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The Justice Blog

Thursday, 15 JUNE 2017

International Justice Mission Australia applauds the amendments to the Government’s Overseas Travel by Child Sex Offenders Bill proposed by Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore.

These proposed amendments to the Commonwealth Criminal Code are urgently needed to effectively address the rise in involvement of Australians in the cybersex trafficking of children.

Cybersex trafficking is the live-streaming sexual exploitation of children viewed over the internet. Paedophiles and predators anywhere in the world can now search online and wire a secure payment to an adult who sets up the show. Boys and girls—some under 2 years old—are abused or forced to perform sex acts in front of a webcam. Shows typically cost between $26 – $200 depending on the severity of the abuse.

Cybersex trafficking involves both supply and demand. Supply frequently occurs in the Philippines. The facilitator of the abuse of this children is typically charged with qualified trafficking under Filipino law. This carries a life sentence. By contrast in Australia, the perpetrator who commissions this live abuse typically receives a much lower sentence.

“Cybersex trafficking of children is a new crime. Law enforcement in Australia is doing an exceptional job in identifying and charging suspects.  These proposed amendments will ensure the Criminal Code stays in step with the challenges this new crime presents,” said Kimberly Randle, Director of Corporate and Legal, IJM Australia.

As Senator Kakoschke-Moore is proposing, an effective response to the rise in cybersex trafficking must recognise that the sexual exploitation of the victim is being commissioned in real time and in the presence of another person irrespective of whether that presence is virtual or physical.

It must also include changes in the Code related to the reporting obligations of interest service providers and content hosts who become aware that their service can be used to access child exploitation material and pornography.

“We welcome Senator’s Kakoschke-Moore’s proposed amendments. These amendments will make a substantial difference in our capacity to effectively prosecute cybersex trafficking. This is vital to ensure children are protected here in Australia and in the Philippines,” said Ms Randle.

Media enquiries: Andrew Starr 0434 196 069

International Justice Mission (IJM) is the world’s largest international anti-slavery organisation, working to end modern-day slavery, human trafficking and other forms of violence against the poor by rescuing and restoring victims, restraining perpetrators, and strengthening justice systems.

In the Philippines, IJM partners with local authorities in the fight to shut down cybersex trafficking.

IJM Australia joins with that mission globally and locally works to build the movement of Australians seeking justice for the poor. If you want to join the movement to shut down cybersex trafficking and restart freedom, head to

A girl should be with her mother.

At least that’s what Liana’s* mom told her the summer of her 14th birthday, when she agreed to move in with the woman she had not seen in a very long time.

Liana never imagined her own mother would enslave her, threaten her with a knife, and sell her for sex, day after day.


Liana’s parents had separated when she was too young to remember. After her father died in a motorcycle accident, she was raised by her grandparents.

The summer before seventh grade, Liana traveled to the nearby town where her mother lived to spend her vacation reconnecting with her. They had fun, and her mother convinced Liana to stay with her for the school year.

The fun ended suddenly one morning when Liana woke up and her mother wouldn’t let her go to school. Her mom threatened to kill her if she didn’t do as she was told. Then she took Liana to a hotel and sold her to a man who raped her.

“I obeyed,” Liana remembers. “I didn’t want her to hurt me.”

A long line of customers had sex with Liana, often multiple times a day. Liana was cut off from the outside world. No one knew where she was. Her mother controlled her every word and move. Liana wondered if it would ever end.

Sex trafficking is slavery. No one should have to endure it.

Right now, there are thousands of girls like Liana—trapped in houses, in brothels and on the street. Many were betrayed by their own families.
Liana endured her suffering for nearly five months—until another mom stepped in. When the mother of a man who was abusing Liana found out, she confronted him and he took Liana to her grandparents. Liana was finally free.

Her grandparents reported the crime to police, who called in IJM to help bring Liana’s mother to justice.

But Liana is not truly safe yet—not until her mother and an accomplice are held accountable. Police arrested the two, but their criminal trial has faced multiple delays.


With the help of IJM social workers, Liana is healing from her trauma and regaining her self-worth. Now 16, she enters the eighth grade this fall and dreams of someday helping children who are hurting.

“I’ve been able to overcome what happened to me,” Liana says confidently. “I think I have a big future ahead of me. Now, I can see myself caring for children, like a pediatrician.”

*A pseudonym

International Justice Mission protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors and strengthen justice systems. Join the fight against slavery.

Kolkata, India
June 072017

After several attempts at rescue, a teenage girl has finally been freed from a dangerous red-light district in Kolkata, and she now has a chance at healing and peace.

Local authorities had first tried to rescue her nearly three weeks ago, after learning she was underage and being forcibly held in a high-end brothel. During the initial attempted rescue operation, however, she ran away in fear. Many trafficking victims are brainwashed to believe police will arrest or abuse them; this is how traffickers keep children from ever seeking help.

IJM Kolkata staff and anti-trafficking police continued to search for her relentlessly, and even alerted the IJM team in Mumbai—another sex trafficking hotspot—in case this girl was sold to another brothel across the country.

Last week, the team successfully found her again in the red-light district and brought her to safety. We are slowly learning more about her story.


Police believe she is just 15 years old, and that she was trafficked from Bangladesh and sold for sex for months in the brothel. She suffered regular physical and verbal abuse from the brothel owners and from customers.

Authorities also arrested the madam running the brothel—a woman who had previously been arrested in two previous IJM cases from 2012 and 2014. Each time, she was released on bail and exploited other girls. IJM staff will work with local officials to fight any future bail attempts so she can finally be held accountable for her alleged crimes.

Saptarshi Biswas, IJM Kolkata’s director of justice solutions, says, “The operation was executed smoothly under the skillful leadership of the Officer-in-Charge of the Kolkata Police Anti-Trafficking Unit. This rescue was a great example of proactive policing to reduce the crime of sex trafficking.”

The rescued girl is now safe at a secure shelter home, where she will receive counseling and emotional support as her case progresses. She’s just beginning her journey of restoration and—with help from our supporters and NGO partners—IJM will walk by her side until she feels confident and whole again.


International Justice Mission protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors and strengthen justice systems. Our team has helped local officials combat sex trafficking in Kolkata since 2006, and together we’ve brought hundreds of girls and young women to freedom.

SIEM REAP, Cambodia
June 02, 2017

Three key players in a human trafficking ring were convicted by a Siem Reap court last month for trafficking six Cambodians into the Thai fishing industry. This is the first cross-border labour trafficking case with IJM’s support to result in conviction in Cambodia.

The traffickers were each sentenced to up to nine years of imprisonment. The six survivors were awarded compensation ranging from two million to 25 million riel (approximately AU$8,340).


In June 2015, the Cambodian Government repatriated 230 Cambodian men, many of whom were severely exploited on Thai fishing vessels. The men were sold to ship captains in Thai ports and trapped on the ships for years – in some cases, more than a decade.

Initially, the men were unwilling to talk to the police, cases were dropped, and most of the men re-migrated. However, IJM and Cambodian anti-trafficking police persevered together in a second interview process; the survivors began to trust the team, and a case against this brutal trafficking ring emerged.

The accounts revealed a common thread: the same three traffickers had actively recruited these men from poor villages and arranged everything from papers to transport. With the promise of making decent money across the border in Thailand, the victims had climbed into the back of trucks and passed from person to person efficiently, money changing hands.

Once on the boat, victims were not allowed to leave. They worked 22-hour days enduring injury, illness, violence, misery, and hopelessness. The same traffickers who recruited, transported and sold the men into slavery also ensured they remained trapped in brutal exploitation on the Thai fishing vessels under horrendous conditions and withheld the men’s pay for their own profit. The traffickers have been operating for more than seven years.

The bravery of the six survivors who testified and the perseverance of Cambodia’s law enforcement leaders made this significant conviction a reality.

“These three traffickers are responsible for causing great pain and suffering for many young Cambodians,” said Peter Williams, Field Office Director of IJM Cambodia. “Such decisive action from Cambodia’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Police and Cambodia’s courts sends a strong warning to all who would seek to profit from trafficking in persons.”

Through a generous grant from the USAID Counter Trafficking-in-Persons program managed by Winrock International, IJM is leveraging existing relationships with Cambodian law enforcement and justice system officials to combat cross-border trafficking and domestic labour trafficking, which make convictions such as these possible.


International Justice Mission is the world’s largest international anti-slavery organization, working to end modern-day slavery, human trafficking and other forms of violence against the poor by rescuing and restoring victims, restraining criminals, and transforming broken public justice systems.



Delhi, India
May 232017

Last month, IJM’s trained partner organisation Jai Bhim Vikas Shikshan Sansthan (JBVSS) worked with government officials in the state of Rajasthan to rescue 40 people from bonded labour slavery at a sweltering brick kiln. Today, these labourers have returned home safely and are beginning new lives in freedom.

These families had been trafficked from Bihar—a state on the other side of India, near Nepal and Bangladesh. Every day, they were forced to mold and haul thousands of heavy clay bricks in the hot sun, all under the control of a slave owner.

Nineteen children were trapped along with their parents, and ten of these children (some as young as 7) were forced to work as well. One brave 10-year-old girl told government officials about the long days she spent sprinkling hot ash over the mud bricks to help them dry quickly.



JBVSS had discovered the dangerous plight these families were facing and worked with authorities for three days to plan a safe and secure rescue operation. In many parts of India, bonded labour has been viewed as a mere labour rights issue and not as a crime. But these officials were proactive, professional and sensitive to the victims throughout the process.

IJM Delhi staff was on hand to assist and guide JBVSS and local authorities as they explained the rescue to the families, brought them to safety, and began a careful interviewing process to document their stories. The Sub-Divisional Magistrate—who oversaw the operation—ensured the labourers were given warm meals and brought staff from a local hospital to conduct their medical check-ups.


Once evidence was collected and statements were complete, the Magistrate arranged funds for each family to help them return to their home villages. JBVSS staff will work with officials on any legal follow-up and arrests related to the case.

JBVSS distributed initial rehabilitation funds and toolkits to the survivors and then accompanied them back to their home villages so they can re-start life in freedom. JBVSS staff also informed local leaders about the situation, which will help these families re-settle more safely and access various government programs to help in their ongoing rehabilitation. JBVSS will also connect them to a local NGO partner who can help them get back on their feet.


About International Justice Mission’s Partnership Model
IJM has collaborated with local authorities to rescue and restore bonded labour slaves in India since 2001. In 2012, we launched a new project, based in Delhi, to partner with like-minded organisations across the country, share expertise, and replicate success in addressing bonded labour slavery and strengthening government capacity. Our partner Jai Bhim Vikas Shikshan Sansthan (JBVSS) has been protecting and empowering vulnerable women, children and low-caste communities since 1993.
April 272017

Anita Budu, Director of Aftercare for IJM Ghana, anxiously watched from the deck of a boat as the horizon began to pale with the light of sunrise. Much more time and her team might be noticed by the fishermen in the area. Might miss the opportunity they had so carefully planned for: to rescue children who had been forced to work as slaves on fishing boats on this massive lake.

She pressed down on the button of her radio, trying to contact police and IJM teams on two rescue boats that had broken down en route to the target area. In this remote part of Lake Volta, the radio was not in range, and Anita struggled to pick up any signal on her phone.

Finally a call came through. The police and IJM teams were on their way and the rescue could begin.

The rescue boats disappeared from Anita’s sight around an island that loomed between the aftercare boat and the fishing area. She again lost contact with the rescue team, signal blocked by a small mountain on the island.

After the longest silence, her radio crackled.

“Children’s boat: please prepare to receive 10 children.”

The rescue operation was successful. In time, five more rescue boats returned to Anita with children on board. This was the largest operation IJM and Ghanaian police had conducted together to date—finally rescuing 30 children and one young adult and arresting 11 suspects who had been profiting from forcing children to work long hours in dangerous conditions.


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When the children arrived safely at Anita’s boat, they were in old, torn clothes, shy and distrustful. Their short lives of harsh treatment on the fishing boats had taught them to be afraid.

Anita and the aftercare team welcomed each child, including a small, six-year-old girl, the youngest of the group. They provided them with new clothes, food and medical care for injuries. In the days that followed at the processing center, the children slept, ate warm meals, played, and shared their stories. They began to understand that they were free from the life of abuse they had known.

On their way to the aftercare shelter where they will be cared for until they are able to safely return to their families, one sweet 10-year-old voice burst out with song:

           I’ve got joy, joy down in my heart

           I’ve got joy, joy down in my heart

He was soon joined by the rest of the children, singing their new truth.

           Look what the Lord has done for me

          Jesus has come to set me free

          I’ve got joy, joy down in my heart

Now that the children are safe, we will continue to walk alongside them as they heal; developing a treatment plan to address their education, health, security, emotional and psychological needs, and ensuring that their future is one of safety where they are free to thrive.

Lake Volta is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. The beauty of the water surrounded by verdant green hills can be difficult to reconcile with the suffering seen in the lives of children who have been forced to leave their childhoods for long days of hard labour on fishing boats.

More than half of the thousands of children working on Lake Volta are believed to be trafficked. The majority are 10 years old or younger. Some of them can barely swim. Children injured while doing this dangerous work often go untreated. They can expect no compassion from their owners. In some cases, boat masters maintain their control through violent beatings and withholding food.

IJM has been in Ghana since 2014, supporting Ghanaian authorities in their efforts to put an end to this oppression.

International Justice Mission protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors and strengthen justice systems. Our Ghana office is one of our newest teams collaborating with local officials to combat labour trafficking. Join the fight against slavery.

March 302017

After a 14-month investigation, eight children are finally free from cybersex trafficking. In a joint operation involving Philippine authorities, U.S. Homeland Security and IJM, two sisters unwittingly offered the children—ranging from a 2-month-old to an 18-year-old—to an undercover agent for sexual exploitation.


Moment of rescue: A government social worker, in red, walks behind an IJM staff member and government authorities escorting children to a car that would take them to safety.

The seven girls and an 8-year-old boy were rescued on March 16, 2017, but the operation began much earlier than that.

This case was a spinoff from a 2015 arrest of an American man who was charged in the U.S. for involvement with online sexual exploitation of children. The man thought he was purchasing live sex shows involving children anonymously. But authorities found him and then set out to find the children trapped behind the screen—located somewhere in the Philippines.

U.S. Homeland Security referred the case to the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation in January 2016, and these authorities recently contacted IJM for assistance with the final investigations. Together, the rescue team staged an operation where an undercover agent arranged for an in-person meeting to purchase minors for sexual exploitation.

The 18-year-old girl shared that this was the second time she had been sold for in-person abuse. She was 15 years old the first time. She also shared how she had been asked to pose nude for a picture.

The two women arrested during the operation are sisters, a mother and aunt to many of the victims.

“The arrested persons were related to the victims because this illegal activity is being done inside their homes, and of course you have to gain the trust of the children, but who are these [victims]? They are your children, your neighbours’ children, and friends of your children,” said Janet Francisco, Chief of the National Bureau of Investigations Anti Human Trafficking Division.

The children are now safe at shelters, and they will join IJM’s aftercare program. This means an IJM social worker will be assigned to each child to make a unique treatment plan to assess and address their physical, psychosocial and emotional needs. The IJM team is working with government and private partners to develop new models of care that can support children just like these boys and girls as they grow up.

“Cybersex trafficking is a crime without borders. Predators in the U.S. can find a child halfway across the world in the Philippines to sexually exploit, searching on the open internet and using basic video chat services to purchase abusive images and even direct a live ‘show’,” explained IJM Philippines National Director Sam Inocencio, adding,

“This case demonstrates how this complex crime demands a coordinated international response, and we commend the NBI for the tenacity and endurance it took to locate these children and restrain the Filipinos setting up the exploitation.”


International Justice Mission is the world’s largest international anti-slavery organisation, working to end human trafficking and other forms of violence against the poor by rescuing and restoring victims, restraining criminals, and transforming broken public justice systems. Join the fight against slavery.

March 142017

On Friday, justice was served for 12 former bonded labour slaves, as the wealthy brick kiln owner who had once trapped and abused them was found guilty for his crimes.

Back in 2010, this kiln owner had personally recruited impoverished women and men from small villages several hours outside Bangalore. He promised the families good wages to work in his kiln, but instead forced them to labor more than 12 hours a day for only a fraction of their promised pay.

The families were constantly supervised, could never leave the kiln, and could not even talk to one another as they toiled all day in the hot sun making bricks by hand. If any labourers escaped, the owner and his henchmen tracked them down and dragged them back.

In August 2014, IJM partnered with anti-trafficking police, local police and district officials to conduct a rescue operation at the facility and bring all 12 labourers and their young children to safety.

“They were so ready to leave,” remembers IJM’s Esther Daniel. “When we walked into the facility, I motioned to two women holding children. They just ran toward us. We could physically feel their desire to be free and out of that horrible situation.”


The kiln owner was arrested and held in custody for more than 100 days, which is significant when many slave owners are never arrested or held at all. IJM supported the legal trial over the next two and half years, as strong survivor testimonies and solid evidence from the police sustained the case in court until the conviction last week.

On March 10, 2017, the kiln owner was found guilty under India’s Bonded Labour System Abolition Act (1976) and Section 370 of the penal code, which covers human trafficking.

The 2.5-year trial was one of the shortest IJM has seen—and the 10-year sentence was one of the longest in any bonded labour trafficking case in India. These are all promising signs for the remaining fight against modern-day slavery.


Hear more about the fight to end slavery in South Asia at the Australian Prayer Gathering 2017 later this month:

International Justice Mission is the world’s largest international anti-slavery organisation, working to end human trafficking and other forms of violence against the poor by rescuing and restoring victims, restraining criminals, and transforming broken public justice systems. Join the fight against slavery.

March 142017

Karla* celebrated her 13th birthday on March 10 with a cake and candles, beginning her teenage years in freedom.


Just a day earlier, IJM and the Public Ministry had helped place Karla and two other girls under 18 years old in protective care at a government shelter, to begin their journey of restoration after being sold for sexual exploitation.

Karla was rescued with her older sister, along with 11-year-old Alania*, the youngest of the three. Alania was visibly nervous and tense during an interview with a psychologist, revealing details of a broken family that has not been able to support her. Extreme poverty can be a driver for sex trafficking in the Dominican Republic, and it makes enforcing the law all the more important. Criminals will brazenly exploit vulnerable girls and women until they start to fear real, legal consequences.

On March 8, IJM helped Dominican police arrest the suspect, who will be charged with human trafficking for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. IJM had assisted law enforcement in the undercover investigation that confirmed he was indeed selling girls to customers for sexual exploitation. IJM will help to ensure that the case moves forward and ultimately reaches trial.

IJM’s Director of Aftercare Daisy Nunez noted that the local prosecutors were mindful of the young ages of the victims and assured the girls that they were not in trouble. Karla and her sister’s mother and Alania’s aunt came to the government office where they were being interviewed, and the local prosecutors included them in the process, building rapport that made it easier for the families to send the girls to a shelter where they can receive crisis care.

“We are grateful to work with our government partners to place sex trafficking survivors in a safe place where they can receive the services they need to heal and recover from trauma,” affirmed Daisy, “and we appreciate in this case the support of family members who will form part of the girls’ restoration.”

*a pseudonym

International Justice Mission is the world’s largest international anti-slavery organisation, working to end modern-day slavery and other forms of violence against the poor by rescuing and restoring victims, restraining criminals, and transforming broken public justice systems. Join the movement to end slavery.
Join us March 31 – April 1, 2017 at the Australian Prayer Gathering to celebrate those who are now free and protected, and pray for those still trapped in slavery and violence. We would love to see you there!


Every day from 2:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night, they molded, hauled and stacked hundreds of clay bricks with dozens of other slaves at a brick kiln—anxiously working to reach the daily thousand-brick quota or risk a vicious beating.

She was only 6 years old when her family became trapped at the kiln.

Roopa was forced to push a heavy cart loaded with sand, clean the facility and bake bricks in the oppressive heat.

As Roopa grew older, her parents arranged for her to marry a young man in the kiln named Banaiah in hopes that marriage would protect her from the kiln owner’s abuse. She and Banaiah became lovingly devoted to each other, but their difficulties grew.


When she was 16, Roopa became pregnant but was still forced to work. During her eighth month of pregnancy, a heavy bag of sand fell on her stomach, sending her into an excruciating early labour.

Roopa and Banaiah were beside themselves with fear. Roopa was bleeding and couldn’t walk, but the kiln owner refused to let her see a doctor. For a day and a half, she writhed on the dusty floor of her small hut and screamed out in agony, “The baby inside me is dying!”

Some midwives in the area learned of Roopa’s pregnancy and rushed to her side. The next day, at 5 in the morning, she delivered a stillborn child. Roopa, still just a young teenager, lay overcome with grief and pain on the floor.

This was not the life she wanted. This is not what motherhood was supposed to be. Not for her. Not for anyone.

Roopa soon became pregnant again. With the anguish of their last pregnancy still fresh in his mind, Banaiah told the kiln owner that Roopa could not and would not work while pregnant. He said, “Even if you physically beat me, I will not allow my wife to move a stick from this corner to another.”

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It was into this world of abuse and despair that their beautiful son, Vijay, whose name means “victory,” was born.

Roopa couldn’t bear the thought of Vijay growing up in the kiln. One night as she cooked, she asked her husband plainly, “What do we do? If we stay in this situation, your son will be in the same situation as you for the rest of his life. Nobody will be able to help him.”


They planned a daring nighttime escape and slipped into a nearby forest. But after scraping by for a few months, their situation grew dire. Little Vijay was sick, and they were barely eating.

With no food, no money and a sick baby, the young couple was forced to make a choice nobody should ever have to make: stay in hiding and risk Vijay’s life, or seek help and risk recapture?

They chose to find help for their son.

Roopa and Banaiah took young Vijay to the doctor for medical treatment. After the appointment, Banaiah went to find some food for his family.

While he was away, Roopa heard a familiar voice and her heart froze. The abusive brick kiln owner had found them. He dragged them to the middle of a busy street and called a taxi to take Roopa and her son away. Just like that, they were swept back into the grip of her abuser.

Despair set in as they drove to the brick kiln. Roopa thought of Banaiah and prayed he was safe.

Meanwhile, Banaiah searched frantically for anyone who could help. At last, he was connected to a local organisation—who was trained by IJM just one week before—who agreed to intervene. They called IJM and the Bangalore anti-trafficking police unit, and together we planned a rescue operation to find Roopa and Vijay.

The very next day, they were freed and the abusive brick kiln owner was arrested and put in jail.

For the first time in over 13 years, Roopa was safe.

Today, Roopa, Banaiah and little Vijay are together and enjoying their lives in freedom.

This is your support in action. Without you, Roopa would still be trapped. Banaiah’s pleas for help would go unanswered. And Vijay may not have survived.

Your gifts make a real difference. Give today to send rescue to families just like Roopa’s. Help them transition successfully into a life of freedom.


Hear more about IJM’s work in South Asia this March at the Australian Prayer Gathering 2017:

International Justice Mission is the world’s largest international anti-slavery organisation, working to end modern-day slavery, human trafficking and other forms of violence against the poor by rescuing and restoring victims, restraining criminals, and transforming broken public justice systems. Join the fight against slavery.