May 24th, 2013
04:29 PM ET

Art against slavery

Artist Ross Bleckner, a U.N. goodwill ambassador, recalls his to trip to Uganda to help sex trafficking victims and explains how art can combat modern day slavery.

FULL STORY
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Topics: In The News • Solutions • Uncategorized • Voices
May 17th, 2013
04:01 PM ET

Activist explains the Pacquiao factor

Activist Cecilia Flores-Oebanda explains to CNN the challenges she faces every day running an anti-trafficking organization in the Philippines.

In the video interview above she says the trafficking gangs regularly threaten her life but can't stop her, and neither can the frustrating shortcomings of the Philippines political and legal systems.

Oebanda adds that winning the support of boxing superstar and Filipino hero, Manny Pacquiao has given her a new drive.

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Topics: The Fighters
May 17th, 2013
03:04 PM ET

Mexican sex traffickers moving into U.S.

By Krupskaia Alis and Rafael Romo, CNN
Joanna moves her hands nervously as she speaks.  Her oversized, golden earrings rattle as she shakes her head to make a point.  Joanna is not her real name.  She's speaking on the condition that CNN will protect her privacy and not disclose her real name.  She's only 16 years old, but has already experienced a lifetime of horror, abuse and torture.  She's a former sex slave.

It all started when she met a charming man.  "I was in a normal relationship with him for three months," she says.  At the time she was only 14 years old.  She was treated like royalty and fell in love.  A few months later he asked her to elope and she agreed.

"He promised that we would get a house and that we would raise children.  I was naïve and believed everything he said.  We started living together in July and by September he was already forcing me to work as a prostitute," Joanna said.

By then it had become painfully clear that Joanna's boyfriend was in reality her captor, a pimp who preyed on young, vulnerable teenagers whom he recruited in central Mexico with the purpose of forcing them into prostitution. FULL POST

May 13th, 2013
01:55 PM ET

France celebrates abolition; but modern slavery continues

As France commemorated the 150th anniversary of its abolition of slavery, modern forms are regularly surfacing.

Sylvie O'Dy, president of the Committee Against Modern Slavery, said 122 people were freed from bondage last year in France and she believes that figure is the tip of the iceberg.

Tina Okpara was legally adopted in her native Nigeria and taken to France by football star Godwin Okpara and his wife.

Her birth family agreed to adopting the 12-year-old girl thinking she was heading off to a better life, but once in France, she was kept out of school and made to work as a domestic, sexually abused and mutilated. After running away, she eventually managed to convince local authorities of her plight. The Okparas were convicted and jailed.

In another case, a Cambodian refugee named Sok was held in cruel conditions and – according to his lawyer - forced to work by a French mother and daughter who took advantage of his mental incapacity for more than 10 years. Denied medical treatment he pulled out his own teeth with a pliers. Eventually the French women were taken to court. Sok is now a ward of the state.

May 13th, 2013
01:24 PM ET

Running 1,000 miles to fight trafficking

CNN's Fionnuala Sweeney talks to a group of long-distance runners raising awareness about human trafficking.

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Topics: How to Help • In The News
Iconic fighters saving kids
May 9th, 2013
03:43 PM ET

Iconic fighters saving kids

Cecilia Flores-Oebanda has spent her life fighting - as a child for some education, as a teen rebel against a dictator, and for more than 20 years against human traffickers.

She has become the face of the Philippines anti-trafficking movement - a woman who has the ear of presidents, royalty and philanthropists around the globe.

Along the way she persuaded the biggest name in the Philippines - boxing legend Manny Pacquiao - to join her fight.

After two years of reporting in the Philippines – from going on police raids in Manila to going undercover in search of human trafficking in remote provinces - CNN can now tell their story.

Rescued girls describe how they were recruited by traffickers, the ordeals they endured - sometimes by men a computer click and half-a-world away - and how Oebanda saved them.

And we go undercover in Manila's bars where girls are available for tourists.  

Now Oebanda is fighting a battle that could truly ruin her reputation and the organization she created - fraud allegations made by Philippine investigators.

SPECIAL REPORT
May 6th, 2013
01:24 AM ET

Women trafficked to Iraq

By Atika Shubert, CNN

(CNN) Like so many Indonesian women, Eli Anita wanted to earn more money than she could at home.

In 2007, she moved to Dubai through a labor recruitment company where, she says, her manager immediately began harassing her for sex, at one point becoming violent.

“He got very angry and he also beat me and kidnapped me in the bathroom for many hours. He locked the door,” she says in broken English. FULL POST

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Topics: In The News
May 3rd, 2013
04:00 AM ET

Mauritanian anti-slavery activist wins human rights award

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - A Mauritanian anti-slavery activist, Biram Dah Abeid, will be honored on Friday by the human rights group Front Line Defenders. Abeid, who is the head of a group called IRA Mauritania, was featured last year in the CNN documentary "Slavery's last stronghold." Mauritania, a desert country in West Africa, was the last country to abolish slavery; and an estimated 10% to 20% of its population lives in some form of slavery, according to Gulnara Shahinian, the UN's special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.

The Mauritanian government has denied slavery's existence in the country but does operate a program for formerly enslaved people.

Abeid was selected from 100 nominees in 40 countries, according to Front Line Defenders. The award, given to "human right defenders at risk," will be presented at a ceremony in Dublin, Ireland, and will be given by Irish President Michael Higgins. FULL POST