France’s Prostitution Ban: One Step Forward or Two Steps Back?

The French have a long history with prostitution. From Madame du Barry to the paintings of Degas and Picasso, prostitution has been celebrated as an inherent, and even glamorous, part of French culture.

But in 2016, the reality of the practice is starkly different. Now, the majority of prostitutes are trafficked, often immigrants fleeing political or economic hardships only to find themselves at the mercy of an often abusive sex trade.

In response, France has criminalized sex work. The law takes a more modern approach: the guilty are no longer the workers, but the clients. Someone caught buying sex can now be fined a whopping $1,500 euros (USD $1,700) and repeat offenders can be slapped with a $3,750 (USD $4,260), according to Vocativ.

Criminalizing the sale of sex is a moral minefield. On the one hand, the women’s empowerment movement advocates a woman’s right to do whatever she wants with her body; that means the right to say no as well as the right to say yes, for compensation or not.

Sex workers are protesting the decision, publicly rallying with signs declaring that their work is legitimate, and the new law will have negative consequences for their safety and social standing. Indeed, in other countries, criminalizing sex work has pushed it to the darker underground, and legally working prostitutes now face a hard decision about staying or continuing in their field.

At the same time, the problem of human trafficking is so widespread and devastating that it is difficult to oppose efforts to cripple the market that drives it. Lawmakers have been clear that the main motivation behind the bill is to curb the sexual exploitation of women. France’s thriving sex trade has increased demand for a steady stream of sex workers: willing and unwilling.

Sex trafficking is one of the most degrading forms of modern slavery. Rachel Lloyd, the founder and CEO of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services in New York City, wrote in The New York Times:

There are an estimated30,000-37,000 sex workers in france.“As a teenager, I worked in Germany’s legal sex industry. I was, like many girls in the club, underage; most of us were immigrants, nearly all of us had histories of trauma and abuse prior to our entry into commercial sex. Several of us had pimps despite working in a legal establishment; all of us used copious amounts of drugs and alcohol to get through each night.

Violence is inherent in the sex industry. Numerous studies show that between 70 percent and 90 percent of children and women who end up in commercial sex were sexually abused prior to entry. No other industry is dependent upon a regular supply of victims of trauma and abuse.”

There are no easy answers to problems of violence against women, and no one way to empower women. France is taking a holistic approach, not stopping at punitive measures, according to Thomson Reuters. Those caught soliciting prostitutes will be required to take a course which raises awareness of the sex trade. Additionally, prostitutes who want to leave the profession will be given temporary residence status and financial support.

At a time when Europe is struggling with the moral and financial implications of taking in refugees and citizens are increasingly hostile, it is heartening to see France embrace not only the rights of its women, but every woman.

Feature photo: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Picasso

Global Movements Can Fight Slavery

I first learned about the issue of modern day slavery well over ten years ago. It was an unbearably hot and muggy day in the capital city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. As I walked the dusty street from my apartment to a local community center, I noticed something I thought was extremely odd. In the middle of the hot day, there were young girls in a local salon. Many of these girls looked like they should have been in school but instead were being made up like beauty queens. I asked a local friend, “Why are these girls dressing up like beauty queens in the middle of this hot day?” She explained to me that these girls worked at the local hotel and restaurant next door. It was at that moment, I learned the horrors and reality of so many women and girls who are forced to give away their bodies often to the highest bidder. This knowledge was confirmed as I returned home later that evening and walked past girls lined up outside the restaurant. At that time, no one was talking about modern day slavery.

Did you know human trafficking is one of the fastest growing industries in our world today?

The human trafficking industry, the buying and selling of people, is the second largest global criminal industry in our world today, generating over 150 billion dollars in annual profits. That is more than the combined annual revenue of Amazon, Google and Ebay. Women and girls make up 98% of victims of sexual exploitation and 55% of those exploited through the labor industry. Since that day in Cambodia, I have met with hundreds of girls and young women who have experienced the most pervasive atrocities one can imagine. My work to combat this issue has taken me to six different countries. I have traveled to brothels, sex bars, night clubs and in some of the most dangerous red light districts. Why? To learn about this issue, listen to stories and help women and girls have an opportunity for freedom. While the statistics are overwhelming, awareness turns to action which turns to hope and change. Some of these hopeful stories have even come from brothel owners themselves who decided to take a stand and turn what was slavery into freedom for so many. I have met amazing women, young girls, men and communities who are working diligently to make sure human trafficking doesn’t go undetected in their countries. There is courage and passion is what makes this international movement.

Did you know slavery also exists here in the United States?

In my city of Atlanta, there are over 300 young women and girls who are trafficked in and out of the city each month. These are young girls, born and raised in the United States, many of them 12-14 years old. Every 3 minutes, a minor is sexually exploited in the United States every year. This is simply not acceptable. There are several organizations in my city and around the nation working to help young girls and women who have escaped the trafficking industry. Beloved Atlanta, is the only two year residential home and program for adult women surviving trafficking, prostitution and addiction in the city. The Samaritan Woman is a fantastic organization working in Baltimore, Maryland to restore women who have been trafficked. A huge gap still remains to help women and girls in the United States.

Want to learn more about slavery in the United States? Watch Jeanita’s Story:

Fortunately, more people know about the issue of trafficking today than ever before. The End It Movement is a global campaign and a coalition of organizations committing to to raise awareness about the issue and work to prevent, rescue and restore women, girls, men and boys from being sold into slavery. Today, individuals, organizations, governments, churches and people around the world come together to shine a light on slavery. Since 2013, the #EndItMovement has raised over 4 million dollars to fight human trafficking and supported over 50 global projects. What began as a simple call to action for college students has had a ripple effect around the world. Will you make the declaration today?

Have you started a local movement in your country? Tweet us @GirlsGlobe or comment below and share what you are doing to shine a light on slavery.

#BringBackOurGirls

Photo Credit: Naijamayor, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo Credit: Naijamayor, Flickr Creative Commons

The world was shocked when on April 14, Boko Haram Islamic militants burst into a school in the Chibok community in Borno state, Nigeria. The militants kidnapped 276 girls from their beds. Only 53 girls managed to escape, and 223 girls are still missing.

Schools should be places students can learn without fear.

In Northern Nigeria, girls endure violence to receive an education. In 2008, the net enrollment of girls in secondary school was 22%, which is less than a quarter of girls receiving a secondary education. Child marriage is rife, with 78% of girls marrying by age 18. The region also has the highest rate of fistula in the country.

Boko Haram has led a murderous campaign against education in Nigeria. In Borno state alone, more than 800 classrooms have been destroyed. Boko Haram, which translates to ‘Western education is a sin’, does not want to see girls attend school in Nigeria. The story of Boko Haram is not new. Like the Taliban, and various other terrorist groups that have attacked girls’ education, they are afraid of the power of an educated girl. They are afraid of the power of education. The independence and freedom of women and girls terrifies them. It is their fear that leads to them suppressing the power of girls.

Educating girls has been proven to be the highest return investment for solving poverty. An extra year of primary school boosts a girl’s income by ten to twenty percent. An extra year of secondary school boosts a girl’s income by fifteen to twenty-five percent. When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children. Children born to educated mothers are twice as likely to survive past age five. Educated girls are more likely to change the world.

Why would Boko Haram be afraid of girls’ education, when there are countless benefits?

It is believed that the Islamic militants have had mass wedding ceremonies where they forced the girls into marriage. It is also believed that they have sold some of the kidnapped girls for 2000 naira, or $12. Not only have these girls been denied their right to an education, but they have been forced into a marriage, against their will and have been trafficked.

No girl should be denied access to a quality education.

No girls should be forced into a marriage.

No girl should be trafficked.

The world needs to wake up to the severity of this issue. The voices of the 276 girls kidnapped can not and should not be silenced. The voices of the 276 girls kidnapped can not and should not go unnoticed. The voices of the 276 girls kidnapped and should not be ignored.

The kidnapping of the Chibok girls could have happened anywhere. It could have been your daughter, sister or even your niece. Recently, eight other girls have been kidnapped by the militants, highlighting how serious of an issue this is and why the International Community must get involved. We need to stand up for the Chibok girls so that this mass abduction will not inhibit the school attendance of other girls.

Stand up for the Chibok girls so their voices can be heard.

Stand up for the Chibok girls so they can return to school.

Stand up for the Chibok girls so they can be freed.

Learn More:

Take Action:

Cover Photo Credit: Rosemary Lodge, Flickr Creative Commons

More Than Just a Cover Story

Child marriage. Labor and sexual exploitation. Human trafficking.

Society ignores these topics all too often. Major news outlets may occasionally touch on the issues one day, only to forget they exist the next. And the next. And the next.

After all, why should we discuss complex global dilemmas that lack a quick fix when we can gossip about Miley Cyrus’ newest fashion statement?

What are we, as a society, actually doing to end these human rights violations?

Enough with the feigned interest. It’s time to take action.

Today, Catapult launched its new ad campaign appropriately titled Cover Stories. This incredibly powerful campaign markedly sends the message that global issues are more than ‘just a cover story.’ We need global action and we need it now.

I’ll let these Cover Stories speak for themselves.

Image c/o Catapult
Image c/o Catapult

TAKE ACTION AGAINST CHILD MARRIAGE

Image c/o Catapult
Image c/o Catapult

TAKE ACTION AGAINST LABOR EXPLOITATION

Image c/o Catapult
Image c/o Catapult

TAKE ACTION AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING

This International Women’s Day (March 8th), join Catapult in supporting efforts to empower women and girls around the world.

Real change comes from the ground up. Let’s work together and change the world.

Click here for a full list of Catapult projects.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Human Trafficking in America’s Backyard

Human trafficking occurs in every corner of the globe from the southernmost foothills of Patagonia to the northernmost region of Siberia. Human trafficking is an egregious violation of human rights – one that often strips its victims of self-worth only to refill them with fear, isolation and desperation.

In the United States, a country most may not immediately associate with human trafficking, the U.S. Department of Justice ranks human trafficking as the second fastest growing criminal industry, behind only drug trafficking, with between 14,500 and 17,500 new people trafficked into America each year.

Every hour, 34 people in America are forced into prostitution. 

In 2013, human trafficking made national headlines when Ariel Castro was arrested (and eventually convicted) for kidnapping, raping, and forcibly locking three girls in his basement for a period spanning over ten years. One victim, Amanda Berry, even bore his child, thereby increasing the victim count to four.

Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

As a result of the Castro case and several others like it, the movement to punish traffickers and to end human trafficking in the United States has been gaining speed.

Expanding on previous attempts to end human trafficking, on January 14th the United States government published its first ever Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States. The Action Plan aims to crack down on traffickers, develop a strategic action plan to strengthen victim services, and strengthen protections against human traffickers in federal contracts. Additionally, U.S. President Barack Obama proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. However, the federal government is not the only government entity taking a strong stance against human trafficking.

In August, Polaris Project, an organization dedicated to ending human trafficking in the United States, released its 2013 state ratings on human trafficking laws. In 2013 alone, 39 states passed anti-trafficking laws and 32 ranked in Polaris Project’s top Tier 1 category* – up from 21 states last year.

Over the past year, the momentum among advocates, legislators, and state officials to pass robust laws combatting human trafficking has been inspiring. We’ve witnessed a historic turning point now that all fifty states have passed laws criminalizing human trafficking. However, criminals are trafficking women, men, and children from coast to coast at horrendous rates. In every state, we need to give prosecutors and law enforcement the right tools to stop traffickers, and state agencies must have the ability to protect survivors and help them reclaim their freedom.” – Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris Project.

Additionally, Polaris Project recently published the report, Human Trafficking Trends in the United States. In it, the organization reveals not only a rising number of human trafficking cases but also an increasing level of community awareness. For example, in the five-year period between 2008 and 2012, the National Trafficking Resource Center (NTRC) hotline received a 259%** increase in reports of human trafficking, a statistic undoubtedly due to the combined increase in cases as well as awareness.

Along with governing bodies and anti-trafficking organizations, the growing amount of national media attention also plays an important role in spreading awareness. For example, in August CNN profiled several victims to learn about their experiences in the sex trade; in December The Kansas City Star wrote a five-part series on human trafficking in America; and just a few days ago USA Today warned of high levels of sex trafficking during the Superbowl.

The Superbowl is the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.” –  Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

Even though human trafficking statistics in the United States remain at inexcusable levels, the good news is that awareness is on the rise – and awareness is always the first step.

If you are a victim or suspect a case of human trafficking, please call the NTRC at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733) for support.

For more information, please visit:

Girls’ Globe Posts on Human Trafficking

GEMS Girls

Not for Sale

UNICEF

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Human Trafficking Program

US Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign

*States in the top Tier 1 have passed “significant [anti-trafficking] laws” while states in the lowest tier, Tier 4, have made “minimal effort.”

**The NTRC hotline received 5,746 calls in 2008 and 20,650 in 2012.

Cover image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Students at Georgia Tech Speak Out for Gender Equality

Tuesday evening, I had the incredible opportunity to speak at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. In the United States, Georgia Tech is one of the top research universities and is dedicated to improving the lives of others through science and technology. Representing Girls’ Globe, I spoke to the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance campus group.

As we discussed issues that affect women and girls worldwide, I tested the students knowledge utilizing Mentimeter, an online tool that allows users to see survey results in real-time.

I was inspired by the students’ participation and passion as they discussed international issues such as child marriage and human trafficking. Students devised solutions based on the need for a greater awareness concerning girls’ rights, education and stricter laws and policies for those who seek to exploit women and girls.

The students’  thoughts and ideas grew as they identified ways to inspire other students and faculty members to promote gender equality and empower women on their campus. As the student body ratio is  67% male and 33% female, situations of inequality often arise. In the classroom, many female students feel that there is not an equal opportunity for them to share their ideas and answer questions. The students present at our discussion, both women and men, are taking a stand to bring greater empowerment for women on Georgia Tech’s campus. During the discussion, students  developed ideas to provide campus-wide gender equality awareness. Through this project, gender-equality related materials will be available via their campus Intranet system. Additionally, several students plan on discussing the idea further and moving forward to create a greater awareness on campus.

Who can change the world?

Students at Georgia Tech ARE creating change and will continue to keep the conversation going to inspire others!

How can students be involved in empowering women and girls?

Jordan Garth, President of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance explains her thoughts:

Want to get Girls’ Globe on your campus?

Contact us and Tweet us @GirlsGlobe!