Fighting Human Trafficking, One Community at a Time


August 3 , 2013

Source: news-republic.com

On Monday, July 29, 2013, the world watched in horror at 150 men in 76 cities across the United States were arrested and charged with holding teenaged girls against their will to work as prostitutes in one of the largest human trafficking cases in American history.

Im-Not-For-Sale-human-trafficking

The alleged perpetrators will be charged with sex crimes, but the systematic kidnapping and forced prostitution of young girls remains all too common in the world and across the U.S. In fact, according to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, there are more individuals living in slavery today than at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. This terrifying epidemic is robbing thousands of young people of their childhood, and most often, the victims are young women.

Fighting human trafficking has become one of the great civil and human rights issues of our generation. That is why yesterday, August 1, I participated in a convening of the NGO community in Washington D.C., to discuss the issues of trafficking and forced prostitution at home and abroad, and how community groups can collectively organize to raise awareness about and combat human trafficking. The discussion was organized by the United Way World Wide, and included representatives from the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services, among others.

At the Girl Scouts of the USA, we are committed to combatting trafficking in two ways: by building girls of confidence and strength who become leaders in their communities, and by helping girls organize and join other girls to raise awareness and develop Gold Award Projects to advocate against human trafficking and exploitation.

Throughout the Girl Scout Movement, there are girls doing amazing things on the issue of human trafficking: in Jupiter, Florida, a local Girl Scout helped enact state legislation that imposes tougher penalties on those convicted of human trafficking.

In Arizona, a Girl Scout developed a national effort to inform people about human trafficking, launching a program called “Girls Empowering and Mentoring with Support,” or GEMS for short, which helps girls raise awareness of the issue within communities. The group was so effective that a pilot program has been developed that teams GEMS members with Girl Guides in Honduras around the issue of sex trafficking.

Ron+Hosko

These are just some of the many things Girl Scouts throughout the country are doing to take action against human trafficking. But the story that will stay with me forever belongs a young woman from the Girl Scout Movement who was herself a victim of sex trafficking. She was born in South America, and sold by her own family for $1,000. She was one of the “lucky ones” who was able to escape that life, and eventually, found her way into our Movement.

When I think about what this remarkable young lady has had to overcome — the unbelievable hardship she has faced, and her iron will to rise above it — I am simply in awe. Through Girl Scouting, she found a family — a sisterhood that gave her comfort and strength, and propelled her to achieve. She found an outlet for expression, a platform to channel her passion into a project that built a library program that teaches Latino immigrants to read and write English.

This is what we do. This is what the Girl Scout Movement can help girls achieve. This is why it is so important that faith-based groups, government entities and community organizations like the Girl Scouts extend their reach to the farthest corners of our world. The scourge of human trafficking can be taken on, and it can be defeated, but only when we recognize that, at its core, it is a problem that must be fought one community, one girl, at a time.

At the Girl Scouts of the USA, we are proud to stand with those who are on the front lines of this battle. It’s a war we must win, for ourselves, and our daughters.

 

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Four Sisters Abducted By Their Australian Mother From Italy Back in Court


July 10, 2012

Source: fathersforequality

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THE four girls at the centre of an international custody dispute will be released from foster care to live with their mother pending a High Court hearing in August.

In emotional scenes in the Family Court this afternoon, Justice Peter Murphy ruled the girls be placed in their mother’s care after considering submissions, including that at least one of the sisters had made comments about self harming while in state care.

He said although he was reluctant to make the order, “on balance” returning the sisters to their mother was the better option, citing concerns for their welfare.

He added that it was not the purpose of the hearing to determine whether the mother had a role in the girls’ disappearance in May, when they breached a court order ordering that they return to Italy.

The Department of Communities had opposed the mother’s application, arguing that remaining in foster care was “the lesser of two evils” in the circumstances. The girls’s father had also argued against the release arguing the mother would further “alienate” his daughters from him.

The conditions of the release from foster care are being determined now.

The girls’ mother applied to have the children, aged 9 to 14, released from foster care pending High Court proceedings in August.

Earlier, a teenager at the centre of an international custody dispute has penned an emotional plea, begging to be allowed to live with her mother in Australia. The letter was read out in the Family Court in Brisbane on Friday, where the mother is attempting to regain custody of her four daughters, who are in foster care. It was written by the eldest girl.

“If you ask me there is nothing in the whole world I want more than just to be home with my mum and back at school with my friends again,” the teenager wrote, adding that she wished for “a miracle from God” that it could happen.

The girls have been trying to avoid a Family Court order to return to Italy with their father.

They are not attending school while they await the High Court challenge in August.

The mother’s barrister Dr Jacoba Brash said evidence provided by the girls’ own Department of Communities case workers say the sisters are feeling “nauseous, anxious and dizzy”.

She urged the judge to consider “the reality of the children’s situation” and return them to their mother.

But the Department of Communities said there was a risk the children could go back into hiding if they were placed in the care of their mother.

Earlier this year they hid for more than a week before police found them on the Sunshine Coast.

Barrister James Linklater-Steele said the mother was also poisoning the children’s relationship with their father.

The relationship between he and the girls had improved since they were placed in foster care, he said.

He argued that to return them to the “uncontrolled environment” of their mother’s care would “severely risk the advances that have been made to date”.

Earlier, the Family Court justice dismissed an application to have the girls’ great-aunt appointed legal guardian, noting the sisters had “a voice” in the submissions before him.

However, he ruled the great-aunt, as a potential carer – should the application to have them released prove successful – had the right to be legally represented as an individual at the hearing.

This morning the girls’ mother applied to have the children, aged 9 to 14, released from foster care pending High Court proceedings in August.

The hearing continues.

Miranda Forster, Andrew Macdonald

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Child Abduction to Thailand


Phuket Boy Ricardo Among Rising Number of Abductions

By Chutima Sidasathian,Phuketwan Friday, July 1, 2011

PHUKET: Figures show the number of British children abducted by a parent and taken abroad is increasing, with Thailand a favored destination. Pakistan and India rank first and third in numerical terms, sandwiching Thailand. The Foreign Office said that 161 children had been taken over the past 12 months to countries that are outside an international treaty designed to ensure the return of wrongfully removed minors.

On Phuket, parental abduction is known to be an issue. The most prominent case has been the twice-abducted Ricardo Choosaneh, a nine-year-old first taken by his Thai mother from his father in the Netherlands, then taken from Phuket by his foster mother earlier this year. His mother, Sumetra Choosaneh, told Phuketwan in an interview in Bangkok in March that she planned to go to Europe to regain her boy – but through the courts this time.

Khun Sumetra and her family say that the father has never been a good provider and continues to use possession of the boy as a means to extract money from others and to gain government housing in the Netherlands. Britain’s Foreign Office admitted that true figures on abductions are likely to be much higher because many cases go unreported. AFP reported that although Pakistan, Thailand and India topped the list of nations involved, there were cases in another 94 countries that are outside the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne told the news agency: ”Finding a solution can be especially difficult if a child has been taken to a non-Hague country as there are no international systems in place to help you. This is why prevention is so important.” The Phuket case of young Ricardo has brought international attention, with a television show in the Netherlands encouraging support from viewers for the boy’s father, Michael Roland van Alphen. However, Khun Sumetra and her family maintain that Phuket-born Ricardo, abducted twice in the space of nine months, should never have been snatched on the second occasion by foster mother Kimberley Ching-Yong because the boy’s future is brighter on Phuket.

Only a court, having listened carefully to both sides, can settle the matter with the best interests of the child to the fore. As Sharon Cooke, advice line manager for Reunite International Child Abduction Centre, told AFP: ”The psychological impact on children can be traumatic and for the left-behind parent, the shock and loss are unbearable, particularly if they don’t know where their child is.”

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