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Law School Combats Human Trafficking in Haiti


Nicole Phillips '99 (left) and Professor Dolores Donovan (right) in Haiti.

The University of San Francisco School of Law’s Center for Law and Global Justice is set to launch human rights courses at several Haitian law schools focused on preventing child trafficking.

The new program, “Students Speak Against Trafficking,” is supported by a $750,000 grant from U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

The law school is partnering with the State University of Haiti in Port-au-Prince to educate more than 1,000 law students. The Haitian law students, in turn, will educate thousands of secondary and primary students on the human rights violations inherent in human trafficking and mobilize them against the practice.

The goal, according to law Professor Dolores Donovan, director of the Center for Law and Global Justice who is overseeing the new program, is to create a human rights culture that opposes child trafficking and bring about legal reforms. “The grant contemplates advocacy for legal reform of Haiti's anti-trafficking laws,” Donovan said. “The major type of trafficking targeted is labor trafficking of children, which, in plain English, means the sale of children to work as domestic labor in the homes of Haiti’s upper classes.”

The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons estimates that there are 225,000 child trafficking victims in Haiti, with another 3,000 Haitian children trafficked into the Dominican Republic. Worldwide, experts estimate that 10-30 million people are held against their will as modern-day slaves.

Most Haitians don’t consider labor trafficking as criminal, Donovan said. “Almost no one in Haiti comprehends that this practice violates basic human rights, including the right not to be held in conditions of involuntary servitude.”

The devastating earthquake last year has exacerbated the problem. The number of children sold into servitude has soared, and gender-based violence is also on the rise. “As Haitians seek to escape the devastation wrought by the quake, they have become easy victims for those who profit from labor and sex trafficking,” Donovan said.

USF’s Students Speak project will focus initially on Port-au-Prince, which is the country’s major source, transit point, and destination for trafficked persons. In its second and third years, the project will expand throughout the country.

Donovan and others from USF are writing textbooks to be used in the program and will train both Haitian law professors and the Haitian law students how to teach interactively.

The project is an extension of the center’s ongoing work in Haiti. Last year, USF sent law students on a human rights mission to investigate conditions in Port-au-Prince displacement camps. Their work was complemented by research performed by USF students in the School of Law’s Haiti Virtual Internship. Students will return to Haiti this summer for additional human rights fieldwork as part of the law school’s “Haiti and the Rule of Law” course, which will be taught by Nicole Phillips, assistant director of Haiti programs for the Center for Law and Global Justice.

Written by USF News staff »usfnews@usfca.edu