Monday, December 29, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

Last night I had the opportunity to watch Slumdog Millionaire, no doubt one of the best films of the year. I was surprised to be confronted with human trafficking as a major theme. It’s funny because, depending on the city you live, the film has been out for nearly two months and usually I receive a slew of emails about ‘this new trafficking film’ or ‘that show about modern-day slavery’. Not once have I been told, “go see Slumdog Millionaire because touches on human trafficking.” Not once.

I truly enjoyed Slumdog. Slumdog didn’t try to package itself as a movie “about human trafficking”. It certainly was. But it didn’t need to make the statement bluntly and it shouldn’t have. It’s our job to learn and understand the context and story for what it is: a story about human trafficking.

Slumdog isn’t perfect, no film about trafficking (or any subject) is. But it comes close. It deftly paints a stinging reality in our world, the trafficking of children for the purpose of exploitation through begging, forced sex and more.

Our job as backyard abolitionists -you and me- is to give name and meaning (visceral understanding) to the crime and work to end it in our neighborhoods and around the world.

-Mark Wexler

Friday, December 5, 2008

Policy Reform Suggestions

To effectively combat human trafficking as a cohesive movement we need to continuously evaluate and urge policy reform so we can better serve and protect human trafficking victims. To do this we have partnered with other leading abolitionist groups across the country; together comprising the Action Group to End Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery. Over the past year the Action Group has endeavored to create a transitions report for the next presidential administration. In this document we outline our specific recommendations for President Elect Obama as well as suggestions for each Governmental agency working to combat this issue.

The United States government has led the global fight against human trafficking and we hope through reform the Obama Administration will continue to develop and define what this leadership role entails.

A few recommendations from the Action Group to End Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery and the Not For Sale Campaign include:

Interagency Coordination and Leadership:
Given the width and complexity of this issue and the United States’ efforts to oppose human trafficking nationally and internationally, a Presidential Directive should be enacted to improve coordinated efforts and establish executive oversight and accountability for the various governmental agencies working to combat it.

To address trafficking within corporate supply chains the next administration should assemble international and domestic sector leaders representing businesses, workers, and advocate organizations to encourage the private sectors’ engagement in this issue.

The State Department’s Tier II Watch List should be reformed to support innovative initiatives for countries within this list. Additionally, a two-year limit should be enforced for countries on this list to either progress to Tier II or regulated to Tier III.


Specific measures to protect trafficked minors from being unjustly charged and processed within the juvenile offenders system needs to be established, and the provision requiring victims to cooperate with law enforcement needs to be disassociated with services provided to victims.


Increased executive branch support for state and local law enforcement training to identify and investigate human trafficking cases.

To read the full Transition document you can download it at our political action center. CLICK HERE

We need you to add your voice to ensure that the Obama Administration understands combating human trafficking should to be a priority. Sign our online petition appealing to the Obama administration to take an active role in combating this issue.

Kilian Moote
Program Director

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Craigslist Agrees to Curb Sex Ads

Published: November 6, 2008
The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — The online classifieds company Craigslist said Thursday that it had reached an agreement with 40 state attorneys general and agreed to tame its notoriously unruly “erotic services” listings.

Prostitutes and sex-oriented businesses have long used that section of Craigslist to advertise their services. Along with their ads, they often include pornographic photos.

Early this year, the attorney general of Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, representing 40 states, sent a letter to Craigslist demanding that it purge the site of such material and better enforce its own rules against illegal activity, including prostitution. The two sides began a series of conversations about what Craigslist could do to prevent such ads from appearing.

“They identified ads that were crossing the line,” said Jim Buckmaster, chief executive of Craigslist. “We looked at those ads, we saw their point, and we resolved to see what we could do to get that stuff off the site.”

Click HERE to read more!

San Francisco Defeats Proposition K!

Helps to Ensure Victims of Human Trafficking are not Overlooked!

We at Not For Sale would like to take this opportunity to thank the voters of San Francisco for taking an analytical look at Proposition K and realizing the dangerous implications it contained for victims of trafficking.

As an organization Not for Sale, along with the “No On K” Coalition, actively worked to defeat this Proposition and on November 4th San Franciscans came out and voiced their opposition to K. Proponents to K attempted to hide the dangerous implications of K by downplaying the significant role human trafficking plays within the industry in San Francisco and characterizing the efforts of Not for Sale and other organizations as “racial profiling”.

Upon first glance Proposition K, a proposition to decriminalize prostitution, might seem like a ballot measure that would increase the rights of individuals working within the sex industry. In reality this proposition, masquerading as a progressive measure, would have greatly undermined the efforts of local law enforcement to prevent and combat human trafficking. This initiative would have essentially tied the hands of San Francisco law enforcement when attempting to combat human trafficking. San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris voiced her opposition for Proposition K stating it “would expressly bar the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking crimes… Many people in the commercial sex trade have been trafficked and forced to participate in commercial sex. This measure would attempt to provide safe harbor to their traffickers.”

The dark secret about Proposition K, discovered by many San Francisco voters, is that Prop K would have created a legal loophole emboldening human traffickers within San Francisco by providing them with virtually free reign. Not for Sale and many others worked tirelessly to ensure that victims of human trafficking were not further marginalized by the passage of Proposition K.

Lets continue to work together to ensure the victims of human trafficking have the rights and services they desperately need and deserve.

Thank you San Francisco for your support!

Kilian Moote
Program Director

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Voting NO on San Francisco's Prop K

Tomorrow the citizens of San Francisco will be voting on Proposition K. Popularly known as a measure aimed at legalizing prostitution, the horrible truth behind Prop K is that it will make the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases nearly impossible.

Supporters of Prop K use a familiar refrain for supporting the legalization of prostitution: legalization will actually help cutout the exploitation of women by allowing for proper oversight of a mainstreamed economic industry. This line of thought was employed in Amsterdam, Germany and other places where legalization was the chosen route. (NOTE: only one country appears to have a proven model for protecting women and children: Sweden. Instead of going after prostitutes, Sweden vigorously prosecutes the men that exploit and drive demand.)

For many San Franciscans it's easy to take the knee jerk perspective that we should employ whatever is deemed progressive. Unfortunately Prop K misses the point badly... especially for a so-called 'progressive model'.

Let's peel back the onion just a touch. Instead of making a call for more thorough oversight Prop K actually calls for exactly the opposite. Prop K is worded in a way that makes oversight more difficult, if not impossible. The language in Prop K would make it illegal for police and law enforcement to garner state and federal funding to investigate and prosecute crimes of human trafficking by falsely deeming it 'racial profiling'. Read the Prop for yourself (make sure to get to the first paragraph of "The Proposal").

According to Kamala Harris, San Francisco's District Attorney:

[Proposition K] would expressly bar the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking crimes. Human trafficking is a serious problem in San Francisco. Many people in the commercial sex trade have been trafficked and forced to participate in commercial sex. This measure would attempt to provide safe harbor to their traffickers.

Prop K is written from a prospective that all individuals that sell their bodies do so because they have the free will to make the choice. This might be fine if it were true. The (unthinkable) reality is that many women (and children) are being forced and coerced into the sex industry -- many times to pay off a 'debt'. Just because we as a society have yet to realize this truth, it doesn't make the reality any less true for the victims. Women, children and, yes, men are forced into (sexual) labor under duress and fear. Cases continue to pile up in our country.

If Prop K wanted to be taken seriously as an argument for legalization it should go out of the way to protect potential victims... not strip the city of its ability to hold traffickers accountable for their crimes. But Prop K explicitly forbids oversight, by taking money away from law enforcement while also directing police to ignore California laws aimed at stopping the exploitation of women and children.

Prop K is simply and utterly broken. If you are a citizen of San Francisco I would ask you to join me in voting NO on Prop K.

Mark Wexler

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The rule of law helps to protect all citizens of a country, but if culturally there is no respect for a minority group, people will find unlimited ways to marginalize them. 

I met with Centro Bonó in the Dominican Republic and they are working very closely with refugees and undocumented immigrants from Haiti. They are alarmed by the increase of immigrants that are trapped into forced labor. 

A few important things to understand:
  1. The fight to end slavery in the DR is becoming more challenging. It used to be focused on the sugar plantations, but currently they are finding many cases of forced labor in the construction of homes. The most common methodology to take advantage of the workers is similar to what happens in many countries, including in the United States: After months of work, when they are supposed to get their pay check, the contractors call immigration officers and the workers get deported without receiving any pay.
  2. The children of Haitian immigrants born in the DR sometimes do not even get recognized as DR citizens - even though the law requires it - so they are constantly vulnerable because the government does not want to take care of them. 
  3. Workers from Bonó Center are also discriminated against. The DR has discriminated against Haitians for a very long time, and the hate is so engrained into the culture that human rights workers may encounter discrimination from their own families if their abolitionist work support Haitians. 
The law in the DR does not accept slavery, it does require that every person born in their soil be considered a DR citizen, and does recognize the dignity of all human beings. However, the marginalizing status quo creates conditions of slavery. These structures will be impossible to change unless people on the frontlines are respected and protected. 

I find it extremely important to re-vindicate all abolitionists in the DR. All leaders of the country (educational, governmental, spiritual, legal, athletes, artists, and so on) need to get together and say to the masses that slavery is not ok, and praise the people working to re-abolish slavery. In the mean time, Centro Bonó has a spiritual advisor helping their staff to deal with marginalization from their own community. 

Kique Bazan

Friday, October 31, 2008

DR and Haiti

I visited Haiti and the Dominican Republic for one week. Two beautiful countries that have minority groups that are still searching for Freedom.

In my visit to Dejabon, a city in the Dominican Republic that borders Haiti, I immediately faced the realities of forced labor within these two countries.

One woman pointed out three teenagers, and said that she'd rescued them from Haiti. She claimed that without her help their lives "would be nothing." But the reality is that she herself is now holding these young women in bondage, because without their labor she cannot afford to send her son to school. The young women work all day selling products for the older women in the streets, and in the afternoon they work in her home. They have never been to school or been paid, and their owner still believes that she is doing them a favor. 

In Haiti, exchanging children as Restavek, or slaves, is not uncommon. The people that buy them will even use religious language to justify their actions. This messianic perception of the slaveholders is a big challenge for the modern day abolitionist in Haiti and the DR.

Kique Bazan

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

White House Roundtable

I'm excited to report that I've been invited to participate in a roundtable at the White House next week. Sponsored by the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives and the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons the discussion will focus on future strategies and promising practices for combating modern-day slavery.

In true grassroots form, Not For Sale has been building in-roads with leaders in the political (Advocacy Days), business, faith, and university realms. Our aim is to create a conduit for backyard abolitionists to be heard within the halls of power... whether it be in Washington DC or Sacramento or St. Paul or Columbus.

As we view it, Not For Sale is a reflection of our entire backyard abolitionist community: in collaboration, through open source activism, we want to amplify your voice to combat slavery. It is in this spirit that I am asking for your crucial input for this roundtable discussion. Please post questions, comments, and/or suggestions for our governmental and fellow NGO leaders.

So, please make a post or drop me an email -maxwex(AT), and let me know what you think is most needed for helping combat trafficking in your area and beyond.

Mark Wexler

High School Students on the March!!

I spent the past couple of days in Minneapolis where I had the privilege of being present for a premiere showing of the film Call and Response. Our NFS state team packed out the theater, then led a lantern processional through Uptown, a trendy district of Minneapolis. Nearly 300 folks showed up for the film and the processional, including the executive directors of the three shelters for trafficking survivors that offer services in the Twin Cities.

The next day I spoke to the entire assembly of students at Minnehaha High School. A number of the students had attended the movie the night before and were charged up! Minnehaha demonstrates what one high school can do once the students and teachers decide that they cannot stand by and allow any child to suffer in slavery. Every sports team at Minnehaha will sponsor a Free2Play game this year. The varsity football team is foregoing the usual catering at their season-end event and donating the savings to a NFS project. School dances tack on an extra dollar to the ticket price that will go toward NFS projects to free children. Teachers are integrating NFS materials into geography, social studies, and creative writing curriculum. The school will be having a "how do you wear orange day?" to raise awareness in the community. Students are volunteering at the survivor shelters in the Twin Cities. Nearly a dozen students and a couple teachers will have an immersion experience with our Peru project at the end of the school year.

These students have parents or other guardians, of course, and they are pulling the adults into their passion to know more and act more to end slavery. Many parents told me they started reading my book after their kids came home from school and urged them to get educated. Imagine if we can repeat this commitment in merely one high school in each and every city in the USA? The ripple effect would be unbelievable. Lead on student abolitionists!!!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Contact your State Director!

Below is the official list of State Directors for Not For Sale. We encourage you to contact your State Director if you're looking to get involved in the fight against human trafficking on a local or regional level. Pictures, bios, and full contact details for each of these Abolitionists are soon to come on the NFS State Directors webpage!

Arkansas -Samantha Fagan:
California (Northern) - Mark Wexler:
California (San Diego County) - Stephanie Voorkamp:
Colorado - Pam Harvey:
Georgia- Mark Hoerrner:
Hawaii – Maria Bedrosian:
Michigan – Chris Momany:
Minnesota - Richard Wexler:
Missouri – John Battaglia:
New York City – Christy Tyson:
Nevada – Paige Hendrix:
New Jersey - Amari Verastegui:
North Carolina - Rachel Kennedy:
Ohio - Jeremy Scott:
Oregon – Scott MacDonald:
Pennsylvania (Eastern/Philadelphia) - Kara Beardsell:
South Carolina – Mark Long:; Maryse Gartner:
Tennessee - Derri & Bill Smith:
Texas (North/Dallas) - Jason Potnick:
Texas (South/Houston) - Dennis & Bobbie Mark:
Washington (state) - Carol Sluys:; Sarah Sweeney
Southeast Regional Director - Keisha Hoerrner:
New Brunswick, Canada – Addie Houston:
NFS Spain – Marc Correa:
NFS UK - Louisa Barry:
NFS East Africa - David Mwambari:

Open Source Activism

One of the key principles that Not For Sale embeds in nearly everything we do is open source activism. It means that our overriding goal is to equip a movement of backyard abolitionists, empowering individuals to fight human trafficking and slavery in their own locale. The backyard abolitionist contributes his or her unique gifts and passions to make a difference. You should not aspire to become William Wilberforce or Sojourner Truth, but to be yourself.

I was pleased to watch Justin Dillon promote our concept in his new film, Call & Response. When Justin and I went on our 60-city tour of US cities in the Fall of 2007, we realized that our movement would gain dynamism when we handed over tools and got out of the way! Fighting slavery requires local creativity and initiative, not a centralized structure of "experts" who do all the abolitionist work.

One practical outgrowth of this principle, we at Not For Sale began meeting extraordinary leaders wherever we went. We decided to create a network of state directors, an effort to empower local action and decentralize our relationships. The network has taken off, and it grows so quickly it's a challenge for us to update our webpage with new bios and contact details for our Webpage!!! But keep in touch with the site and discover a new wave of local leaders who can help you with your backyard abolitionist activities.

David Batstone

Tuesday, October 14, 2008