Post #8

What insights did you gain doing research on your country?

The guest lecturers I found most engaging and informative were the speakers who you could tell really cared about their topic and had extensive knowledge.

Jamila Raqib from the Albert Einstein Institution especially struck me with her presentation because of how informed and well spoken she was. I found myself wondering more about nonviolent action and about her personally after she concluded. She talked about nonviolent action in as an objective of way as she possibly could have from her standpoint. She presented the issue in a way that let the audience take in information and then form questions. I noticed that her lecture produced some of the most questions from the audience during any of the lectures. She knew seemingly everything there was to know as far as nonviolent action, how to obtain resources, and who her information was used by. I found it interesting that she would take the time to come speak to our class in Missouri when she represents a nationally recognized and involved organization. Overall, I liked that she spoke extremely well and presented information for us to think about and form our opinions instead of forcing a viewpoint down our throats. 

I also really liked the lecture given by Soren Larsen about the Cheslatta-Carrier Nation. Larsen spoke with such an intensity about the subject that it made me want to know more immediately. Even though the lecture was about a very specific problem that affected a very specific part of the world, it was apparent how the lessons learned and the behaviors witnessed and recounted by Larsen could be applied to situations worldwide where people have more connection to the land in their culture. I liked how his lecture emphasized the differences in culture that might be in our own backyard, and how industry in all countries tends to ignore these practices. His story was one of David and Goliath, which grabbed me and made me feel for the Cheslatta people. I especially liked how Larsen had been to the area multiple times, had become accepted by the people, and really cared for their welfare. That made for a much more engrossing lecture than if someone who had merely read about or even visited the area once had told us about the Cheslatta and their rights and troubles.

The main insight that I gained while doing research on Belgium is that it is a deeply divided nation, which I did not know before. The country is basically cut into three parts, and each part not only tends to keep to itself, but it competes with the others for resources, and even in aspects of pride. It struck me how much more affluent the French-speaking area of Wallonia was in comparison to its Dutch-speaking counterpart, Flanders. And in the capitol region of Brussels, a giant melting pot of more cultures that Dutch and French mix together to create a lot of unrest in that region. The language barriers create problems in federal government, where the regions compete for funding.

When I did my research on the Belgian Red Cross for the second paper in this class I was struck that even NGOs like the Red Cross are broken up by region and by language. In America, the Red Cross is one entity, and America is much, much larger than Belgium. But in Belgium, the four Red Cross branches within Belgium act both independently and together to aid certain areas.

In sum, Belgian is a country rich in history and is a somewhat hidden cultural crossroads. The country has been in the middle of many major historical events and wars, and has been the background to major terror attacks in current times. It is however, ahead of other countries when it comes to ecological action and protection; but it does experience the same problems as many other nations worldwide, including sex trafficking.



#Post 8 – Aaron Pellish

I think the lectures that were most interesting were one’s that spoke on personal experience with a region or group of people that allowed me to gain appreciation and insight for a particular region. So the two lectures that I distinctly remember being very interesting were the lecture from the guy who lived with the native tribe in Canada and the two girls who are from Nigeria and spoke on their culture and traditions (I’m sorry, but I am not very good at remembering names and for some reason I forgot to write them down).

I think the guy who lived with the native tribe was really interesting because he was able to make explicit unifying beliefs and core tenants of that particular native tribe that informed various elements of the culture. Obviously, it is incredibly hard for an outsider to infiltrate any type of community and learn enough about them to identify that community’s core values and connect them to that community’s rituals and traditions. But I would imagine that it is especially hard to do that as a white American entering a Native American community given the history between those two groups of people. I also really appreciated his enthusiasm for the topic. He was really passionate about what he was talking about, and that helped me engage with the issue more. Plus, I remember him being very forthright in his discussion of that tribe, specifically regarding the idea that not everybody in the tribe thought he was honest or was welcoming to him. I think that sort of nuance helps bring credibility to his research and grounds his discussion in some level of reality, and because if felt like a real and honest discussion, it made the conversation much more interesting.

I also really enjoyed the discussion held by the two study abroad students from Nigeria. I think they had really interesting things to say about Nigerian culture. Nigerian culture is something that I am personally becoming more and more interested in, and so it was nice to hear them explore, for example, Nigerian fashion or Nigerian food. Plus, I’m also becoming very interested in speech patterns and accents, and so I am not ashamed to admit that I was enraptured by their accents and speaking styles the entire time. Maybe that was not the most educational part of their lecture, but for me it was incredibly informative and it entertained my curiosity greatly.

In researching my country, I was able to learn more about the climate of French politics and government. Specifically, I was able to understand why the French government and French political figures have a reputation for being hardline and uncompromising. For example, I learned about how the French government sent spies to blow up the Greenpeace main sea vessel, the Rainbow Warrior, in order to prevent them from protesting a nuclear test that they were conducting. I think behavior like that was a revelation to me, and I think it epitomized the way the French government handles its affairs both domestically and internationally.

Post #8

The guest lecture that will stick with me after this course is over is the one about the Cheslatta Carrier First Nation. Part of that comes from how passionate the professor who spoke was about his experience with that nation. He clearly had strong feelings about their situation and hearing how he had spent years of his life focused on preserving their language and mapping their land was particularly interesting.

That discussion, while very specific to the particularities of the Cheslatta’s land rights and the hydroelectric dam project, illuminated some larger ideas as well. My initial reaction to his experience was that of discomfort. I was skeptical of the implications of this white, educated, American man intervening in this society in such a way that in some ways mirrored colonial relationships between indigenous people and white colonists. His clearly emotional relationships that he’s built over the years obviously benefit him and his work, and the cynical part of me recognizes that he is going to monetize his experience with them through his upcoming book.

However, I felt like he addressed a lot of those concerns with humility in his discussion. He admitted that not everyone in the Cheslatta nation felt comfortable with him integrating himself. Despite that, I think it was clear by the end of the presentation that he was able to provide a concrete good with his work there.

His discussion about the symbolism and meaning of place as it related to the burial grounds was thought-provoking. That, in combination with the readings for that week, led me to think of places in a new way. I have never had those types of spiritual relationships to places, but it was illuminating to learn and understand how for some people places have agency.
As for insights I gained while blogging, I think the main one is that no country is very clear cut. I would not say that I have a complete knowledge of Turkey after reading about it for a couple of months. In fact, I think this blogging project helped me see how places are unknowable in a lot of ways. You can move somewhere new, live there for several years, and still not fully understand that country in a complete or accurate way. And I think the same goes for places you grew up in as well. Your knowledge of a place is filtered through your experience in a way that dilutes absolute truth. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just should humble you into realizing how much you don’t and will never know.

Post #7 – Aaron Pellish

Regional Sex Trafficking

In France, sex trafficking and sex slavery is a significant issue. To be honest, it’s a much bigger issue than I thought it would be. But that’s the nature of sex slavery and human trafficking; it’s always a bigger problem then we realize because it operates in the shadows of our society. The French government estimates that there are at least 18,000 women in the nation’s commercial sex industry, and that the majority of those women have most likely been forced into prostitution. France also has influence in several international territories, including incredibly impoverished states like French Guiana and Haiti. This begs a series of questions about the responsibility of France to stop these human rights violations.

In its Trafficking in Person Report from 2010, The United States government categorized France as a Tier 1 nation (the highest tier) when it comes to enforcing standards against human trafficking. Countries in Tier 1 are “countries whose governments fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards.” Those minimum standards, which were set in 2000, state that governments should do four basic things to encourage the elimination of human trafficking. They should 1) prohibit severe forms of trafficking and punish such acts 2) should severely punish those who force people into sex industry, either by force, coercion, rape, kidnapping or violence 3) should punish sex trafficking with sufficient punishments so as to deter sex trafficking and reflect the heinous nature of the crime, and 4) should make serious and sustained efforts to eliminate severe forms of trafficking. Based on this standard, the United States feels that France is fulfilling its governmental obligation to prevent sex trafficking. But of course, these preventions are primarily defined in terms of a government’s penal code, rather than it’s policies or trade politics with nations who have reputations for trafficking women. But apparently, this goes beyond the minimum expectation for a government.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

The most obvious of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals which pertains to human trafficking, and sex trafficking particular, is the goal of gender equality, which calls for the elimination of all harmful practices towards women. It cites child marriage, early marriage, forced marriage and female genital mutilation as its examples, but obviously sex trafficking falls into this category as well. And the argument for nations to respect the health and humanity of women is fairly strong. The UN argues that enacting gender equality “will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.”

I think the quickest way for underdeveloped countries that suffer from high levels of human trafficking need to enact the penal code oriented policies that were put forth by the TVPA. Simply by having governments and legal systems that harshly punish human trafficking all over the world, not just in the West, I think our world will take a big step forward towards eliminating human trafficking in our society.

I think the UN Sustainable Development Goal which will most quickly address the problem with many government’ penal codes is the goal to Promote Just, Peaceful and Inclusive Societies. Many of the targets in this goal refer to ending corruption in government and creating transparency in public institutions. I think by doing that, it will force some third-world governments that are plagued by corruption and allowed to rule with opaque autonomy to reshape its laws and penal codes to work for the people, not against them, and I think that will ultimately help reduce the level of human trafficking in our society.

Post #7

Sex trafficking is a global issue, so Turkey is not immune to the problem. Historically it has been an issue in Turkey particularly with the trafficking of women from former Soviet countries, as the LA Times report in 2006. The majority of the women were aged from 18 to 24 and about half came from Moldova and Ukraine. The LA Times reported that the estimation of the profits of those women’s sex slavery was $3.6 billion over the course of one year alone.

Turkey is considered a “destination country” because of its geographic location. Often these women are offered other jobs like cleaning or childcare before entering Turkey, much like some of the stories in Half the Sky, and then once they arrive, their passports are taken and they are forced to work in the sex industry, according to the UNHCR. While Turkey has made some efforts to address the problem of human trafficking within its borders, the UNHCR says it has not done enough. It recommends that Turkey ratify legislation against human trafficking, create more supports for victims of human trafficking, prosecute traffickers more heavily, and train their police forces to better identify victims.  Others are suggesting that Turkey enact legislation that would make human trafficking violations be classified as terrorism.

What further exacerbates the situation currently is how the refugee crisis has increased the number of people vulnerable to the threat of human trafficking. A 2014 report on the state of female Syrian migrants “tells of early and forced marriages, polygamy, sexual harassment, human trafficking, prostitution, and rape that criminals inflicted upon Syrians in Turkey.” The report found that girls aged 15 to 20 were the most vulnerable to forced prostitution, but that younger girls were still affected as well.

The Sustainable Development Goals do specifically mention human trafficking as an issue to be dealt with in three of the goals: 5, 8, and 16. The fifth SDG is all about gender equality, aiming to end discrimination against women and girls entirely. The eighth SDG focuses on providing “decent” work for sustainable economic growth and part of that promotion of employment for all works as a way to “eradicate forced labour, slavery and human trafficking.” The sixteenth SDG works to reduce violence and promote just and peaceful societies, citing that where there are lax laws sexual violence and exploitation must be addressed.

So what can be done to fight human trafficking? Well I think it’s clear that human trafficking is a global phenomenon that as citizens of the world, we are all responsible for ending. But I also think it’s important to acknowledge that since the problem is so widespread, it can feel intimidating to try and tackle it. And the standard question of how you as an individual can do anything is understandable too, but in order to really combat the issue, we need to push past that attitude. The State Department has a list of ways that individuals can help fight human trafficking, including several ways that you can stay aware of the issue, be an observer of the injustice, and report what you see happening in your community.

Here’s how Obama has responded during his administration: 

Post #7

Human trafficking is occurring in practically every area of the globe. To think otherwise would be naive. Human trafficking is not only occurring in places like India or Pakistan, where more stories of victims have come to light. It occurs in what the world considers to be “well developed” or “moral” countries. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), hundreds of thousands of women and girls are trafficked to and from European countries year to work as virtual slaves in the sex industry. The country of my focus, Belgium, is such a country.

Belgium is involved in  European-type culture, which means that nudity and sex are not as taboo as they are in some countries. Some experts believe that a heightened sense of morality, an increase in rules about sexuality and purity, or high religious affiliation in large geographic areas may result in an increase in sex trafficking. The idea is that the more devout a culture is, the more that young men are encouraged to look outside their relationships with actual partners and participate in prostitution. This increases the demand for human trafficking and the amount of culture and social acceptance of sex slavery and prostitution in a country. It should be pointed out, however, that this is only a theory.

While Belgium does not experience these cultural consequences, it does have a problem with human trafficking which lies mainly in the law. In fact, the area is accused of having a high amount of tolerance to prostitution.

According to the United States Department of State’s 2014 Trafficking Report, “Belgium is a destination, transit, and a limited source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.” The report also states, however, that the government of Belgium completely complies with the minimum standards for reducing human trafficking. Although, this calls into question what the minimum standards are, and if they are high enough. states that, “Last year it was estimated there were 30,000 prostitutes working in Belgium, half of which came from Eastern Europe, although the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights confirms statistics on sex trafficking are impossible to obtain.”

Prostitution is not a crime in Belgium; however, the exploitation of another person is deemed prosecutable by law. This allows prostitution to hide away (somewhat) from the law. On the other side of the coin, though, is the notion that both the European and Belgian work against human trafficking is, by global standards, progressive. In general, according to Expactica, clubs or businesses that make a lot of money from their goings on are considered to be exploiting. But for obvious reasons, this is a very thin and foggy line, and more could definitely be done to reduce human trafficking and sex slavery in Belgium.

In Born Free, Sarah E. Mendelson addresses the faults of previous U.S policy and former Sustainable Development Goals. She brings to light the fact that human trafficking was not expressly mentioned in any of the goals or documentation from the previous Outcome Document and Sustainable Development Goals from 2000. Without the express mention of terminating human trafficking and sex slavery, many non-government organizations were able to have a hands-off approach on the issue. Many NGOs that the government enlisted for help on the Sustainable Development Goals backed away from the issue of human trafficking, stating that they had no interest in it or it was not one of their main focuses.

However, the new Sustainable Development Goals which go (or already have gone) into effect in 2016, are supposed to be more effective than their predecessor. While they do not expressly mention intentions to try to  eradicate of human trafficking as a practice in the U.S., the document sets out some goals which have to do with the issue. Goal five states that gender equality and the empowerment of women will be worked on, while goal eight aims to promote decent work and economic environments for all people.

I believe that this “dancing around the issue,” while it may be getting better in some countries, is a worldwide attitude about sex slavery, prostitution, and human trafficking. From the United States to Belgium, governments are afraid to take decisive stances against the issue. In Belgium, more must be done to increase awareness and increase the influence of government in stopping human trafficking. In the United States, more must be done. In every country across the globe, more must be done.