Thursday, July 4, 2013

Stephanie Hepburn & Rita J. Simon's "Human Trafficking Around the World"

Stephanie Hepburn was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Scottish and Colombian immigrants, and grew up in Columbia, Maryland. She is an independent journalist whose work has been published in Americas Quarterly, USA Today U-Wire, and Gender Issues. She is a weekly and monthly contributing writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Her book with Rita J. Simon, Women’s Roles and Statuses the World Over, was named an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice.

Rita J. Simon is University Professor at American University in Washington, DC. Her research interests and primary areas of concentration in academic work are law and society; the jury system; immigration policies and public opinion; trans-racial adoption; women and the criminal justice system; women's issues; and Israeli society. She has published over sixty books in these fields.

Hepburn applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain Sight, and reported the following:
Page 99 is in the Stateless Persons section of the book and is indicative of the overall objective of the book. I wrote the book to attract a broad audience and be accessible to anyone – whether an academic, expert in the field or a layperson who happens to be curious about the topic. I wanted to bring about improved awareness and understanding of all forms of human trafficking. I also – and this is where I think page 99 is telling – wanted to tell the stories of victims and strike a balance between humanizing the experience and giving essential statistical data. Many of the books that I have read on human trafficking tend to go in one direction or the other. I aimed to achieve both. To me, the statistics are necessary for giving as close to an accurate image as possible of the extent of human trafficking, while the stories are the glue and heart of the book. They prohibit reader detachment and give a clear image of what victims experience from beginning to end.

On page 99 readers will meet an Israeli victim in Tel Aviv who was drugged, beaten, raped, and forced to prostitute by her trafficker. The trafficker threatened to harm her children and family members if she didn’t comply. What is unusual is that the trafficker in this case was the victim’s husband. He told her: “You’re mine; I control you. You do not belong to yourself.”

Readers will also get to know the story of two Palestinian girls – 13 and 14 – repeatedly sold by their father to Palestinian men inside Israel. This allowed him – through temporary Urfi marriage – to collect money and then resell his daughters. One of the sisters told field researchers she had been sold to around 12 men. She ran away from her last husband when, after learning she was pregnant, he tried to burn her. Her sister killed her last husband and is now in a Nablus prison.

On page 99 I talk about the factors that increase a person’s vulnerability to human trafficking, which is a core element woven throughout the book. In this case I discuss the vulnerabilities of girls and women to human trafficking in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Those factors are poverty, inequity, discrimination, and violence. Palestinian girls and women in the fractured territories of the OPT face a range of restrictions and discriminations, both politically and culturally. Page 100 expands on this, but the topic is introduced on page 99.

The Israel and the OPT chapter, which is where page 99 falls, discusses the factors that make the trafficking scenario unique, but what is not unique is that all nations are affected by human trafficking. No nation is exempt.

The topic of human trafficking is extremely relevant today and many people – no matter where they are in the world – still think of it as something happening elsewhere and to other people. It isn’t.

My hope – through the book – is to attract a vast and diverse audience of readers so that it can bring awareness on the topic to people of all industries. It is important that society does not compartmentalize human trafficking as only relevant to certain domains and industries. For instance, if a reader is a shop owner, I hope that the book will get him/her to further examine the origins of his/her goods. Was anyone possibly exploited or trafficked at any step in the process, starting from the cloth or other materials that were used in the end product? Learning about human trafficking may make the storeowner more attracted to carrying Free Trade or locally made products that are – in their making – designed to be exploitation-free.

If the reader of the book is involved in building development, I hope that the book gets him/her to examine whether his/her workers, including those hired by a subcontractor, face exploitation. We often hear about green construction, but what about expanding the concept of this environmentally friendly construction to include exploitation-free construction? After all, isn’t that better for the environment that we all live in?

It would be excellent if some of the readers of the book are grade school teachers and those in the medical community who could be among the first to identify cases of human trafficking if they were aware, knew the signs, and had adequate training.

Awareness is the key to positive change and my hope is that Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain Sight helps to spread awareness to a large and varied audience that can spark discussion, training, and a demand for changes within a multitude of industries.
Visit Stephanie Hepburn's website, and learn more about Human Trafficking Around the World at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue