By Beatrice Ask, Special for CNN
Editor's Note: Beatrice Ask is Sweden's Minister for Justice and Home Affairs.
Stockholm, Sweden – In 1999 Sweden became the first country in the world to criminalize the purchase, but not the sale, of sexual services. Over the years the interest from abroad about our legislation has grown, mainly because we can see a clear link between prostitution and human trafficking.
Sweden has had a steady stream of visitors coming to study the Swedish example and the effects we have seen from it. We have welcomed parliamentarians and other politicians, experts and scholars and representatives from interest groups. Norway and Iceland, for example, now have their own criminalization of the purchase of sexual services. I am pleased that more countries are considering following the Swedish example. FULL POST
Although Sweden and Denmark have seemingly opposite prostitution laws - the former strictly outlawing the purchase of sex and the latter legalizing the industry – these countries have one thing in common: both are destination points for victims of human trafficking forced into prostitution.
While Sweden’s prostitution laws have obtained encouraging results, greatly reducing the amount of street prostitution, young women like “Laura,” are still being sold into sexual slavery, often by the people they trust most. As documented in Atika Shubert’s reports, Laura was sold by her "boyfriend" when she was only 17 years old.
So how can you help?
Groups like World Childhood Foundation, founded by Queen Silvia of Sweden, and Hope Now of Denmark, are working to end sexual trafficking and to rehabilitate victims like Laura. You can find out more about their work, as well as ways you can help by visiting their sites.
It’s not often you get invited on a personal tour of the red light district of Copenhagen, Denmark. Michelle Mildwater, of the anti-trafficking group Hope Now, is an impassioned activist. She walks me through the most notorious corners with a smile on her face.
“How are you?” she calls out to clusters of African women standing on the street. “Do you know who I am?” She hands them her business card and often condoms. She tells them where to find doctors and other help. Most of the younger women she approaches are nervous. They glance at her quickly, then ignore her or walk the other way. FULL POST
Over the next several months, the CNN Freedom Project will shine a spotlight on the horrors of human trafficking, highlight some of the success stories and share ways that everyone can make a difference.
CNN iReport and GOOD are partnering on a series of creative challenges that you can do to raise awareness about this crisis. For the first assignment, we’ve invited people to share a photo of yourself holding a sign that says “I’m taking a stand to end slavery” or a video with the same message.
So, what are you waiting for? Will you take a stand to end slavery? Take the pledge so you can take part in future Freedom Project challenges.
If you are looking for a way to help fight against human trafficking on a global scale, the following are organizations that work around the world. Many accept financial donations, but also recommend other ways you can help them by donating time or spreading the word. FULL POST
Copenhagen's red light district pulsates with neon lights. Women stand on nearly every corner - many from Africa - aggressively making their pitch to men walking by. Inside one particularly loud bar, young Thai women sit on the laps of male customers.
And Stockholm? Well, you might walk right by its equivalent and never notice. Malmskillnadsgatan is a commercial area, the address of several banks. In its heyday, dozens of girls used to ply their trade here. Now, you can find only three or four women who work the street.
That stark difference may explain why Sweden is being hailed as a model of how to combat sex trafficking, while Denmark has been called the "Brothel of Scandinavia."
So, what happened? FULL POST
A small yacht sails the Mediterranean Sea - but for the crew and passengers of the Blue Natalie. this is not a pleasure cruise. It is business: the women are the valuable "cargo" and the men transporting them are human traffickers. Kevin Flower reports on how an Israeli television drama has highlighted the issue of human trafficking by exploring the parallel lives of those involved.
For photographer Kay Chernush, a passion for shedding light on human trafficking began with a plane ride across the Atlantic Ocean.
"I was going overseas, and sat next to somebody who, it turned out, worked at the TIP (Trafficking in Persons) office at the State Department. We talked all the way across the Atlantic, and I was very interested in learning more about the subject."
Chernush would later be invited to trek across Asia and eastern Europe in 2004 to document cases of human trafficking, using her talents as a photographer. Her imagery would become an integral part of the 2005 "Trafficking in Persons" report - a report mandated by Congress to be compiled by the State Department each year.
A self-described well-traveled person, Chernush was shocked that she had not noticed the obvious signs of modern-day slavery.
"I'd traveled for many years, I'd lived overseas - how had this escaped me? It just grabbed me emotionally, the fact that people's lives are so precarious."
What began as one assignment has turned into a humanitarian passion. Chernush continues to work with a number of different groups attempting to highlight modern-day slavery. She continues to exhibit her work shedding light on human trafficking with various non-government organizations around the world.
"I'm enamored by that idea - so egalitarian, reaching people who are not necessarily aware of the problem. It's not the anti-trafficking crowd, not the gallery-going crowd, it's everyday people."
Women’s rights advocate Zainab Salbi takes a journey through New Delhi’s red light district. She interviews a brothel owner who explains that the majority of prostitutes are trafficked women who have been sold into slavery.