Don't join any of these group ISIS, Al Qaida, Al Shabab and Boko haram these are human traffickers

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Al-Shabaab regroups in Bulo Burde ahead of major assault

By Majid Ahmed in Mogadishu

December 27, 2012

Al-Shabaab is trying to regroup in Somalia's Hiran region after facing a series of defeats and losing a string of strategic towns in recent months, Somali security officials say.
  • Somali National Army soldiers rest in the shade of a tree in Jowhar on December 11th after seizing the former al-Shabaab-held town with the help of African Union Mission in Somalia troops. [Stuart Price/AU-UN IST/AFP] Somali National Army soldiers rest in the shade of a tree in Jowhar on December 11th after seizing the former al-Shabaab-held town with the help of African Union Mission in Somalia troops. [Stuart Price/AU-UN IST/AFP]
Ahmed Abdullahi, a security official in the Hiran region, said he received information on the movement of some senior al-Shabaab leaders fleeing from liberated areas to Bulo Burde.
"According to what we have been told by Bulo Burde residents, some al-Shabaab leaders such as Yusuf Sheikh Isse, who is in charge of the Middle Shabelle region, and other leaders have been coming to this town," Abdullahi told Sabahi.
"Since the allied forces took over the city of Jowhar, field commanders of the group have been relocating from areas of Middle Shabelle to eastern Hiran," he said, adding that Somali and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces are preparing to move towards Bulo Burde.
"The Somali National Army, with the support of AMISOM forces, have been on alert and ready to liberate the few remaining cities that are under al-Shabaab's grip including Bulo Burde," he said.
Bulo Burde, which lies 240 kilometres north of Mogadishu and 40 kilometres southeast of Beledweyne, is considered to be al-Shabaab's last stronghold in Hiran.
According to residents, hundreds of al-Shabaab fighters are holed up in the city, preparing to defend it after losing control of many towns in the southern and central parts of the country.
The militant group announced last week that it had formed a new battalion called the "Abu Yahya al-Libi Battalion", named for the al-Qaeda leader who was reportedly killed earlier this year in Pakistan.
On December 17th, al-Shabaab displayed members of the new battalion at an event in Bulo Burde in an effort to reorganise its defeated fighters, according to news reports.
However, al-Shabaab's attempt to regroup faces many obstacles due to ongoing internal conflicts among al-Shabaab leadership as well as the group's financial problems, security analysts say.
"Al-Shabaab has lost strategic areas that brought in revenues such as Mogadishu and Kismayo, so it will not be able to obtain the necessary funding to reorganise itself and fund its military operations," said Said Mohamed Ali Mohamed, a retired captain in the Somali National Security Service.
Al-Shabaab will not be able to defend Bulo Burde, Mohamed said. Rather, the fighters will likely retreat to the forests and jungles between the Middle Shabelle and Hiran regions for protection, he said.
"As we have seen in previous months, al-Shabaab fighters have been retreating from all the towns without any resistance as soon as allied forces approach," he told Sabahi.
"Al-Shabaab's withdrawal from strategic cities to rural areas does not mean that they have chosen to disengage from direct combat in order to avoid heavy losses," he said. "What it means is that the group is unable to withstand the attacks and defend the areas it controls so its members are fleeing to rural areas for protection."

Al-Shabaab forces children to take up arms

Local residents in Bulo Burde said al-Shabaab has kidnapped children to force them to carry arms in an effort to ward off attacks from the Somali National Army and AMISOM troops.
"Al-Shabaab has rounded up no less than 150 children from schools and Qur'an classes that have been kidnapped from the countryside and small villages surrounding Bulo Burde," resident Abdinur Dahir, 46, told Sabahi.
"Al-Shabaab leaders including Sheikh Yusuf Ali Ugas, the group's official for Hiran region, and other leaders are now in town," he said. "They urge teachers in Qur'an schools and regular schools to stop their lessons and send their pupils to training camps so they can learn how to use weapons and join the group in their war for jihad, as they claim."
Nasra Abdi, 42, who sells fresh milk in the town market, said she saw members of al-Shabaab in the streets, urging residents to join the group to defend the town against the expected attack from Somali and allied forces.
"This group is the enemy of the Somali people because of their actions against innocent people, especially young children who are forced to bear arms and fight for them," she said.

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18 Soomaali tahriib ah oo ku dhintay Libya


 28 December, 2012, 20:21 GMT 23:21 SGA

Sanad walba tobanaan Soomaali ah ayaa ku dhinta xeebaha dalka Libya
Sideed iyo toban Soomaali tahriib ah ayaa dhintay, in ka badan labaatanna waa ay ku dhaawacmeen meel u dhaw magaalada Misrata ee dalka Libya kadib markii baabuur ay ku safrayeen uu la qalibmay.
Danjiraha Soomaaliya u jooga dalka Libya, Cabdiqani Maxamed Waceys, ayaa BBC u sheegay in baabuurka ay dadkaasi Soomaalida ku safrayeen ay sidoo kale saarneyd shamiinto.
Gaariga, ayaa waxa uu waday ilaa 120 Soomaali tahriib ah oo u socday xeebaha dalka Libya, si ay halkaasi uga sii tahriibaan qaaradda Yurub.
Sanad walba tobannaan kun oo Afrikaan tabriih ah ayaa u safra dalka Libya iyo dalalka kale ee ku yaal waqooyiga Afrika, iyaga oo rajeynaya inay ka gudbaan badda si ay u gaaran Yurub.

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Indian police chief slammed for suggesting chilli powder to foil rapists

Comments follow brutal Delhi bus gang rape, which triggered protests across the country and demands for death penalty
DELHI - A senior Indian policeman has provoked fury after advising women to avoid rape by not travelling after dark and carrying chilli powder to throw at potential attackers.

The comments by Mr KP Raghuvanshi, commissioner of police in Thane, a satellite city of Mumbai, come amid widespread anger following the gang rape of a 23-year-old student in Delhi on Sunday.

Ms Ranjana Kumari, one of India's best known women's rights activists and director of the Centre for Social Research in Delhi, was scornful of Mr Raghuvanshi's suggestion.

"This is just a sexist sort of solution. They want women to stay at home. And how is chilli powder going to help against six or seven men?" she said.

Ms Kajol Batra, a 28-year-old student in the capital, called the suggestion idiotic. "We should not be scared of going out and we shouldn't have to protect ourselves with cooking ingredients," she said.

Demonstrations triggered by the attack in Delhi continued across India yesterday with protesters, mostly students, blocking a national highway in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir to demand a death sentence for the six men accused of the attack, and vigils in other major cities. The victim remains critically ill.

It has emerged that she and her male friend lay at the roadside where they had been dumped, naked and bloodied, for nearly an hour before police arrived. About 50 people gathered around them, officials later said, but no one offered any help. Police eventually had to fetch sheets from a nearby hotel to cover them.

The debate in India on prevention of such attacks has largely focused on harsher punishments, more police resources and better monitoring of public transport.

Ms Kumari suggested creating a sexual offenders register that the public could consult. "Convicted attackers would not get jobs, or be able to rent homes, or buy property. The social ostracism would be a very big deterrent," she said.

The intense media interest in the attack - TV journalists outside the hospital where the victim is being treated file updates on her condition hourly - has led to the reporting of other attacks which would usually never make headlines.

The body of a 10-year-old girl, who police believe had been gang-raped before she was killed, was retrieved from a canal in the poor northern state of Bihar on Wednesday. Also in Bihar, a 14-year-old schoolgirl was in critical condition after she was raped by four men. In north-east India, police are investigating the apparent abduction and rape of a 24-year-old woman near the city of Bagdogra by a neighbour and friends.

Commentators have blamed such incidents on a variety of factors, ranging from rapidly evolving roles in a fast-changing economy, to a macho culture, particularly in the north of the country, which encourages men to believe that rape is something to be proud of. Placards held by some protesters this week read "Real Men Don't Rape". THE GUARDIAN

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Bills target human trafficking, texting drivers, ammo for convicts

The Record
Bills cracking down on human trafficking, drivers who use cellphones and possession of ammunition by convicted criminals all passed Assembly committees on Thursday. Here are highlights of Thursday’s hearings:
* Human trafficking
The trafficking legislation, introduced by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood, imposes a $25,000 fine for anyone convicted of a crime associated with human trafficking, including allowing it to occur.
Such offenses often carry long prison terms, but the fines would be new. Huttle wants to use the money to fund programs that help victims and dissuade human traffickers from reoffending.
The assemblywoman has argued the legislation is needed ahead of the 2014 Super Bowl, which will be held at the MetLife Stadium. Victim advocates say prostitution and human trafficking are likely to increase whenever large numbers of people gather for an event, although specific statistics are difficult to find.
"Until recently, human trafficking has remained largely in the shadows of society," Huttle said in a statement. "Victims are often children and vulnerable women who are too afraid and dependent on traffickers to break their silence and seek help."
* Driver cellphone use
The Assembly’s Law and Public Safety Committee passed a bill that toughens penalties for using a cellphone while driving.
The legislation – whose primary sponsors include several Democrats and one Republican, Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz from Union County – would double the fine for drivers who text or talk on a handheld device.
The current penalty is $100 per violation, but the bill approved Thursday would impose a $200 fine for the first offense, $400 for a second offense and $600 for subsequent violations.
A judge could also suspend a person’s driver’s license for 90 days after three violations.
"Cellphone use while driving, particularly texting, has become almost an epidemic these days," Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer, D-Essex, said in a statement. "It’s our hope that the increased fines and suspension imposed by this bill will act as a further deterrent to these dangerous habits."
The legislation was unanimously approved by the Senate in June. It next heads for a vote by the full Assembly.
* Criminals buying ammunition
A bill prohibiting some convicted criminals from buying or possessing ammunition also made it through the Law and Public Safety Committee on Thursday.
Two Bergen County assemblymen are pushing for the bill, citing recent high-profile shootings from around the country.
Under the legislation, certain criminals would face up to 18 months in prison and $10,000 in fines if they buy or possess ammunition. The law would apply to anyone convicted of arson, homicide, robbery, sexual assault or a range of other crimes.
Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, D-Englewood, suggested the bill was inspired by "an explosion of gun violence in our country in recent months," citing a shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in July and another at a Pathmark in Old Bridge in August.
"By cracking down on ammunition sales, we can make it much harder for criminals to obtain the very thing that makes their weapons so deadly," Assemblyman Tim Eustace, D-Maywood, said in a statement.
— Michael Linhorst and Anthony Campisi

Human trafficking tackled is modern-day slavery, Plan Int'l official says


By Ailene N. Diaz
Friday 14th of December 2012
CATARMAN, Northern Samar, 14 Dec. (PIA) – Trafficking in persons is modern-day slavery, involving victims who are forced, defrauded, or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation and the most common scheme is recruitment for job placement.

This was the statement made by Mike Reynaldo of Plan Philippines during the the culmination of 18-Day Campaign to End Violence Against Women at Farmer’s Training Center, University of Eastern Philippines, Catarman, Northern Samar. The event coincided with the observance of International Day Against Human Trafficking.

He said 300,000 to 400,000 estimated numbers of cases of women (reported and unreported) and 60,000 to 100,000 children were trafficked annually within and outside the country.

Typical victims are those with age ranging from 12-22 years old, mostly girls, first-time in the big city, willing to take risks, and who have no clear information about their destination, work and employers.

For children, victims were mostly girls, 12-17 years old, offered jobs in restaurants, promotion agencies, factories and households in Manila, most dropped out of high school, some used Birth Certificates of older siblings, mainly from poor areas, transported mostly over land and sea, leave in groups in tinted vans and eventually sold to customers and transit points used as “on-the-job-training” areas.

Women and children are vulnerable to trafficking because of poverty dysfunctional families, materialism, adventurism, peer pressure and lack of information.

Trafficked persons are forced into prostitution, forced labor and services, slavery-like practices, and removal and sale of organs. They experience abuse that ranges from physical injuries, sexual violence and sometimes, even death, Reynaldo said.

From July 2010 to October 2012, there were 52 recorded trafficked in person conviction and 70 persons convicted.

The Philippines, however, is making significant effort to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

A call to action is being pursued through the fundamental framework used by governments around the world to combat human trafficking, and these are: prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships. (ADiaz/PIA8-Northern Samar)

Human trafficking on rise; minors cheated of rights - NewsX

Parents in human trafficking case face sex crime charges

The Richmond Register

December 13, 2012

Investigator uncovers new evidence in case involving teenage girls

RICHMOND — New evidence in a human trafficking case has led to several sex crime charges against two parents.
Anthony Hart, 48, and Kathy Hart, 45, were arraigned Thursday in Madison Circuit Court on two counts each of first-degree illegal transaction with a minor (illegal sex act involving child under 16) and use of a minor under 16 in a sexual performance.

They both pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In 2011, Anthony Hart was indicted on a charge of human trafficking (victim under 18). Kathy Hart was indicted on a charge of complicity to human trafficking.

The original indictment alleged that from October 2009 to February 2011, the Harts arranged “for their 13- and 14-year-old daughters to provide companionship and affection to male individuals in exchange for money and goods.”

One person, Alexander Gomez-Lopez, was identified as having sexual contact with one of the girls through evidence from a digital camera. He pleaded guilty to a charge of first-degree sexual abuse and received a sentence of one year in prison.

The Berea Police Department detective who investigated the case recently conducted new interviews with the victims, who have been in foster care, according to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Smith. The detective was able to uncover evidence about sex crimes that occurred when the Harts allowed adult men to spend time with their daughters in exchange for money and goods

The new charges were presented to the grand jury last week, Smith said.

Anthony Hart has been in jail since his arrest in February 2011, but Kathy Hart was out on bond until last month when court officials reported she tested positive for marijuana in a drug test.

Kathy Hart’s attorney Stan Manziano asked Judge Jean C. Logue to reinstate his client’s bond at Thursday’s arraignment.

“This is one positive test in a screen over the course of a year of negatives,” Manziano said.

Logue did not reinstate Kathy Hart’s bond at the hearing.

The Harts were set for a pretrial hearing at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 7. They are scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 11.

Manziano filed a motion in July notifying the court Kathy Hart planned on using mental health information in her defense. Although earlier this year Logue found Kathy Hart competent to stand trial based on an evaluation by a state psychologist, eight years ago the woman was found incompetent to stand trial due to a low IQ.

The Harts were accused in 2003 of trying to sell their newborn baby for $3,000 to undercover police officers in the Danville Walmart, according to court documents.

Anthony Hart pleaded guilty in that case to a charge of prohibited acts and practices in the adoption of children, and he served two years in prison, according to the Associated Press.

Sarah Hogsed can be reached at or 624-6694.

Diplomats immuned to charges of human trafficking

The Washington Times

Enslavement, rape reported

Read more:
Follow us: @washtimes on TwitterDespite a global crackdown on human traffickers and a pledge by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that stopping this type of “modern slavery” was a top priority, foreign diplomats in the United States remain immune from punishment when they abuse members of their household staffs.
The diplomats use claims of immunity to avoid criminal investigations and sidestep civil lawsuits in cases in which they have been accused of enslaving or even raping their workers.
“Americans care so much about animal rights, but people were treating me worse than an animal,” a victim of diplomatic abuse once told Mark P. Lagon, who headed the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons under President George W. Bush.
Mr. Lagon, now a visiting professor in the foreign service program at Georgetown University, recently recalled another victim from India saying she “felt more vulnerable” in the U.S. than in the Persian Gulf area because diplomats here faced fewer consequences.
The immunity also has stifled revelations about the magnitude of the problem, forcing some self-proclaimed victims to wait for the diplomats to leave the U.S. and then turn to essentially unenforceable civil suits to tell their stories, including:
An Indian woman who said in a 2010 lawsuit that she was brought to New York by an Indian diplomat at the United Nations, forced to work 16-hour days without pay, sleep on the floor and threatened with beatings if she tried to flee. In March, a federal judge ordered the diplomat, who returned to India, to pay $1.4 million in back wages, punitive damages and emotional duress. The money has not been paid.
A former housekeeper for a Kuwaiti attache who accused the diplomat of raping her “on many occasions” and said she lived in “constant fear of being raped,” according to a July 2008 lawsuit. In June 2011, the woman asked that the lawsuit be dismissed after she reached an undisclosed settlement.
A housekeeper who said in a lawsuit that a Lebanese diplomat underpaid, verbally abused and mistreated her. The lawsuit was dismissed in April 2011 by a federal judge who said the diplomat had immunity. The judge said that although his ruling could prevent parties from “obtaining redress in our courts,” it also served to “protect American diplomats and their families from what we might consider as legal abuses overseas.” While the case was being appealed, the woman reached a confidential settlement.
No one knows how many diplomats have avoided punishment — the number could be dozens or even in the hundreds — but the State Department has yet to suspend a single country from a special visa program the allows diplomats to bring workers to the United States. That lack of oversight comes to light even though Congress has mandated that the State Department take action — including the loss of the right to sponsor additional workers — if there is credible evidence of abuse by foreign mission personnel and the mission tolerated the abuse.
“Diplomatic immunity must not become diplomatic impunity,” Mr. Lagon said.
Mr. Bush signed legislation in December 2008 to prevent the abuse, exploitation and trafficking of domestic workers employed by foreign diplomats in the U.S. The law ensures that the workers are aware of their rights and requires a diplomat to have a contract with a worker containing conditions of employment. The law requires the State Department to suspend the issuance of special visas for any country where there is credible evidence of worker abuse and that abuse has been tolerated by the mission. It gives the secretary of state the power to refuse to issue the special visas but does not suspend or limit the use of diplomatic immunity.
Enforce the law
Martina Vandenberg, who heads the Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center, said the State Department needs to enforce the law when workers at foreign missions are abused — particularly when there are “egregious cases and multiple offenses.” She said the department has not suspended any countries from bringing in domestic workers under the special visa program.
Ms. Vandenberg, a lawyer in the District who has filed several lawsuits against diplomats for abuse allegations, said she is aware of 24 cases in which workers filed lawsuits against their diplomat employers, describing the number as “just the tip of the iceberg.” She said that while immunity protects diplomats from criminal charges and litigation while they are in the U.S., it does not shield them from lawsuits for nonofficial acts once they leave this country.
The Government Accountability Office said in a 2008 report, the most recent available concerning human trafficking abuses by foreign diplomats in this country, that 3,500 special visas were being issued on average each year.
Janie Chuang, an associate professor of law at American University’s Washington College of Law, described as “really frustrating” the State Department’s failure to suspend countries from obtaining special visas when there is evidence that domestic workers have been abused. She also said the department should be “calling out governments when there are judgments against their diplomats,” citing as an example the case of a diplomat from Tanzania who forced a domestic employee to work more than 16 hours a day — including shoveling snow barefoot — and then fled the country after a federal judge ordered him to pay the worker $1 million. The judgment was never paid.
Ms. Chuang said the State Department has not made any “noise” in cases involving suspected abuse by diplomats because “it does not want to disrupt foreign relations.”
The Obama administration has talked tough about the human trafficking. At the Clinton Global Initiative in September, Mr. Obama promised to provide the necessary tools, training, expanded resources, victim services and long-term planning to combat human trafficking. He noted that child prostitution, forced labor, sex trafficking, domestic servitude and other forms of “modern-day slavery” was a $32 billion criminal industry that affected 27 million people worldwide.
Earlier this year, Mrs. Clinton told a Cabinet-level meeting of the President’s Task Force to Combat and Monitor Trafficking of Persons that it was unfair that diplomats who victimized their own domestic workers “were, because of diplomatic immunity, virtually untouchable.” She said the department was making sure that diplomats “understand their obligations and responsibilities, and we’re taking action when we have evidence they are not.”
It is unclear what action she was talking about. Not a single foreign mission in the United States has been suspended for abusing its workers. This lack of action comes at a time when human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world — second only to drug trafficking.
Luis CdeBaca, who now heads the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said the Obama administration has pressed for greater protection for the domestic workers of diplomats, but the State Department declined to say why it has not suspended any countries from the special visa program. Spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the department has been “working to ensure that the diplomatic community fully respects U.S. law on this and every other issue,” but he declined to elaborate.
The Justice Department declined to explain how it handles the problem of diplomats who claim immunity from criminal prosecution. Spokeswoman Dena W. Iverson said the department conducts investigations when it becomes aware of “these types of allegations” and seeks diplomatic waivers where appropriate. But she did not respond directly to questions on how often waivers are sought and how many cases the department has investigated involving diplomats and the abuse of workers.
Afraid to come forward
In its 2008 report, the GAO said 42 foreign workers in the U.S. reported being abused by their diplomat bosses between 2000 and 2008, although the agency said the actual number was “likely higher” because many workers were afraid to come forward. The GAO report said that while the State Department had several offices that received allegations of abuse by foreign diplomats, no single office maintained information on all allegations. Most of the special visas went to people to work for foreign diplomats in the District, Maryland, New York and Virginia.
“The people who come to the United States on A-3 and G-5 visas are among the most vulnerable who enter our borders legally. They are often poor, uneducated, and unfamiliar with their rights under U.S. law,” the report said. “If they find themselves in an abusive situation, their ability to hold their employers accountable can be limited, particularly if their employers hold full diplomatic immunity and inviolability.”
In the report, the GAO said the State Department had “expressed concerns” that some foreign diplomats may be abusing their household workers, but it did not collect or maintain information on cases of alleged abuse. In response to written questions last week, the State Department refused to give details on what steps, if any, it had taken since to curb the problem of foreign diplomats exploiting their workers and then hiding behind diplomatic immunity.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, said the State Department “ought to act aggressively” to stop the abuse of domestic workers at foreign missions in this country, saying the failure to do so is “unacceptable.” Earlier this year, Mr. Wolf, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice and science, called on Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to fight human trafficking more aggressively and “find solutions” to ensure that people “are not victimized and that perpetrators are brought to justice.” He inserted language in the department’s fiscal 2012 spending bill requiring U.S. attorneys nationwide to establish human trafficking task forces to investigate people and groups that facilitate trafficking.
“President Obama spoke recently before the United Nations where he called human trafficking modern slavery,” Mr. Wolf said. “He made a big deal of confronting and controlling it. I would like to see some action rather than listen to a sermon.”
Norma Ramos, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, said some foreign diplomats in the U.S. have engaged in “some of the worst possible abuse of human beings, mostly women” and do so with “impunity.” She said such activity “cannot be tolerated,” adding that those accused of abuse should be charged and stand trial.
Ms. Ramos, a public interest lawyer who helped establish the coalition, said the U.S. government needs to ensure that the special A-3 and G-5 visas awarded for diplomats to bring workers to this country include the admonition that diplomatic immunity will become null and void if human trafficking laws are violated. She said State and Justice, along with the White House, need to “develop the political courage and will to enact laws” to protect the workers.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Dial-a-maid, get-a-slave in middle class India

The Human Impact

December 4, 2012

When I arrived in India some years back as a single mother and full-time journalist, there was one thing I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about – finding domestic help.

Maids, nannies, drivers, cooks and cleaners are ten-a-penny amongst the urban middle classes here.
In New Delhi’s neighbourhoods, for example, most families employ full- or part-time help, who do everything from feeding and bathing babies and cooking family meals to sweeping and washing floors.
These are often young, uneducated women from impoverished villages hundreds of miles away, trying to earn money to support their families back home.
So when a friend handed me the phone number of a placement agency which would help me find a live-in nanny, I didn’t think twice.
The man on the other end of the line was professional, but perhaps a little too eager. Even before I had finished explaining my specific requirements, he wanted a time and place to meet.
“We have many girls here,” he said in Hindi. “It won’t be a problem finding what you want.”
By the end of the day, the man from the agency had delivered my new nanny on the back of his motorbike.
Some questions were asked, official I.D. cards shown and a less than basic contract signed. I handed over a large wad of rupee notes to him as per their “commission fee.”
I remember thinking it seemed a little too quick, a little too easy. But I brushed off my reservations given that I was new to the experience of hiring domestic help in India.
During the four weeks that my new nanny, Parul, stayed with me, my concerns about her circumstances and how she came to work for me increased.
She was a shy, young woman in her early 20s from a village in India’s state of West Bengal, bordering Bangladesh. She said she had been to primary school, but could not read or write.
Parul spoke little of her personal life and evaded questions about her family, and would often just become withdrawn when asked how she came to New Delhi from such a remote place.
On her Sundays off, the same man from the agency would come on his motorbike in the morning to pick her up and dropped her home at night.
I found it strange that she went to the agency on her holidays, and that she didn’t have any friends or family in Delhi or other things to do during her time off.
The man from the agency was always there in the background – either calling her up several times during the day or hanging around outside the house during her free time.
It was a month before I realised the young woman living in my house was a victim of human trafficking. It was when the placement agent man demanded I hand over Parul’s first monthly earnings to him.
“This is the process here in India. The agency keeps their salaries safe for them every month and they get the whole amount after the contract ends when they go home to their villages,” he explained.
“These maids don’t need any money anyway. You are providing food and lodging. If they need, they can ask the agency and we will give them.”
When I refused, he got angry, grabbed Parul’s arm and stormed out with her.
I never saw her again.
Having been reporting on women’s rights issues in South Asia for some years, I now see I was unknowingly complicit in a multi-billion dollar trade, which buys and sells people – often children and women – for sex work, domestic and industrial labour, forced marriage as well as for their organs.
In India, the supply chain often starts in the poverty-stricken villages of states like Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand where female traffickers convince vulnerable families to send their daughters and sons to the cities with the promise of good jobs.
The children and women are passed onto men, who bring them in groups on trains and buses to towns and cities where a growing middle class – doctors, lawyers, teachers, civil servants, businessmen, IT professionals – are looking for no fuss, cheap, efficient live-in labour.
In many cases, victims go to placement agencies – often a decrepit, rented room or flat – where they stay with little freedom until the phone rings and an unsuspecting customer like me orders a maid.
The lack of freedom, the constant guard and harassment of the young woman, and the withholding of her income (which they often do not receive or only in part) are all violations of their human rights and amount to bonded labour. In fact, some victims never return home.
But it also India’s middle classes, employers like me, who are complicit – knowingly or unknowingly – by allowing these agencies to continue to control the young woman’s life, or even worse, by exploiting her further.
There have been numerous reports of employers mistreating their domestic workers – not paying them or providing them with proper food and shelter, making them work long hours with no holidays and even locking them up when holidaying.
Women and children have beaten  and sexually abused  not only by their traffickers, but also by their employers.
When I hear these stories, I feel a sense of shame.
Shame that I did not do enough to save my nanny, but also shame that the modern society we within is not asking enough about the women who live and work in our homes, and who are, effectively, part of our families.
See “Trafficked maids to order: The darker side of richer India”
PHOTO: Theresa Kerketa, 45 year old, poses for a picture at her residence on the outskirts of New Delhi on November 2, 2012. Kerketa was working as a maid and later rescued by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement), a charity which rescues victims of bonded labour. REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal

Slavery beyond the sex trade

The Human Impact

November 28, 2012
In Haiti, it’s the little girl who is kept home from school and forced to clean her sister’s house or else be beaten with electric cables.

Thousands of miles away in India, it’s the shy, young woman left at the mercy of an agent who finds her a job as a maid but takes her earnings. In Bahrain, it’s the Filippino domestic worker who, abused and exploited by her employer, cannot leave.
Millions of people around the world today are trapped in slavery, like seven-year-old Wisline was in Haiti.
“My sister came to get me at my mother’s house, saying she would put me in school but when I got to her house, she started making me work and cook for her and she began mistreating me,” says Wisline, who now lives in a refuge with other former child slaves outside of Port-au-Prince.
Exactly how many people are enslaved is impossible to know.
Estimates range from 27 million, cited by advocacy group, Free the Slaves, to the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) figure of 20.9 million people – of which about 2.2 million are forced labourers of the state, for example, working in prisons.
While women and girls account for the greater share of 21st century slaves, coverage of their plight has been dominated by stories of sex trafficking and lurid tales of being forced to sell their bodies in brothels and on street corners.
Yet data from the ILO suggests that far more women and girls are victims of domestic servitude and other types of forced labour than they are of the sex trade.
Of the estimated 11.4 million women and girls in forced labour globally, around 4.4 million are subjected to sexual exploitation in foreign countries, according to the ILO.
That leaves some 7 million trapped in labour exploitation. Unlike sex trafficking, most of it is taking place in the victims’ own countries.
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Picture Credit: A 19-year-old trafficking victim from central Myanmar who, two years ago, managed to escape two brokers who promised a job in a nearby town but instead took her to a town in the far north and tried to get her to become a sex worker. October 12, 2012. REUTERS/Minzayar Oo

Trafficked maids to order: The darker side of richer India

Mon Dec 3, 2012 7:04pm EST
NEW DELHI, Dec 4 (TrustLaw) - Inside the crumbling housing estates of Shivaji Enclave, amid the boys playing cricket and housewives chatting from their balconies, winding staircases lead to places where lies a darker side to India's economic boom.
Three months ago, police rescued Theresa Kerketa from one of these tiny two-roomed flats. For four years, she was kept here by a placement agency for domestic maids, in between stints as a virtual slave to Delhi's middle-class homes.
"They sent me many places - I don't even know the names of the areas," said Kerketa, 45, from a village in Chhattisgarh state in central India. "Fifteen days here, one month there. The placement agent kept making excuses and kept me working. She took all my salary."
Often beaten and locked in the homes she was sent to, Kerketa was forced to work long hours and denied contact with her family. She was not informed when her father and husband died. The police eventually found her when a concerned relative went to a local charity, which traced the agency and rescued her together with the police.
Abuse of migrant maids from Africa and Asia in the Middle East and parts of Southeast Asia is commonly reported.
But the story of Kerketa is the story of many maids and nannies in India, where a surging demand for domestic help is fuelling a business that, in large part, thrives on human trafficking by unregulated placement agencies.
As long as there are no laws to regulate the placement agencies or even define the rights of India's unofficially estimated 90 million domestic workers, both traffickers and employers may act with impunity, say child and women's rights activists and government officials.
Activists say the offences are on the rise and link it directly to the country's economic boom over the last two decades.
"Demand for maids is increasing because of the rising incomes of families who now have money to pay for people to cook, clean and look after their children," says Bhuwan Ribhu from Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement), the charity that helped rescue Kerketa.
Economic reforms that began in the early 1990s have transformed the lifestyles of many Indian families. Now almost 30 percent of India's 1.2 billion people are middle class and this is expected to surge to 45 percent by 2020.
Yet as people get wealthier, more women go out to work and more and more families live on their own without relatives to help them, the voracious demand for maids has outstripped supply.
There are no reliable figures for how many people are trafficked for domestic servitude. The Indian government says 126,321 trafficked children were rescued from domestic work in 2011/12, a rise of almost 27 percent from the previous year. Activists say if you include women over 18 years, the figure could run into the hundreds of thousands.
The abuse is difficult to detect as it is hidden within average houses and apartments, and under-reported, because victims are often too fearful to go to the police. There were 3,517 incidents relating to human trafficking in India in 2011, says the National Crime Records Bureau, compared to 3,422 the previous year.
Conviction rates for typical offences related to trafficking - bonded labor, sexual exploitation, child labor and illegal confinement - are also low at around 20 percent. Cases can take up to two years to come to trial, by which time victims have returned home and cannot afford to return to come to court. Police investigations can be shoddy due to a lack of training and awareness about the seriousness of the crime.
Under pressure from civil society groups as well as media reports of cases of women and children trafficked not just to be maids, but also for prostitution and industrial labor, authorities have paid more attention in recent years.
In 2011, the government began setting up specialized anti-human trafficking units in police stations throughout the country.
There are now 225 units and another 110 due next year whose job it is to collect intelligence, maintain a database of offenders, investigate reports of missing persons and partner with charities in raids to rescue victims.
Parveen Kumari, director in charge of anti-trafficking at the ministry of home affairs, says so far, around 1,500 victims have been rescued from brick kilns, carpet weaving and embroidery factories, brothels, placement agencies and houses.
"We realize trafficking is a bigger issue now with greater demand for labor in the cities and these teams will help," said Kumari. "The placement agencies are certainly under the radar."
The media is full of reports of minors and women lured from their villages by promises of a good life as maids in the cities. They are often sent by agencies to work in homes in Delhi, and its satellite towns such as Noida and Gurgaon, where they face a myriad of abuses.
In April, a 13-year-old maid heard crying for help from the balcony of a second floor flat in a residential complex in Delhi's Dwarka area became a national cause célèbre.
The girl, from Jharkhand state, had been locked in for six days while her employers went holidaying in Thailand. She was starving and had bruises all over her body.
The child, who had been sold by a placement agency, is now in a government boarding school as her parents are too poor to look after her. The employers deny maltreatment, and the case is under investigation, said Shakti Vahini, the Delhi-based child rights charity which helped rescue her.
In October, the media reported the plight of a 16-year-old girl from Assam, who was also rescued by police and Shakti Vahini from a house in Delhi's affluent Punjabi Bagh area. She had been kept inside the home for four years by her employer, a doctor. She said he would rape her and then give her emergency contraceptive pills. The doctor has disappeared.
Groups like Save the Children and ActionAid estimate there are 2,300 placement agencies in Delhi alone, and less than one-sixth are legitimate.
"There are so many agencies and we hear so many stories, but we are not like that. We don't keep the maids' salaries and all are over 18," said Purno Chander Das, owner of Das Nurse Bureau, which provides nurses and maids in Delhi's Tughlakabad village.
The Das Nurse Bureau is registered with authorities - unlike many agencies operating from rented rooms or flats in slums or poorer neighbourhoods like Shivaji Enclave in west Delhi. It is often to these places that maids are brought until a job is found.
There are no signboards, but neighbors point out the apartments that house the agencies and talk of the comings and goings of girls who stay for one or two days before being taken away.
"There is at least one agency in every block," says Rohit, a man in his twenties, who lives in one of scores of dilapidated government-built apartment blocks in Shivaji Enclave.
With a commission fee of up to 30,000 rupees ($550) and a maids' monthly salary of up to 5,000 rupees ($90), an agency can make more than $1,500 annually for each girl, say anti-trafficking groups.
A ledger recovered after one police raid, shown by the charity Bachpan Bachao Andolan to Thomson Reuters Foundation, had the names, passport pictures and addresses of 111 girls from villages in far-away states like West Bengal, Jharkhand, Assam and Chhattisgarh, most of them minors.
The Delhi state government has written a draft bill to help regulate and monitor placement agencies and has invited civil society groups to provide feedback.
But anti-trafficking groups say what is really needed a country-wide law for these agencies, which are not just mushrooming in cities like Delhi but also Mumbai and other towns and cities.
The legislation would specify minimum wages, proper living and working conditions and a mechanism for financial redress for unpaid salaries. It would also specify that placement agencies keep updated record of all domestic workers which would subject to routine inspection by the labor department.
In the meantime, victims like Theresa Kerketa just want to warn others.
"The agencies and their brokers tell you lies. They trap you in the city where you have no money and know no one," said Kerketa, now staying with a relative in a slum on the outskirts of south Delhi as she awaits compensation.
"I will go back and tell others. It is better to stay in your village, be beaten by your husband and live as a poor person, than come to the city and suffer at the hands of the rich."
(TrustLaw is a global news service covering human rights and governance issues and run by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters)
(Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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