Friday, February 25, 2011

Support the Protestors in Wisconsin fighting for Workers' Rights, by making sure they have something to eat!! (It's easy: here's how!)

Support your local, state, and  federal government being BY the people and FOR the people. And by "the people" I don't mean only the richest people in the land.

What follows is from *here*.

On what would have been George Harrison's 68th birthday, a discussion on political responsibility when challenging global and regional atrocitities such as the trafficking of raped girls. This is directed especially to Siddharth Kara.

image of George from his Concert for the People of Bangladesh is from here

Happy Birthday, George.

As many of you may already know, ex-Beatle George Harrison, in response to an appeal by friend and musical mentor, Ravi Shankar, put together the very first major rock concert explicitly as a fundraiser for an international human rights cause--disaster relief for the people of Bangladesh. There were two concerts performed on August 1, 1971, both at Madison Square Garden, NYC, USA. George tells the story of how this came to be in his song performed at that concert.

George was one person who helped familiarise white European, Australians, and North Americans with South Asian philosophies and music. He maintained a long-time connection to his Indian friend Ravi Shankar, and found in Hindu spiritual practice something that was missing from his very famous life during his years as a Beatle.

Since then, there has been an international phenomenon of white Westerners taking from various regions of Asia whatever they want to benefit their own lives, ignoring what that taking does to the people who are being so adversely effected by white men's intrusions and exploitations of the continent. George gave back. Most white men do not. Most white men take and take and take. And the only thing they give is trauma, despair, and disease.

South, Southeast, and East Asia are sites of gross sexual exploitation by white men of Asian girls and women. The level of callousness to human life, the level of sadistic sexual cruelty, is truly unimaginable unless you've lived through it. To be a sexual slave, or to be trafficked as a thing for het men, is not something most whites experience, nor most het men. This is why white het men are generally oblivious to it, except as perpetrators.

Siddharth Kara, a U.S. American, has written extensively about the phenomenon from an economic point of view. And it is indeed an economic reality--human trafficking is big business, and makes many people rich, while destroying lives in ways that make "cruel" seem a useless word. But this is not a problem only of the rich vs. the poor, even while it is that too.

Beneath the economics, or tangled up with the economics, are two other realities that are as foundational to the horror that is sex trafficking and sexual slavery: white (male) supremacy and globalised (racist) patriarchy. For the incest and rape of girls internationally is not done for money, in many instances. Almost none of the women I know who are incest and rape survivors were incested and raped for the predator-perpetrator's profit. Girls, in particular, are vulnerable to gross sexual assault and their assault is only recently being seen as a human rights issue, because girls, as yet, are not seen as human in the way white boys and white men are seen as human. When white boys are sexually abused, such as by priests in the Catholic Church (a religious institution functioning as such while also functioning as an international organisation dealing in child sexual abuse, the crimes are seen and felt, here in the West, as "awful", "horrible", "indefensible". But if girls are the primary victims, the compassion suddenly shifts away from them. We don't like it when men prey on boys. But when men prey on girls, it is acceptable, condoned, and even mandatory.

Do you know the degrees to which girls are turned into pornography, into sexxx-things, for het men, internationally? Especially for het men in wealthier countries? Are you aware of the numbers of men who, with no shame, will line up to see a girl the age of nine with breast implants, perform in a string bikini for middle-aged men, including for white men who travel great distances to see this? Do you know how common incest and predation of girls is, globally, with a disproportionate number of profiteers being Western white men? Do you know that for most girls to be turned into pornography, they must first be incested and raped?

To ignore the racial and sexual components of something so horrific as the trafficking and slavery and pornographisation of girls is to ignore a whole lot. In Siddharth Kara's award-winning book on Sexual Slavery and Trafficking, he discusses "gender bias", but not patriarchy; he speaks of women as an underprivileged class of people, but not of men as an overprivileged class; he mentions and discusses the role of capitalism, but not of white supremacy or of male supremacy, named as such. He makes no mention of feminism, nor, specifically of the work of Andrea Dworkin, Kathleen Barry, Diana E.H. Russell, or Catharine A. MacKinnon in his discussion, exposing the horrors of sexualised violence against girls and women, by men.

The reason a book like his can do so well financially is because he makes the problem of incest, rape, and gross sexual assault and exploitation into a matter of globalised economics. That is his background, in education and profession: economics. He never studied feminism, or there's no indication that he did. Forget "studying": there's no indication he's read any feminist books or spoken with any feminists of any color on the subjects about which he writes, successfully.

This is not to say he is a bad person, at all. It is not to make assumptions about his intentions. It is not to cast aspersions on his character. It is to note how easy it is to discuss patriarchal horrors, men's against girls and women, and leave out the fact that these crimes, this abuses, these traumas, all of the systematised and organised by men, without mentioning the fact that it is a problem of male dominance over all female people, male supremacy, named as such, and patriarchy, named as such. To not name these root problems is to let men off the hook as men. Because whether or not capitalism continues to exist, patriarchal abuses can and will continue unless the battle for girls and women, with girls and women leading the way, names the problems for what they are: not a matter of "gender bias", but a matter of male domination, control, exploitation, and rape of girls and women.

I have great respect for Siddharth taking on these issues: with all his very good education and earned money, he needn't have done so. But to ignore thirty years (at the time of his book being published originally) of substantive analysis and research, testimonies and actions, by women against men's sexual exploitation, abuse, rape, and murder of girls and women is to leave the public woefully ignorant about what some of the root causes are of human trafficking that means, generally if not only, men purchasing and raping girls and women.

I call on Siddharth Kara to make feminist analysis, insights, and action, real in his future work.

And I thank him for the work he has already done to make sexual trafficking and slavery of girls more visible as a human rights issue in the West.

This is a companion post to this recent one, also about the good work of Siddharth Kara:

"Corporate Social Responsibility and Human Trafficking: What Every Business Leader Needs to Know", Sunday, March 6, 2011, Harvard Business School, USA, with guest speaker Siddharth Kara (interview and videos here)

photograph of Siddharth Kara, who works to end human slavery and trafficking, is from here
Please also see this follow-up post on the work of Siddharth Kara, *here*.

 Everything that follows is from *here*:

banner is from here
The Social Enterprise Conference:
“Sustaining Impact, Living Change”
Presented by the students of
Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School
As part of the Conference, there will be a Sunday panel titled: 

Corporate Social Responsibility and Human Trafficking:
What Every Business Leader Needs to Know 

Sandra J. Sucher (Moderator),
Professor of Management Practice, Harvard Business School

Dawn Conway,
Senior Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, LexisNexis Group

Josh Green,
Chief Executive Officer, Panjiva

Siddharth Kara,
Fellow, Carr Center Program on Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery,
Harvard Kennedy School

and Shelley Simmons,
Director of Brand Communications and Values, The Body Shop
While human trafficking has received considerable media attention in the past few years, it is often portrayed from the perspective of activists, policy makers or humanitarian organizations. This panel will focus on how to tackle the complicated issue of human trafficking from a supply-chain management perspective, informing global business leaders about the darker side of globalization and generating solutions to these problems. The panelists will examine the economics of the human trafficking industry and highlight effective strategies that businesses are using to combat it.
Not a Carr Center event.
For location and any changes to the schedule
please visit the conference website
Please note there is a registration fee for the entire conference.
Registration link:

 *          *         *

To hear and see Siddharth Kara speak about the global problem of sex trafficking, please see this video. It is approximately one and a half hours long. Trigger warning: It is graphically horrific about the rape, pimping, and trafficking of girls:

This is the cover of Siddharth's award-winning book and an interview with Siddharth follows below.

For a two minute video of Siddharth Kara speaking about his book and the problem of sex trafficking, please see this video.

The following is an interview with Siddharth Kara.
Q. I thought most countries abolished slavery during the Nineteenth Century. Are there still slaves today?

Siddharth Kara: Yes, there are still slaves today, even though slavery is illegal in every country in the world. By my calculation, there were 28.4 million slaves in the world at the end of 2006. These slaves were in three primary categories: 18.1 million debt bondage/bonded labor slaves, 7.6 million forced labor slaves, and 2.7 million trafficked slaves (slaves who were coerced or deceived then transported into a forced labor or debt bondage situation). Of these trafficked slaves, 1.2 million were sex slaves. For reasons I discuss in my book, there will assuredly be more slaves in the world today than at the end of 2006, with the highest growth in the trafficked slave category.

Q: Since sex slaves are a small percentage of slaves worldwide, why did you focus your book on this small category of slavery?

SK: Sex slavery is the first form of slavery I (consciously) encountered. I first came across sex trafficking while I was volunteering in a Bosnian refugee camp in the summer of 1995, an experience that profoundly affected me. In my research I focus on sex slavery for two additional reasons. First, it is perhaps the most grotesque and barbaric form of exploitation suffered by contemporary slaves. Whips, cigarette burns, knife slashes, beatings, broken bones—all slaves suffer these tortures, but sex slaves suffer these as well as ten, fifteen, or even twenty instances of forced sex each and every day. Second, sex slavery is by far the most profitable form of slavery. Even though only 4% of all slaves are sex slaves, these same slaves generate almost 40% of the total profits enjoyed by slave owners each year.

Q. What place does economic analysis have in addressing a human rights violation like slavery?

SK: Having met hundreds of slaves throughout the world, I am well aware that the moral outrage of slavery should be more than sufficient to provide motivation to abolish these crimes. However, abolitionists must not lose sight of the fact that slavery is essentially a crime predicated on economic benefit—i.e., maximizing profits by minimizing the cost of labor. Abolitionists must also not forget that powerful macroeconomic forces unleashed during the process of economic globalization in the post–Cold War era have been more responsible than any other force for the unforgivable rise in contemporary slavery.

The first stage in the contemporary abolitionist movement was to reignite awareness of the fact that slavery still exists, most effectively achieved by Dr. Kevin Bales and his 1999 publication, Disposable People. However, awareness and outrage must be harnessed into effective action, which has for the most part eluded the global community thus far. The second stage of the contemporary abolitionist movement is to equip this outrage with a granular understanding of the global economic forces that unleashed modern slavery, and the microeconomic forces that allow it to thrive in nearly every corner of the world.

My book has been conceived as an attempt to unify outrage with economics, based on the premise that the economic analysis will provide the insight through which to design a more effective global response to this brutal crime against humanity. Only after understanding how sex trafficking functions, as a profit-driven business, can a more effective abolitionist movement be deployed that will attack the business by dismantling its fundamental premise: the exploitation of a vast supply of potential slaves to meet the demand for ever-greater profits in the worldwide commercial sex industry.

Q. How did you go about researching this subject?

SK: When I began my research in the summer of 2000, few people knew what sex trafficking was, so I decided the only way to find out was to go straight into the field and learn for myself. I used money saved from my business career and took three separate trips to more than a dozen countries. I walked into brothels, massage parlors, and sex clubs to see for myself how the industry functioned. I journeyed to the villages and towns from which the victims originated to understand the conditions that gave rise to their exploitation. I traveled to numerous borders to understand how the movement of victims was accomplished. I interviewed victims of trafficking for purposes other than sexual exploitation, and I interviewed over two hundred individuals in other forms of contemporary slavery.

Word of mouth and hustling with locals were my best tools for finding the sex slave underbelly in each country. In cities like Chiang Mai in Thailand or Mumbai in India finding sex slaves was easy—the brothels were in plain view, even though they were illegal. In Moldova, sex clubs were numerous and prostitutes came right to my hotel door the evening I arrived. In other countries such as Italy, where the laws against illegal brothels are more strictly enforced, it took time to track down sex slaves. Eventually, I learned that in most countries, taxi drivers almost always knew where to find cheap sex, and cheap sex was almost always provided by slaves.

Because of the extreme sensitivity and potential danger in discussing trafficking ordeals, I established two ground rules to ensure I never, ever made a victim’s life worse than it already was. First, I was determined to do no harm. I never forced a conversation, and I never solicited one where the victim would have suffered for speaking to me. In shelters, I did not approach interviewees with a list of questions that I expected to be answered, but instead I approached them with a casual conversation. The results were often long, honest, detailed discussions, in which the victims poured their hearts out. Second, when visiting sex establishments I was always equipped with information on nearby shelters and health services, just in case a sex slave requested assistance. In most cases, I did not offer the information unless asked, since many sex slaves had convinced themselves they were not slaves, and suggesting otherwise would only distress them. Nevertheless, I occasionally left the information behind, hoping it would prove beneficial to someone, at some point.

Q. Were you ever in any danger?

SK: There were a few close calls during my research. In the book, I describe one incident when I was cornered in a pinjara, which is a small, box-like room in which many slaves are sold for commercial sex on Falkland Road in Bombay. I made a foolish error in judgment one day and found myself cornered by a few thugs. I think the Fates were watching over me that day because I had a sliver of a moment in which I was able to escape.

Q. Meeting so many slaves must have been so difficult, were there any highlights?

SK: Positive moments during my research were few and far between. For the most part, the encounters were exceedingly difficult. Stories of liberation were always uplifting, but the challenges faced by slaves after they are free can be almost as difficult as the slavery itself. Many face the same conditions of poverty, bias, and lack of opportunity that consigned them to slavery in the first place. That, plus the physical and psychological damages they have endured, creates immense challenges to a functional life.

One of the lowest points of my research also provided a momentary highlight. I end the book with the narrative of a young Burmese girl named Aye, who had been a slave in a goods-processing facility in Thailand for ten of the first fourteen years of her life. Meeting Aye shook me to my core. After our interview, I asked if she would share some of the art she had been making in the shelter in Chiang Mai—pencil holders, postcards, and such. She was thrilled and hurried to retrieve her work. She handed me piece after piece with such glee. Each time I took hold of her little bits of art, she bowed her head in sheer joy that I was enjoying something beautiful she had made with her own hands.

I remember feeling complete despair during those final days of my last research trip—Aye’s bleak tale of brutish exploitation, and the bent and terrified manner with which she carried herself—left me feeling so despondent . . . until we spent some time looking at her artwork, and the smile that lit up her face was so innocent and pure, it could not help but lift my spirits.

Q. What can people do to help?

SK: In my book, I call for a new brand of global abolitionist movement predicated on a more unified, targeted, overwhelming response from governments, international organizations, and individual citizens alike. Individuals have a crucial part to play. First, they can support grassroots anti-slavery organizations, either through volunteer efforts or financial contribution. Second, they can demand that their governments take the steps required to abolish slavery once and for all. Third, and perhaps most important, they can serve as the frontlines of a new abolitionist movement, by forming a system of anti-slavery community vigilance committees, which is a concept I discuss in the book and am working on implementing as we speak.