How Oklahoma’s New Human Trafficking Laws

Evolved From a UN Treaty on International Crime

Moments of bipartisan leadership are always notable in the Oklahoma Legislature. In 2013, we were glad to see a cooperative spirit prevail in the passage of a series of measures updating our state’s laws on human trafficking.

Before last year, Oklahoma’s laws often had the unfortunate effect of punishing the victims of human trafficking — especially with regard to sex trafficking.

An editorial in The Oklahoman newspaper pointed out the problem: “A prostitution conviction creates enormous obstacles for victims of human trafficking seeking to re-enter society.”

A record of arrest and conviction would often create havoc for those who were emerging from virtual sex slavery — impeding their ability to find a job, rent a home, obtain credit, and so on.

Oklahoma’s new laws — approved by wide margins in the State Legislature — give much-needed support to victims of human trafficking.

As described by The Oklahoman, the measures accomplish several inter-related goals:

Rep. Sally Kern

“House Bill 1058, by Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, allows the victims of human trafficking to have prostitution-related offenses expunged from their criminal records.

“House Bill 1067, by Rep. Lee Denney, requires… that criminal charges be dismissed against any child victim of human trafficking. Perhaps most importantly, HB 1067 requires that in cases of teenagers facing prostitution charges, ‘there shall be a presumption that the actor was coerced into committing such offense by another person in violation’ of trafficking laws.

“House Bill 1508, by Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, clarifies that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control has subpoena powers for crimes relating to human trafficking. All three laws passed with virtually unanimous support.”

We think these new laws are smart and compassionate. They reflect a public policy viewpoint that was first advocated by the United Nations more than a dozen years ago.

It was in November, 2000, when the UN General Assembly approved the international “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.”

Some of the features of the UN Protocol (PDF) are mirrored in Oklahoma’s legislation.          

For example:

  • The international Protocol defines Human Trafficking as the “…transport of persons, by means of coercion, deception, or consent for the purpose of exploitation such as forced or consensual labor or prostitution.”

  • The Protocol ensures that trafficked persons are not punished for any offenses related to their having been trafficked, such as prostitution and immigration violations.

  • The UN Protocol facilitates the return of children who have been victims of cross-border trafficking.


UNA-USA volunteer Amit Shah promoted awareness
of the international protocol at a human trafficking
conference in Oklahoma City in 2011.

In Washington, DC, the U.S. Congress embraced the UN Protocol. It was ratified by the United States Senate in November, 2005.
As of October 2013, it had been ratified by 158 nations — representing more than 80% of all UN members.

According to the terms of the Protocol, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is responsible for implementing the provisions of the agreement. UNODC offers practical help to states with drafting laws, creating comprehensive national anti-trafficking strategies, and assisting with resources to implement them.

The Protocol commits ratifying nations to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, to protect and assist victims of trafficking, and to promote cooperation among states in order to meet those objectives.

Oklahoma is one of many American states to change its laws, over the course of the last decade, to reflect the new global consensus on human trafficking.

We’re proud of the UN’s efforts to fight crime and protect human rights. The UN has been a global leader in defining the crime of human trafficking and rallying state and local efforts to defend at-risk populations.

Like many other problems in our world today, human trafficking is a crime of such magnitude and atrocity that it cannot be dealt with successfully by any government alone.

It is one more example of why people in Oklahoma communities appreciate and support American leadership in the United Nations.

For more information about the UN’s efforts on human trafficking: www.una-okc.org/carina

In March 2009, UNODC launched the Blue Heart Campaign to fight human trafficking.

The United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA) wants all Americans to understand the vital work of the United Nations. Membership to UNA-USA is your connection to the UN. As a member, you receive exclusive web content, invitations to events at the United Nations, and the U.S. Department of State, and special programming through local Chapters.  Join Online

World Hijab Day

Photo from the BBC

On February 1st, women in more than 50 nations will participate in World Hijab Day. Events are being organized in major cities around the world — including Oklahoma City. World Hijab Day is part cultural appreciation, part religious awareness, part celebration of freedom. You don’t have to be a Muslim to take part.

This will be the second World Hijab Day, actually. The first one in 2013 slipped by us without notice. This year, our attention was grabbed by an email message:

“I am one of two event coordinators for World Hijab Day Oklahoma Joins!

“To give you a quick overview, World Hijab Day was started by a sister in New York for the purpose of fostering awareness and understanding about a topic often times misrepresented. This is a world wide event completely independently ran. In fact myself and the other event coordinator,  have only physically met just once last Ramadan and yet we are jointly coordinating this effort!!

“On Feb. 1st, 2014 Non Muslim and Muslim women in more than 50 countries will wear hijab (Islamic Head covering)  to support the personal freedom to wear of one’s own choice, while creating unity for peace across communities.  WHD has spread through social media like a wild fire,  igniting a wonderful passion for peace and solidarity world wide.

“The motto of WHD is ‘Better Awareness. Greater Understanding. Peaceful World.’ Some countries will have walks, lectures, dinners and we here in Oklahoma City will be having a casual get-together for communities to get to know one another and learn about the historic, cultural and religious roots of the veil.” 

Doing some digging, we learned that World Hijab Day is the brainchild of Nazma Khan, a young woman from New York City who wears a hijab. She writes:

“Growing up in the Bronx, in NYC, I experienced a great deal of discrimination due to my hijab. In middle school, I was ‘Batman’ or ‘ninja’. When I entered University after 9/11, I was called Osama bin laden or terrorist. It was awful. I figured the only way to end discrimination is if we ask our fellow sisters to experience hijab themselves.”

Throughout the last year, Nazma Khan has been invited as a guest speaker at universities, high schools and religious organizations. Her goal this year is to have 1 million participants worldwide.

One of the groups Nazma spoke to was at the Kupferberg Holocaust Center. She felt loved and welcomed by a group of holocaust survivors.

The executive director of the center, Dr. Arthur Flug, endorsed Nazma’s efforts: “World Hijab Day has shown my students a most powerful lesson in accepting individual differences.”

World Hijab Day in Oklahoma City will take place on Saturday, February 1st, from 3 to 5pm:

North West Metropolitan Library — Conference Room B
5600 NW 122nd St.
OKC, OK   73142

To RSVP call: (405) 606-3580 or email: whd.okc@gmail.com

Here’s the pitch from the organizers:

“You are cordially invited to join the world in a Day of Peace and Solidarity.

Photography: Gary Jordan Photography
Credit: WHDTT – World Hijab Day Trinidad & Tobago

“Come experience and enjoy the hijab culture, learn about its historic roots, meanings and meet the women whom wear this famous clothing. All women are invited, both Non-Muslim and Muslim, to join us for this world wide celebration.

“Food / refreshments provided. Families welcome.

“Thank you and we hope to see you there!”

In Oklahoma, we know that proper attire for women must include high heels. And a cowgirl hat. Or running shoes. Or whatever feels good. We’re laid back people who like to practice fashion diversity.

Yet, how many of us have secretly wanted to try on the hijab, but we just didn’t have the nerve? This could be the start of something!

You can read more about World Hijab Day here:

Hijab for a day: Non-Muslim women who try the headscarf
By Catrin Nye

BBC Asian Network

And here:

A day in hijab
Women wear headscarves to promote tolerance on #WorldHijabDay

Al Jazeera

And enjoy this 30-second invitation on YouTube:

World Hijab Day Feb. 1st 2014

Girl Rising

One Girl with Courage is a Revolution

Our Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association is proud to present a free screeing of the highly acclaimed film, “Girl Rising.”

Please plan to join us on Saturday, March 1st, at the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center – 3000 Pershing Blvd, in Oklahoma City. The film showing will run from 2:00pm – 4:45pm. The Contemporary Arts Center is located in State Fair Park. (Here’s a Map)

Girl Rising is a groundbreaking feature film about the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to transform societies. The film presents the remarkable stories of nine girls around the world, told by celebrated writers and voiced by renowned actors:

“Sokha was a Cambodian child of the dump; orphaned and forced to pick through garbage to survive. But, through a series of miracles, Sokha finds her way to school and, like a phoenix, rises to become a star student on the brink of a brilliant and once unimaginable future.”

“Wadley is just 7 when the world comes crashing down around her. Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake destroys her home and school, but it cannot break her irrepressible spirit nor extinguish her thirst to learn, even as she’s turned away from the schoolhouse day after day.”

“Though her brothers go to school, Suma is forced into bonded labor at age 6. The Nepali girl endures years of grueling work by expressing her sorrow in beautiful music and lyrics. Suma glimpses a different future by learning to read, the first step on the road to freedom.”

( Read more synopses at the Girl Rising website … here )

“Girl Rising” shows that, when you educate a girl, you can break cycles of poverty in just one generation.

Here’s what people are saying about Girl Rising:

“Girl Rising gives me hope. It gives me hope for the future of our girls, that they will have a chance to explore and achieve their full potential. That they will make the ignorant part of society value their existence and that they will be proud to be born a Girl!”
– Freida Pinto

“Girls’ rights will be the focus of the 10×10 Initiative when… award winning journalists and film-makers will expose in the new documentary Girl Rising just how unfair the distribution of educational opportunities is for so many millions of girls around the world.”
– Gordon Brown, Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; UN Special Envoy for Global Education.

“This film gives visual corroboration to knowledge we already have: Educating women and girls has the most optimistic, positive effects on families, communities, and economies worldwide. If to see it is to know it, this film delivers hope; reasonable, measurable, tangible hope that the world can be healed and helped to a better future!”
– Meryl Streep

“10×10 is building a global campaign, working with partner organizations on the ground to demand and actualize equal education for girls and women. Their slogan? Educate Girls, Change the World. I couldn’t agree more.”
– Cecilia Attias, President and Founder of the Cecilia Attias Foundations for Women; former First Lady of France

Please be sure to attend this special, limited engagement showing of “Girl Rising.” Tell your friends … Bring your brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Don’t miss “Girl Rising.”

Want a sneak peek of the film?

Here’s the Official Girl Rising Trailer: 


See you at the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center!

Human Trafficking Awareness in OKC

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Oklahoma City, OK — The Oklahoma Human Trafficking Task Force (OKHTTF) will observe National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month by increasing awareness and honoring victims of human trafficking during the week of January 19th-24th.

Activities include presentations at local schools, screenings of the documentary film Nefarious, and a candlelight vigil in honor and remembrance of human trafficking victims and survivors.

“It surprises people that there’s actually a very large number of slaves in the world today -– our best estimate is 27 million and that is defining a slave in a very narrow way; … we’re talking about people who are controlled by violence, who cannot walk away, who are being held against their will, who are paid nothing.”
— Kevin Bales, Co-Founder of Free the Slaves

January 19th & Jan 21st

Public screening of Nefarious, a documentary on the impact of human trafficking

– Sunday, January 19th at 6:00pm, Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene, 4400 Northwest Expressway, Oklahoma City

– Tuesday, January 21st at 4:00pm, Sauced on Paseo, 2912 Paseo Drive, Oklahoma City

January 21st to Jan 25th

Lighting of the Oklahoma City Sky Bridge in the human trafficking theme color (blue) in observance of human trafficking awareness

January 21st & Jan 22nd

Presentations at local schools to raise awareness by Beautiful Dream Society and No Boundaries International.

January 24th

Candlelight Vigil with a reading of Governor Mary Fallin’s Proclamation (PDF) at 6:30pm at the Oklahoma Bar Association, 1901 North Lincoln Boulevard, Oklahoma City.

Events are organized by the Oklahoma Human Trafficking Task Force, a multi-agency collaborative working to implement an effective victim centered response to the crime of human trafficking in Oklahoma, to bring awareness to the public and to make an impact throughout our communities in order to better the lives of human trafficking survivors and prevent future victims.

For more information, contact Debi Mangrum (405-513-5453) at No Boundaries International.

Human Trafficking is a Crime that Shames Us All

Read about how the United Nations has been the global leader in defining and organizing efforts to prevent and suppress the crime of human trafficking in all its dimensions. Our UNA-OKC website has a good description of the international Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons as well as links to more information and resources. Link to our page HERE.

Girls Count

An Opportunity for
You to Take Action

In the time and place where we live, the registration of live births is taken for granted. A child is born; a birth certificate is recorded.

Why do we do this? Because, when births are recorded promptly and accurately, doors are opened. Opportunity is enhanced. A birth certificate is the child’s guarantee of access to education, health, and social services. Later in life, they will be able to vote, work, and own property.

But, in some parts of the world, not all births are recorded.

In fact, by some estimates, 200 million children lack an official identity, name, and nationality. This makes them vulnerable to a range of abuses — human trafficking, child labor, illegal adoption, etc.

So, here’s an opportunity for action.

Representative Steve Chabot (Ohio) has introduced a bill in Congress — “The Girls Count Act” — and it needs your help. The UN Foundation has set up an online petition so you can record your support for the bill. Here’s the Take Action LINK.

Basically, the Girls Count Act is about registering the birth of every child who is born in the world — especially girls. The Girls Count Act would authorize the Secretary of State to direct a portion of U.S. foreign assistance to help ensure that all girls are counted and have access to birth certificates and other necessary documentation.

The bill doesn’t require the expenditure of additional funds. It simply authorizes existing funds to be spent for this special purpose of protecting a vulnerable population.

This is how our friends at the Girl Up Campaign describe the need:

“Why Count Girls?

“Approximately one person in twelve around the world is a girl or young woman aged 10 – 24. Yet many developing countries do not account for the number of girls in their population. Due to an unavailability of systems to count these girls, and sometimes simply due to a lack of political will, girls will be denied birth certificates or other forms of official identification.  This means that as a girl grows up it will be difficult, if not impossible, for her to attend school or get a job in the formal business sector. She will not be able to own her own or inherit land, start her own business, or vote. She will likely be confined to the home and left unpaid – an invisible member of society.”

Currently, the Girls Count Act has 9 co-sponsors. It has been assigned to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. We want to ask our Members of Congress from Oklahoma to become co-sponsors.

You can find more information about the Girls Count Act on the “Girl Up” blog.

Article 6 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that, “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.”

One of the basic ways that we protect this right is by recording the birth of every child — guaranteeing that their identity is recognized by the community in which they live.

Please express your support for the “Girls Count” Act … Thanks!

One in Three Children Under Five
Does Not Officially Exist – UNICEF

On December 11th, UNICEF (the United Nations Childrens Fund) released a new report showing that the births of nearly 230 million children under age five have never been registered. That’s about one in three of all children under five around the world.

“Birth registration is more than just a right. It’s how societies first recognize and acknowledge a child’s identity and existence,” said Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. “Birth registration is also key to guaranteeing that children are not forgotten, denied their rights or hidden from the progress of their nations.”

The new report, “Every Child’s Birth Right: Inequities and in Birth Registration,” (PDF) collects statistical analysis spanning 161 countries and presents the latest available country data and estimates on birth registration.

UNICEF is using innovative approaches to support governments and communities in strengthening their civil and birth registration systems.