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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UK / Pakistan – BHC calls for laws to stem child abductions


Source: The Nation

“Only two Muslim countries have ratified the Hague Convention”

ISLAMABAD (PPI) – British High Commissioner Adam Thomson has said that legislation is inevitable to curb the rising incidents of international child abduction.

He said this while addressing a seminar organized by SACH, an NGO, in collaboration with British High Commission here on Wednesday. Khalida Salimi, Executive Director SACH, Ahmer Bilal Sufi, President Research Society of International Law, Justice (Retd) Syed Manzoor Hussain Gillani and others were present on the occasion.

Addressing on the occasion, the British High Commissioner said that ratification of Hague Convention on the civil aspects of International Child Abduction Convention, 1980 will benefit both the countries, Pakistan and United Kingdom.

He said that over one million Pakistanis are living in UK, adding both the countries are tied in different strong bonds.

He further said that in the multi-culture marriages increase the incidents of abduction of children, adding during the last year 55 incidents of child abduction were reported between Pakistan and UK.

More cases are coming from Pakistan, he said, adding there is a very little hope that abducted children will return.

‘We talk about the mutual interests, UK and Pakistan are one family and law provides the bridges between the two countries”, he said.

He hoped Pakistan will become a global partner by ratifying Hague convention.

He was optimistic that this step would further cement ties between the both countries.

Earlier, Ahmer Bilal and Justice (Retd) Syed Manzoor Hussain Gilani addressing the seminar said that the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (October 25, 1980) was according to law of Pakistan and Islam.

They called for ratifying the said Convention to ensure children rights.

Ahmer Bilal also discussed the legal obstacles in the ratification of the Hague Convention.

Khalida Salimi shared the objectives of the constitution. Majid Bashir gave a presentation on The Hague Convention on the Civil aspects of international Child abduction. He said it meant to secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to or retained in any contracting state as well as to ensure that rights of custody and of access under the law of one contracting state are effectively respected in other contracting states.

He emphasized the need to ratify the convention in order to implement measures to enable parents currently separated from their children to maintain contact with them, ensure visitation rights and resolve their cases in any country.

Zulfiqar Naqvi and Zafarullah Khan Advocate discussed the barriers in handling any international parental child abduction case in the absence of the 1980 Hague Convention and urged the need for such a campaign to increase public awareness of the Convention by provision of information to the stakeholders. Ali Sultan, a speaker informed that only two Muslim countries have ratified the Hague Convention.

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Parental Abduction: Sharjah mother: I am living a nightmare


Source: Gulfnews.com

Forcibly separated from her two sons, Sharjah mother fights back for their custody from husband

Sharjah: On August 12, Arafath will turn four. But his mother won’t be around to hug him. Instead Irum Iqbal will be kneeling down in prayer – a routine she has zealously followed every evening since January 13, the day Arafath and his younger brother, Hasanath, whom she was still breastfeeding – were snatched by her estranged husband and flown to Hyderabad, India without her knowledge.

Irum, 27, is a Pakistani citizen, while her husband, Mir Zarafath Ali, is Indian.

Given the thorny relations between the two countries, the likelihood of Irum going to India and wresting custody of her children, both Indian passport holders, is as minuscule as the eye of a needle.

Yet Irum is hopeful of being reunited with them. “I have faith in Allah. I am sure my prayers won’t go unanswered in this holy month,” she said wiping away her tears.

Irum has also moved the Sharjah Sharia Court seeking a divorce and custody of her children. On August 8, the court summoned Ali. He didn’t show up. Instead, he sent Irum a Letter of Reconciliation laying down some bizarre terms and conditions for his return. Among them: Irum will give him whatever she has earned since he has been away; provide a break-up of her expenditure all this while; agree to hand him whatever she earns in future; not maintain any social networking account; visit her family only once a week and not leave home without her husband’s permission.

Irum will forego the right to take legal action against Ali if she signs the draft, says a clause in the Letter of Reconciliation, a copy of which is with XPRESS. Ali has drafted a similar letter for himself.

Irum and Ali got married in the UAE in November 2006, but their bliss didn’t last long. They had regular fights. Irum claims the fights became more frequent and intense when Ali lost his job and his family business in Sharjah suffered losses. “He started to live off my salary. When that wasn’t enough, he started selling my jewellery. One by one he sold off all the pieces. I didn’t mind that as I wanted to salvage our relationship. But when he sold the last piece, he threw me out of the house. Two days later, he flew away with my kids to India. I am living a nightmare. In the seven months that have rolled by since then, there has not been a single day when I have not wept thinking about Arafath and Hasanath. They are so small. I don’t know how they are managing without me. Hasanath is not even two years old. I was breastfeeding him when he was taken away,” said Irum who works with a telecom service provider and currently lives with her parents in Sharjah.

Irum said she was emboldened to talk about her plight after coming across an earlier XPRESS cover story (June 16, 2011) on Dubai-based Maimouna Liskauskaite whose children were snatched by her husband under similar circumstances.

“I can relate to Maimouna as I am going through the same hell. When I read about her, I rang her up. We talked about our kids and tried to console each other. It was a futile attempt because towards the end both of us were crying.”

Desperate to have her kids back Irum has now urged Indian authorities and NGOs to intervene. “This is not about India and Pakistan, this is about a mother and her children,” she said.

P.K. Askok Babu, Consul (media) at the Consulate General of India admitted the case is “complicated”.

“It was brought to our notice after Ali had left for India. Ali had approached the Consulate… he has been advised to take the legal route to resolve the dispute with his wife,” Babu said in an e-mail statement to XPRESS.

On his part, Ali denies any wrongdoing. He said he was ready to accept Irum provided she signs the Letter of Reconciliation and mends her ways. “I have seen her smoking and drinking and have photographs to prove that,” he said over the phone from India. He said he has mailed the offending pictures to the judge, but refused to send them to XPRESS. “I respect the privacy of my wife and do not want to malign her.”

Irum ridicules the queer reasoning. “If he can talk about my supposed smoking and drinking habits, why can’t he send the pictures as well?”

Parental child abduction on the rise

Parental child abduction is proving to be a growing concern in the UAE. Experts reckon this is largely because of the country’s large expat community. A parent or grandparent could face legal action if he/she abducts his/her own child or grandchild from the person who has legal guardianship or custody as established by a UAE judicial decision. But since the UAE is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, foreign governments cannot enforce their own laws here. Statistics on parental child abduction in the UAE are hard to come by, but information released by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), gives an indication of the magnitude of the problem.

According to FCO, the UAE is one of the top locations for abductions of British children by one of their estranged parents.

The US State Department also reported seven cases of child abduction (under US law) in 2009 in the UAE involving nine children, up from six cases in 2008 and four cases in 2007.

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Child abduction by parents among Indian diaspora raises concern


Source: Inewsone.com , New Delhi, June 19

(IANS) Increasing number of child abductions by parents among the Indian diaspora has become a cause of concern as India is yet to join the internationalconvention on the issue, a British minister has said.

‘The cases where a parent abducts their child and takes it away to India are problematic because India does not have laws to deal with parental child abduction,’ British Minister for Equalities Lynne Featherstone said here.

The minister urged the Indian government to accede to the UN Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The British minister was here on a three-day visit to India June 15-17 to seek greater collaboration between the two countries on the issue of violence against women and gender equality issues.

According to Featherstone, the UK government receives at least one complaint per month of alleged abduction of a child by a parent of Indian origin. There are about eight such cases currently being investigated, the minister said.

The children were abducted by one of the parents and brought to India in order to gain the advantage in matrimonial and child custody disputes.

Child abduction cases by parents are high in countries which have a large population of people of Indian origin such as the UK, the US and Canada.

About 70 children were abducted by parents of Indian origin in the UK in the past eight years, according to a report.

The US State Department’s Office of Child Issues, which helps in child abduction cases, is currently working on more than 100 cases of children taken to India without the consent of the parent left behind. The State Department has said that there are few remedies if a child is abducted to India.

There are more unresolved cases of parental child abduction from the US to India than any other country with the exception of Mexico.

About 85 countries have ratified the 1980 Hague Convention on Parental Child Abduction. Under the convention, member countries undertake to return children abducted by a parent to their homes under the jurisdiction of the courts in the home country.

Parental child abduction has become one of the many issues that have been added to the agenda for inter-governmental discussions with visiting delegations from the US, Britain and Canada.

Several NGOs and activists in India and abroad have urged the government to accede to the Hague Convention.

On the occasion of Father’s Day (June 20), a Bangalore-based non-governmental organisation, Children’s Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP), has demanded that India ratify the Hague Convention and reform family law in India.

California-based Rakshak Foundation has also appealed to the union government to safeguard children’s rights and make parental abduction a cognizable, non-bailable crime.

Abduction of a child by one parent violates the child’s right to live in the security of the familiar home and prevents access to both parents. More and more child custody and abduction cases are landing in Indian courts relating to foreign citizens as well as non resident Indians (NRIs).

The Supreme Court has ruled recently that Indian courts have jurisprudence on child custody cases even if the child is a citizen of a foreign country. The courts apply the principle of best interest of the child, taking a foreign court decree as only one of the factors for deciding on the custodial dispute.

There have been occasions when the father had taken away the child from the country of residence, gone to India and left the child with his grandparents while he flew to work in a third country.

At other times, it is the woman who took the child on the pretext of visiting India.

Many abducted children are told that the other parent is dead or has gone away. Often one parent tries to poison the child’s mind to the other parent, which often causes psychological and emotional problems for the child.

‘Children in such cases are voiceless victims and their right to be connected to both biological parents needs to be protected,’ according to the Rakshak Foundation.

Often child custody cases lead to the child being deprived of the love, affection and care of one parent.

‘Joint custody and shared parenting are the best solutions for normal development of the child,’ the foundation said.

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