Twenty Years On: Sex Trafficking and A Perspective on Moving Forward
Developing relationships with individuals and organizations around the world both at the local and international levels reinforced my belief and realist view that governmental institutions will never alleviate the scourge of human trafficking. However, individuals and private sector organizations with limited bureaucratic processes, real feet on the ground, and fresh ideas can make a serious difference.
It is an honor to be asked to write a piece for your new magazine For Freedom. Keeping the public informed about great organizations and the changing dynamics of human trafficking is the key to staying ahead of the criminal elements that drive this ever growing sickness within our global society.
My introduction to Human Trafficking for forced prostitution began in 1999, during my service in Bosnia as an international police task force monitor and seconded to the United Nations as a human rights investigator. The term human trafficking was not so widely used in those years; young women were still referred to as «whores of war» or «just prostitutes»!
Misconceptions about individuals involved in human trafficking whether victims or perpetrators have been exposed and unmasked. Unfortunately the United Nations and other governmental institutions did not lead the way in these efforts to expose the corruption. The United Nations and government organizations continue to abuse their power, deny allegations, refuse to properly investigate, avoid taking responsibility, and are never accountable to the public at any level. The inexcusable actions, delayed responses, and outright cover-ups of criminal activities is the rule rather than the exception.
My own experience and efforts in uncovering the dark under belly of human trafficking has had many challenges over the last 20 years. Regardless of the mismanagement and dysfunction government organizations, great strides have been made in gaining justice for victims at the grass roots levels across many nations and sectors. Rather than dwell on the past I choose to move forward and would like to share some of the great efforts being put forth by individuals and organizations I have come into contact with over the past two decades.
I would encourage you to research the following organizations to learn more about what they do and how you can perhaps volunteer, assist, or follow a career path that may suit your interests. You can make a difference to someone in some way. Look to your local organizations first as human trafficking is a result from conditions at the local level and a desire to seek change or run from the environment.
- The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center–Martina E. Vandenberg is the founder and president of The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center (HT Pro Bono). Vandenberg has spent two decades fighting human trafficking, forced labor, rape as a war crime, and violence against women. Vandenberg has represented victims of human trafficking pro bono in immigration, criminal, and civil cases. She has testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, the Helsinki Commission, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the House Armed Services Committee on an array of human rights issues. Through HT Pro Bono, Vandenberg has trained more than 2,000 pro bono attorneys nationwide to handle human trafficking matters. A former Human Rights Watch researcher, Vandenberg spearheaded investigations into human rights violations in the Russian Federation, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Uzbekistan, Kosovo, Israel, and Ukraine. She is the author of two Human Rights Watch reports,«Hopes Betrayed: Trafficking of Women and Girls to Post-Conflict Bosnia & Herzegovina for Forced Prostitution,» and «Kosovo: Rape as a Weapon of ‘Ethnic Cleansing.’»
- International Justice Mission (IJM) a global organization that protects the poor from violence in the developing world. Their global team includes more than 750 lawyers, investigators, social workers, community activist, and other professionals in 17 field offices.
- Code Blue- A Campaign by Aids-Free World-AIDS-Free World is an international advocacy organization that exposes injustice, abuse and inequality, the social ills that underpin and continue to sustain HIV. We apply high-level advocacy, targeted legal strategies and creative communication to work for a more just world. Clearly, the UN cannot continue to police and judge itself. The Code Blue Campaign is in the process of finalizing our proposal that will remove the untenable conflict of interest that sustains the UN’s sex abuse crisis – members of the so-called «UN Family» will no longer have any role in policing or judging themselves. (Read the full proposal: A Practical Plan to End Impunity for Peacekeeper Sexual Abuse
- The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) is a Los Angeles–based nonprofit organization that is working to put an end to modern slavery and human trafficking through comprehensive, lifesaving services to survivors and a platform to advocate for groundbreaking policies and legislation. Over the past two decades, CAST has supported thousands of survivors through every phase of their journey to freedom from counseling, to legal resources, to housing, educational and leadership training and mentorship.
The film “Whistleblower” and my published book, “The Whistleblower, sex trafficking, military contractors, and one women’s fight for justice”, have served a purpose greater than I had hoped. Many have picked up the torch and continued the march toward freedom and justice for all. Do not expect too much too soon, but always maintain your expectations for a better future for all. Put pressure on your government representatives and lobby them at every opportunity to do more with regard to enhancing laws, providing financial support for rehabilitation services , prosecuting perpetrators to the greatest levels, seeking restitution for victims, and most importantly educating politicians, police, citizens and our children about how what human trafficking really is.
About the author: Kathryn is an international speaker and published author on human trafficking, ethics, and anti-corruption issues. She provides consultancy on whistle blower protection and codes of conduct, and advocates for legislative policy and reforms for government accountability. Focusing on human trafficking for forced prostitution and violence against women, she provides instruction and training on peacekeeping operations at universities, non-governmental organizations, national defense departments, and community organizations. A former US police investigator of 12 years, she served as a human rights investigator for the International Police Task Force (IPTF) in Bosnia.