Thursday 28 August 2014

Your Food Ties to Slavery

Antonio Martinez stood in the hot sun, exhausted from a cross-country journey, and waited. Just 21 years old, he had traveled from Mexico to the U.S. with the promise of a well-paid construction job in California. But now he stood in a field in central Florida, listening to one man pay another man $500 to own him.

“I realized I had been sold like an animal without any compassion," Antonio thought at the time, more than 10 years ago.

He was right. In modern times, in the United States, Antonio had been sold into slavery in Florida's tomato fields.


Antonio is not alone
Unfortunately, Antonio’s case is not an isolated one. Many enslaved farmworkers in Florida pick the tomatoes that end up on sliced onto sandwiches, mixed into salads and stacked on supermarket shelves across the country. Over the last decade, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, an award-winning farmworker advocacy organization, has identified more than 1,200 victims of human trafficking picking produce in Florida's fields.

These slaves often work for 10-12 hours a day, seven days a week. They are kept in crampt and dirty trailers, constantly monitored, and have wages garnished to pay a debt invented by the trafficker to keep victims enslaved. Many victims face threats to themselves or their families, regular beatings, sexual harassment and rape. They can't leave, can't seek help. They are in every way trapped.

Exploitation in the tomato industry isn't just the work of a handful of immoral individuals – it's the result of a supply chain which is set up to support the exploitation of the very people who keep it running.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

‘UBUNTU’: “I am because we are”

An anthropologist proposed a game to the kids in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the kids that whoever got there first would win the sweet fruits. When he told them to run they all took each other’s hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When he asked them why they had run like that as one could have had all the fruits for himself they said: ”UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?”

‘UBUNTU’ in the Xhosa culture means: “I am because we are”.

 "Ubuntu is nothing more or less than compassion brought into colourful practice."

"Ubuntu is a concept that is present here in Africa but I also believe it is present in every human being if it is allowed to thrive and prosper."

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Prostitution: Victims or Whores?

by Captain Danielle Strickland

I’ve been immersed recently in prostitution legislation. A year and a half ago I was neck high in a raging debate around the legalising of prostitution in Canada. Some very vocal proponents were upholding the ‘rights of women’ to prostitute themselves. After all – it is their body. This neo-liberal feminism (far from the classic feminism that spear-headed abolition, women voting and the rights of children around the world) suggests that prostitution isn’t oppression but a profession and should be dignified with proper acceptance, education and wages – with protection of workers rights. There is a classic case of a ‘co-operative brothel’ operating right now (albeit illegally) in Victoria, BC on the west coast of Canada.

The problem is that the rhetoric around legalising prostitution sounds pretty good (in promised form anyway)… a society that no longer judges women or uses morality as a grid to punish those who don’t adopt a pure lifestyle… billed as a liberation and a right – it makes opposing it sound like a puritanical rant against the freedom of women. You’d think the only people left opposing legalizing prostitution were a bunch of old fashioned, purist holy rollers trying to save poor lasses from the den of iniquity and the fires of hell.

The truth is that classic feminism rages on and presents from a women’s right perspective, an impressive argument against legalising prostitution. Not simply theoretical in recent years they have presented a new model many governments around the world are adopting to combat violence and oppression against women through sexual slavery and prostitution.  It all started in Sweden.

Gunilla Ekberg was at the helm of the new legislation that suggested (with a proper understanding of prostitution) any society that seeks to uphold the rights of women and children must stop it. On it’s website at the height of the experiment Sweden had written, ‘we want the world to know that in Sweden, women and children are NOT FOR SALE.’ Bring it. (Swedish Model of Sex Industry Reform) This women’s right perspective suggests abolition as the only proper feminist response to prostitution. But why? Well, it’s all about understanding oppression. Let’s break it down:

Who are they?
Prostituted women are almost always oppressed women. Studies the world over suggest that women who end up working by selling their bodies are desperate. 84% of prostituted women in Australia (where prostitution has been legalised for 14 years in the State of Victoria – but more on that later!) said they would do anything else if they could. They are most likely to be uneducated, from low economic backgrounds, minorities, addicted and abused. It’s not exactly a poster child for women’s rights. Unlike the popular media suggests prostituted persons do not consists of young sexually liberated women choosing to exercise their ‘right’ to sell themselves  - they are overwhelmingly poor, uneducated and neglected – suffering from abuse.