Why Invisible Child’s #Kony2012 Campaign Gets No Applause From Me

In short: #Kony2012 #StopKony misrepresents N. Uganda, spreads misinformation abt Kony/the LRA, denies Africans’ agency and is imperialist. It raises the perennial question of “Who represents Africa?”

For example: This tweet (one of many prime examples) succinctly exemplifies all that I critique in this piece:

In fact, it reminded me of my post-colonial readings of Karl Marx. Reading this quote from his “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte: “Sie können sich nicht vertreten, sie müssen vertreten werden” spurred me deeper into my anti-colonialist, post-colonialist fervor. Literally translated from German, “Those who cannot represent themselves must themselves be represented,” the quote revealed to me just how insidious the narrative of “saving” and “speaking for” the subaltern is.

HOW DOES THIS TIE INTO Invisible Children’s #Kony2012 CAMPAIGN?

If “awareness” is the payoff for paternalistic, imperialist, “white man’s burden” NGO campaigns, I don’t want it. (Just the name “Invisible Children” denies and co-opts the agency of Ugandans- many of whom have organized to protect child soldiers…). I stand by this: if you’re more comfortable talking about Africans than you are talking to an African person, you really should not be in the business of representing Africa. Furthermore, if you cannot find an African nation on a map, let alone acknowledge Africans’ agency, you should not be providing “solutions” or “aid. Certainly, if you think that Uganda is in Central Africa, you should not be disseminating (mis)information that could have implications on policy.

Presumably, this campaign is supposed to raise awareness in the international community of Joseph Kony and lead to his arrest and/or death. The assumption is that taking down the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army will eliminate the problems. Thing is, Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army are symptoms of corrupt governance. Invisible Children’s video strangely omits Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s complicity in the horrors of the conflict that began in the late 1980s in Northern Uganda at the beginning of his (prolonged) presidency. Clearly, the international justice community is aware of Joseph Kony, because his name has been on top of the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s “most wanted” list for nearly a decade. Not to mention the fact that the United States armed forces have made several attempts at fighting the LRA and killing Joseph Kony, all of which resulted in the displacement of Sudanese and Congolese civilians as the LRA scattered about Central Africa.

[Also, I suggest a little light research into Invisible Children’s spending practices.] Continue reading

Abolitionism Alone Won’t End Slavery & Human Trafficking

So I saw this tweet and it set off a series of tweets about the fallacy of using the failure of police forces to enforce anti-trafficking laws to dispute the prevalence or significance of human trafficking. Human trafficking is a crime that is hard to quantify on a global & national scale b/c of the sheer lack of awareness/sensitivity.

Let’s say that City X is a known hub for human trafficking– specifically labor trafficking or the trafficking of minors into the sex trade. In a year, the police force only makes 637 arrests pertaining to trafficking.  What went wrong here? Local police forces are likely not equipped to identify and address the crime of trafficking. This can be attributed to a lack of political will, which hinders the enforcement of the anti-trafficking laws. That fact is, the number of arrests (or even the number of convictions or the severity of the punishments) does NOT correlate to the prevalence of the crime. Continue reading

Beyond Abolition: Ending Slavery in Mauritania

[Crossposted at Future Challenges Organization]

Slavery is forced labor or exploitation with little to no pay (beyond subsistence) as a result of force, fraud or manipulation. Human trafficking (often called modern-day slavery) usually involves the added elements of recruitment, transportation and receipt of trafficking victims with the intent of exploitation. Slavery does not necessarily involve the trafficking of a person, but it does involve exploitation, forced labor, exploitation, abuse and slavery-like conditions. A person is a victim of trafficking if he or she has been moved within a country or to another country as a result of force, fraud or manipulation and is exploited or made to work as a slave. It is estimated that there are over 27 million slaves today worldwide and they are exploited in many forms including: forced labor, forced begging, sexual exploitation, forced marriage and the sale of body parts.

The Mauritanian government, under President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, has recently announced measures to regulate the working conditions of domestic servants and workers within the country‘s borders. However, approximately 20 percent (well over half a million) of Mauritania‘s population remains enslaved particularly in the domestic and agricultural sectors. Mauritania has failed to fully abolish slavery within its borders, in spite of repeated passages of laws abolishing the slave trade in the years 1905, 1981 and 2007. Continue reading

The Feminization of Migration and the Fight Against HIV

[crossposted at Future Challenges Organization’s blog]

Is there a direct relationship between the feminization of migration and HIV prevalence on the African continent? The answer is more complicated than it appears. While the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the aftershocks of regional conflict have had disproportionate impacts on African women, the assumption that HIV/AIDS and conflict/displacement are somehow related is spurious. Yes, migration in its myriad forms- primarily labor migration and forced migration- does add risk factors that contribute to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but we cannot say that it is a direct relationship. Women who migrate for work face vulnerabilities (risk factors including separation from partners, family, loss of support base) that increase their chances of being infected with HIV.

Areas where there are disruptions in the social order tend to have higher HIV rates. This includes war zones, impoverished and disenfranchised outer-city slums. There are various forms of migration: examples include forced migration due to regional conflict or land grabs or labor migration in response to high regional unemployment. It is important to note that in the last fifteen years, we have seen the feminization of migration on a global scale. A majority of refugees and internally displaced people are women and their children, and an increasing percentage of migrant laborers are women. A growing number of rural-to-urban migrantsare women in both Asia and Africa. Globally, women represent about 50 percent of the migrants.

Areas with low levels of education, high unemployment tend to have high rates of circular labor migration. In South Africa, gendered migration patterns were largely due to the several factors. First, a decline in patriarchal control, plus the end of Apartheid afforded women greater mobility. Prior to the fall of the Apartheid government, Influx Control Acts specifically granted economically-productive (Black) African men the right to migrate for work, while limiting their female counterparts‘ mobility.

In 1995, 38% of South African women ages 15-65 were actively looking for work. In 1999, that figure was 95%. This trend South African women entering the migrant labor force occured in the context of decreasing marital rates and income insecurity. Taking all of these factors into account, there is a trend of women increasingly constituting temporary, migrant labor populations. Migration is essential to economic well-being- especially for women.

In West Africa, migration patterns have been a mainstay of the regional economic bloc, dating back to the trans-Saharan trade of the 8th century. This includes North-South migration within Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria and the longer distance migration between the northern Sahelian countries (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad) and the coastal countries to the south. Historically, migrant populations have been mostly male, but recently, women have comprised significant number.

High HIV Prevalence Among Migrant Women:

There is a circular relationship between HIV and population mobility.  Migrants face separation from their partners and families, also separation from the social mores that might govern their behavior- particularly when they face loneliness and isolation in communities that are not theirs. Additionally, migrants‘ vulnerability to exploitation is exacerbated by a loss of localized social support systems, linguistic differences and power imbalances between job seeker and employer. For migrant women, especially refugees and internally displaced persons, sexual violence is a risk factor. For all migrants, lack of access to healthcare is a major factor in heightened prevalences of HIV among migrant populations.

Labor Migration

In South Africa and Northern Tanzania, migrant women have higher prevalences of HIV than their non-migrant counterparts. This is due, in part, to the fact that the sex trade serves as a complementary work sector to local mining industries. In the mining sector, workers often live away from their spouses, living in company-owned housing. For this reason, among others, there is a demand for a localized sex industry. Within the sex trade, young girls often recruit their peers, citing opportunity and income. However, for the less-fortunate, sex trafficking is their entry into sex work. I discuss the overlap between human trafficking and HIV/AIDS in Africa in this article.

Forced Migration

A 2007 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCRreport questions the commonly-held belief that there is  direct relationship between conflict, forced migration and wartime rape and increased HIV prevalence among internally-displaced persons and refugees. The data, culled from seven countries/regions affected by conflict [Democratic Republic of the Congo, Southern Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda, Somalia, Burundi, and Sierra Leone] revealed that there was no increase in prevalence of HIV infection during periods of conflict. However, it is important to note that the sample population was primarily refugee and IDP women and children who sought and received antenatal care.

There is no substantive evidence that refugees exacerbate the HIV epidemic in their host communities. With the exception of the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, HIV prevalence is higher in urban areas than in rural areas. Most refugees on the African continent are fleeing rural areas- which typically have lower HIV prevalence- affected by conflict. This may explain why refugees generally have a lower HIV prevalence than that of their host communities. In Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda, HIV prevalence in urban areas  affected by conflict had similar rates to urban areas unaffected by conflict. In the rural areas of these countries, the prevalence of HIV infections remained relatively low and stable. Furthermore, there is no evidence that refugees exacerbate the HIV epidemic in their host communities.

One of the challenges here is to broaden the sample population beyond the minority of refugees who had access to medical care. While the regions of origin for most refugees and IDPs are rural areas are typically characterized by low HIV prevalence, we cannot assume the same for future conflicts. Unchallenged assumptions about trends in migration, pandemics and regional conflict will only endanger the most vulnerable among us.

Article: The Overlap Between Human Trafficking and HIV AIDS in Africa

[Cross-linked at Future Challenges Organization]

There has not been very much discussion on the overlap of human trafficking and HIV/AIDS on the continent of Africa.  Both human trafficking and HIV/AIDS are recognized as impediments to economic development on the continent of Africa.  HIV/AIDS is acknowledged as one of the push factors for human trafficking in southern Africa, in addition to poverty and undereducation. The  HIV/AIDS epidemic has disproportionately affected marginalized groups- particularly women and children.  Subsequently, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among victims of human trafficking is higher than that of the general population, and because of their status, these victims often do not have access to the medical care that they require.

The fact is that Africa is a very young continent.  Some 60% of its population is under the age of 24. Additionally, the continent of Africa has over 14 million AIDS orphans. These children live with particular vulnerabilities. As children, they are already susceptible to exploitation (human trafficking, in particular), as one or more of their parents is deceased. Children who have lost at least one parent to HIV/AIDS are more susceptible to traffickers’ manipulations. For example, older children trying to feed their siblings are most likely to be lured by a trafficker’s fraudulent job offer. Continue reading

Human Trafficking: An Overview

There are an estimated 27 million slaves today.  There are more slaves at this moment than at any point in history.  In addition to this, the average price of a slave today is about $90 USD, when the historical average is about $40,000 USD.  The price of a human being has collapsed at the point when the number of slaves reaches historical heights.  The United States spends an average of $6000 a second on it‘s military industrial complex, a rate at which it could free every slave in about 4.5 days.  Of course, the purchase of every enslaved person‘s freedom only reifies the system that enslaved them, increasing their market value, as the purchase is a sign of increased demand.  On an ethical level, the purchase of enslaved persons‘ freedom does nothing to combat the ideologies that make slavery permissible and normalized.

What is Trafficking in Persons?

The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth [above] shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth [above] have been used.

Of course, this definition does not encompass the full range of exploitation, which includes but is not limited to:

  • illegal (transnational) adoption
  • sexual exploitation
  • coerced labour
  • child brides
  • recruitment of children into armed conflict
  • forced begging
  • removal of organs

Contributing factors to the vulnerability of victims of trafficking in persons include: Continue reading

Human Trafficking News Roundup: 19 December 2010

Let’s start off with a fact:

1 in 6 children in the world under the age of 14 are child laborers. That’s over 150 million children.

Tough anti-trafficking law in the offing: Draft suggests speedy trial tribunal, considering the offences non-bailable


Human trafficking and related crimes will be considered non-bailable and non-compoundable offence and tried in the speedy trial tribunals to be set up in all districts and metropolitan cities, says a draft anti-trafficking law.

The persons convicted of the crimes would be punished with a minimum of eight years rigorous imprisonment plus fines and a maximum of life sentence.

The proposed Human Trafficking (Prevention and Protection) Act-2011 also provides for setting up National Human Trafficking Prevention Authority (NHTPA) to pursue human trafficking cases and take measures to combat the crime.

The tribunals will take into cognisance the cases against government officials even if the complainants have not taken the government approval to file those, says the draft.

The Daily Star has obtained a copy of the draft, which defines human trafficking as sale or transfer of men and women by force, threats or cheating for sexual and commercial purposes or other forms of exploitation in or outside the country.

Using men and women for commercial purposes through fake marriages and household servitude will also be considered human trafficking.

For the first time, the government has defined labour trafficking in the draft law. It says transferring people by illegal force or deception in the name of jobs will fall into labour trafficking. Someone may not be subjected to servitude, bonded labour or debt bondage, but that will not lessen the gravity of his trafficker’s crime, the draft says.

A projector plays over the face of a Gambian boy at an event designed to raise awareness of child sex abuse in the country

Breaking the silence of Gambia’s sex tourism: The tiny West African state has become a magnet for Western predators looking to abuse children.

On a hot Wednesday evening local children gather by a mango tree in the sandy backstreets of Bijilo, close by Gambia’s main tourist drag on the West African country’s Atlantic coast. A generator thumps a little way off to power a projector and on a fabric screen a film plays in which a young girl is groomed by an older man with a gift of a mobile phone. Later she is raped. Continue reading