Human Rights @OSU

Student Work on Human Rights

In their coursework, activism, and everyday lives, students at Ohio State are involved in human rights. Here we will feature some of that amazing work!


Human Trafficking: Realities and Representations (Spring 2017)

In this class, students are learning about the legal, cultural, and political histories of forced labor and human trafficking as well as the complexities of how to understand, represent and address human rights. Our course site hosts a blog where students are putting their research and tech skills to work.  Here are several examples (click on their names to go to their posts on the course site) of posts from the semester:

Conrad Rinto, a Slavic and East European Studies MA student, analyzes the issue of corporate liability as an anti-trafficking tool.  Looking in particular at the recent Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 H.R. 644 (TFTEA), he asks whether tighter regulations of commodity sourcing can have an impact on labor exploitation.

Kathryn Ryan, a Russian major, closely examines how trafficking is portrayed in Mimi Chakarova’s documentary film The Price of Sex (2012).  What do we learn about what trafficking is, through this film?  Ryan is concerned about how representation plays a crucial role in shaping how we understand social problems.

Matthew Duncan, a triple Russian, French and WGSS major, asks why men and boys are rarely depicted as the victims of human trafficking.  As Matthew explains, the problem with the “perfect victim” scenario is that men/boys are not easily seen as potential victims. Furthermore, the same “perfect victim” makes it difficult for women/girls whose experiences do not mirror the common scenarios of trafficking depicted in public discourse.

Human Trafficking law provides only a general idea of the problem.  In the second blog post, students researched a context where trafficking occurs. This research is vital for both understanding why forced labor happens and for devising adequate policies and strategies to combat it.

Veronica Valladares, an International Studies and WGSS major, examined sugar production and the common use of forced labor in that industry.  Given that the average American consumes 130 pounds of sugar a year, it is important to understand how sugar consumption is linked to human rights violations.

Randal Rowe, a graduate student in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures, looks not at a commodity but at a region to better understand a context of human trafficking.  Development of Russia’s Far East, namely it’s principal city Vladivostok, has been named a main priority of Vladimir Putin’s government.  But the humanitarian crisis in North Korea and the illegal movement of Chinese migrants to the region also facilitate avenues for forced labor.