Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Week of September 23rd

So recently I have been thinking about starting a weekly tradition of posting a blog piece on important happenings and developments in the field of the anti-human trafficking movement. Ideally, I would love to do that on Mondays, but since my schedule right now is a little hectic (welcome to DC I guess!), that might not always happen. So here is the list for this week. 

09/23/2012: This past Monday, at the Human Trafficking Summit at the Florida State University Center for Academic & Professional Development, Tina Frundt, a survivor and founder of Courtney’s House, gave a speech on the particularities of domestic minor sex trafficking by recounting her own experiences. To see the speech, please click here

9/25/2012: Yesterday, President Obama offered an address at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting and the main theme of the speech was human trafficking. The event has now been hailed as a major and significant achievement by many organizations, but the outcome of the new approach remain to be seen, most importantly by the survivors. Some of the highlights of the speech include: 

·         An emphasis on the shift from the model of regarding trafficking survivors as criminals.

·         An emphasis on the U.S. Government’s zero tolerance policy on human trafficking when it comes to government contracts and sub-contracts, especially the federal overseas ones. 

·          An emphasis on the importance of providing the right tools, training, and guidance to those most likely to come across a trafficking situation/case (e.g. law enforcement, federal prosecutors, immigration judges, workforce agencies, and educators). The goal of the training is to endow these professionals with the skills and knowledge to detect, analyze, and properly handle trafficking cases.

·         An emphasis on the need to increase available services to survivors of human trafficking and making access to such services much easier. For example, one of the promises of this initiative is to streamline the current T-visa process. 

9/29/2012: Coming up this Saturday in Washington, DC is the Stop Modern Slavery Walk. I will be there supporting Courtney’s House and the many other organizations participating. Expect an account of that major event next week.

 - Krasi

Friday, September 21, 2012

International Day of Peace

September 21 is the International Day of Peace and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation has launched a video on the prospects of nuclear war and the devastating consequences of such a war.

To watch the three-minute video, click here.

And because it is Friday, how about a great and uplifting song with a strong message! 

 - Krasi

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Victim or Survivor

Ever since I decided to transition from the field of psychology to the field of human rights, I have had to update my resume several times to include the many exciting volunteer, internship, and academic opportunities I have had the privilege to complete. One specific word substitution, however, seems to be the most important revision I have had to make so far. Under the qualifications section, instead of dedication to victim assistance, my resume now reads dedication to survivor assistance. The change might seem subtle and perhaps will not even be noticed by many who review my resume, but it expresses completely the shift from a view that places those in need of assistance as powerless, dependant, and unable to make it without support to a view that regards them as strong, independent, and able to take charge of their lives. 

The debate on whether to refer to abused vulnerable populations as victims or survivors emerged in an Introduction to Human Rights class. The teaching assistant played a video clip of a well-respected journalist visiting a war-torn region in a sub-Saharan nation to speak with those still around and doing their best to keep living. When the clip ended, a discussion ensued and many of my classmates mentioned the role advocates should play to immediately assist “these victims.” At that point, I had to intervene and emphasize that as far as I was concerned, I did not see a single victim in that video clip. I saw women cooking and taking care of children, men searching for shelter to spend the night at a somewhat secure location, and children playing as if they had no care in the world. They had no comfortable and spacious homes, no modern amenities, and no brand-name clothes and shoes, but none of the people interviewed cried, complained, or demanded help. The people I saw in that video clip were survivors, not victims. Survivors who could adapt to the most inhospitable and dangerous environments, who could manage to grasp the value of life even when it is uncertain and painful, or maybe because it is uncertain and painful, and who were content simply to be alive. I have noticed similar attitudes among many human trafficking survivors. These survivors are an inspiration and they need no charity. What they need is an opportunity to enjoy their live, however uncomfortable it might seem to others. 

-      Krasi

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New Yet Old

As I mentioned in my last post, I visited Pakistan this summer. Two weeks were spent in Karachi with my extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins). People I had not seen in 10 years! A country that was all at once familiar yet new; a lot changes in ten years.

Some things I observed:
  • Better infrastructure (roads, electricity, etc)
  • The prevalence and visibility of poverty is still high
  • It is as hot as I remember it to be
  • The food is still DELICIOUS. Seriously. I wanted to smuggle some naan, kulfi and snacks out but I was soon reminded that those darn customs agents would throw everything away. So I did what any sensible person would do: I ATE IT ALL. Case in point:
Me with kulfi. I stopped a rickshaw for this yo. Not the most flattering picture but I keepz it real

Even though my primary goal was to spend time with family, I still made time to do things and craft experiences that I had not had before. And now a pictorial essay:


 Many good times had, food eaten, goods bought and beautiful offerings of the country partaken in.

It wasn't just good times I was looking for though. As an activist and social justice minded individual, I wanted to get a pulse for those things in Pakistan. Lastly, as a woman of Pakistani background, I wanted to know more about the history and experience of the people.

More on all that in my next post!

When was the last time you were overseas in a completely different culture? Did you intentionally choose things to do or did you go with the flow?

- A

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Waiting on the World to Change

Traveling long distances certainly allows me plenty of time to analyze, to ponder, and to reflect. On what, you might ask. Anything really, I would reply. Specifically this past week, a certain theme stirred my brain while I was listening to a particular song on the radio. I guess that’s the side effect of listening to too many songs while driving across the country...

The song is performed by John Mayer and I have no idea what the exact title is, but the line “waiting on the world to change” is what grabbed my attention and what I will focus on here. In accordance with the message coming through the lyrics of this song, I have heard many acquaintances and friends argue that the world we live in demands that people sometimes act in ways that might not be aligned with their aspirations for all humans to be able to enjoy their basic rights. When I discuss with them the issue of human trafficking, for example, they seem to honestly believe that everyday people do not have the power to stand up for freedom and overwhelm the unjust system oppressing so many. Simply put, they are convinced that there is nothing they can do to avoid purchasing slave-made products and ensure that all labour is appropriately rewarded. Lastly, they content that if that world were to change and allow for equal access to basic necessities to enjoy one’s life, then they would be ready to join in and will not fight the new world at all.  

Well, I am tired of everyone wanting the world to change while continuing to live lives that reinforce the existence of inequality, poverty, and slavery. The moment someone starts saying, “If things were different,…,” I emphasize that we cannot simply wait for the world to change so that we can act in ways that are environmentally friendly and that do not require that those less fortunate are regularly exploited. We must play an active part to bring about the change we want to see. To achieve this, we need to work hard to become not only better and more educated consumers, but we should also evolve to become better and more educated advocates. Since each person is an integral part of the unfair world she or he is not satisfied with, the best place to start the process of change is within that same person. And since I am still under the influence of a music theme, I just have to include here one of the greatest songs on the importance of personal change.

-      Krasi

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Time to Talk about Torture Again

It happens to be a rainy day and my plans for a nice hike have been postponed, so what a better way to be productive than to catch up on some reading. Instead of some light reading, however, I picked up Torture and Democracy. Perusing once again Rejali’s detailed account of various torture devices invented and applied through human history and across nations, I started thinking about the distinction between torturers and the tortured.  

For most people, the roles of the torturers and the tortured are clearly defined: those who torture are the strong ones and those tortured are weak, victims, and under the control of the torturers. That is not always the case. Those who focus on exhibiting control over others by using torture are in my opinion weaker, both physically and psychologically, than the individuals they torture. While reading The Question by Henri Alleg, I could not help but think that while the so-called victim is no victim at all, those torturing him are not only victims of the act itself but in the event that the desired outcome is not obtained, they crack. They rely so much on the act of torture and count on the weakness of the tortured that if they do not encounter one, the other, or both, they become slaves to and limited by their anger and aggression. The louder they yell and the more enveloped by anger they become, the weaker they present themselves.

When I was growing up, for example, children were disciplined so that they learn the appropriate mode of conduct and turn into productive and well-behaved adults. I remember instances of hits on the palms, boys being stripped down to their underwear “to learn their lesson”, and many of us asked to stand up, facing the wall, hands up for ten minutes, all because we disrupted the class atmosphere by engaging in such “outrageous” acts such as laughing out loud. The actions on the side of teachers were done with the intention to punish the young students and teach them that misbehaving has consequences, usually negative ones. Well, I certainly learned that there are consequences for every action. The problem was that I never felt that the disciplining methods were proportionate to the alleged violation of conduct that was committed. Therefore, being disciplined only made me angry and more convinced that there is nothing wrong with me; rather, the problem was in the system. As I stood in the principal’s office, being disciplined and reprimanded, I refused to apologize, did not make a sound (as much as it hurt), and once even smiled back. Needless to say, my actions only aggravated the principal and teachers even more. Here was a nine-year-old kid who had the power to make her principal and teacher lose control and yell in desperation. Even then, I knew I was not the victim; they were. The victims to a system that sought control and total domination over everyone’s action and crumbled when it could not achieve these. 

According to many, the developed world has moved away from the methods referred to in the previous paragraph. This is why we denounce corporal punishment. This is why we want to kill humanely, whether animals or persons. What is humane, however, is not the act of killing, but the fact that it is not prolonged and painful. The end result in both situations is largely unfavorable for the person against whom the act is exercised, but for his killers, the notion that they did so humanely helps them preserve the belief that they are still law-abiding persons who love and respect fellow human-beings and will under any other circumstance not even hurt a fly. People are no longer barbarians who take a life as if it means nothing; instead, they have graduated to be civilized creatures who still take a life, but do so humanely, claiming to respect the person whose life is being taken. Even if we convince ourselves that the above is true, the presence and wide application of torture warns that we might not be that far off from our ancestors as we would like to think we are.

-      Krasi