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West campus event focuses on human trafficking

March 23, 2010

     “Prosecutions around the world against (human) traffickers are a joke.”
      Victor Malarek, Canadian journalist, author of “The Johns”
Two prominent figures in the human trafficking movement will appear at Arizona State University’s West campus on April 16 to take part in a panel discussion to provide critical perspectives on the anti-human trafficking movement.

Bradley Myles of the Polaris Project in Washington, D.C., and Victor Malarek, an award-winning Canadian journalist and author a pair of well-read books on human trafficking, will lead “Critical Perspectives on Human Trafficking,” noon-2 p.m. in the University Center Building (UCB), La Sala A.

The event is presented by the Master’s in Social Justice and Human Rights degree program in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

“This event addresses a global human rights crisis that receives considerable press but is still largely misunderstood,” says Michael Stancliff, a New College assistant professor in the Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies, who will serve as moderator during the event.  “Rather than recycling headlines, this will be an action-oriented discussion led by dedicated experts and scholars who have gathered to provide critical perspectives on a situation that demands our attention.”

Myles is the acting executive director of the Polaris Project, one of the largest anti-trafficking organizations in the U.S. and Japan.  Responsible for overseeing programmatic, financial and operational areas of Polaris, Myles has provided consultation, training and technical assistance on anti-trafficking strategies to hundreds of audiences.  He has also trolled the grimy streets of the nation’s capitol city where he has met modern-day slaves who have been trapped into working as a prostitute or nanny, a farm laborer or factory worker – slaves working in bondage, intimidated to the point they are fearful of violence and afraid to find a way out.

“The human trafficking crisis is extremely urgent, but we are still far from solutions,” says Doruntine Kosumi, a first-year student in the social justice and human rights graduate program, who plans an eventual career in the field of human rights.  “Even if human trafficking makes headlines, we are not facing the root problems, and the victims seem to fall between the cracks of existing laws and international frameworks.”

Those laws and frameworks, according to Malarek, are rarely effective or enforced.  The author of “The Johns: Sex for Sales and the Men who Buy it” (2009, Arcade Publishing) and “The Natashas: Inside the Global Sex Trade” (2003, Viking Canada), Malarek says the number of victims continues to climb while agencies “fiddle and faddle” with trafficking definitions.

“You can pass all the laws you want,” he told PBS’ Frontline recently.  “If you don’t enforce a law, what’s the point of the law?  If you say you’re going to get upwards of 20 years and you get a community work service order, what kind of message does that send to the criminal?  What kind of message does that send to the young woman who says, ‘I’ve just taken a risk with my life to testify against this criminal.’?

“We have laws in every country that say you can’t abduct people, you can’t kidnap, you can’t force them into prostitution, you can’t assault them – all kinds of laws that if you would enforce them, it would stop this kind of stuff.”

For Kosumi, the April 16 event is another testimony to the strength of the second-year social justice and human rights program.  A political science graduate of the University of Arizona, she minored in Italian studies and spent a year cracking the books in Orvieto, Italy.

“I chose to come to New College because the MA in social justice and human rights program is such an amazing program, and it is interdisciplinary at heart,” she says.  “It provides students with the complete means necessary to bring social change, including events such as this one where you have respected, renowned experts on hand to address human rights issues.

“This degree program is extremely well-rounded, and the academic training and community embeddedness work allows for students to enter different fields, ready to tackle almost any issue.”

Following Myles’ and Malarek’s presentation, the two will be joined by representatives from different community organizations and students from the social justice and human rights program in a panel discussion.

For more information on the event, email Kosumi at  To RSVP, visit

ASU’s West campus is located at 4701 West Thunderbird Road in Phoenix.