Eastern Boys and the Western Gaze: Representations of Trafficking in Film

Often Hollywood, the commercial film industry, and directors will explicitly take up the issue of human trafficking/sex trafficking in their works. Many of are likely very familiar with works like the Taken series. Others familiar with representations of sex trafficking may have heard of Lilya 4 Ever and Sestre (Sisters), while still others may know Take Out in a human smuggling/labor trafficking context.

To add to add to the “representations of human trafficking” canon I would submit for your consideration a work of commercial European cinema that, despite some of its pitfalls, excels in portraying the complexity of the issue. Robin Campillo’s 2013 film Eastern Boys (whether or not it intends to) disrupts highly gendered and heteronormative narratives of sex-trafficking, draws connections between sex- and labor-trafficking, and complicates the boundary between human smuggling and human trafficking.

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Voices of Survivors

In this class we’ve learned a whole lot about how people come to “see” trafficking. We have defined human trafficking, identified the importance of addressing the demand for exploitation, and the many contexts in which trafficking occurs. As we challenged ourselves to create an anti-trafficking campaign, I realized how beneficial it would have been to have had the perspective of someone who has experienced these situations.

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Overview of Human Trafficking Preventative Education in Ohio Schools


Since 2000, there have been numerous State efforts to combat human trafficking following National and International efforts. While most states have been trying to combat the issue, there have been large differences in the scope, variety and impact of these efforts by different states.  Ohio has been one of the more effective and forward-thinking states regarding human trafficking awareness. According to Ranade Janis, the former anti-trafficking coordinator for the state of Ohio,

“Ohio’s progress in combating trafficking is both exciting and sobering, more victims have access to justice, and more offenders are being punished because of a strong state response, a committed network of victim service providers and survivor advocates, and trained law enforcement. But this means more victims continue to emerge from the shadows of exploitation, more intensive law enforcement investigations are necessary to lock up traffickers, and more trauma-informed care is necessary to help survivors rebuild their lives.” (1)

Since the creation of the Governor’s Task Force, education seems to be seen as one of the best way to combat the issue. This includes mandated training on human trafficking for a variety of professionals. (2)

Ohio Laws on Education in Schools on Trafficking:

For example, according to a report on the education of teachers (key influencers) and students (3), in Ohio, prevention education training sessions for professionals such as teachers, counselors and nurses are state mandated. In June of 2013, the Ohio House passed Substitute House Bill 59, adding human trafficking to the required topics to be covered during the four-hour in-service training before the start of the school year. The law states:

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Labor Exploitation on Door-to-Door Sales Crews

When people think of labor trafficking, it is often in the context of agricultural work. However, there are many different industries that depend on the labor of exploited adults and children. One such industry is door-to-door sales crews. Many people at some point in their lives have opened their front door to face a child or adult trying to sell them a product such as overpriced magazine subscriptions. The majority of people will politely say no thank you and close their doors without giving it a second thought. Most people would never suspect that the salesperson at their door could be a victim of exploitation and trafficking.

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Backpage.com and Child Sex Trafficking

Backpage.com was launched in 2004 by New Times Media, owned by Michael Lacey and James Larkin, as a classified ad website similar to Craigslist. However, it was not until Craigslist closed its “adult services” section in 2010 that Backpage exploded, becoming the second largest classified advertising website. In the two months after Craigslist closed adult services, Backpage saw a 50 percent growth in adult services advertising. Over the next eight years, Backpage hosted 80 percent of online sex ads, saw annual profits rise from 71 million to 154.8 million, was sued by multiple families of  survivors for facilitating prostitution of minors, and was investigated by the Senate Permeant Subcommittee for Investigations (SPSI), which resulted in criminal trafficking charges. (Mazzio, 2017). Continue reading

Specialized Court Dockets: CATCH Court & Beyond

For this final blog post, I would like to explore the idea of specialized courts in the area of human trafficking. I have had the opportunity to watch and experience CATCH Court in Franklin County over the past few years and it really is just such an incredible model that I believe should be replicated all over the country. It is an extremely effective way to handle these types of victim-defendants of women that have been trafficked. Women in these situations are referred to as “victim-defendants” because they are technically a defendant being charged with prostitution or solicitation in the criminal justice system, yet they are clearly a victim of being trafficked. I would like to dive deeper into the specifics of CATCH Court, as well as look as what other courts around the country are doing.

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Coffee Consumption Consciousness: Where does your coffee come from?

Here at The Ohio State University, we loveee coffee. But what are the effects of this infatuation?



OSU <3’s Coffee

Upon beginning the investigation into where our coffee at OSU is sourced from, the first problem we encountered was the lack of transparency by Hubbard and Cravens. A stark contrast to Crimson Cup, whose website has an entire section on their Friend2Farmer initiative, a direct trade program that goes a step beyond the ideas for Fair Trade. Within their Friend2Farmer program, they are committed to becoming involved in the coffee-growing communities to cultivate a better standard of living for the people within them. The Ohio State University states on its website that they have a commitment to becoming 100% direct trade. The Assistant Director of Dining Services stated that this is why they gave Hubbard and Cravens the deal to be on campus instead of Starbucks two years ago. If it is their goal to become 100% direct trade, this is comforting. But they also state their wish to become 100% transparent about food sourcing, which Hubbard and Cravens is not.

Dining services is primed to sell about 305,000 cups of coffee in spring semester alone through the two on-campus coffee suppliers Crimson Cup and Hubbard and Cravens. A cup of coffee can average around $2.25, which is about $686,250 per semester, for drip coffee and Americano coffee alone. This figure does not include lattes or other specialty drinks. With this, it bears mentioning that on average, 41% of American Adults drink coffee daily, with 60% of the population drinking on occasion. Additionally, around 78% of college students drink coffee daily.

Field to Cup – How do we get our coffee?


Supply chains can be very intricate, and coffee is no exception. Coffee is an industry where monitoring a company’s manufacturing process can become incredibly obscured since there are several steps in the production of coffee. According to Brown Political Review, “The production of coffee generally contains seven levels – growing, harvesting, hulling, drying and packing, bulking, blending, and roasting – in addition to intermediaries, including transporters, exporters, and retailers.” This obscurity can contribute to the sidestepping of labor laws and ethical work conditions in certain countries.

On the Hubbard and Cravens’ website, it is stated that their coffee is sourced from  El Salvador, Colombia, Honduras, and Guatemala.

There are seventeen countries identified by U.S. Department of Labor as culprits of using child labor. These countries are Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, El Salvador, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, and Vietnam. In Côte d’Ivoire, both forced and child labor are used. In the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, Columbia is listed as a Tier 1 country ( a country which meets the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)) while Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Sierra Leone, Togo, Uganda, and Vietnam are all Tier 2 countries (Do not meet TVPA requirements but are striving to do so). Costa Rica, Guinea, and Tanzania are cited as Tier 2 Watch List Counties (are striving to meet TVPA requirements but there is a great danger for citizens in said country). Additionally, in the TIP Report from 2016 coffee is produced by forced or child labor in Côte d’Ivoire, Mexico, and Togo. However, Verité has uncovered indications of forced labor in the coffee supply chains in Guatemala.

It was found that in Honduras 40% of the coffee that is harvested is done so by children. When prices are high children must leave school to harvest, and when they’re low they must leave school because their families cannot afford to send them. Additionally, in Guatemala, harvesters are not paid minimum wage and are denied the basic employee benefits that are required by law. On coffee plantations, the owners are able to impart forced labor by keeping workers in constant debt, an exploitive move that resembles the sharecropping that was legal after emancipation. The owners of the land make sure that if the workers have constant debt then they have to work for free until the debt is paid off. This leads to workers being in permanent forced labor.

Ethically Sourced?

Fair Trade logos, http://mediafairtrade.org/fair-trade/ 

Ethical consumption: “the purchase of a product that concerns a certain ethical issue (human rights, labor conditions, animal well‐being, environment, etc.) and is chosen freely by an individual consumer.”

What does this mean for our coffee? Well, for Crimson Cup, this idea is clear in their Friend2Farmer Program. However, Hubbard and Cravens lacks this transparency, and unlike Crimson Cup, does not proudly display the Fair Trade seal on its website. This concerns us because though we know that OSU is committed to becoming 100% direct trade, does this mean that their direct trade is also Fair Trade?

Fair Trade means purchasing “products from farmers in developing countries on terms that are relatively more favorable than commercial terms and marketing them in developed countries at an ethical premium.” Fair Trade certification requires evaluation by independent auditors to ensure requirements are met. The well-being of the individuals growing and processing products and their surrounding environment  are the main focus.  Once in compliance with the standards companies can sell their products with the Fair Trade Certified™ seal. The premium earned with this label goes to the producers and workers in that supply chain. Companies have to meet rigorous requirements to ensure that their products can be sold under this label.  The Agricultural Production Standard (APS) sets the standards for Fair Trade USA Certified™ agricultural production globally. APS compliance criteria is grouped as : • Empowerment • Fundamental Rights at Work • Wages, Working Conditions and Access to Services • Biodiversity, Ecosystem Function, and Sustainable Production • Traceability and Transparency • Internal Management System.

How can you get involved?

We want OSU to clarify and commit to selling only Fair Trade/Ethically Sourced coffee. If you agree with us:

Sign the Petition!



Add us on social media for updates and news!

Facebook: CoolBeans

Twitter: @coolbeansOSU


You CAN urge Ohio State to be more transparent in their supply chain! We just want to make sure that this institution is getting coffee from ethical sources!


Written in conjunction with Ana Hoosier, Rachael Herman, Lucky Sandhu, and Harrison Lejeune.

How a Growing Construction Industry will Increase Labor Trafficking via the Internet

Human trafficking is a global problem that has its roots in large structures that can be complex and intricate.  With these large and complex issues at the center of discussion, smaller components and specific industries get lost in the discussion.  And one of these industries is the construction industry.  However, it is important to analyze how interrelated labor trafficking and the Internet are and how it works in relation to the construction industry.   How does the Internet lead to trafficking in this industry?  Are there ways to prevent this?  What do current and future trends in the construction industry imply regarding labor trafficking?  How interconnected is the Internet and the construction industry?  It is important to ask these questions because the Internet plays a key role in recruiting and deceiving individuals.

To discuss the Internet’s role in trafficking for labor, first, it is important to note what the construction industry looks like currently.  In a 2015 report, it was stated that the construction industries in the Middle East and Africa are expected to be the fastest growing from 2016 to 2020 and that it would overtake the Asia-Pacific region.  The report also stated that investor confidence in the Eurozone will continue to decline due to its precarious state, which implies that investment in construction projects will decrease, and that the number of jobs in the industry will decline[1].  According to a 2017 survey on the global construction industry, cost inflation in 2016 was at 3.7% while it was forecasted to be 3.5% in 2017.  This implies raising production costs, on average, across the industry and twenty-four out of forty-three markets were suffering a skills shortage in 2016.  The survey also stated that South America, the Middle East, and Africa had the lowest average hourly wage in USD: 8.1, 7.9, and 4.0 respectively.  Meanwhile, North America, Australia, and Europe had the highest average hourly wage in USD: 72.5, 56.2, and 35.4 respectively[2].  The picture that is currently forming is that the global construction industry is growing, requiring more labor, yet wages in some of the markets that will have the greatest growth are much lower than the markets that are established in the West.  It also implies that construction industries in Europe may be weaker than others and that all markets will need to compensate for increases in cost.

With a current framework for construction in place, it is important to discuss the role of the Internet and its ability to recruit workers.  According to a literature review for a report focused on recruitment and the internet, 79% of Global 500 companies recruit on the Internet and that by 2000, all Global 500 companies had, at least an internet presence through a corporate website.  The report found that two organizations that were general contractors, hired one to ten skilled labor staff using the Internet and that fifteen organizations had planned to utilize the Internet more and that four other organizations said that they would develop a budget for Internet recruiting, spending between one thousand and one hundred thousand dollars.  They also found that fifteen of the responding organizations had indicated that the Internet is a valuable recruitment tool for technical, administrative, and professional staff and eight suggested that it is a valuable tool for skilled labor[3].  This implies that the Internet is a crucial tool meant to recruit workers into the construction industry.  Since Internet recruitment was more utilized than word of mouth when it came to recruitment for technical, administrative, and professional staff, and organizations are going to invest more in recruitment, a shift toward digital recruitment is happening or has already happened.

Now that a framework regarding recruitment over the Internet and the global construction industry has been discussed, the interrelation between the two regarding human trafficking needs to be discussed.  An article discusses the numerous ways traffickers utilize the internet for various forms of trafficking.  For instance, a 19-year-old girl had responded to a modeling ad on the Internet and ended up being expected to have sex with unknown persons (her first client was an undercover officer who ended up saving her).  Another example more closely related to labor exploitation is when Italian and Polish police broke up a network that used an employment agency website as the primary recruitment tool.  There have been efforts to disrupt online trafficking, but their focus has been on sex trafficking, seemingly ignoring individuals trafficked in for labor[4].

In a report detailing the link between the internet and labor trafficking, it stated that it is easy and cheap to use the internet to create fraudulent offers and websites to deceive those who are looking for work into believing that they are replying to a genuine job.  The anonymity of the internet makes it difficult to identify who posted a fraudulent offer, especially in public areas like internet cafes and libraries.   The report also detailed that victim recruitment is increasingly taking place online and that traffickers lure jobseekers with promising advertisements for jobs placed on general advertisement sites and that they approach victims in chat rooms or through social media.  It also details several cases where the Internet lead to labor trafficking.  One case was on construction in the UAE, where workers from Romania were recruited through ads posted on the Internet by a recruitment company in Romania.  These workers had their documents confiscated and were housed in unsanitary conditions and were forced to work without pay.  Another case was regarding Romanian workers in Cyprus, where candidates were required to sign contracts in Romania with two companies in Cyprus and that upon arrival, workers had their identity documents confiscated, along with their contracts.  They were sent to work for different employers where their salaries were sent to the company owned by the recruiter from Cyprus.  They were also forced to live in unsanitary housing and worked sixteen hours a day.  There are other examples, but one last bit the report offers is what to watch out for in ads.  They suggested taking extra care when searching for jobs in areas like catering, agriculture, and construction[5].

What I am trying to showcase here is that the Internet is crucial when it comes to labor trafficking in the construction industry.  Because the Internet is a media that reaches many individuals and is being used as a tool for recruitment in construction, researchers should be looking at the connection between labor trafficking in construction and the Internet.  While many jobs like construction still rely on word of mouth, this technique can refer individuals to websites, where they can find jobs, which may lead them to being exploited.  Because the Internet offers anonymity, it is much easier for traffickers to remain hidden from investigators and they can reach several different audiences rather than being restricted to one country, or nearby countries.  A labor trafficker can reach workers in Romania or Bolivia for jobs in the UAE or China.  Their markets are no longer restricted by geography and their risk for being involved in such markets (trafficking in labor from Eastern Europe to the Middle East or Asia-Pacific region) is greatly reduced because of the Internet’s reach.  They can remain safe in their countries (maybe Romania) while setting up consumer supply chains for labor in the Middle East or Asia.

What I am further suggesting is that there will be an increase in labor trafficking due to the growth of the global construction industry.  A recent report states that the global construction market will grow by eight trillion dollars by 2030.  It also states that Europe will not recoup its lost decade and that the growth will be fueled by markets in China, US, and India[6].  As previously noted, Europe is facing a situation where they will not be able to recoup their losses following the global financial crisis and that other areas like the Middle East and China are going to grow and drive the construction market.  This kind of environment is ripe for traffickers.  With worker shortages, construction companies will look to other sources for labor, usually looking for cheap labor.  Traffickers, using the Internet, will be able to advertise good jobs in these high growth areas and could trick workers in the Eurozone into jobs where they end up exploited.  Some construction companies might engage in trafficking themselves, rather than looking to others to find them labor.  And this exploitation will be fueled by the Internet, as a means of connecting workers to traffickers, construction companies looking for cheap labor, or both, where the company works together with traffickers.  The situation might even be ripe enough for a new wave of trafficking victims, but instead of waves of sex trafficking victims, these will be victims of labor trafficking, travelling and being sent to the Middle East, India, China, and even the US, as these markets are expected to grow.  These victims will come from Europe, expecting good pay and decent accommodations, but may end up trafficked and exploited by traffickers and construction companies, who are looking to keep costs low.

The Internet is a crucial tool for both construction and labor trafficking.  It connects employers with workers who want a job, and it also can con workers into becoming trafficked.  The construction industry is expected to grow and with it, so to will labor trafficking.  While labor trafficking includes other industries like agriculture and home care, Europe may see a new wave of trafficking victims, namely, Europeans being trafficked to the Middle East, India, China, and the US for the sole purpose of construction.  Researchers must devote energy and resources to studying this connection between the Internet, labor trafficking, and construction in order to come up with good strategies that will prevent this from occurring.

Word Count- 1627

[1] PRNewswire.  (2015 Feb. 17).  Global Construction Market Worth $10.3 Trillion in 2020 (50 Largest, Most Influential Markets).  PRNewswire.  Found at https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-construction-market-worth-103-trillion-in-2020-50-largest-most-influential-markets-292235961.html

[2] (2017).  International Construction Market Survey 2017.  Turner and Townsend.  Found at http://www.turnerandtownsend.com/media/2389/icms-survey-2017.pdf

[3] Haas, C.T., Glover, R.W., Tucker, R.L., and Terrien, R.K. (Feb. 2001).  Impact of the Internet on the Recruitment of Skilled Labor.  The University of Texas at Austin; Austin, Texas.  Found at http://sites.utexas.edu/raymarshallcenter/files/2001/02/a_ccis_report_17.pdf

[4] Dixon, H.B. Jr. (2013).  Human Trafficking and the Internet* (*and Other Technologies, too).  The Judges’ Journal, 52(1). Found at https://www.americanbar.org/publications/judges_journal/2013/winter/human_trafficking_and_internet_and_other_technologies_too.html

[5] FINE TUNE. (N.G).  The Role of the Internet in Trafficking for Labor and Exploitation.  Found at https://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/internet_and_labour_trafficking.pdf

[6] Robinson, G.  (N.G.).  Global Construction Market to Grow $8 trillion by 2030: driven by China, US, and India.  Global Construction Perspectives and Oxford Economics, London, United Kingdom.  Found at https://www.ice.org.uk/ICEDevelopmentWebPortal/media/Documents/News/ICE%20News/Global-Construction-press-release.pdf


Link to my blog-http://u.osu.edu/sodeman.2/2018/03/06/how-a-growing-construction-industry-will-increase-labor-trafficking-via-the-internet/

Labor Trafficking in Context: From Central Asia to Russia


Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has been a destination for substantial numbers of people from the Central Asian republics migrating for work. However, the route to work in Russia is often a perilous one- filled with opportunities for exploitation and labor trafficking. Although some migrants may be considered irregular while others initially enter the country with legal documentation, the risk for labor trafficking is high in either case. To understand this complex example of trafficking, we must ask, why is it happening and what factors facilitate trafficking here? To answer these questions, I will examine how the problem is situated and what factors shape this issue of labor trafficking.

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Who is Sweeping Our Streets? A Close Look at Labour Trafficking in Russia

The fact that a rather well-known Tajik pop singer Nigina Amonkulova has released a music video about labour migration[i] highlights the extent to which this issue has become ingrained in everyday lives of millions of people both in Russia and in many of the former Soviet Republics. Interestingly, according to ASIA-Plus, the video was made with the support of International Organization for Migration (IOM).[ii] The description of the video reads:

“A wife who stayed at home [in Tajikistan] learns computer skills and becomes a sole provider for her family.”[iii]

According to 2018 report by Center of Strategic Research, approximately 4 million labour migrants (mostly from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan) have been legally arriving in Russia with the intent to work at any given time between 2013 and 2017.[iv] Admittedly, the means by which migrant workers enter Russia and obtain employment are not exclusively lawful. For example, 2017 Trafficking in Persons report indicates that 1.5 million “irregular migrants” are estimated to be engaged in Russian labour market in some form.[v] Certain human rights activists even allege that in Moscow alone there are as many as 3 million migrant workers, with a fair share of them being employed illicitly.[vi] Consequently, a lack of a lawful status in a foreign country is obviously correlated with the individuals’ susceptibility to human trafficking, even in the areas that are not typically viewed as underground labour practices, such as street sweeping.[vii]

In this blog post, I will analyze the factors that put immigrant workers employed in this sector of the labour market at risk of trafficking, as well as attempt to illustrate how Russia’s recent systematic implementation of stricter immigration policies has negatively affected the likelihood of legal employment among labour migrants from the former Soviet Republics.

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