Cybersex Trafficking

Photo credit: International Justice Misson

This month at The Circle, we have delved deeper into the issue of human trafficking and have learnt a huge amount from our project partner ACT Alberta about what makes women vulnerable to traffickers and what we can do ourselves to be more aware of trafficking victims in our own area. There are more people trapped in slavery than ever before in human history and in the following article, our volunteer Georgia takes a closer look at one of modern slavery’s most insidious practices, cybersex trafficking.

“We were left with no choice but to follow her instructions.” – Joy, a victim of cybersex trafficking for 7 years (10-17)

 

More than 40 million people are victim to different forms of slavery such as forced labour, child labour, domestic servitude and forced marriage. This month The Circle have been working to raise awareness of human trafficking among modern slavery, particularly for sex. According to the UK charity Anti-Slavery International, “human trafficking involves recruitment, harbouring or transporting people into a situation of exploitation through the use of violence, deception or coercion and forced to work against their will.” What’s more, there is another form of human trafficking which is increasing at a frightening rate.

“Cybersex trafficking is an emerging threat as internet access increases everywhere. Now, paedophiles anywhere in the world can direct live sexual abuse of boys and girls hidden in private homes.” (IJM)

 

Social Affairs Correspondent for The Independent, May Bulman, reported in November 2017 about a “new form of human trafficking that sees children forced to carry out sex acts while being live-streamed for paedophiles to watch online [which] is growing at an ‘alarming rate’, a charity has warned”. A victim as young as a two-month-old baby was reported.

The stories that victims have told of this injustice are extremely hard to read. International Justice Mission (IJM) is the largest anti-slavery organisation in the world. They work to rescue and rehabilitate victims of human trafficking among modern slavery. In February 2017 they posted a YouTube video called “What is Cybersex Trafficking?” where they explained how “Pedophiles and predators use the internet to abuse children in homes and cybercafes.” According to Alex Ilusoriio who is an Investigator with IJM Philippines, for as little as 100 dollars Western customers can watch children under 5 years old being abused by adults. This horrific and unspeakable form of abuse is destroying the lives of vulnerable children. IJM helps victims to share their stories in order to raise awareness. Just less than a year ago on 13th August 2018, IJM revealed the year-long investigation which resulted in the rescue of two young women, a teenage boy and a 12-year-old girl. One can only imagine the psychological damage as a result of this devastating crime. At the time of this report the children were receiving help from social workers.

On 20th February 2019 three operations took place to rescue 16 children over four days. Officers discovered that a man called Herman Arnett Ross, an American living in Pampanga, was “seeking to sexually exploit a teenage girl”. Days before Ross was arrested, IJM rescued 15 other children across the Philippines. The children are now receiving trauma therapy, revealing the heart-breaking psychological pain that victims of human trafficking are forced to endure.

IJM have stated cybersex trafficking to be an ‘emerging threat’. Indeed, according to this charity, a ‘simple internet connection’, ‘a webcam’ or ‘a mobile phone’ is all that is required for this form of sexual exploitation to take place and as internet access increases, so will this form of human trafficking.

Annie Kelly is a human rights journalist for the Guardian and Observer, also editor of the Guardian’s Modern-day slavery in focus series. Kelly reported for the Guardian in October 2018 on the case where “two women had been paid £33,000 by [Alain] Charlwood-Collings for procuring children as young as four and filming their rape and abuse. Some of the 46 children involved were the women’s own children or sisters. Others were the children of neighbours, or from the wider local community.” This took place for 10 years.

The fact that the abusers can hide for such a long period of time, shows how complex these operations are to report, find and arrest them. There are signs we can look out for in order to identify if a person is being exploited. According to Stop The Traffik, significant signs of sexual exploitation can include:

  • Having English vocabulary of only sexualised words
  • Emotional trauma as a result of their work
  • Restricted or no access to earnings
  • At a location the letterbox or doors of the property may appear to have been sealed from the inside

What can we do?

 

To understand more about how to spot the signs of sexual exploitation please visit this detailed page by Stop The Traffik.

Every month IJM reports one or more new cases of cybersex trafficking. This is just one charity alone. You can read the recent case reported last week on 25th July 2019 which highlights how this is a “a global crime that demands global collaboration.

By being aware we can all help to prevent these inhumane crimes. Joy, who I quoted at the beginning of this article, is now using her experience to help others. Joy argues that she believes slavery can be stopped: “I want it to stop. I believe it can stop, but I cannot do it alone.”

We can all be a part of this global collaboration and knowing just one of the signs above could potentially save a someone from unimaginable abuse.

“A Feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” – Gloria Steinem

 

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism

This article was written by Georgia Bridgett who is an intern for The Circle. Georgia is a recent English graduate and is passionate about women’s rights and the underlying issues in the fast-fashion industry.

 


Who Made Your Clothes?

 

Over the last few years the words ‘sustainability’ and ‘ethical’ in relation to the fashion industry, have been taking the headlines by storm. On 24th April 2013, it was reported that a factory had collapsed in Bangladesh, leading to the deaths of more than 1,000 workers. Bangladesh is one of the largest garment producers in the world. When we shop on the high street there are no signposts signalling that slavery may be prevalent within their supply chains. We see these amazing garments and are excited to try them on and shop the latest trends but, we do not see the faces of the women who make these garments.

As a person who is highly interested in the craftmanship of clothes and the reinvention of trends, I am conflicted by how I can invest in this industry without contributing to the continuing unethical practices of the fashion industry. We need to make changes in how we make, source, and produce the clothes. Government bodies and retailers need to be made accountable: Eco-age is doing just that.

In an interview for the sustainability consultancy Eco-age, our very own Livia Firth who co-founded The Circle, describes the first time she visited a factory in Bangladesh. In 2013 Firth travelled with Oxfam and says it “changed my entire life”. They were “smuggled” into a factory where there were “armed guards at the doors so no one could come in and out”, “armed bars at the windows, no fire escape […] the floor was full of women who had to produce 100 pieces an hour and these women had no rights” such as no sick leave and only two toilet breaks a day. Even if their child was sick, not working would result in a loss of their jobs. As Livia Firth goes on to say, we are so far-removed from this horrific situation that it is hard to believe that the clothes we wear everyday are linked to this inhumane treatment.

Bangladesh is “such a vibrant, beautiful country, and the women deserve so much more” – Livia Firth

 

I love what Livia Firth also says in this EcoAgeTV video which you can watch on YouTube (see link above). The responsibility lies in all of us, not just the retailers and government bodies who have an immense responsibility to make changes.

The day after the crack was discovered in the factory, the garment workers did not want to go inside but they were threatened. The factory was under pressure to fulfil the orders. Nazma Aktar, Founder and Executive Director of the Awaj Foundation says, “the previous night, everybody knew the factory was not safe. The politicians and the manufacturers forced the workers to enter. It is murder.”

The garment industry is a complicated web of problems that are hard to solve. Aktar goes on to say that out of 4 million workers in the garment industry, 80% are women coming from very poor families who live in the countryside and entering into the urban economy. These jobs are very important for them. If their salaries go up, the factory will close down.

“The multi-nationals always said, if you price more we will leave this country, we will leave this business from Bangladesh.” – Nazma Aktay

 

 

On 11th May 2017 The Circle launched The Living Wage report in partnership with TrustLaw and the Clean Clothes Campaign at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit. It is the first report to demand the Living Wage for garment workers.

The report sets out the legal argument that a living wage is a fundamental human right, and that companies and governments have a responsibility to uphold this right.

The report starts by clearly stating how efforts to prevent labour exploitation have been non-binding. They have been ‘voluntary codes and initiatives designed, implemented and monitored by the retail companies that control the supply chain, and normally developed in response to negative publicity generated by investigations carried out by NGOs or the media.’ This behaviour is corrupt. It is utterly inhumane that retailers are not upholding their responsibility to protect their workers. This is where the work that The Circle are doing is fundamental to making progress in the debate about the living wage. The Circle are combining activism and research within a legal framework. This report could really shake up the debate.

Ultimately though, as Firth reminds us, we all have a responsibility to change the face of fashion. We live in a throw-away society and when we discard a garment after only a couple of wears, we are not taking a moment to remember who made it. When we buy and buy and buy, we are giving these companies the means to produce more, faster; “we are completely complicit in the system”. But when we do not buy into this industry, we are taking away work from these women.

We “cannot boycott or stop buying because they need to work”

 So, we need to be actively seeking ways to go to the source of the problem, expose the corruption and improve the lives of these women who deserve so much more.

Firth tells Harper’s Bazaar Netherland of some useful tips for how we can shop differently and not treat these women like slave labour. We need to show them that “we really respect their work and we value the things that they make. So, when they sweat on their production line, producing 150 pieces an hour, make them know that we value them, that we are not going to wear them once or twice and then throw them away”

I would highly recommend reading the report (it’s a long one so grab a cup a tea and a couple of biscuits) and get ready to be thoroughly inspired.

Be part of the change. This is just the beginning.

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism

This article was written by Georgia Bridgett who is an intern for The Circle. Georgia is a recent English graduate and is passionate about women’s rights and the underlying issues in the fast-fashion industry.