Category Archives: Child Sex Trafficking

Bonded To Priests As Domestic And Sexual Servants – Trokosi

TrokosiThe following message came to me in an email a few days ago. “I am currently working on a film that deals with the little known system of bondage in Ghana, called Trokosi,” Christene Browne wrote to me. “Trokosi is a religious practice whereby young virgin girls are made slaves to shrines for offenses committed by a member of their family. To appease local gods, the girls are bonded to the priest of the shrine for life and become their domestic and sexual servants.”

Christene, via Syncopated Productions, is still seeking funds to finish Sena – A Film About Slavery. The film is based on the stories she was told during visits to Ghana. The film takes its name from the main character, Sena, whose dreams of being a nun are shattered when she is secretly sent off to a shrine to atone for a crime that she did not submit. The film tells the story of how she endures through numerous atrocities and inhumanities.

A short interview. I asked Christene if I could ask her a few questions to learn more about how she came to make the film, and what she hoped it would accomplish.

How did you first become aware of child slavery?

I first became aware  of Trokosi practice ( a form of child slavery) back in 2000 while I was visiting Ghana for the first time. There was a news report about the practice on a local TV station one night.

What surprised you most about your experience with child slavery?

What surprised me most about the practice was that it could  still exist in the present day  even in the face of some serious opposition/ legislation (It existed for centuries but had been criminalized in 1998.) The fact that the practice was/is sanctioned by many of the traditional religious practitioners was also very surprising. According to them the young girls were/are being sent to the shrines for educational purposes.

How did you first come into contact with a former Trokosi? 

After my first trip to Ghana – I returned home and applied for some research funding with CIDA ( Canadian International Development Agency). Before returning to Ghana I contacted a number of organizations and individuals who were doing work with the Trokosi. ( I had friend in Ghana helping)   My main contact was a man by the name of Elvis Adikah – who was in the midst of doing research on the practise. He was the one who put me in direct direct contact with former Trokosi – he also acted as my interpreter.

We travelled for about five weeks in the Volta region of Ghana to remote hard to reach villages- meeting young and older former Trokosi – and collecting testimonies. During this trip I was also able to visit some active shrines, meet with some of the priests of the shrines, some government officials, a number of NGO groups and some leaders in the African traditional religion movement. In one of the  active shrines, I met an older woman whose job was to oversee the Trokosi – she had been in the shrine for over 60 years. (She is featured in the research interview clip below)

My meetings with the former Trokosi took place in their homes and at so called rehabilitation centers.  The majority of the younger former Trokosi were at these rehabilitation centers where they were learning skills, like sewing, to help them better reintegrate into society.

There is a great stigma associated with former Trokosi – many people believe that they bring misfortunes - so reintegration is very difficult.

Why did you decide to make your film?

Ever since I  had the opportunity to meet and interview a number of former Trokosi , I felt compelled to tell their story. The stories that I heard were devastating and  touched me greatly.

What do you hope people will do as a result of watching the film?

I hope the film will spark a new debate about the practice and  bring the silent suffering of the Trokosi to the forefront. Giving a voice to the voiceless is something that I have done in many of my past projects. Ultimately I hope to inspire people to take decisive actions towards stopping this archaic system of bondage.

If you’ve read this far, I hope that you will help me in spreading the word about Christene’s film, Sena – A Story Of Slavery, or prehaps, even contributing to the completion of the film.

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The Connection Between Internet Porn And Child Sex Trafficking

Several years ago I posted an audio interview with Partrick Trueman on pornography, prostitution and child sex trafficking. I met Mr. Trueman, former Chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Criminal Division, U. S. Department of Justice, face-to-face in Washington, D.C. for the taped interview. The stories he shared in that interview made a case for a clear connection between forced sexual slavery and the internet porn industry.

Sometimes, however, words aren’t enough. We need more. 

Chris Johnson sent me this music video by Mr. J. Medeiros and it has haunted me. As the description on YouTube states, this is hip-hop take on how the Philippines has been “victimized by Human Trafficking. It was directed by Sam Sanchez of Stick Productions in 2006. It has inspired an international human rights movement called the “Constance Campaign.” Mr. J spearheaded the movement and has partnered with Non-Profit’s like HumanTrafficking.org.”

The lyrics are haunting. 

he’s about to turn six into six thousand
and all you have to do is click on your web browser
its not illegal to use raping as a cash crop
as long as it says she’s 18 on your laptop

And it’s happening under our noses here in the U.S. as well. What will you do with this information?

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Teachers Join Demand For Village Voice To Stop Child Sex Trafficking Ads

No form of child slavery is more defiling than child sex trafficking. 

I find it difficult to understand how any reasonable human being could debate that point. Yet, apparently, The Village Voice is having a hard time understanding their role in supporting the trafficking of children for sex. Otherwise, it would not take 60,000 people to convince them to simply do the right thing and take every measure possible, not only to “ban” child sex trafficking ads from their Backpage.com platform, but assist authorities in helping identify and bringing to justice those placing the ads.

“I am a retired teacher and child care worker,” said California resident William Boosinger. “I spent most of my career trying to heal children who had been violated in this foul manner. It’s time to shut down this web site.” I couldn’t agree more. This is a quote from a press release sent out by Change.org this morning. The entirety of the press release is below.

If you agree, add your signature to the petition.

TEACHERS DEMAND VILLAGE VOICE BAN CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING ADS

Active and retired teachers join 60,000 people in supporting interfaith coalition’s growing campaign on Change.org calling on Village Voice Media to block child sex trafficking ads.

NEW YORK, NY – Teachers across the U.S. are joining more than 60,000 people supporting a popular campaign on Change.org calling on Village Voice Media to stop selling child sex trafficking ads on online classified site Backpage.com.

“I am a high school teacher and know what this does to the lives of impressionable young people,” said Brooklyn teacher and father Martin Haber. “It’s not hip or cool, it’s a betrayal of our youth. I have an 18-year old daughter who noticed the graphic nature of Backpage.com the other day. She asked, ‘How is it even legal?’”

“I am a retired teacher and child care worker,” said California resident William Boosinger. “I spent most of my career trying to heal children who had been violated in this foul manner. It’s time to shut down this web site.”

Groundswell, the social action initiative of Auburn Theological Seminary, convened a coalition of leading clergy and religious leaders to launch the campaign on Change.org after multiple ads for sex trafficking victims were identified on Backpage.com, an online classified website owned by Village Voice Media. The campaign has attracted support from parents and grandparents in all 50 states.

“By joining this campaign, teachers like Martin and William are using the power of technology to stand up for their values – that boys and girls shouldn’t be sold for sex on Backpage.com,” said Change.org Director of Organizing Amanda Kloer. “Change.org seeks to empower people to take action on the issues that matter to them, and it has been incredible to watch these teachers advocate for kids.”

Live signature totals from the Groundswell’s campaign:

http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-village-voice-media-to-stop-child-sex-trafficking-on-backpagecom

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Human Trafficking In the United States

A staggering 46% of all traffficking in the United States feed prostitution. The average age of beginning in prostitution in the US is 13. Read more: End Slavery Now

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Decriminalize Child Prostitution?

Believe it or not, the average age for a girl entering prostitution is 13 years old, and the average age is declining as buyers want younger and younger children. via Why Decriminalize Child Prostitution?.

Children should not be punished for being forced into prostitution. I doubt many would argue with that statement. But will decriminalizing child prostitution help or harm?

This is a post that should be read by anyone interested in seeing victims of child sex trafficking helped. Complex doesn’t begin to describe the issue, but Janice Shaw Crouse and Penny Young Nance present a well thought out argument against decriminalizing child prostitution.

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“There is no “war on trafficking” or any similar culture of crime and punishment for selling a 12-year-old girl for sex. Perversely, it is the girls — not the men — who suffer from criminalization.” via U.S. should stop criminalizing sex trafficking victims – CNN.com.

I’ve been saying this for several years. We MUST, as a nation, raise our voices and let our government know that the fight against sex trafficking should NOT be against the children forced into sexual slavery by their traffickers. Instead, we should be enforcing stronger penalties on the buyers, who are rarely arrested or prosecuted for their actions.

Child runaways who are tricked or forced by “pimps” into a life of prostitution should not be treated as criminals. Why is it the girls who are held by police after a raid on a hotel room and not the men buying them?It is the girl, repeatedly raped by grown men, who is shackled and put behind bars. Rarely are these girls perceived as victims.”

This has to change.

Child Sex Trafficking – We’re Punishing The Wrong People

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884 Arrested In Child Prostitution Rings

Seattle, Tacoma, Sacramento, Minneapolis, Nashville… There is no corner of our society where this is not a problem. Fool yourself if you’d like, but Child Prostitution, or as I prefer to call it, Child Sex Slavery, is an epidemic.

“Child prostitution continues to be a significant problem in our country, as evidenced by the number of children rescued through the continued efforts of our crimes against children task forces,” said Shawn Henry, executive assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Service Branch, in a written statement. “There is no work more important than protecting America’s children and freeing them from the cycle of victimization. Through our strategic partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies, we are able to make a difference.”  via Federal crackdown on child prostitution results in 884 arrests – CNN.com.

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Will Lawrence Taylor Become The Poster Boy For Child Sex Slavery?

Lawrence Taylor, the NFL Hall of Fame linebacker and recent Dancing With The Stars contestant, is now a high profile illustration of the buy side of the supply and demand equation that fuels child sex trafficking.

I’m no longer surprised when I read a story like the one accompanying Lawrence Taylor’s arrest. It’s a pretty typical American child sex trafficking story. A 15-year-old girl from the Bronx is reported missing to the police in March, only to be found beaten and bruised, physically and emotionally, imprisoned by fear and force, and serving her master by having sex with men of his choosing. No one appears to be denying the truth of this part of the story. It’s just another child sex slave. Except the press would rather call her a prostitute and her master a pimp. And many would argue that she wasn’t really “enslaved.” She chose to go with the man in the first place. That makes it all easier to swallow.

It’s also not surprising that such a prominent name is implicated. I’ve been writing about this issue for several years now.  The sheer volume of children being held captive as sex slaves made the participation of prominent public figures a certainty. So the allegations against Lawrence Taylor only serve to further illustrate just how pervasive the problem of child sex trafficking is in the United States. If the allegations against him are false, it won’t change that fact.

What would surprise me?

I’ll be surprised if this story doesn’t quickly fade from the front pages. He may be innocent. If he is, it should. But if he’s not, I’ll be surprised if it actually  serves as a lightning rod for changes in legislation that make it easier for authorities to prosecute those involved in the enslavement of children for sex.

Why? Because vast numbers of the American population view slavery as American history. It’s simply more comfortable to think of these girls as prostitutes and not slaves. And we’ve popularized the use of the word “pimp” to such a degree that it is more likely to be seen in the positive than the negative. There are already YouTube parodies that make light of the incident. We like it that way. It helps us sleep at night.

Will Lawrence Taylor become the poster boy for child sex slavery? I doubt it.

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