September 29th, 2011
10:21 PM ET

Are you a slavery-free consumer?

In today's world, it can be tough to determine whether products have or have not been produced through slavery. A specific component of a product – the cotton used to make a T-shirt, for example – may be the result of human trafficking.

Thankfully, there are products in our lives that we know are slavery-free, like the homegrown tomato you had for lunch. (More: What is your slavery footprint?)

CNN iReport is inviting you to participate in a special assignment to identify items that you know are slavery-free. Was the exercise easy or surprisingly difficult? Do you make an effort to shop slavery-free, or is this the first time you've thought about where products come from?

Upload photos of your slavery-free items and share your perspective with CNN. The best stories will be featured here on the Freedom Project blog. You can check out the iReport assignment for additional details.

Want to find out more about slavery in the supply chain? Check out a brief overview or go to Anti-Slavery International's interactive map.

Topics: How to Help • iReport • Solutions
September 29th, 2011
10:29 AM ET

Researching the cruel world of sex trafficking in South Asia

By Siddharth Kara, Special to CNN

Editor’s Note: Trafficking expert Siddharth Kara is a Harvard fellow and author of the award-winning book, "Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery." For more than 15 years, he has traveled around the world to research modern-day slavery, interviewing thousands of former and current slaves. Kara also advises the United Nations and governments on anti-slavery research and policy.

When I walked into a brothel in Mumbai for the first time 11 years ago to research sex trafficking in South Asia, I was exceedingly nervous and did not know what to expect. The brothel was on an alley off Falkland Road, a well-known red light area in Mumbai. A middle-aged gharwali (madam or house manager) named Bipasha sat in a chair near the front door, chewing betel nut. Posing as a customer, I told her I wanted a Nepalese girl. She took me to a back room and had several young girls line up in front of me, hands folded. Most had at least one visible bruise or scar. FULL POST

September 26th, 2011
02:55 PM ET

'Trapped by Tradition': Your questions on slavery in India

Last week we asked for your questions about 'Trapped by Tradition', the documentary featuring actor Anil Kapoor which explored how in someIndia villages girls are sent into prostitution by their families. Here is a selection of your questions, answered by CNN correspondent Mallika Kapur, who worked on the documentary.

Question: Creating awareness is good but what measures have been put in place to help eradicate this abnormal tradition and give these girls hope for a new beginning? – labelle

Answer: Groups like Plan India and its sister organization, Gram Niyojan Kendra, are working hard to stop this practice. Their goal is to prevent the next generation from falling into the same trap, so they are building schools in the area and encouraging children to attend. They have a team of people who work closely with the men and women in the village. They also spend a lot of time counseling people and explaining the dark side of this tradition. Often the people involved don’t realize what they are doing is wrong because it’s been this way for generations, so nobody questions it. One lady, Ranu, who works with Gram Niyojan Kendra, has been living in the village for 10 years. She runs a residential school/shelter and looks after the babies of prostitutes while they are at work. She does this so that the babies are brought up in a safe environment and don’t end up being forced into the sex trade. So yes, there’s a lot of work being done to change the mindset of the people, and to encourage children to go to school.

Question: What is being done to the criminals who are involved in these activities? – Twaha

Answer: Unfortunately, many times, nothing happens at all. This is because the men who push the girls into prostitution are family members of the girls, so it gets difficult to prove they are traffickers.India does have a law against trafficking – the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act – but many anti-trafficking groups say it isn’t very effective. Also, traffickers can be punished only if someone files a police report first. Because family members are involved in trafficking themselves, who is there to file a police report? That’s one of the main reasons traffickers don’t get tried and punished.

Question: How long has this been going on? What part of India? Is there anything we can do to help? – Concerned

Answer: This has been going on for generations. In our documentary, we focused on the Bedia community which lives in a few villages in Bharatpur district in Rajasthan state, western India. You could contact Plan India which works with 40 villages in this district to find out how you can help.

Question: Who started this tradition/business and what do you think about the government’s duty in this matter? – A. Bhattacharjee

Answer: This has been going on for generations and is a by-product of poverty and tradition. Also, the people here are at the bottom of the caste system. Historically, they had few job opportunities and were exploited by the rich, upper castes. They formed the most vulnerable strata of society and had to resort to sending their own daughters and sisters into the sex trade to earn money.
 
The Indian government has good policies and intentions but anti-trafficking groups will tell you what the government really needs to have is targeted intervention. It needs to have specific programs to help this group of people. For example, if the government decides to build schools, it needs to have a school right there in the middle of the village so that the children don’t have a long commute. It needs to counsel the people to send children to school. It needs to sensitize the community there not to attach a stigma to the children of sex workers. So a targeted, specific intervention for this vulnerable community is essential.

IMPORTANT-It is not trapped by tradition it is TRAPPED BY POVERTY!!!!! - Shree

Answer: Yes, absolutely. Poverty breeds desperation and in this case, extreme poverty meant these people had no alternative but to send the women to work in the sex trade so they could earn money to feed their families. It’s vital to provide the people of these villages with an alternative form of income, so groups like PlanIndia and Gram Niyojan Kendra are providing them with vocational training programs and working to link them up with government-run employment schemes. The challenge is to provide an income that matches the hefty earnings the women get from prostitution. For instance, a sex worker can earn as much as $2,000 a month. While it’s hard to find a job that pays as much, anti-trafficking groups say their focus is convincing the people here to find a job that gives them dignity and a way out of this dark tradition.

 

Trapped by tradition
September 22nd, 2011
08:00 PM ET

Kapoor: We can beat sex trade tradition

Editor's note: In some Indian villages, girls are sent into prostitution by their families - a tradition that began as religious obligation but is now continued for money. In "Trapped by Tradition," which airs Saturday and Sunday on CNN International, (viewing times below) "Slumdog Millionaire" star Anil Kapoor shows how Indian charities are trying to stop the tradition. CNN has changed Priya and Meena's names.

By Anil Kapoor,  Special for CNN

Bharatpur District, India - Leaving home at 5 a.m. for a shoot is nothing unusual for me but this trip was definitely very different - a road trip from Delhi to a village close to Bharatpur in Rajasthan to talk with working and former prostitutes.

As a Plan India Patron and Goodwill Ambassador I visited this village two years ago. I was looking forward to this trip because I am an optimist and was keen to see the change that has taken place here.

India has traditionally been a patriarchal society and unfortunately the rate of female infanticides is quiet high. In this village, families rejoice on the birth of a girl child - but for the wrong reasons.

The reason behind celebrating a girl's birth in this area is a dark one. Some members of this community practice a caste-based sex trade - and have done so for generations.

The men knowingly send their own daughters and sisters into the sex trade.

Your questions and answers on sex slavery in India

I was anxious to see what milestones we had reached in trying to stop this tradition - this time visiting with CNN International's Freedom Project initiative to fight modern day slavery.

We received a warm, ceremonial welcome at the village and were greeted by a group of young girls singing. I was struck by the words as they sang: "Give our daughters respect too."

Being a father of two daughters, it got me thinking, if we don't empower our women, how would our families progress?

I had the opportunity to share my thoughts with the women of the community. I sat down with some who had been forced into the sex trade by their families. Some of them were rehabilitated with help from Plan India and Gram Niyojan Kendra, a partner charity working in the same field, while some were still working.

Their stories gradually came out. They told me of their misery, the horrid tales of being sold in their teenage years, of becoming bread winners for their families.

I must confess; the few hours spent with these women were really difficult. At times, I wouldn’t know how to react - console them, cry or get angry with a system as inhumane as this.

I would like to share the stories of two women. Meena was sent to Delhi when she was 12 and worked in a red light area for four years. She earned close to 1000 to 1500 rupees ($13 to $20) a day by entertaining 10-12 clients. While she worked in the brothel, one male member of the family stayed with her to ensure the money went back to the family.

With a sigh, Meena remembered the blissful day when she came back and was rehabilitated with Plan India's help. With a radiant spark in her eyes, she said: "I bought a buffalo with the help of Plan and GNK and now I sell milk and milk products in my village."

Meena has promised herself that her daughter will go to school and not suffer like she did.

Priya was also in the village that day. She's a sex worker in Delhi and sends money home to support her family. Her elder sister, in her late 40s, has left the trade because of her growing age.

It's very difficult to get women Priya's age, - she's in her mid-30s - who are already working as prostitutes, to quit because they get used to the income. That's why Plan India focuses on children, working to prevent them from entering the trade to start with.

Priya's daughter is going to school and wants to be an actress

Priya believes she has no choice. She says she must continue working as she has a large family to support. She has to feed her children and she's supporting her sister-in-law and her children too.

She says that things are changing for the younger girls, thanks to all the money women from her generation have earned for their families.

But she also appears torn at times, sometimes defending the prostitution, sometimes directing anger at her family.

She said: "When I told my elder brother to put his daughter into the trade, he broke all ties with me and moved out.

"I made the marriage of both of my brothers possible and even today I am taking care of my younger brother’s family because he passed away recently. No one has ever acknowledged the value of sacrifices made by me and my sister."

It was time for me to talk to the male members of the community. As always, most of them were initially in a denial mode but started to open up gradually.

They reassured me that in last four years with Plan India and GNK's efforts, a lot of the women have been pulled out of the sex trade and more families are now determined not to push their girls into it.

Also, a lot of the rehabilitated women are ensuring that the girls from their families don’t get thrown into the practice.

It's a small step, but one in the right direction. Changing the mindset of the people in the village is key.

Now that the women themselves are taking a stand against prostitution, I am hopeful, optimistic we can end this tradition.

"Trapped by Tradition" viewing times.
Saturday September 24:
2100 Hong Kong: 2000 London; 2100 CET; 2300 Abu Dhabi
Sunday September 25:
1900 Hong Kong, 1300 CET, 2100 New York/Miami, 2000 Mexico City
Tuesday September 27:
1730 Hong Kong – 1930 CET – 2130 Abu Dhabi

September 22nd, 2011
04:57 PM ET

What is your 'slavery footprint'?

According to estimates by policymakers, activists and scholars the number of modern day slaves ranges from about 10 million to 30 million people.

But how many of those slaves work for you? Now that is the unsettling question being posed by a new online tool and mobile app. It's called Slavery Footprint. It's the latest initiative from the anti-slavery Call + Response campaign in partnership with the U.S. State Department.

It allows consumers to measure to what extent they are complicit in the use of forced labor around the world. FULL POST

Topics: Solutions • Technology
Trapped by tradition
September 21st, 2011
07:37 PM ET

Tradition forces girls into prostitution

Editor's note: In some Indian villages, girls are sent into prostitution by their families - a tradition that began as religious obligation but is now continued for money. In "Trapped by Tradition," which airs Saturday and Sunday on CNN International, (viewing times below) "Slumdog Millionaire" star Anil Kapoor shows how Indian charities are trying to stop the tradition. CNN has changed Priya and Puja's names.

Bharatpur District, India - She's around 13 years old. She goes to school, loves to sing and dance, and between giggles, she says she dreams of being an actress one day.

Puja hardly looks like a fighter but beneath her smiling face is a steely resolve. She is the first girl in her family to go to school and is determined to finish it. Very few girls in her community have done that.

Puja's mother wasn't given that chance. Priya, now in her late 30s, was forced into prostitution when she was a young girl.

FULL POST

September 21st, 2011
11:16 AM ET

Chocolate, cocoa industries' response

Ten years ago, The "Cocoa Protocol" was signed into law, aiming to put a stop to child labor in the cocoa industry. (Read more about what the Cocoa Protocol is) Today, many aid groups say some of the provisions have still not been met by businesses involved.

What does the chocolate and cocoa industry have to say? Individual companies released statements and an industry spokeswoman, Joanna Scott, talked to CNN's Max Foster about what progress has been made and successes the industry has seen.

Watch more in the video.

Topics: Business
September 19th, 2011
01:51 PM ET

The human cost of chocolate

It may be unthinkable that the chocolate we enjoy could come from the hands of children working as slaves. In Ivory Coast and other cocoa-producing countries, there are an estimated 100,000 children working the fields, many against their will, to create the chocolate delicacies enjoyed by Western countries.

Ten years ago, two U.S. lawmakers took action to put a stop to child labor in the cocoa industry. Despite pushback from the industry, the Harkin-Engel Protocol, also known as the Cocoa Protocol, was signed into law on September 19, 2001.

On the 10th anniversary of the legislation, CNN takes a look at what effect this protocol has had on the cocoa industry. Here's a primer on some of the major issues surrounding the issue of slave labor in the cocoa industry: FULL POST

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Topics: Business
September 15th, 2011
09:28 AM ET

Slavery in Europe: How big a problem is it?

British authorities recently rescued 24 men that they said were kept as slaves – some for as long as 15 years. The men, from England and parts of Eastern Europe, are "all believed to be victims of slavery," police said.

So, how big a problem is slavery in Europe? CNN's Max Foster talks to Anti-Slavery International's Aidan McQuade about the fight against modern-day slavery there and around the world. FULL POST

Topics: In The News
September 14th, 2011
11:00 AM ET

Finding legal help to end trafficking

Lexis Nexis' Kenneth Thompson discusses ways in which people can take action to end human trafficking.

Topics: Business • Solutions
September 14th, 2011
09:19 AM ET

Opinion: Urge U.S. Congress to re-authorize Trafficking Victims Protection Act

By Jesse Eaves, Special to CNN

Editor’s Note: Jesse Eaves is non-profit World Vision’s policy adviser for children in crisis. He is based in Washington, D.C.

When 16-year-old Kyaw left his home and a life of poverty in Myanmar five years ago, he vowed he would never return. He was on a quest to find a steady job, and he’d heard that he could earn up to $150 a month if he traveled across the border to a fishing port in Thailand.

However, what he discovered would soon make him wish he had never left. Kyaw had been trafficked onto a Thai fishing boat operating illegally in Indonesian waters, and, according to him, the conditions were worse than those on an 18th century slave ship.

“They allowed us to sleep only about one hour per day,” said Kyaw.

Surrounded by a crew with guns, he and his fellow workers were treated as animals.

When we think of trafficking today, images of young girls forced to work in dark, back-alley brothels in Bangkok or Phnom Penh often come to mind.

But the issue of trafficking is much broader than that. FULL POST

Topics: Government • Voices
September 12th, 2011
12:25 PM ET

UK police raid suspected slave camp

British investigators were questioning suspects Monday after police rescued 24 men that they said were kept as slaves - some for as long as 15 years.

Police in Bedfordshire, northwest of London, arrested five suspects under a new anti-slavery law passed last year, alleging that they lured the men to a trailer park with promises of food and shelter, then threatened them with violence and forced them into hard labor.

The men, from England and parts of Eastern Europe, are "all believed to be victims of slavery," police said. Living in squalid conditions in the town of Leighton Buzzard, many of the men were on the verge of starvation, police said.

"There's no electricity. There's no running water. People haven't had their hair cut. (They're) wearing dirty clothing. And made to perform labor, rather than being given proper food and proper wages for their labors," said Detective Chief Inspector Sean O'Neil of Bedfordshire Police.

Tips from other alleged victims who had managed to escape the site led to a lengthy investigation that culminated in Sunday's raid, police said.

Bedfordshire Police issued a statement Monday saying that four of the five people in custody were being questioned. The fifth is a woman who "is pregnant and has been released on police bail and will be questioned further following the birth of her child which is imminent," the statement said.

Police identified the four men arrested as three brothers - James Connors, 23, Tommy Connors, 26, and Patrick Connors, 19 - and their brother-in-law, James Conner, 33. The four are scheduled for a court hearing Tuesday morning and will be held in custody until that hearing, police said.

Nine of the men rescued in the raid have left a medical reception and "have chosen not to support the police investigation," Bedfordshire Police said in the statement Monday.

"Those people who we continue to help are appreciative of the support that is on offer, but it will take some time to work through with them what has happened," O'Neil said in a statement.

Investigators are searching for two additional suspects, Bedfordshire Police said.

According to the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre, which assisted Bedfordshire Police in Sunday's operation, nearly 1,500 cases of slavery and human trafficking have been reported to British police in the past two years.

A new anti-slavery law passed last year in Britain means that anyone convicted of holding a person in servitude can spend up to 14 years in prison.

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