Journey into Darkness

When in 2016, an editor from a leading academic publisher approached me about contributing a book chapter on the ethics of organ markets, I readily agreed thinking that this would entail little more than many other previous commissions. With most bioethical issues, the arguments pro and con are usually abstractions to be weighed and evaluated and a conclusion eventually drawn – or sometimes avoided in order to prolong ethical fence-sitting.

This topic however did prove to be rather different. One of early findings was that once organ acquisition from the living moves from being a matter of gifting the organ by donation to gaining the organ by financial transaction, a line is crossed which changes the whole environment within which transplantation takes place in a society. Once you have an organ market it makes people think more carefully about why they should be an altruistic donor. This I could have predicted but the second finding however took me completely by surprise. It was quite impossible to write about organ markets without writing about people trafficking. It soon became clear that wherever people trafficking is happening, organ trafficking will either be a part of it or closely linked and organ trafficking is difficult to disentangle –at least at the margins – from organ sales.

Headlines such as “Pakistani police rescue 24 from organ trafficking gang” and “Boy of 12 smuggled into the UK for gang to sell his body parts” are a far cry from the kind of ‘abstractions’ I thought I would be dealing with a few months before. I contacted the editor and said I didn’t think it would be possible to write about organ markets in isolation from organ trafficking – in the largest anthology on organ trafficking I could locate the majority of the chapters were about organ markets- and she agreed that I could broaden the chapter out.

Universal Prohibition Advocated

Examination of websites such as those of the UN, World Health Organisation, The Transplantation Society and the International Society of Nephrology revealed that every international declaration on people trafficking (such as the UNs Palermo protocol) specifies organ trafficking as a specific form of exploitation linked to people trafficking and declarations on organ trafficking (such as the Declaration of Istanbul) as well as prohibiting the practice also stress that “organ donation should be a financially neutral act”.

Despite such universal condemnation however, it is reckoned that around 10% of organs worldwide are trafficked meaning that an illegally acquired organ is transplanted every hour. How is it then that the practice remains so persistently prevalent?

A Chorus of Approval

One of the factors involved is that advocates of organ markets, though they may well be motivated by a genuine desire to see fewer patients die from lack of an available matching organ also tend to play down the reality of the links with people trafficking.

There are three main groups of people involved in promoting organ sales – philosophers (especially ‘practical’ ones), economists (particularly neoclassical ones) and doctors (particularly those who work in private healthcare systems).

Once this became clear, the task of the research then became to understand the arguments from each of these three groups seeking to justify payments for organs. I then sought to see whether the claims made in such arguments actually worked out in the real world and looked at the experiences and findings of researchers working in India, the Philippines and other poor parts of the world.

Finally since most of those advocating organ sales pointed to Iran as the shining paragon of how organ markets work, I then looked at reports of what is happening in Iran.  Whilst it is true that Iran has no waiting list for organ transplants and is the only country in the world in which this is the case, there is a price to be paid and since the majority of organ movement is out of the poor and into the rich, it is not difficult to work out who is paying it. 

Trevor’s findings are due to be published in the spring of 2019. 

 

Me on the panel.jpg

Dr. Trevor Stammers 

Dr Trevor Stammers is Reader in Bioethics and Director of the Centre for Bioethics and Emerging Technologies. He was previously Programme Director in Bioethics and Medical law between 2010 and 2016. He has supervised and examined PhD thesis covering a variety of topics ranging from fertility treatment to medical care of prisoners in secure environments. He also teaches bioethics in several programmes from Foundation Degree to Masters level.

He is a writer, blogger and occasional broadcaster on bioethical issues and was previously in clinical practice for over thirty years. 

Love Justice International: Transit Monitoring in Focus

Tiny Hands International (THI) is a Christian NGO in Nepal, Bangladesh, India, and South Africa, that does anti-trafficking work and care for abandoned or orphaned children. We are excited to work alongside The JAM Network and are encouraged by their initiative to bridge together such a variety of actors working to end human trafficking.

THI fights human trafficking by transit monitoring— monitoring public transit locations by placing trained staff in strategic locations where trafficking is likely to occur (border crossings, train stations, etc.) and intercepting suspected victims and traffickers with the assistance of local law enforcement. Last April, THI made its 10,000th victim intercept since the organization began operating.

Transit monitoring is innovative in that it focuses on stopping trafficking as it is in the process of occurring. Thus, THI intervenes in a trafficking scenario prior to a person’s exploitation, meaning that THI is provided with a rare opportunity of both intercepting victims and targeting traffickers in order to investigate and uncover trafficking networks. Through my personal experience working with THI, I have experienced a greater value for the meaning of freedom, in that freedom is not merely physical, but also has an emotion and spiritual element. 

By valuing the specific cultural contexts, THI’s long-term investment in the areas they work in not only honours the communities, but also helps to positively change culture and mindsets toward issues of justice, such as human trafficking. I have watched THI transform lives by restoring dignity into the lives of victims, so that the victims can confidently return home (where appropriate) with contagious hope and joy and have a lasting influence in their communities. It’s a joy to be able to celebrate this work on the 25th of February with The JAM Network and we are very grateful of how each person connected with JAM has relentlessly pursued justice.

 

Mahlea Babjak works for Tiny Hands International. Originally from Chicago, she studied International Relations and Social Anthropology at St. Andrew's.  Mahlea is currently pursuing a PhD at the Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Edinburgh and has researched on areas surrounding human trafficking and exploitation.  

 

Walking One Step at a Time

‘’Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.’’ [The Talmud]

I first heard of human trafficking in a radio broadcast. The interview was focused on Cambodia, and revealed that girls as young as 6 years old were being sold to men for sex.  I had not known about such abuse. I felt sick and angry.  Later, a friend, who was researching trafficking, introduced me to various confronting films and books, and as I continued to delve into this issue, I learned that it went deeper and wider than I had imagined.

I knew that I had to respond somehow.

So, I began organising anti-trafficking fundraising initiatives for different NGOs. But I soon became restless.  I felt the need to personally engage with people right where it was happening to better understand the issue.  Perhaps I wanted to experience a greater connection and really know that I was truly having an impact.  I left my teaching position in Australia to volunteer with an anti-trafficking organisation as a teacher in Cambodia.

This changed my life.  Not because I had made a huge difference for these beautiful young women. But I could now see humanity in the ‘victim’.  The horrific stories I’d known had become real.  And whilst some things were confirmed, many concepts I thought I understood were challenged.  Since then, I have also been privileged to work in London on the ‘frontline’ with survivors.  I have heard accounts of over 30 survivors – women and men from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe –not one story is the same.  This is important to acknowledge, because we cannot neatly contain an individual’s life into a collective we call ‘victims of human trafficking’ to be easily understood.  Human trafficking and modern slavery is happening on every continent at this very moment, and its complexities cannot be overstated.  Whilst we can certainly recognise social paradigms and trends, there is no one ‘pattern’ as such; which is precisely why this fight needs everyone to respond in our own unique ways.

We are all invited to respond to the call written in the Talmud (opening paragraph).  This is echoed in Micah 6 v 8, reminding us to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God’’.  There is a felt urgency.  Loving our neighbour will look different for each of us. I can name countless individuals who are responding where they are with what they have.  There is a beauty salon in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, dedicated to training and employing local ladies who are survivors of exploitation or trafficking.  Each time I visited, I could tangibly feel the joy of the women in this parlour - a place of peace.  Another social enterprise committed to acting justly has sprung up in Brisbane, Australia - a café which supports women who have exited the sex industry.  I am so encouraged by this organisation’s love and affirmation of the women in their journey to wholeness.  Let us travel now to the other side of the world.  London is surprisingly home to thousands of human trafficking and modern slavery victims.  In this city, I referred many of my clients to a charity dedicated to providing vulnerable people with clothing and toys.  This humble, yet effective, organisation was initiated by a part-time teacher who identified a gap in social services for vulnerable families and wanted to help.  I would call this loving mercy in action.  A friend of mine, who is an IT consultant, felt burdened by the poor standard of healthcare in Bangladesh.  He visited with a multidisciplinary team, to develop and train hospital technicians in using a program to improve the care of the patients.  Yet another unique way of bringing justice to humanity.  It will look different for every person.

Too often, we are overwhelmed by all that is around us - prevalent injustices, indescribable pain - and we easily succumb to apathy.  Perhaps we turn off the TV, close the newspaper or redirect our conversation (it’s just too much).  I have certainly felt this way.  And it is then that I remind myself of the renowned starfish narrative.  There are also times when our outrage is charged into action – we need to do SOMETHING. ANYTHING. (If you’re anything like me, this could look like re-sharing a post on FB). And then we move on.  The harsh truth is that we could liken such momentous commotion to frantically reaching for starfish, only to grasp sand, not saving even one.  An eruption of noise - without consequence.  I certainly can relate to feeling disempowered - not knowing what to do with this.

I do not write with answers on how to best respond to such individual complex issues – but rather, I hope to challenge us to simplify our intention.  How can we create space to do justly, love mercy, walk humbly - now?  And who are the starfish around you?  We needn’t be on the frontline working against human trafficking / modern slavery to be making a difference. Each one of us - artists, academics, educators, NGOs, social enterprises, activists and businesspeople – bring unique experiences and gifts into this tapestry of social transformation.  This is why The JAM Network exists: to celebrate and support you in affecting change, to learn from one another, and to call out to others to join in this global movement of throwing starfish, one at a time.

 

Tanya Mathias spent time in London before going back to her home country of Australia to set up JAM Network Australia.  Tanya is a creative who has taught and worked with NGOs on issues surrounding human trafficking in London and Southeast Asia.  She is passionate in seeing people connect and spreading awareness surrounding this issue. Tanya can be contacted at jamnetworkaustralia@gmail.com 

Joy, the Body and Justice

By Emily Murtagh 

The words roll, and encompass so much truth, just in their bare essence. Is it not a gift that these three exist at all? Joy - the purity of calm delight. Our bodies - built as they are, unique as they are, broken as they are. Justice - the unreachable, the ever-strived for, the practical beauty of the idea of living in a world that is fair.

How do these three live together – how do we do justice to our bodies and how do we do justice to the body of another? How do we leave room for the joyous potential of those around us? These are impossible questions, with impossible answers, but it is in the committed, relentless striving for this that we are as human as we can possibly be.

How beautiful is the truth of a person who has been given room to flourish in a way that embodies their best freedoms and possibility, allowed to rest in the knowledge that they are vulnerable yet in relationship they are strong; to be known and to be shown that they are safe there. How deeply we know experiences that are so far from this vision.

Amartya Sen, philosopher and ethicist, talks of the idea of commitment over sympathy or even compassion in pursuit of lofty aims such as these. He sees part of the goal of the ethical life as being to commit ourselves to others until their stories, their triumphs, joys and losses, are as much part of our story as they are of theirs. This seems like one of the purest ways to dissolve alterity -  to live as if another’s capacity for joy and justice is as much your responsibility as it is theirs.

 He differentiates between this and a life of compassion, which is led from an emotional state, or a life of sympathy where the balance of power becomes uneven in the relationship of giving and receiving. Commitment does what it sets out to do, when it is no longer emotionally attractive. It is willing to change and sacrifice its original goals, it hopes to never give up or change its mind.

It is in the microcosm of our own most personal relationships that we learn how to face the “Bigger Issues” of the world around us -  human trafficking, worker exploitation, the refugee crisis. The challenge of demonstrating real commitment to those around us is great and perhaps widening our circle of those we are invested in, unconditionally, is central to this. We make choices as to whose stories we allow ourselves to become entangled in, to the extent they can no longer be distinguished from our own story and we can choose to commit to new relationships of empowerment and mutual dependence. Joy has been described as the emotion that arises in moments of harmony between our greatest purpose and our lived reality and perhaps commitment is very much part of our great purpose.

 

Joy, the Body, Justice.

Justice like a river, like a never-ending stream

Justice like a body, screaming helpless in a dream

 

Joy like fruit it blossoms and it tastes like sweet intent;

You’re pouring it so sweetly – I get lost in the intense –

 

I would have given you shelter, if shelter did not hold all of my mess

I keep giving you half nothing, packaged, sold like it’s my best

 

Can I do justice to this body and this other body too?

Can I leave room for your joy; the potentiality of you

 

Did I crumble when I spoke it, like lies could be our food?

Like half-sustainments could be faithful and I’d be loyal to you –

 

Justice, hold me closer, and just what can I be

If I robbed you of your joy and gave all of it to me?

 

Justice like a river, there is joy in this old stream

But I damned it and I drank it and it left us so thirsty

Emily Murtagh has a degree in English Literature and World Religions and Theology from Trinity College, Dublin, and has interned with the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, in Edinburgh. She is passionate about helping people see the world and each other through fresh lenses. Stories, joy and real life hope are all things that drive her. Emily is currently pursuing her masters in Community and Youth Work in Ireland.

 

A Few Thoughts on JAM: Activism, Pluralism, Dialogue [and whether we can still have fun]

Whether it's because our opponent hails from another political party, or voted differently on a key referendum, or thinks about...social values — or whatever — in a way we struggle to comprehend, our collective habit of shouting at each other with fingers stuffed in our ears has reached a breaking point. It's time to bring [a bit of] ambivalence back… This raises a delicate question: Who gets to decide if you're the "right kind" of [activist]....? Similarly, who gets to decide if you're an ally on some issue or really just a bigot in disguise? (Earp, 2016, pgs. 1, 5)

By Anna Westin

Be it about bodies and spirits, or ideals and practical realities, the challenge of embodying different ideals has repeatedly reared its head through time. And now it seems, it could be a key challenge to contemporary activism. “Hey, I’m a good idea. But not sure what I look like in real life…” Or “ ‘Oh, hey, I’m another good idea, but I am definitely not going to agree with your idea!” There’s a two-fold thing going on here, I think: The first is getting our ideas to really look like something in reality (measured impact, for lingo’s sake). The second is, keeping the conversation going when our ways of doing this don’t match others (effective dialogue, our second term). Passionate people who have big ideas… and often don’t agree. Arguably, activism’s kryptonite.

I easily hope and quite easily get disappointed when things don’t go to plan, which I think can be a bit of a personality metaphor for today’s activism.  We have big hopes, and they are often disappointed. Protest movements, effective in the past have been recently questioned in terms of maintaining a unified line of thinking (what are we all representing?) and concrete change. Action plans and rhetoric have made ideas bigger than felt realities.  And the hostility towards the great evil of ambiguity— honestly not knowing our opinions [or, not good, changing our opinions!], because, well, we don’t know everything.  How can we engage with progressive activism, while remaining joyful, in dialogue, and actually producing change?

Maybe that’s why I like the idea of a Network— because it starts from the desire to change things and the honesty that I really don’t have what it takes to accomplish it alone.  That there are different people out there who want this same impact, and who I might not really ‘get’ at first, but that we can work together (Go to the sociologists and psychologists to look at in-group, out-group research. It’s fascinating.).  That some people are great with numbers, others have abilities to paint and sing, some are researching this stuff theoretically and others are seeing it unfold first-hand.  That there is no segregation of disciplines and methods that are ‘better than’ or more ‘prestigious than’, but that different things work for different scenarios, environments, and people.  Maintaining the richness of the plurality within the unified purpose of a shared, growing effective dialogue (something my supervisor taught me about the ancient Socratic way of conversation).

So, who is the ‘right kind’ of activist when it comes to human trafficking and modern slavery?  Who is the ideal JAM Network-er? Anyone whose goal is its eradication.  How are we going to do it? By focusing on creating measured impact through cultural and communal engagement and developing effective dialogue. Will I agree on the particularities all the time? Not always. Will I have different opinions sometimes? Probably.  Are there times when I will just have no sweet clue? Most definitely.  But that is where the unity of the Network is key— in keeping the conversation going in its various outworking (blogs, music, papers, business proposals).  

It’s a bit existential perhaps. A bit of deBeauvoir’s ‘becoming a’ something, if you like philosophy… But since the goal is in focus, I think it permits the development of something uniquely exciting— to joyfully celebrate and encourage what is already happening, and to push for change in innovative new ways that we hope to see affect the real lives on whose behalf we speak.  Of course, maintaining the unity will be hard— because we are talking about things that matter and affect people concretely, be they stigma, exploitation, rights, etc. But if we keep the honest vision clear, and the humility of continuing to ask and learn with the stubbornness of seeing change happen, I think it’s a good first step.

Such an exciting (and FUN!) thing to be a part of! Thanks for joining in the conversation.

Anna Westin (St. Mary's University Twickenham) is a visiting lecturer, Pilates instructor, and musician.  She is currently working on a PhD in the existential phenomenology of addiction, and has research interests in environmental sustainability, international development, political philosophy, existentialism, phenomenology, personal identity and bioethics.  Anna has previously published articles on human rights and ethics. You can find her at: anna-music.org or jamnetworklondon@gmail.com. 

Combating Slavery & Unemployment with an Ancient Tradition

By Josie George

‘Amma’ means mama or mother in Tamil and Sinhalese- the two languages spoken in Sri Lanka. Warren, my husband, and I (Josie) are soon to be calling the country home. Amma is also the name of the social enterprise we are starting in partnership with local charity, Child Action Lanka.

Our aim is to tackle the high unemployment levels amongst mothers in rural villages. We have found that many mothers are leaving their children with family or neighbors in search for work in the city or Middle East. This is not only putting themselves at risk but leaves the child vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. The community that we will be working with live amongst the tea plantations in a town called Nuwara Eliya, where this situation is very common.

Pay is low as a tea picker or farmer and work is very unreliable due to frequent downpours. It is impossible for families to overcome the trap of poverty, living in overcrowded tiny houses and reliant on sparse communal toilets and no running water.

Child Action Lanka are changing the lives of the young people that attend their centres and are influential amongst the whole family unit, but we believe by empowering, training and investing into the mothers this will bring even greater transformation to family life.

Sri Lanka has a rich heritage in textile and garment production and it was witnessing this during my first visit in 2010, along with a trip to West Africa to visit ‘Sahel’ design, that inspired me to pursue a degree in textiles. There is something about working with your hands that transcends cultural differences. Sewing, weaving & dyeing are a language of their own, and to develop the ‘Amma’ style in collaboration with our Sri Lankan mothers is a great honour.

The focus I wish to bring is my desire for great, ethical and sustainable design. We have plenty in this world and to produce more means it has to be worthy of its place. It will take us months of training and workshops but I believe for this to succeed it needs to last. With this in mind my interest has turned to the abundance of plants that can be harnessed for dyeing across Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan textile industry relies heavily on expensive imported synthetic dyes that produce harm to both people and the environment. By exploring the ancient art of natural dyeing I hope that what we produce will be beneficial to health and kind to the planet.

Warren and I are returning to Sri Lanka in October, we are hoping a website will be up and running in the coming months – but if you wish to keep up to date with how AMMA unfolds we can add you to our monthly newsletter.

Email: josiebethgeorge@gmail.com

Or you can follow our progress on Instagram @amma_srilanka

Josie and Warren George are from Wales, and spent the last few years in London before moving to Sri Lanka.  Josie studied weaving and textile design at Central Saint Martins, London and Warren has a background in music and youth work. 

 

Modern Day Slavery in the Food Supply Chain

By Dr. Kim Salmons

In March 2015, the Modern Slavery Act received Royal Ascent. The Act was designed to ensure that businesses over a certain size must publish an annual report statement on the slavery and human trafficking in their sector. In addition they are compelled to state that they have taken steps to ensure that this form of exploitation is not taking place in their supply chains. This, however, is not happening. The everyday foods that we eat and enjoy are tainted by slavery and human trafficking.

Prawns, as one example, come tainted with the exploitation of Thai fishermen who can spend years on prawn trawlers, abducted as boys and held captive under fear of death or torture. In 2014, an investigation carried out by the Guardian newspaper detailed the horrific conditions in which these workers exist. In one report, the Guardian recommended that consumers should only buy prawns that had been sourced from the North Atlantic or the Irish Sea. But then, in November 2015, the Guardian exposed exploitation of migrant workers in the Irish fishing industry in which sleep deprivation, unsanitary living conditions and enforced long hours were endemic.  

Even the humble tomato has roots in the slave trade: Italy is the third largest producer of tomatoes but the majority of Italy’s tomato pickers are migrant workers from Ghana. They are paid poverty wages and they live in squalor. The tomatoes the migrant workers harvest are processed in Italy and sold to the UK. They end up in pasta sauces, purees and other food products.

Where Ghanaians once grew and harvested their own tomatoes, the increase in production costs and pressure from large supermarkets to cut prices, has resulted in them being priced out of the market. Now Ghanaian tomato farmers abandon their land and travel to Italy to pick tomatoes instead of farming their own. To add a terrible irony to the situation, the Ghanaian people no longer cook and eat the tomatoes that were once a staple of their diet; instead they buy tins of chopped, processed tomatoes which are imported from China and Italy.

Some believe that human trafficking and slavery is something that happens in other countries. But the UK is as guilty of exploitation in the food supply chain as any other nation.

Immigrants arriving in the East of England and the East Midlands hoping to improve their lives, are employed by poultry processing factories – an industry that turns over £600 million a year. In 2014, a Report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission exposed the cruel treatment that the immigrant workers suffered. Around one in six migrant agency workers, many Polish, mentioned having been forced to work under threat of losing their job. They were made to do overtime when they didn’t want to, either because they were ill or pregnant. Some workers were prevented from leaving the premises in order for them to do overtime. Conversely, workers were told they weren’t wanted at short notice. If one worker refused to do overtime, then a whole group were threatened with the sack.

And what of one of the world’s favourite foods, chocolate? More than 70% of the world’s cocoa is grown and harvested in West African countries; mainly Ghana and the Ivory Coast and many of the workers on the 600,000 farms that produce cocoa for the major chocolate companies, are children.

Farmers can earn as little as $2 a day and are forced into using cheap or slave labour. Some of the children are abducted by traffickers from Burkina Faso and Mali and most never see their families again. The children pack the cocoa pods into sacks that weigh more than 100Ibs when full and have to drag them through the forest:

Finally, coffee: 1.6 billion cups of the stimulant are drunk every day and with the retail value of coffee standing at $50 billion a year, coffee as a commodity comes second only to oil. Five companies control half the global retail market: Kraft, Nestle, Proctor and Gamble, Sara Lee and Tchibo and 80% of the coffee supplied through these global companies comes from Asia, South America and Sub Saharan Africa.

Despite its status as a hugely profitable commodity, coffee production relies on cheap labour and most coffee farmers have small holdings, receiving just 7-10% of the retail value of the coffee sold in supermarkets. On occasion the cost of producing the coffee exceeds what the farmers earn and in order to keep production costs down, children are used as cheap labour. In Kenya, 30% of coffee pickers are under the age of 15. For the full story download the on-line film, Black Gold by Nick and Marc Francis).

References:

 Dr. Kim Salmons works at St. Mary's University, Twickenham, and has her PhD in Modern English Literature. This blog is part of a presentation which she delivered at the FEAST event ('Modern Day Slavery in the Food Supply Chain', on February 8th, 2015), in conjunction with a series of events at the Centre for the Study of Modern Slavery. Dr. Salmons has also previously published articles on vegetarianism, anarchy and cannibalism.