment as one of the means to achieve control over a victim—specifically, “the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person”—the full definition in Article 3(a) is much broader. The recruitment, transport, receipt, or harboring of a victim for the purpose of exploitation through “the use of force or other forms of coercion,” for example, suffices to prove a case of trafficking in the absence of a proof of sale. Thus a factory owner whose employees came willingly and were never bought or sold should be found guilty of human trafficking when he holds them through passport confiscation and threats; so should a man who kidnaps a girl from the street and forces her into domestic servitude in his house. The mistaken emphasis on transactions frequently results in acquittals in trafficking cases where the defendants have allegedly coerced victims into forced labor or forced prostitution through threats, force, or abuse of power, but have not exchanged money with a third party. “Buying or selling” provisions in statutes inappropriately narrow the scope of human trafficking and reduce accountability for this serious crime.

PREVENTION: FIGHTING SEX TRAFFICKING BY CURBING DEMAND FOR COMMERCIAL SEX ACTS

If there were no demand for commercial sex, sex trafficking would not exist in the form it does today. This reality underscores the need for continued strong efforts to enact policies and promote cultural norms that disallow paying for sex. Too often, trafficking victims are wrongly discounted as “consenting” adults. The use of violence to enslave trafficking victims is pervasive, but there are other—more subtle—forms of fraud and coercion that also prevent a person from escaping compelled servitude.

A number of other factors that may lead to a person being overlooked as a victim by authorities are a sex trafficking victims’ initial consent, the belief that they are in love with their trafficker, not self-identifying as a victim, or being away from a pimp’s physical control with what seems to be ample opportunity to ask for help or flee. None of these factors, taken alone or in sum, mean that someone is not a victim of a severe form of trafficking. Dispelling these myths should be an essential part of training for every government employee and everyone who does business with or on behalf of a government.

Government Policies to Address Demand for Commercial Sex

Zero-tolerance policies for employees, uniformed service members, and contractors paying for sex—even if legal in the country where these individuals work—and commensurate training for such individuals can help raise awareness regarding the subtle and brutal nature of sex trafficking and how individuals subjected to this crime are victimized through coercion. Moreover, by implementing these policies in procurement activities, governments can have an impact on a wide range of private-sector actors as well.

Beyond Government: Cultural Leadership in Addressing Demand

Rejecting long-held notions such as “boys will be boys” and sending the clear message that buying sex is wrong is not just a task for governments, but will require partnerships throughout society, including the faith and business communities. Business leaders can adopt codes of conduct that prohibit purchasing sex. And leaders in civil society—from teachers to parents to ministers—must foster the belief that it is everyone’s responsibility to do their part to reduce the demand for commercial sex. It is especially important to reach young men with a strong message of demand reduction to help them understand the exploitation that permeates the commercial sex trade.

It is every person’s individual responsibility to think about how their actions may contribute to human trafficking. Laws and policies, partnerships and activism will continue to be critical to this struggle, but it will also be the day-to-day decisions of individual men and women to reject exploitation that will bring an end to modern slavery.

MISPERCEPTIONS LEAD TO MISSED OPPORTUNITIES TO IDENTIFY VICTIMS

Dispelling misperceptions about human trafficking is imperative to proactively identify victims and to counter the isolation on which traffickers rely to keep people in servitude.

“Trafficking doesn’t happen here.” Approaching human trafficking as a crime that occurs only in far off places ignores situations of forced labor or sex trafficking that may be happening closer to home. Human trafficking is not a problem that involves only foreigners or migrants, but one faced in nearly every corner of the world involving citizens who may be exploited without ever leaving their hometown.

“She’s a criminal.” Many victims of trafficking first come to the attention of authorities due to an arrest for immigration violations, prostitution, or petty theft. Screening vulnerable populations—even if first encountered as potential defendants—for signs of force, fraud, or coercion used against them is imperative to identify human trafficking properly, to ensure that victims are not punished for acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking, and to effectively prevent victims from being returned to an exploitive situation.

“It’s cultural.” Holding a person in servitude is not a cultural practice; it is a crime. Some victims are subjected to trafficking by members of their own family or ethnic group. Misperceptions that this is a shared value among an ethnic group ignore the methods of force and coercion used by individual traffickers, and can create a zone of impunity in an ethnic community, with the result that victims in that group will never see their abusers brought to justice. These prejudices fail to reduce victims’ vulnerability to exploitation and often obscure the true demographics of who is subjected to certain types of trafficking.

“He agreed to do this.” Whether or not a person agreed to a certain type of employment, to migrate for a better job, or to work off a debt is irrelevant once that person’s free will has been compromised. A person who faces threats or harm should they choose to change their employment is in a situation of servitude. Often, traffickers use the initial consent of victims to stigmatize them for their choice, telling victims they will be deported, arrested, or ostracized if they seek help.

“She’s free to come and go.” Popular images of human trafficking include dramatic kidnappings and people held under lock and key. More common, but less visible, methods of control include psychological coercion, debt bondage, withholding of documents and wages, and threats of harm. As in domestic abuse cases, observing a person out in public or taking public transportation does not mean that she is free from the effective control of her trafficker.

“He didn’t complain.” The duty to identify human trafficking must not be left solely to those in servitude. A victim has valid reasons for not accusing his exploiters of trafficking. He may fear physical or financial harm, shame, or repercussions for his family. He may assess that the assistance he could access from coming forward does not offer the needed protection to merit taking this risk. He may be unaware of his rights, or lack trust in authorities to enforce those rights.

“Trafficking doesn’t happen where prostitution is legal.” The occurrence of trafficking does not depend on the legality of prostitution; it exists whether prostitution is legal, illegal, or decriminalized. It is the obligation of every government, regardless of the legal status of prostitution, to look closely for victims of trafficking and to ensure their protection.

“There’s nothing I can do about it.” Everyone can learn the signs of human trafficking and take action to alert authorities of possible crimes as appropriate. Citizens can learn about organizations that assist victims of trafficking in their hometowns and how to safely refer potential victims for help. They can spread awareness of, and dispel common misperceptions about, human trafficking.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND ARMED CONFLICT

In armed conflicts across the world, governments and armed groups commit war crimes and human rights abuses and attack civilian populations. Armed conflict leaves local populations, including men, women, and children vulnerable to violence, abuse, exploitation, forced prostitution, forced labor, and the unlawful recruitment of children as soldiers by government forces and armed groups. Likewise, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) struggle to survive in precarious situations that make them highly vulnerable to exploitation, including trafficking. Women and girls bear enormous hardship during and after armed conflict, and they are particularly vulnerable to sexual slavery.

Current global conflicts have placed populations at serious risk of trafficking. For example, in Somalia, the militant group al-Shabaab has forcibly recruited Somali children to be child soldiers or has forced them into prostitution; some children who flee Somalia to seek refuge in neighboring countries such as Kenya are forced into prostitution and forced labor as herders. In Rwanda, women and children in refugee camps are vulnerable to being lured into forced prostitution in the capital or other countries in the region through false promises of work or schooling opportunities. In Syria, some foreign migrant workers and Iraqi refugees may be trafficking victims and are susceptible to violence, abuse, and arrest by government and opposition forces. Syrian refugees are also vulnerable to trafficking in the countries to which they have fled.

MALE VICTIMS OF TRAFFICKING

There is a growing awareness that men and boys are also victims of labor and sex trafficking and that women and girls are also subjected to forced labor. But identification and adequate service provision remains a challenge around the world for male victims.

This Report documents male forced labor victims who have been identified in a variety of countries and sectors: Central Asian men exploited in forced labor in Russia; West African boys forced to beg for corrupt religious teachers in Koranic schools; boys in forced labor in illegal drug production and transportation in the United Kingdom and Mexico. In South Asia, entire families are enslaved in debt bondage in agriculture, brick kilns, rice mills, and stone quarries. In South America and Africa, male victims of trafficking are exploited in agriculture, construction, mining and logging, among other industries. The forced labor of men and boys from Burma, and Cambodia on Asian fishing vessels has been the topic of increased press coverage over the last year.

The sex trafficking of boys is often hidden, reflecting cultural taboos in many parts of the world. In Afghanistan and coastal Sri Lanka, boys are more likely than girls to be subjected to prostitution; in Mexico and Central America, boy migrants are vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation en route to the United States; boys in Southeast Asia are exploited in prostitution; to a lesser extent, men are victims of sex trafficking; in recent years, Brazilian men were identified in forced prostitution in Spain and men were identified as sex trafficking victims in the United States.

Trafficking victim identification is a challenge across the board; however, to the degree authorities are trained to identify human trafficking at all, far too many look primarily for female victims and often miss male victims they encounter. When male victims are not identified, they risk being treated as irregular migrants instead of exploited individuals and are vulnerable to deportation or being charged with crimes committed as a result of being trafficked, such as visa violations. Likewise, cases involving male victims are often dismissed as labor infractions instead of investigated as criminal cases.

In implementing anti-trafficking programs, it is important that governments ensure medical, psychological, and legal assistance is sensitive to the needs of all victims, regardless of gender. Assistance could include shelter, medical assistance, vocational training, repatriation, and other aid. Governments may need to adapt some methodologies to better serve men, such as by creating drop-in centers. The goal is that governments ensure that all trafficking victims are adequately protected.

NON-CRIMINALIZATION OF VICTIMS FOR CRIMES COMMITTED IN THE COURSE OF BEING TRAFFICKED

Trafficking victims are often compelled to commit crimes, which can blind authorities to the victim behind the “criminal” they first encountered. A 14-year-old sex trafficking victim, for example, may be charged with prostitution-related charges. Foreign domestic workers who have fled domestic servitude maybe in violation of immigration laws. Should an uninformed or untrained official come across any of these individuals, or if the government lacks standardized identification procedures, these trafficking victims are likely to face arrest, penalization, incarceration, or deportation.

The U.S. anti-trafficking legislation, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, requires the protection of trafficking victims and requires the Department of State to take into account, as part of its assessment of foreign government actions for this Report, whether foreign governments are ensuring that trafficking victims are not inappropriately incarcerated. Principle 7 of the Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking issued by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provides that “[t]rafficked persons shall not be detained, charged or prosecuted for the illegality of their entry into or residence in countries of transit and destination, or for their involvement in unlawful activities to the extent that such involvement is a direct consequence of their situation as trafficked persons.”

As governments around the world work to improve their anti-trafficking efforts, it is critical that officials —including police, immigration, and social services staff—be able to distinguish trafficking victims from criminals. Through a process of appropriately questioning the victim and observing his or her situation —often referred to as a standard identification or screening process—officials are empowered to make an informed determination. Officials should be trained on trafficking indicators: for example, does the person appear to be or report being controlled by someone else? Does he or she show signs of abuse? Does he or she appear fearful?

Identifying the victim is critical to understanding and prosecuting the true crime that has taken place, and ensuring adequate care and support to trafficking victims facilitates their ability to provide testimony in the prosecution of offenders. Treated as criminals, victims can be traumatized by placement in jail and will be less effective witnesses. Further, if victims are treated as criminal and deported they will be unable to support the investigation. This all-too-common practice suppresses the best evidence of trafficking and gets rid of the evidence—undermining prosecutions and often fatally compromising the government’s ability to prosecute a case successfully. Treating victims as what they are, not as criminals, is at the heart of the victim-centered approach to combating trafficking. In the United States, one effort to ensure the non-criminalization and protection of trafficking victims is “safe harbor legislation,” recently enacted by several states, which protects minor sex trafficking victims by providing them immunity from prosecution.

BOUGHT & SOLD: VOICES OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

“Bought & Sold: Voices of Human Trafficking” is a large-scale outdoor photography exhibit, one example of how ArtWorks for Freedom (AWFF) is using the power of art in the global fight against modern slavery. Through its alliance of artist-activists in diverse fields, AWFF mounts public awareness campaigns nationally and internationally designed to change public attitudes and plant the seeds that can transform the moral landscape in much the same way that Uncle Tom’s Cabin did more than 150 years ago.

CHILD SOLDIERS

The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CSPA) was signed into law on December 23, 2008 (Title IV of Pub. L.110-457) and took effect on June 21, 2009. The CSPA requires publication in the annual TIP Report of a list of foreign governments identified during the previous year as having governmental armed forces or government-supported armed groups that recruit and use child soldiers, as defined in the Act. These determinations cover the reporting period beginning April 1, 2012 and ending March 31, 2013.

For the purpose of the CSPA, and generally consistent with the provisions of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the term “child soldier” means:

(i) any person under 18 years of age who takes a direct part in hostilities as a member of governmental armed forces;

(ii) any person under 18 years of age who has been compulsorily recruited into governmental armed forces;

(iii) any person under 15 years of age who has been voluntarily recruited into governmental armed forces; or

(iv) any person under 18 years of age who has been recruited or used in hostilities by armed forces distinct from the armed forces of a state.

The term “child soldier” includes any person described in clauses (ii), (iii), or (iv) who is serving in any capacity, including in a support role such as a cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard, or “sex slave”.

Governments identified on the list are subject to restrictions, in the following fiscal year, on certain security assistance and commercial licensing of military equipment. The CSPA, as amended, prohibits assistance to governments that are identified in the list under the following authorities: International Military Education and Training, Foreign Military Financing, Excess Defense Articles, and Peacekeeping Operations, with exceptions for some programs undertaken pursuant to the Peacekeeping Operations authority. The CSPA also prohibits the issuance of licenses for direct commercial sales of military equipment to such governments. Beginning October 1, 2013 and effective throughout FY 2014, these restrictions will apply to the listed countries, absent a presidential national interest waiver, applicable exception, or reinstatement of assistance pursuant to the terms of the CSPA.The determination to include a government in the CSPA list is informed by a range of sources, including first-hand observation by U.S. government personnel and research and reporting from various United Nations entities, international organizations, local and international NGOs, and international media outlets.

The 2013 CSPA List includes governments in the following countries:

1. Burma
2. Central African Republic (CAR)
3. Chad
4. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
5. Rwanda
6. Somalia
7. South Sudan
8. Sudan
9. Syria
10. Yemen

The CSPA list includes countries that recruited or used child soldiers as defined in the Act, in governmental armed forces or government-supported armed groups during the reporting period. But this represents only some of the countries in the world where children have been unlawfully recruited or used. Separately, there are reports of non-government supported groups using child soldiers in additional countries in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. Some infamous non-state armed groups, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army operating in Central Africa or the rebel militias Abu Sayyaf, the New People’s Army, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines, have been recruiting or using child soldiers for many years. Some groups alleged to use child soldiers disbanded or were integrated into state security forces during the year, and in some countries there was progress toward peace agreements that could lead to the demobilization of children.

An alarming trend emerged during the year, however, of numerous non-state armed groups abducting, recruiting, and exploiting children as combatants, porters, spies, and for sex in conflicts that erupted in Africa and in the Middle East. In northern Mali, there were reports of large-scale recruitment of children into separatist groups including Ansar al-Dine, Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Syrian opposition armed groups recruited and used children under 18 years old—some as young as 14—in combat and military support roles. Some anti-government armed groups used children in combat and other roles, making them transport weapons and supplies or serve as guards. A Syrian-based organization also documented the deaths of at least 17 children who fought for the Free Syrian Army. During its rebellion against the government of the Central African Republic, the Seleka coalition—an amalgamation of numerous armed groups known to use child soldiers—recruited and used children in the front lines of combat, some of whom were killed during fighting in March 2013. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), several hundred former members of a militia group notorious for its use of child soldiers defected from the Congolese military (FARDC) and formed the M23, a Rwanda-backed armed group that forcibly recruited children in DRC and Rwanda to fight the FARDC for control of eastern DRC. Some progress was made to end impunity for the worst offenders of unlawful child soldier recruitment and use. Bosco Ntaganda, a former FARDC commander who is the subject of two arrest warrants by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity and war crimes, including the recruitment and use of children under the age of 15. In March, after nearly seven years as a fugitive from justice, Ntaganda voluntarily surrendered to the ICC. He made his first appearance in front of the court in March 2013.

TRADITIONAL PRACTICES GONE WRONG

History and cultural practices help define a country or society’s DNA. Some of these practices are based in a child’s passage into adulthood or a child’s informal education and vocational training. Others involve traditional religious practices to ward off evil, or the code by which strangers to the community are treated. Unfortunately, sometimes these practices are abused to facilitate modern slavery.

For example, in the devdasi or jogini traditions in some parts of India, girls are “dedicated” to a temple in which they become symbolic wives and perform chores to support the temple. While the original practice was intended to honor the religious institution and revere its influence, in modern times it has become corrupted as a mechanism by which to induce girls into prostitution.

The cultural practices of dowries and bride price are also abused in many parts of the world. Both are charges paid to another tribe or family in advance of a marriage as sign of good faith—a pact between two families or communities. Sometimes, however, these payments can give rise to exploitation. In Papua New Guinea, for example, which faces an increase of foreign workers in logging and mining camps, parents sell their daughters to these foreign workers. These girls often are victims of sex trafficking.

Another example is kafala, or sponsorship, in many wealthy Middle Eastern countries. Kafala has become an oppressive, non-transferable visa regime. Under this system, the foreign worker can only work for the employer who sponsored his/her visa and is then trapped in that employment. When abuses occur, these workers may be vulnerable to arrest for violation of the sponsorship laws if they leave without their employers’ permission.

In some African and Latin American countries, traditional witchcraft plays a role in facilitating modern slavery. Juju oaths—once used to protect individuals about to undertake a new challenge or journey—are now abused by traffickers to tie victims to silence and obedience. Before the victims leave their home, a Juju priest conducts a ceremony to bind the victims to unconditional obedience to the traffickers; the victims are warned that if they disobey the oath they will suffer the wrath of spirit world through nightmares, madness, or death. Even when these trafficking victims are identified by law enforcement, they fear the consequences if they testify against their traffickers.

Ingrained societal support for these traditional practices can pose difficulties to combating trafficking. Key to defeating the impact of these corruptions of spiritual or traditional practices is awareness among those who are deceived—whether it be parents, the intending emigrant, or the bride. Policymakers can address this by recognizing that these forms of psychological coercion can be used by traffickers, mounting education campaigns aimed at the vulnerable populations, and prosecuting and punishing those who use this form of coercion to traffic people.

[This is a mobile copy of Topics of Special Interest]