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Human Trafficking Among Issues Discussed by NGOS
"Human trafficking is the second most profitable global business, surpassing drug trafficking, and second to arms trafficking. Approximately three million women and children are trafficked each year for labor or prostitution,” said Jackie Shapiro of End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA).
A member of the U.S. branch of ECPAT, Shapiro presented disturbing findings in a lecture at RIC’s Adams Library, a lecture she shared with Barbara Fiorito, of Fair Trade USA.
Shapiro said, “In the U.S., over 200,000 children under the age of 18 are in danger of being trafficked, with the average age being 12.”
ECPAT has helped arrange the removal of tattoos – branding – that the pimps placed on some children as a sign of ownership, she said. Worse, she said, the legal system, which treats solicitation as a crime, punishes the victim, placing the child in a juvenile delinquency facility.
ECPAT advocates for the Safe Harbor Act, a federal law that allows children who are rescued from a prostitution ring to receive help from child welfare professionals rather than be placed in a criminal facility.
Because Safe Harbor is a federal law, not a state statute, ECPAT must continue to travel the country providing advocacy support to state organizations for passage of Safe Harbor.
One member of the audience asked Fiorito how NGOS are able to influence national and international policy, since they don’t have the power to make laws or change laws.
“We influence U.N. policy,” said Fiorito, who works internationally, “by providing the General Assembly with trusted, grass-roots information. We act as either a voice for indigenous people or we bring our indigenous partners to the U.N. to explain what we’re seeing on the ground.”
Having worked with the U.N. for 17 years, Shapiro expressed “a passion for the U.N. The U.N. is the premier organization for the protection of human rights and human freedoms – particularly, women’s rights,” she said.
“But one of the lessons still being learned is that gender equality will never take place without the participation of men,” said Fiorito.
Included in the lecture was a history of the U.N., an explanation of the principal organizations that make up the U.N. and how Fair Trade USA addresses issues of poverty, hunger and injustice on an international scale by teaching indigenous communities about clean water sanitation, public health, hygiene and farmer-owned cooperatives that allow for fair trade.
Shapiro and Fiorito said that their hope is to raise awareness and help communities around the world become actively involved in human rights.