Anti-Slavery International is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that exclusively works to eliminate all forms of slavery. Founded in 1839 by British abolitionists, it is the world’s oldest human rights organization. It is a charity and lobby group that has consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council, participatory status with the Council of Europe, and membership in the International Labour Organization Special List of NGOs. By raising awareness and carrying out campaigns, Anti-Slavery International engages with various governments, international organizations, and local organizations. This NGO works on both a grassroots and international level to better approach specific local needs, and larger systemic needs based on worldwide movements. By approaching human trafficking issues on a local and global level, the organization is able to support individuals and communities, facilitate access to education, and seek justice and compensation for victims.
Human trafficking dates back to the early 1400s with the start of the European slave trade in Portugal and Africa. However, laws against “white slave traffic” weren't brought into legislation until 1904 with the International Agreement for the Suppression of the “White Slave Trade.” Its goal was to protect women and children from being forced or deceived into prostitution.
International Convention for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic, signed by the Kings and Queens of Europe, stated that: “whoever, in order to gratify the passions of another person, has procured, enticed, or led way, even with her consent, with a woman or girl underage, for immoral purposes shall be punished.”
The League of Nations focused the international laws on issues such as human trafficking, which marks the first use of the term “trafficking”.
League of Nations 1927 states: “Those whose duty it has been to grapple with the traffic in women, whether as Government officials, or as members of voluntary associations, are faced with doubts of a different character. Their experience force them to believe that the evil which for so many years has resisted the constant attempts of many countries to uproot it must still exist; but the extent of its operations, and precise form which it assumes at the present time are to them matters of uncertainty.”
League of Nations 1927 sets the goal of maintaining world peace by focusing on issues such a human trafficking. It looks at the number of women engaged in prostitution, the demand, and the environment of women trafficked.
The United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others was adopted, put into force in 1951. The first time that a law regarding trafficking was legally binding. Currently 66 countries have ratified, most have not because they wanted to avoid criminalizing prostitution. This convention made no delineation between free and forced prostitution.
India also passed a Immoral Trafficking act, which prosecuted third parties for trafficking that includes running brothels, living on earnings from sex work, capturing and imprisoning people into prostitution. This act was argued to fail to protect women.
The fourth world conference addressed the issue of trafficking women; it was then recognized as a violent act against women. This event enforced international conventions on trafficking and human slavery, addressed factors that encourage trafficking, set up effective law enforcement and institutions that work to eliminate trafficking both nationally and internationally, and implemented programs including educational and rehabilitation institutions to provide the social, medical and psychological need to trafficking victims.
The next instrument to combat trafficking was passed; The United Nations Protocol Against Trafficking Persons was adopted and came into effect in 2003. It was the first definition of Human Trafficking, and the only international legal instrument addressing all human trafficking as a crime including all forms of exploitation This developed the three P's: Prevention, Protection and Prosecution. The UN thus has this definition for human trafficking as the following:
“the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of use of threat or force or either from of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power, or of a possession of vulnerability or the giving or receiving of payments or benefits consent of a person having the control over another person for the purpose of exploitation*. *Exploitation, should include at minimum; the exploitation of forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs."
The United States passed Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act that classifies trafficking into two different categories and attempts to combat those with their definitions of trafficking and exploitation.
The United Nations Optional Protocol on The Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography entered into force on 18 January 2002.
The first non-profit organization to combat and raise awareness against human trafficking was the Polaris Project, which was started by two students attending Brown University.
President Obama declares January “Human Trafficking awareness month” and January 11 as human trafficking awareness day.
Various non-profits have been started out of this increased knowledge spread about human trafficking. In the end however, legislative methods of combating human trafficking is still the same since 1927: the spread of knowledge, international cooperation, and the criminalization of trafficking.
Labor Trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harbouring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery. Such violations might include domestic services, manufacturing, construction, migrant laboring and other services obtained through subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.
Sex Trafficking involves the recruitment, harbouring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person forced to perform such an act is under the age of eighteen years old.
The organization originated from the anti-slavery societies of the 1820s-30s. In 1823, William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, and Thomas Fowell were the founding members of the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions. This society worked to eradicate slavery in the British Empire and was succeed by the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1839. This successor campaigned against slavery practices and in 1990 it was reestablished as Anti-Slavery International. Anti-Slavery International is an organization with deep roots that has retained its 1839 mission of combating slavery, but has evolved to better combat modern day human trafficking. Currently, it aims to achieve sustainable change and abolish human trafficking by advocating for the recognition of victims, implementing programs to combat human trafficking practices, and addressing the foundational causes and consequences of human trafficking. Anti-Slavery International bases its actions on United Nations treaties against slavery and works with other organizations to combat various forms of slavery such as forced labour and bonded labour, descent-based slavery, child labour, slavery in supply chains, forced and early marriage, and the exploitation of migrant workers.
Anti-Slavery International is working via a grassroots-inspired, project based model to bring about sustained systemic change in eradicating the practice, ignorance, and acceptance of slavery around the world. The organization believes that the elimination of slavery will occur when "top-down" activities (like the implementation of policies by governments and organizations) and "bottom-up" activities (such as the empowerment of people affected by slavery to claim their rights and the adoption of new social norms by societies) collide. Anti-Slavery works to enable victims of slavery to leave, help these people through psychological and legal services, educating from a grassroots level and finally collaborating with key decision makers on putting effective policies in place..
Their concerns include globalization and the potential for mass exploitation in the intricate supply chains of multinational corporations. They recognize that the task of ending slavery and human trafficking is a political one that requires change in the way that business and diplomacy are conducted, as well as change in migration policy is viewed.
The organization has these general goals:
Anti-Slavery re-examined its platform in 2015, establishing new strategic objectives to take it through the next five years, in light of current global disasters such as the Syrian refugee crisis.
Anti-Slavery International aims to spark acknowledgement of human trafficking in institutions and companies and hold them accountable to the legislation and policies they implement. They believe that is important for people in populations vulnerable to being affected by trafficking to be aware of the legal framework in the country they reside in, the rights they have, and the potential risks and hazards of specific occupations that make them more susceptible to being trafficked. By providing this education they hope to inspire confidence and capacity for vulnerable people to assert their rights, as well as participate in collective representation that protects these rights. Anti-Slavery's platform addresses that the proliferation of enslaved people is systemic, deriving from the current political economy and societal discrimination, and they aim to help partner organizations challenge the social norms and attitudes that allow for this proliferation of trafficking, like acceptance of goods and services made by trafficked people in developed countries, as well as sexism and alienation of sex trafficking victims, particularly women. Discrimination is not limited only to gender- class (or caste in some cases) discrimination can also impact the opportunities and abilities that some populations have to escape positions of trafficking. Finally, Anti-Slavery plans to continue expanding its communications ability to accurately educate people about human trafficking globally, and encourage organization of movements against the enslavement of people.
As many other social movements demonstrate, social media is an increasingly powerful tool to spread a message across the globe. The current global awareness and limited immediacy of the human trafficking problem makes it difficult for Anti-Slavery and like organizations to ignite the kind of social media social movement that movements like Black Lives Matter have relied on. Anti-Slavery has an extensive website with detailed reports of their past accomplishments, current plans and future projects, but as of yet it has a small following on social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube, though it is comparable to other organizations dedicated to the eradication of human trafficking.
Effectiveness of Media Presence
Anti-Slavery itself has been unable to create the sort of viral hashtag or story that helps social movements to spread, like the wave of stories, hashtags and posts in the fall of 2016 surrounding the protests against the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline through the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. In fact, the only viral human trafficking sensation of note was the Bring Back Our Girls hashtag in 2014, to protest the kidnapping of nearly 300 girls from a school in Chibok, Nigeria. However, even this viral hashtag- used over 6 million times- failed to produce any notable achievements and soon petered out. Nearly 200 of the kidnapped girls are still missing.
Though Anti-Slavery runs well-maintained media accounts, it faces difficulties in achieving widespread awareness of its cause due to the disconnect many people in the developed world have with human trafficking issues.
Anti-Slavery is leading a project called the Anti Trafficking Monitoring Group, set up in 2009. This group is made up of 12 major anti-trafficking organizations, like Amnesty International and the Human Trafficking Foundation. This group has done extensive reporting on human trafficking issues, determining in an April 2012 report that prevention was most lacking in the UK out of their “3 Ps”- prevention, protection, and prosecution.
The ATMG found that “found that coordination of anti-trafficking efforts, including prevention, has been fragmented” and there is an “absence of a clearly identifiable national anti-trafficking coordinator”. The report criticizes British anti-trafficking policy for emphasizing law enforcement and immigration control, rather than taking on the root causes of trafficking. This group helped bring the Modern Slavery Bill to light in British Parliament, and has since worked to improve and amend the bill’s shortcomings. Critics have said the bill is “The bill is wholly and exclusively about law enforcement” and “very poor on victim protection”, as it focuses mainly on the prosecution of those involved in sex trafficking.
Anti-Slavery is also working on a project “to improve knowledge about the nature and scale of trafficking of children and adults… across Europe.” The project goals are: • Enhancing knowledge and awareness amongst law enforcement, policy makers, legislators, the media and civil society of human trafficking for forced criminal activities in Europe • Training practitioners in three European sub-regions on intervention in cases of forced criminal activities and begging • Building cross-EU links and strengthen partnerships amongst relevant stakeholders
A report by this group on the state of human trafficking in Europe determined that their are the legislative tools within the EU to combat human trafficking, but they are underused. The project recommended several notable adjustments to EU policy:
This project provides training and materials for potential economic migrants and their families. It is estimated that over 500 000 Indians work in Qatar, a number that is expected to grow in anticipation of the 2022 World Cup that is being held in Qatar, requiring vast amounts of labor to build the infrastructure needed for the event. However arduous conditions of work, torture, widespread forced labour and even the death potentially await at the construction sites. The project aims to inform workers of the possibilities and challenges of migrating, empowering them with knowledge of correct recruitment policies and procedures. It aims to enhance their ability to access rights and entitlements, including safe remittance channels, and empowering them to resolve crisis situations and avoid exploitation.
Anti-Slavery International's bottom-up approaches include calling for individual or corporate donations for funding, advocating for individual or organizational membership, and the Fundraise for Freedom projects..
Individual or Organizational Membership
The movement's goals for members include:
Fundraise for Freedom
The Fundraise for Freedom projects are coordinated between Anti-Slavery International's local, student, and church groups to raise funds, increase awareness and educate the public through organized events including "Run for Freedom" marathons, charity parties and performances, talks and similar projects. Two important dates for these events are October 18 or Anti-Slavery Day and March 25 or the International Day of Remembrance of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Events that take place on Anti-Slavery Day are aimed at pressuring government, local authorities, public institutions and private and public companies to address the scale and scope of human trafficking. Events organized on the International Day of Remembrance focus on honoring and remembering those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal slavery system.
Anti-Slavery International works with governmental and non-governmental actors as well as individual companies in order to create solutions on a case by case basis. As a result, the organization plays a role on both local and global levels. Raising awareness and increasing the social conscious for the prevalence of human trafficking and slavery in the modern economy, Anti-Slavery International has legitimate legislative changes based on their efforts.
Previous Notable Achievements
Organizations aimed at eradicating human trafficking in its many forms face a myriad of obstacles because of the invisible nature of its practice. It is difficult to implement effective legislation when human trafficking does not function within the formal economy. This means many cases are never brought before the court as well as making research extremely difficult to conduct, resulting in very little available, accurate or consistent data. The lack of concrete data means there is not a global awareness of the prevalence of human trafficking with many people in the Global North assuming it is a problem pertaining only to the Global South. Furthermore, there is no social outcry as it is difficult to produce reliable statistics and information about human trafficking due to it's unregulated nature.
Current discourse surrounding the anti-trafficking movement is centred largely around perceptions of victims, conflicting or untrustworthy data, inconsistent enforcement of anti-trafficking policies, and the role of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
Ratna Kapur states that the anti-trafficking campaign is problematic in that it generalizes women across all cultures and “cannot accommodate a multi-layered experience." She argues that a focus on violence against woman portrays women in the developing world as “victims of their culture”, which privileges the culture of the West and reinforces views of women in the developing world as “perpetually marginalized." This in turn has invited responses focused on criminal law aiming to punish violence, sometimes even used to justify restrictions on women’s rights, for their own protection. The modern-day image that Western societies have of a victimized woman in the developing world evokes colonial constructions of non-Western women as “sexually constrained, tradition-bound… illiterate, and poor.".” Though the victim movement has highlighted the fact that there is violence against women that constitutes a human rights violation, these representations perpetuate cultural and gender stereotypes and lead to ineffective legal solutions that do little to actually advance women’s rights.. Similarly, Andrijasevic and Mai argue that there is a tendency to portray victims as exceptions rather than productions of neoliberal globalization, which leads to the legitimizing of Western intervention in developing countries. They discuss how for many migrants, sex work can be “an income generating activity and an opportunity to achieve social mobility." Anti-trafficking measures can result in stricter anti-immigration measures that can actually lead to more abuse of migrants who then go through third parties for cross-border travel. Andrijasevic and Mai characterize the anti-trafficking movement as over-simplified, explaining that the criminalization of low wage and irregular work can lead to the detention and arrest of both trafficked and non-trafficked persons. This leads to the persistence of the passive “trafficking victim”, as opposed to an active migrant worker. Stereotyped representations of trafficked women also create a “false dichotomy” between “ideal and real victims," excluding women who do not fit the definition of the ideal victim and proliferating differences between citizens and non-citizens.
In his study of trafficking enforcement in 168 different countries, Amahazion explains states’ tendencies to use prosecution based approaches to combat trafficking, while failing to fully implement policies on the other two areas critical to ending trafficking- prevention and protection. He argues that trafficking victims have been left unprotected amidst states’ concerns regarding “security, uncontrolled immigration, mass movements of undocumented individuals… and the integrity of borders." He documents that higher numbers of INGOs, and a greater “embeddedness within world society" contributes to better enforcement of anti-trafficking policies. The study also found that government effectiveness was key to enforcement- not only must a state implement anti-trafficking policy, but it must possess the means to follow through on human rights rhetoric. Amahazion concluded that female representation in parliament and the democratic-autocratic scale were not good indicators of whether a nation had been successful in enforcing anti-trafficking, showing that “trafficking enforcement is not directly impacted by the internal structure of a state’s political system or the individuals comprising it." Meanwhile, Weitzer criticizes academic articles that treat reports from government agencies and the United Nations as facts, when these organizations often fail to disclose their data sources and methodologies. He asserts that there is no compelling proof for the claims that human trafficking is steadily growing and that it is the second largest criminal enterprise in the world, as well highlighting noticeable divisions between anti-trafficking organizations in how they define trafficking and the prescriptions they offer to end trafficking. Weitzer also questions the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which defines anyone under the age of 18 as a trafficking victim, how underage sex workers can be legally defined as victims but treated as offenders, and whether it is fair to always classify young people as victims when arguments could be made for their individual agency.
Schloenhardt and Hunt-Walshe, in their analysis of anti-trafficking groups in Australia, largely praise the work of NGOs that are not faith-based and are not sex worker support groups, which they claim can skew victim-support measures. NGOs like the Australian Red Cross provide non-governmental facades to governmental operations, making them more approachable for trafficking victims. Frontline NGOs can also build a close relationship with communities that are impacted by human trafficking through cultural sensitivity and language proficiency that government organizations may not be able to do. NGOs can also provide a victim-oriented approach rather than one built on criminalization and victimization, as law enforcement and government approaches tend to do, as discussed above. This approach requires moving away from treating people who have been trafficked as passive objects, and instead as individuals with agency and civil liberties. Also necessary to this approach is “helping (victims) retake control of their lives, respecting their decisions and choices, and providing victim recovery services that fit with the immediate needs and rights of individuals rather than the needs of a criminal investigation." Schloenhardt and Hunt-Walshe conclude that NGOs can fill gaps left by government programs and provide assistance to those who are unwilling or unable to go through government channels to get help, though they acknowledge that there are still certain gaps in NGO coverage. These include lack of programs for male trafficking victims, as the vast majority of NGOs cater mainly to trafficked women, limited access to help outside of large urban centres in Western countries especially, and no national support centre for trafficked persons.
There is little consensus on the data surrounding human trafficking, and continued issues with governmental implementation and enforcement of anti-trafficking policies. Anti-Slavery International claims to work within the guidelines set out of Schloenhardt and Hunt-Walshe in its treatment of victims and goals for reaching beyond legal measures and changing perceptions of trafficking and trafficked persons, but risks neo-colonial overstep when intervening in developing countries. The lack of agreed-upon data in the anti-trafficking movement makes it difficult for any organization to accurately assess the situation, while most NGOs also have a limited ability to impact legal decisions made by governments on how to criminalize traffickers, and the enforcement of those policies. The anti-trafficking movement has struggled with the broadness of the issue, a problem that affects almost every country on earth to some degree. As a social movement, anti-trafficking has failed to coalesce into one unifying effort as others have, but with hundreds of NGOs actively working on anti-trafficking issues every day, there is an established network to continue to bring about change.