Report From the Tourism Code of Conduct Annual Meeting

Report From the Tourism Code of Conduct Annual Meeting
The annual meeting of the Tourism Child Protection Code of Conduct takes place in March each year. As usual this year it was held in Berlin to coincide with ITB Berlin, the world’s largest tourism trade fair.

Thirty eight U.S. companies having joined the Code to demonstrate their commitment to protecting children from sexual exploitation. Around the world more than 300 companies are members of the Code.

The annual Code meeting is an opportunity for companies and ECPAT groups from around the world to share best practices, discuss their mutual work to implement the Code and decide how to move forward together.

These are some of the highlights:

A new policy on “voluntourism” was approved. Voluntourism is a form of travel which gives tourists the ability to work on projects helping local charities.
It was noted that the UN World Tourism Organization is debating a new international convention on sustainable tourism.
ECPAT’s Global Study on Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism has been rolled out around the world. The extensive recommendations have implications for how the Code should be expanded and implemented. The report includes separate publications focusing on each region of the world including North America. ECPAT continues to promote these recommendations.
There may be changes to the international structure of the Code. For the past year it has been housed at and supported by ECPAT International in Bangkok. ECPAT has been the driving force behind the Code for many years. ECPAT national groups around the world work in partnership with companies and facilitate their implement of the Code through technical assistance, training assistance and advice on best practices.

ECPAT’s Week of Action in DC: From Fighting Online Sex Trafficking of Children to Previewing the Legislative Road Ahead

 

ECPAT’s Week of Action in DC: From Fighting Online Sex Trafficking of Children to Previewing the Legislative Road Ahead

By Faiza Mathon-Matheiu, Director of Public Policy and Government Relations

For the past 16 years, Backpage.com has been the leading website in the online sex trafficking of children. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 73% of all reports of child sex trafficking occur on Backpage.com. Thanks in large part to a newly launched effort, advocates, survivors, and lawmakers are fighting back and joining together to force the company to be held accountable for facilitating the sexual abuse of children. A new documentary, I Am Jane Doe, which opens in 6 cities, including New York City, today, is mobilizing stakeholders across the country.The powerful film focuses on the battle being waged by American mothers on behalf of their middle-school age daughters who were victims of sex trafficking on Backpage.com. The film follows their gut-wrenching fight as these families attempt to hold Backpage.com responsible through the legal system for its part in this horrific form of abuse.

The film is already generating conversation among lawmakers. At a screening in D.C., members of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Rob Portman (R-OH), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) discussed the Committee’s groundbreaking investigation that uncovered the extent to which Backpage.com has engaged in the online sex trafficking of children. The following day, ECPAT-USA, Shared Hope International, and My Life My Choice in coordination with and Congressman Ted Poe held a Congressional briefing where panelists included two powerful mothers whose daughters were sold for sex on Backpage. They shared their stories about the impact it has had on their girls and their families. Now the two are at a forefront of the movement, turning their anger into activism and speaking out across the country about what needs to be done to prevent other families from experiencing the tragedies they have experienced. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Representative Ann Wagner, and Representative Chris Smith also gave remarks about the need to amend the federal Communications Decency Act so that companies like Backpage cannot continue to make millions of dollars a year from the abuse of young children.

The week started with the Second Annual Human Trafficking Symposium hosted by the McCain Institute. The Institute is a leader in convening multiple power sectors to brainstorm on policies and program to end trafficking. ECPAT-USA’s Executive Director moderated the Legislative Road Ahead panel with federal legislators in the fight against human trafficking – Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX). Each member of Congress discussed their recent success and accomplishments as well as the legislative path forward. As we look forward to the reauthorization of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act this year, strong partnerships with members of Congress will ensure that the package will strengthen the U.S. commitment to protect children from commercial sexual exploitation.

A Word from ECPAT-USA’s Executive Director: Airlines Have to Get on Board

A Word from ECPAT-USA’s Executive Director: Airlines Have to Get on Board

Delta employees give back to the homeless during the Hosea Feed the Hungry event on their Day On, Not A Day at the Delta Museum during the 2017 Human Trafficking conference on Wednesday February 1, 2017. ©2017 Chris Rank/ Rank Studios

Delta Air Lines is a long-time member of the Tourism Child Protection Code of Conduct. But this week, in Atlanta, the company kicked off a new round of awareness and action to protect both adult and child trafficking victims. Read more from Delta here. There is now a company-wide anti-human trafficking steering committee with representatives from all the divisions.

Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta, gave a moving opening statement about the commitment of his company. He called it a movement, not a cause, and spoke passionately about the need for companies like his to do their part.

He is so right. Training of airline employees is crucial. As I was greeting Delta employees who were filing into the giant gathering room, within 5 minutes two people told me they had identified and reported cases of potential child trafficking. Two employees in five minutes! Every U.S. airline should be considering the same steps. Who knows how many more children would be saved.

 

As Director of ECPAT-USA I presented Ed with a Partner in Protection Plaque to thank the company for supporting our working. We can’t do our child protection work unless
we have support from the private sector, government, and individuals. Over 700 Delta employees were there, to learn that trafficking exists, to learn how to look for it, and get mobilized. It was a truly inspiring event.
– Carol Smolenski

Become an Activist Against Child Trafficking

Become an Activist Against Child Trafficking

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Before the month is over, do at least one of these things to make your mark against the trafficking of children:

Read up here on child trafficking so you are aware and informed. Tell your friends what you learned.
Write a letter to your member of Congress supporting laws that protect children. Here’s one about a law that calls on companies to take steps to let us all know how they are helping child trafficking victims.
Buy our fair-trade products that support women in Thailand who are at risk for being trafficked.
Sign up for one of our Advocacy Journeys to learn about child trafficking on the ground in other countries.
Sign up for the ECPAT-Athletes team in the New York City TD 5 Boro Bike Ride or for the TCS New York City Marathon by sending an email to athletes@ecpatusa.org to reserve your spot!
View our 20-minute video called What I Have Been Through is Not Who I Am. It has been used by law enforcement agencies and child protective service agencies across the country as a training tool.
Host a screening of the blockbuster film SOLD, starring Gillian Anderson and David Arquette, to raise awareness and benefit ECPAT-USA. Go to www.ecpatusa.org/SOLD to request your screening guide.

SOLD the Movie and Trafficking in Real Life: 5 Truths

SOLD the Movie and Trafficking in Real Life:
5 Truths
Earlier this month, thanks to our supporter Annie Ugurlayan, we screened the new trafficking film SOLD. The film, based on Patricia McCormick’s novel with the same title, follows the journey of Lakshmi, a 13-year-old rural Nepali girl who is trafficked to a Kolkata brothel after accepting a phony position as a domestic worker. While Lakshmi’s story is shocking, the film presents many real life scenarios that trafficked children experience around the world. Here are five truths from the film:
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What is New York City Doing to Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation?

What is New York City Doing to Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation?

This year, ECPAT-USA celebrates 25 years of child protection.  Things have changed for the better since we began working to protect children from sexual exploitation.

New York State passed its Safe Harbor law, the first in the nation, in 2008.  While it is not the country’s strongest law to ensure children are protected from sexual exploitation, it did mark the beginning for New York to get more serious about training, awareness, prevention and protection for vulnerable children.  Read our report “Steps to Safety”  to learn more about the array of Safe Harbor laws across the country.  

I sat down recently with Susan Morley, Special Advisor for Investigations to the Commissioner and Selina Higgins, Director of Child Trafficking Prevention and Policy of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), the leadership team for implementing protections for sexually exploited children in the city.  They described extensive training, services and awareness raising going on throughout the system.

  • In 2012 ACS published its initial policy on serving sexually exploited children.
  • Almost a thousand ACS, foster care and preventive agency staff were trained in Child Trafficking Awareness and Engagement/Interviewing skills during 2015.  Training is ongoing for staff and sub-contractor foster care and preventive agencies, and detention service providers.  Over a hundred  agencies around the city in which ACS works have received training.
  • ACS hired its first Director of Child Trafficking Prevention and Policy in 2015, and is hiring an additional Child Trafficking Prevention Specialist.
  • They created a specialized team of former NYPD Detectives to locate missing youth at risk of CSEC .
  • Funding for services for trafficked youth was provided to eight youth-serving organizations.
  • Work is taking place to develop a Child Trafficking Database so that we know how many sexually exploited children have been identified.  
  • The agency created an internal “Child Trafficking Mailbox” to facilitate communications, to provide alerts of trafficking cases, and to receive consultations, resource ideas and referral information.
  • This year ACS is again providing 12 sessions of its full-day Child Trafficking Awareness and Skills training, with 5 dates targeted specifically for preventive service agencies.

The buying and selling of children for sexual exploitation is a lucrative business everywhere in the United States, not just New York and other big cities.

But for 25 years there has been a growing movement to stop it.  ECPAT-USA is proud of the progress we have made.    

By Carol Smolenski

Have we made progress in protecting children from sexual exploitation in the United States?

Have we made progress in protecting children from sexual exploitation in the United States?
There is no reliable data about the number of sexually exploited children in the U.S., although there are some small, local studies that indicate the scale of the problem.
Even without hard numbers, it is clear that things have changed enormously since ECPAT-USA started working to end the exploitation of children 25 years ago.  When you work on the issue for a long time, you see the change, but it doesn’t happen overnight.
This is the first of a series of posts about the progress we have made in preventing child sexual exploitation and protecting these children over the years, one step at a time.
I spent a day driving around North Carolina to learn how it is protecting children from sexual exploitation.  This is just a snapshot of some of the efforts taking place. But it is fair to say that the state is mobilized!
North Carolina’s Safe Harbor law passed in 2013.  The law increases punishment for both traffickers and buyers of sexual services.  It mandates that anyone under 18 years old who is sexually exploited be treated as a victim, not a criminal.  For more about the law, read our report Steps to Safety.
Much of the work to protect children takes place under the umbrella of combatting human trafficking.  So the Safe Harbor law also created a Human Trafficking Commission.  State-wide leadership also comes together under the state’s Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
I met with the team working at the University of North Carolina’s Project No Rest, that works protect people up to 25 years old. The idea behind the Project is to increase awareness, especially  of those involved in the child welfare system, to reduce the number of trafficked youth, and to improve outcomes for those who are trafficked.  Last year it published the “Statewide Plan for Addressing Trafficking of Child-Welfare involved Children and Youth in North Carolina”. Project No Rest will soon launch 5 pilot sites around the state to help them organize and implement anti-trafficking efforts in their communities.
Out in Greenville, I met with the leaders who created RestoreOne, which is developing the first shelter designed specifically for sexually exploited boys anywhere in the country.
Eastern North Carolina Stop Human Trafficking has been around for about 5 years.  With limited funding it trains hotel staff, schools and the community about the fact that child trafficking happens even in North Carolina, and these children need protection.
In Rocky Mount I met Kenny Sumner of S.A.F.E.,  a ministry working to train and raise awareness about trafficking, provide education, resources and support for those who want to know how to identify victims and how to report it.
The latest news is that this year the state’s legislature passed a bill requiring schools to adopt curriculum about sex trafficking prevention.
There are so many more individuals and organizations I heard about but did not have a chance to meet.  The key fact is that none of this existed 25 years ago.  There was no awareness, no training for law enforcement, no services and shelters for exploited children, no prevention.  The people of North Carolina learned there was a problem in their state and are working every day to solve it.
Written by Carol Smolenski, Executive Director, ECPAT-USA

ECPAT-USA and 59 organizations join together to call for increased investment in prevention to protect children from exploitation

ECPAT-USA and 59 organizations join together to call for increased investment in prevention to protect children from exploitation

NGOs unite to call for an increased investment in prevention efforts to protect children from exploitation in ECPAT-USA’s response to the U.S. Government’s (USG) report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). In partnership with 59 organizations, ECPAT-USA submitted the NGO Alternative Report, an assessment of the U.S. Government’s work to implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (OPSC). Continue reading

Travelers use TraffickCam app to fight sex trafficking by uploading hotel room photos to national database

Travelers use TraffickCam app to fight sex trafficking by uploading hotel room photos to national database
ST. LOUIS, MO – Travelers can help in the fight against sex trafficking by using a new, free mobile app called TraffickCam to anonymously photograph hotel rooms and upload data to a national database used by law enforcement and investigators to locate victims and their pimps.

TraffickCam was developed by the social action organization Exchange Initiative and researchers at Washington University. The app is available for iPhone and iPad at the App Store (bit.ly/TraffickCamApp) and for Android devices at Google Play (bit.ly/TraffickCamAndroid).

Sex trafficking is a form of modern day slavery that forces children and adults to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. Most victims are recruited when they are just 12 to 14 years old, coerced through drugs, violence, debt bondage and intimidation. According to UNICEF, at least 300,000 American children and 1.2 million children worldwide are sex trafficked each year.

TraffickCam allows any traveler with a smartphone to help fight sex trafficking by uploading photos of their hotel room to an enormous, constantly updated database of hotel room images. Federal, state and local law enforcement securely submit photos of sex trafficking victims posed in hotel rooms to TraffickCam. Features such as patterns in the carpeting, furniture, room accessories and window views are matched against the database of traveler images to provide law enforcement with a list of potential hotels where the photo may have been taken. Early testing showed that the app is 85 percent accurate in identifying the correct hotel in the top 20 matches.
Continue reading

Creating a Common Language to Address Child Sexual Exploitation

Creating a Common Language to Address Child Sexual Exploitation
“Words matter.” So begins the newest ECPAT publication, Terminology Guidelines for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, analyzing the terms that should be and should not be used to describe the various ways that children are sexually abused and exploited. The report is the consensus of an international working group that grappled with both new terms (such as ”live streaming of online sexual abuse”) and old terms (“child prostitution”) that are used in our advocacy work aimed at protecting children. It takes a children’s rights approach to analyzing the words and discusses how they are embedded in international treaties and agreements, states’ laws and how they are generally understood by the public.
Some of the results are not at all surprising. “Child sex worker” and “child prostitute” should never be used to describe exploited children. Both terms actually harm children because they shift the blame for the exploitation to the children themselves. But most of the report is devoted to defining the many terms and if and when they should be employed. The section describing the difference between “commercial sexual exploitation” and “sexual exploitation” of children is especially interesting. Continue reading