Q&A with Sanjay Rawal, director of Food Chains
November 19th, 2014
05:23 PM ET

Q&A with Sanjay Rawal, director of Food Chains

Food Chains, a documentary that examines the plight of farm laborers in the U.S., releases to the American public on Friday. CNN asked its director, Sanjay Rawal, about the movie and how it came to be made.

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November 18th, 2014
03:37 PM ET

Fight for freedom on U.S. farms documented by Food Chains movie

Do you care about who grows your food - and in what conditions these farm laborers work?

A new movie called Food Chains releases in the U.S. on Friday.

The documentary, produced by actress Eva Longoria and narrated by Oscar winner Forest Whitaker, examines working conditions for laborers harvesting tomatoes in Immokalee, Florida, and grapes in California's wine region Napa Valley.

It follows the fight of some laborers taking on big business interests to establish their rights.

The film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and recently played at the Napa Valley Film Festival, and by the reaction in the Napa Valley Register, certainly prompted strong debate.

Topics: Business • In The News • Life In Slavery • Voices
November 5th, 2014
05:19 PM ET

ISIS says Islam justifies slavery - what does Islamic law say?

Professor Bernard Freamon teaches courses on modern-day slavery and human trafficking at Seton Hall University School of Law in New Jersey and also specializes in Islamic Legal History. He is currently writing a book, “Islam, Slavery and Empire in the Indian Ocean World.” The views in this article are his alone.

By Professor Bernard Freamon

In the past few months, the world has witnessed horrific accounts of the enslavement of thousands of innocent Yazidis and other religious minorities by ISIS partisans in Iraq and Syria.

In a recent article in its online English-language magazine, ISIS ideologues offered legal justifications for the enslavement of these non-Muslim non-combatants, stating that “enslaving the families of the kuffar [infidels] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah or Islamic law.”

The article argues, based on a variety of Shariah sources, that ISIS partisans have a religious duty to kill or enslave members of the Yazidi community as part of their struggle [jihad] against their enemies.

This argument is plainly wrong, hypocritical and astonishingly ahistorical, relying on male fantasies inspired by stories from the days of imperial Islam.

It is also an affront to right-thinking Muslims everywhere and a criminal perversion of Islamic law, particularly its primary source, the Glorious Quran.

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Topics: In The News • Voices
October 30th, 2014
11:20 AM ET

'Treated like cattle': Yazidi women sold, raped, enslaved by ISIS

By Ivan Watson

Jana was a 19-year-old in her final year of high school, with dreams of becoming a doctor. Then, ISIS came to her village last August.

She described to me in chilling detail, how the jihadis first demanded that members of her Yazidi religious minority convert to Islam. Then they stripped villagers of their jewelry, money and cellphones. They separated the men from the women.

A United Nations report explained what happened next. ISIS "gathered all the males older than 10 years of age at the local school, took them outside the village by pick-up trucks, and shot them."

Among those believed dead were Jana's father and eldest brother.

A different fate lay in store for the women.

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Topics: In The News • Life In Slavery • Voices
Report shines light on slave labor in U.S.
October 21st, 2014
04:16 PM ET

Report shines light on slave labor in U.S.

They work on U.S. construction sites and farms, in restaurants and hotels, even in homes.

Foreign workers, lured by false promises of good jobs in America, soon find themselves enslaved in plain sight as victims of labor trafficking, according to a new report published by the nonpartisan Urban Institute and Northeastern University.

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Mauritania: Where escaping slavery can be a crime
October 20th, 2014
04:34 PM ET

Mauritania: Where escaping slavery can be a crime

By John D. Sutter

Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime.

That's the apparent reality in Mauritania, the country with the world's highest incidence of modern slavery. Located in West Africa, on the edge of the Sahara Desert, an estimated 4% to 20% of people there remain enslaved. It was the last country in the world to abolish the practice - in 1981. And it only criminalized owning humans in 2007.

So perhaps this latest news should come as no surprise.

Mbeirika Mint M'bareck, a 15-year-old girl, was rescued from slavery only to be subsequently charged with having sex outside of marriage, according to a letter activists drafted on her behalf. (It is unclear who fathered the child). That crime is potentially punishable by death by stoning, according to an expert I spoke with. The activists planned to send the letter to the country's ministry of justice on Monday.

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Time for electronics industry to end supply chain slavery
September 26th, 2014
04:43 PM ET

Time for electronics industry to end supply chain slavery

By Dan Viederman, CEO Verité

If you are reading this on a tablet, smart phone or computer monitor, then you may be holding a product of forced labor.

Verité's two-year study of labor conditions in electronics manufacturing in Malaysia has found that one in three foreign workers surveyed was in a condition of forced labor.

Because many of the most recognizable brands source components of their products from Malaysia, almost any device you purchase may have come in contact with modern-day slavery.

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Topics: Business • In The News • Life In Slavery • Solutions
September 15th, 2014
10:58 PM ET

Race on to raise $1m in a day to combat human trafficking in U.S.

By Leif Coorlim, CNN

A U.S. national campaign is under way to raise more than a million dollars in 24 hours.

The Everyone’s Kids, Everyone Gives campaign is working to raise $1 million for more than 100 non-profit organizations united in the fight against human-trafficking and modern-day slavery.

Like many other hidden criminal issues, accurate statistics on trafficking can be difficult to obtain. Globally, more than 20 million people are believed to held in slavery, according to the International Labour Organization.

The U.S. government estimates anywhere between 100,000 and 300,000 children could be “at risk” of being trafficked each year.

The U.S. State Department also states as many as 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year as well.

“Americans need to know that this tragedy is happening here at home, under our noses, and is a reality of our times especially with the influx of child trafficking happening online through sites like Backpage and Craigslist,” says Bonnie Calvin, one of the event’s organizers.

The 24-hour “giving day” will take place on September 16. The aim is to connect donors with information about the issue and the organizations working to end child slavery and sex trafficking in the U.S.

Non-profit partners of the campaign include: GEMS, Humanity United, Polaris, The McCain Institute, and Youthlink.

“These organizations work day in and day out with victims and survivors of child trafficking,” says Calvin. “They provide survivor's recovery services like education, housing, therapy and job placement.

"Beyond that, they provide the hope and direction survivors need to get their lives back on track and pointed to a brighter future.”

"This is what real empowerment looks like to victims and survivors of human trafficking,” says Rani Hong, a sex trafficking victim and now a United Nations Special Advisor for victims.

“Everyone’s Kids, Everyone Gives” is the result of a 2013 Ted challenge. The crowdfunding platform, Razoo.com, is also committing an additional $50,000 in cash prizes to nonprofit groups that receive the most donations on the Giving Day.

“We should not stand for child trafficking and the sexual slavery of children anywhere in the world and especially here at home.” says Calvin.

“We can be an example for the world to follow if we tackle this problem head on and eradicate it forever.”

Topics: How to Help • In The News
June 30th, 2014
05:18 PM ET

'End Slavery Now' relaunches Website

"End Slavery Now' has relaunched its website to help people understand more about global slavery and unite those fighting to stop it.

The U.S.-based abolitionist group, founded in 2009, produced the new site to show the global reach of modern day slavery, but also, crucially, to showcase its partners around the world who are tackling the issues.

The site, which took 16 months to develop, includes a news feed, a calendar of events, photo galleries and suggestions of practical ways to help fight slavery.

The group has also produced a video to help people understand its mission.

Congratulations to everyone involved in the relaunch.

Topics: How to Help • In The News • Solutions • The Facts • Voices
June 25th, 2014
04:33 PM ET

FBI shuts website allegedly linked to child prostitution

The FBI has shut down a website advertising children for prostitution - a move made as part of a broader crackdown on the sex trafficking of minors, law enforcement sources told CNN on condition of anonymity.

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Condemned by the U.S., can Thailand tackle human trafficking?
June 20th, 2014
02:32 PM ET

Condemned by the U.S., can Thailand tackle human trafficking?

Migrant laborers are photographed here on a fishing boat in Thailand's Rayong province - a common destination for trafficking victims.

Trafficking in Thailand's fishing industry has again been highlighted by the U.S. State Department, which on Friday downgraded the country in its 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report.

Now, Thailand shares the "Tier 3" category with 22 other countries, putting it on par in the eyes of Washington with the likes of North Korea, Syria and the Central African Republic in its response to human trafficking.

Thai officials acknowledge they have a problem, but say progress is being made.

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Topics: Government • In The News • Life In Slavery • TIP Report
June 20th, 2014
09:21 AM ET

Opinion: U.S. must practice what it preaches as it judges others on human trafficking

By Melysa Sperber

Editor’s Note: Melysa Sperber is Director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), a U.S. based coalition that advocates for solutions to prevent and end all forms of human trafficking and modern slavery around the world. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author.

(CNN) - For the past 14 years, the U.S. State Department has used its Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report to judge how well the world is addressing modern slavery.

Each year, the report draws much-needed attention to the horrors of human trafficking that flourish everywhere from fishing boats in Thailand and palm plantations in Malaysia, to brick kilns in India and the sex industry in just about every country worldwide.

Hidden behind the shadows, traffickers prey on men, women and children, luring the vulnerable among us with promises of honest employment that are merely a facade for work conditions that are dangerous, exploitative and sometimes deadly.

To date, the TIP Report’s country-by-country assessment has proven to be a powerful motivator, inspiring governments to improve efforts to reduce modern slavery in order to avoid the report’s lowest Tier 3 ranking - a diplomatic black eye that comes with the threat of U.S. sanctions.

The State Department’s power to influence other countries’ anti-trafficking efforts depends on the TIP Report’s integrity.

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Topics: Government • In The News • The Facts • TIP Report
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