International Justice Mission
|Staff||EVP and COO: Gary Veurink
Senior Vice President of Justice System Transformation: Sharon Cohn Wu
Executive Vice President of Global Brand Marketing & Mobilization: Chong-Ae Shah
Senior Vice President of Justice Operations: Sean Litton
|Budget||US$47.95 Million (annually, FY2013)|
|Location||HQ: Washington, DC
18 Field offices: Guatemala, Bolivia, Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Rwanda, India, Dominican Republic
Partner offices in: Canada, UK, The Netherlands, Germany, Australia
International Justice Mission (IJM) is an evangelical Christian human rights organization with a focus on laws and law enforcement.
IJM states that its mission is to combat violence including sex trafficking, forced labor slavery, illegal property grabbing, police abuse of power, child sexual assault, and citizenship rights abuse. The bulk of IJM’s work focuses on sex trafficking. The organization’s participation in high profile raids of brothels and close coordination with third world police agencies have engendered criticism over its mission and tactics.
IJM has 18 field offices in Africa, Latin America, and South and Southeast Asia and a headquarters in Washington, DC. IJM states it employs 600+ full-time staff globally. Only practicing Christians may work for IJM. Workdays at all offices begin with a half hour of stillness and a half hour of corporate prayer later in the day as part of their spiritual formation practices.
There is conflicting data regarding the results of IJM’s work. IJM itself reports that, since 2006, it has rescued more than 19,000 people from violence and oppression, and secured the convictions of more than 800 violent criminals. It claims that through its work in strengthening local justice systems, IJM is helps to protect 21 million people from violence globally.
In 2010, IJM's Project Lantern reviewed its programs in Cebu, Philippines, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. An independent audit revealed that there were 79% fewer minors in the sex trade in Cebu than before the program started, more than 200 minors were rescued, more than 700 law enforcement officials were trained, and more than 100 traffickers were charged. The Philippines passed a new and stronger anti-trafficking law after years of concentrated advocacy by IJM and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (a coalition of government agencies, with IJM serving as the NGO representative).
However, investigations from third party sources present a different picture on IJM’s results. A USAID funded census of sex workers in Cambodia in the year 2003 found the underage prostitution increased in the area the months following a series of brothel raids organized by IJM. Other NGOs have reported serious collateral damage from IJM’s tactics. For example, in the wake of IJM-organized brothel raids, sex workers have faced deportation in Thailand, or arrested and raped by police. Likewise in the Philippines, numerous women allegedly “rescued” from brothels wound up escaping from an IJM funded aftercare center. IJM responded by building higher walls and fences around the building, to prevent further escapes.
In 2010, U.S. News and World Report named IJM one of the top 10 service groups making a difference in the world, describing IJM as an example of “noteworthy public service programs that are having an impact.”
IJM reported an annual budget of approximately $43 million in 2014. It received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator.. The annual financial reports and the independent auditor’s reports for the previous four years can be found on IJM’s website.
IJM’s funding comes primarily from individuals (72%) as well as churches, foundations, and government grants (2%). IJM received a $5m grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. IJM was one of three anti-slavery groups that collectively received an $11.5m grant from the Google Foundation in 2011 to fight slavery in India and develop advocacy programs in the United States.
IJM has aroused intense criticism over its tactics and mission. Much of the criticism stems from IJM’s role in organizing brothel raids and subsequent arrests or deportations of sex workers. Others have criticized IJM for hindering HIV prevention efforts and for maligning local organizations which have questioned its tactics. Still others have questioned IJM’s focus on law enforcement tactics and close coordination with police agencies to carry out a human rights mission. IJM has been derisively referred to as “Cops for Christ” or “Human Rights Workers with Handcuffs.”
Thailand Brothel Raids
IJM began operations in Thailand in the year 2000. Although many forms of sex work are legal in Thailand, IJM sent men undercover to two brothels, used hidden cameras and produced a 25 page document alleging specific violations of Thai law. As a result, Thai police raided the two brothels, and arrested 43 women and girls. IJM characterized the operation as a successful “rescue”. However, many of the women stated that they were working in the brothel voluntarily. The women were held in police custody. About half the group subsequently escaped; some apparently fearing deportation to Burma. . In other brothel raids organized in 2000 and 2003, IJM urgently requested other local NGOs to provide translation assistance upon realizing the sex workers were not Thai citizens. The “rescued” sex workers were either deported to the border or detained for months in shelters.
Cambodia televised brothel raid
IJM director Gary Haugen invited the television show Dateline to film a March 29, 2003 raid it organized on a large brothel in the village of Svay Pak. IJM operatives came to the raid equipped with pepper spray and batons. The brothel contained approximately 40 girls and women who were detained in the raid. A noodle vendor, who had no involvement with the brothel, was among those who were arrested in the raid; the noodle vendor subsequently died of a stroke in jail. IJM had contracted with a Cambodian human rights organization, LICADHO, to review its actions in organizing the raid. Peter Sainsbury, the consultant who reviewed the raid, stated that he communicated the medical issues of the noodle vendor to IJM but that his concerns were ignored. At least twelve of the “rescued” victims from the 2003 raid ran away from the safe house they were taken to. In a subsequent brothel raid a year later, a number of girls rescued from the 2003 raid were found to be again involved in sex work.
Maligning Indigenous Public Health Efforts
IJM organized brothel raids have been accused of interfering with public health and HIV-prevention efforts, some of which took place at the brothels themselves. In response, IJM has stated that sex workers can instead go to clinics for such information. When Cambodian NGO Empower raised questions about the televised brothel raid in that country, Empower staff say IJM accused their organization of supporting pimps. The International Union of Sex Workers criticizes IJM’s work as being focused on Christianity, and for presenting anyone involved in sex work, coerced or not, in the role of a victim awaiting salvation. It states that crackdowns drive prostitution further underground. Others have criticized brothel raids more generally as an ineffective way to fight human trafficking, likely to cause harm to those allegedly rescued, and disruptive of public health efforts.
IJM Response to Criticism
After a series of critical articles published in The Nation magazine in 2009, IJM published a document to clarify and explain its mission and tactics. The document states that IJM operations with local police are focused solely on securing for children and trafficked women the right to be free from commercial sexual exploitation and that IJM supports HIV prevention efforts. IJM also states that it has protocols that it introduces to local law enforcement that address the appropriate treatment of non-trafficked adults co-mingled in the brothel with children. However, IJM has refused to share these protocols with reporters. Some of IJM’s responses corroborate the criticism it has received. For example, IJM states that it supports locking up underage sex workers, so that they cannot return to sex work. It also compares brothel owners with pedophiles.
IJM’s Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy Holly Burkhalter, formerly with Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, authors the organization’s viewpoints on these issues in an article from the Anti-Trafficking Review, Issue 1, June 2012.
- "IJM 2015 Fact Sheet" (PDF).
- Robertson, Grace. "Missiology and International Justice Mission Introduction". Retrieved December 26, 2015.
- "Beyond Rescue" by Noy Thrupkaew, The Nation, October 8, 2009
- "10 Service Groups That Are Making a Difference" by Cathie Gandel, an article in U.S. News and World Report, October 27, 2010
- "International Justice Mission Receives $5 Million Grant to Fight Sex Trafficking," March 14, 2006
- "Google joins fight against slavery," CNN, December 14, 2011
- Pisani, Elizabeth (September 21, 2009). The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels and the Business of AIDS. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 232. ISBN 0393337650.
- Jones, Maggie (November 2003). "Thailand's Brothel Busters". Mother Jones.
- Hansen, Chris (January 9, 2005). "Dateline". NBC. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
- Thrupkaew, Noy (September 16, 2009). "The Crusade Against Sex Trafficking". The Nation.
- A False Controversy: Law Enforcement and the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Trafficked Women
- Busza, Joanna, Sarah Castle, and Aisse Diarra. 328.7452 (2004): 1369–1371. Print. (2004). "Trafficking and Health". BMJ : British Medical Journal. 328(7452): 1369–1371.
- "Sex Trafficking, Law Enforcement and Perpetrator Accountability," an article from Anti-Trafficking Review, Issue 1, June 2012.