On Aid: Why Good Intentions Are Not Enough

[Cross-Linked w/ my other blog]

Let’s take the story of a giant, engorged on wealth and privilege. This giant trods upon the earth with greater might and size than his compatriots. He has had the advantages of being able to manipulate a global system that dictates who gets what- even down to potable water, fresh food and life-saving pharmaceuticals. Somewhere in the progression of history, this giant grew to prominence- likely after a world war that left his former rivals indebted to him. He turns his attention to the nations that his rivals colonized- namely those African, Asian and South/Central American nations many of us cannot name.

The giant’s steps invariably crush the voiceless, disempowered and disenfranchised as he drafts documents outlining what a human right is and how to measurepoverty in terms of numbers and indicators. The problem is- those numbers and indicators fail to take into account the most basic of human needs- access to potable water, access to and ability to produce food, access to vital knowledge. Additionally, the assumed universal of “modernization”- a teleological progression from hunter/gatherer to subsistence farmer to an industrial/urbanized society is adopted as a model of “progress.”

So the well-intentioned giant takes it a step further. He introduces Structural Adjustment Plans that require the liberalization, privatization of state-owned enterprises, demonization of labor unions and de-regulation of the “lesser” nations’ governments and economies. He normalizes debt, reduces tariffs, disincentivizes government provision of public goods and undermines the building of taxation structures- in the name of neoliberalism. Meanwhile, multinational corporations threaten the biodiversity of African and Asian ecosystems through intellectual property rights and patents. Claiming plants with medicinal properties and seizing the land on which they grow, these corporations displace the inhabitants of the land, forcing them to move to cities that are urbanizating too quickly to develop the infrastructure that would support the burgeoning urban populations.

In the wake of the destabilizing effects of these myriad policies Continue reading

Human Trafficking (Slavery) News Roundup: November 16, 2010

The Examiner: Global Human Trafficking Roundup (November 16, 2010)


Finland: A Somali born Swedish national was sentenced 60 days in jail for attempting to smuggle foreign women. He attempted to bring young Somali women from Stockholm to Turku. While woman testified that she paid smuggling fee to the man to come to Finland and traveled without identification,  the man claimed that he met her by chance at the airport.

Romania: Increasing number of Romanian women are working as prostitutes in Finland. Romania is one of the biggest hub of human trafficking in Europe, according to the report. One advocate in Finland says that as the number of women who are in sex slavery is increasing, the average of their age is becoming younger.


Philippines: Immigration officers caught six Indian nationals who were heading to Malaysia. During the interrogation, they admitted that the human trafficking ring based in India facilitated their trip to Malaysia. The Immigration authority said that none of the Indians possessed proper documents. The Indians also will be deported immediately.

Cambodia: A journalist investigates Cambodia’s child prostitution with a British police.  When they walked into the bar and asked for younger girls, the madam brought three or four girls in the age between 12 and 13. And when they asked for children that are even younger, the madam said that she could arranged something with 6 or 7 year old off the premise. Continue reading

Race and Gender in Immigration, Political Asylum and Human Trafficking

Greek tea workers, 1905-1915 (forced migration, agricultural labor)


The intersection of gender, race and ethnicity is apparent in the plight of female immigrants and asylum seekers in the United States.  Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year, not counting those trafficked domestically. It is estimated that 79% of human trafficking victims are women and children.  Women and girls do occupy a subordinate position in patriarchal societies, facing  a particular proneness to hunger, poverty, exploitation and violence.  These vulnerabilities are exacerbated by illiteracy, low education levels, localized and internecine conflicts, and limited job opportunities. The search for better employment opportunities is a major motivating factor in immigration. The fact is that most individuals exploited in informal economies, the sex trade and and other forms of human trafficking are immigrant women.  The feminine face of poverty is one explanation for the overwhelming  femininity of the exploited underclass.  These findings are considered in this report that focuses attention on this issue to encourage the development and implementation of solutions that address these risks. Continue reading

Addressing Poverty’s Role in Human Trafficking

The emphasis on the poverty’s influence on the plight of victims of human trafficking so often de-emphasizes the role of the entities that create demand for exploited labor.  It also implies, on some level, that poverty can be equated with a lack of virtue or a loss of humanity.  This is certainly not the case.  Wealth (or lack thereof) is no signifier of virtue or human worth.  This makes me consider the salience of Malthusian arguments for overpopulation predicated on the basis that the willful neglect of “redundant” and “impoverished” persons in the developing world is, in fact, beneficial for the whole.  The embedded assumption that impoverished subjects are devalued in a globalized world or in capitalist societies is (seemingly) tenacious.  At this point, it is necessary to critique the capitalistic mores that enable human beings to be commodified and judged based on their ability to consume- or the amount of effective demand they possess. Continue reading

Is the Censorship of Craigslist’s “Adult Services” a Victory?

Craigslist.org CEO Jim Buckmaster, left, and founder Craig Newmark,are photographed outside of their office in San Francisco. Photo: AP

CNN: Critic Praises Craigslist Move to Censor Ads, Calls for More Info

Change.org: Debunking 5 Common Myths Defending Craigslist

Free The Slaves Responds to Craigslist’s Adult Services Takedown

The Frisky: Why Shutting Down Craigslist “Adult Services” Won’t Actually Make a Difference

Dana Boyd: Apophenia: How Censoring Craigslist Helps Pimps, Child Traffickers and Other Abusive Scumbags

Having read these, I have reached the conclusion that this is a fairly tangible victory that is overshadowed by the amount of work that has yet to be done.  We have to address not only the media of human trafficking, but the demand. Continue reading

Human Trafficking News Roundup (08/19/2010)

Kansas City Star: Work Visa Program is Rife With Problems

The ease with which the system can be defrauded allows criminals to use U.S. law to turn foreign workers into something very close to slaves, said Mary Bauer, legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“For too long, our country has benefited from the labor provided by guest workers but has failed to provide a fair system that respects their human rights and upholds the most basic values of our democracy,” Bauer said.

Project Exodus: Nail Salons Front for Human Trafficking in Ohio

Kevin L. Miller, executive director of the Ohio Board of Cosmetology, said he expects “indictments and arrests” statewide in the next 60 days or so. State and local law-enforcement agencies, the FBI, Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are investigating, he said.

CNN: On The Trail of Forced Labor in Bangladesh

Srimongol, Bangladesh — My (Harvard human trafficking fellow Siddharth Kara) research trip to Bangladesh ended near the town of Srimongol, where I investigated the country’s tea industry. Much like their shrimp processing kinsmen to the south, the tea factories were locked down like prisons.

Institute of Southern Studies: In Florida, Slavery Still Haunts the Fields

Our guide, Romeo Ramirez, tells us straight away that the trailer, which already feels uncomfortably small, is a replica of one in southwest Florida where 12 farmworkers were forcibly kept between 2005 and 2007. Locked in at night, they had no place to relieve themselves and were forced to foul a corner of their cramped quarters. When someone fought back, he was beaten and chained to a pole. The chain and padlock, still twisted from when workers finally forced it off, rest on the trailer’s wall.

After two workers pounded a hole in the trailer’s ventilator hatch large enough to squeeze out, they found a ladder and extricated the rest. Their escape began the seventh of eight prosecutions for involuntary servitude among U.S. farmworkers since 1997. (The eighth indictments, involving dozens of Haitian nationals victimized by trafficking, were announced last month, two days after Independence Day.)

Change.org: Why Tourists Shouldn’t Give Money to Children

The Mirror Foundation, an anti-trafficking NGO, claims that tourists giving money to children on the streets fuels child trafficking across the Thai-Cambodian border. Around80% of child beggars in Thailand come from Cambodia, and at least a third of them are being controlled and exploited by an adult. Children trafficked for begging are often forced to work up to twelve hours a day in hot and dangerous conditions. Most children are under 12, with the youngest identified being a 10-day-old infant. Furthermore, children used as beggars when they are very young are sometimes forced into prostitution or manual labor once they reach puberty.

Child beggars can earn a decent amount of money in a day, but they turn over all their earnings to an adult at the end of it. That’s one of the reasons trafficking children for begging is so lucrative. Plus, it can be much more difficult to identify a trafficking victim among a swarm of street children than in a brothel or a factory.

The Guardian: How Domestic Workers Become Slaves

“Migrant domestic workers are in a uniquely vulnerable position. Thousands of miles from home, “they are dependent on one employer for their accommodation, work and immigration status,” says Moss, “and because they are isolated in a private house they don’t meet anyone.” They often come from impoverished backgrounds with little education, and are encouraged to fear the police. “Many can’t leave because they are told the police will put them in jail or rape them.”

NYTimes: Immigrant Maids Flee Lives of Abuse in Kuwait →

With nowhere else to go, dozens of Nepalese maids who fled from their employers now sleep on the floor in the lobby of their embassy here, next to the visitors’ chairs… Continue reading

In a Perfect World: A List of 20 Conditions RE: Human Rights & Social Justice

  1. It would be impossible, unthinkable and immoral, to place an economic/monetary value on a human being.
  2. Every man, woman and child would live within their means, respecting the sacred spaces of indigenous peoples, without exploiting those deemed “different” from them.
  3. Consumer goods would be priced to ensure the fair compensation of workers at all levels of production.
  4. Consumer goods would not be produced by workers coerced by debt, obligation, threat of bodily harm, or even threats against their families.
  5. Every human being would be recognized wholly as God’s creation, children of the Most High.
  6. The distribution of resources [e.g. land, food, potable water] would not be dependant upon power structures, but upon the cooperative self-determination of all indigenous peoples.
  7. Colonialism and neo-colonialism would never have been a reality or a recurring condition of darker-skinned human beings.
  8. War, genocide and displacement would never have shaped the diasporic histories of the world.
  9. Nomadic peoples would still migrate seasonally, while living on the land unmolested, without worrying about safe and accessible water, food or land.
  10. Homelessness, hunger and poverty would be counteracted with the altruism and charity (latin: caritas, english: love) of their communities.
  11. Mental illness would not be demonized, only managed or treated through therapy (with medicine as a last resort)
  12. Disabilities would not be treated as some unwanted state that diminishes one’s personhood, but as the state of one’s body to be respected and accomodated out of courtesy and respect.
  13. (sexual, physical, mental, etc) Violence against women and children would be morally inconscionable, and punishable by death [but capital punishment + the prison industrial complex would not be necessary or present]
  14. Marriage would be a covenant between two people before God and their communities to love, cherish, honor one another for the rest of their lives, and not just a tax break or an institute.
  15. Masculinity would not be defined by distance from the prescribed notions of femininity.
  16. Conversely, femininity would not be defined by distance from prescribed notions of masculinity.
  17. Individuals would not be forced or expected to fit into boxes or stratifying variables such as class, race, gender, sexuality, or ability.
  18. Every human being would have the opportunity to be themselves, unfettered and unpressured (some socialization would occur, but not so much that individual expression and being is inhibited.)
  19. Race would not exist, only familial, community and tribal (used correctly w/o colonialist implications) affiliations, given the full recognition of the humanity of every single person on the planet.
  20. Beauty would be utterly objective and un-commodified.  The beauty of every human being would be acknowledge, affirmed and accepted.