Demystifying Human Trafficking in the Caribbean Context: The Intersection of Culture and Human Trafficking

2024 Freedom From Slavery Caribbean Regional Forum

In the idyllic landscapes of the Caribbean human trafficking is a hidden and pervasive threat. This modern form of slavery undermines the fabric of Caribbean societies, exploiting vulnerabilities and overshadowing the rich cultural heritage of the region. In the countries around the Caribbean, human trafficking hides behind questionable but often accepted cultural practices that are not recognized as trafficking or exploitation in local communities.

The 2024 Freedom from Slavery Caribbean Regional Forum is convened as a pivotal gathering designed to confront human trafficking head-on through an informed, culturally nuanced, and collaborative approach. This year’s forum explores the role of culture in perpetuating human trafficking and how regional cultural resources can be integrated into enhancing and accelerating the fight against the exploitation of women, men, and children.

It is a call to dismantle the trafficking networks that have entrenched themselves by exploiting historical, cultural, and socio-economic dynamics. Forum attendees will embark on a mission to demystify the complex and often hidden operations of human trafficking within the Caribbean through the lens of culture, which influences factors such as gender inequality, the demand for commercial sex, ethnic values, the mistrust by local communities of law enforcement, and hinders effective collaboration between state and non-state actors to address deep-rooted social challenges. 

Why Attend?

The Caribbean Regional Forum offers stakeholders throughout the region a rare opportunity to coalesce to address critical concerns in the anti-trafficking space. In the three days, stakeholders will enhance their knowledge on the various ways in which human trafficking manifests in this region and how our culture, in many ways, facilitates this exploitation. Our goal is to enhance Caribbean anti-trafficking stakeholders’ capacity to carry out more informed advocacy at the national and regional levels, thereby potentially resulting in drastically improved prevention, protection and prosecution of trafficking cases. 

The forum represents a unique convergence of survivors, policy makers, practitioners, researchers, and community stakeholders, offering an unparalleled platform for learning, networking, and strategizing. It is an imperative gathering for those dedicated to disrupting the cycle of exploitation, as it equips stakeholders with the insight and connections needed to catalyze real change. By attending, you become an integral part of a regional movement towards freedom and justice. 

The Forum will be important for civil society actors and government representatives as it will highlight solutions to address critical gaps in the regional response, including comprehensive, community-level eradication of conditions that allow modern slavery to persist, and for community-based transformation leading to lasting community resilience.


Demystifying Human Trafficking in the Caribbean Context:  

The Intersection of Culture and Human Trafficking 

May 20-22, 2024 
 Kingston, Jamaica 
Pegasus Hotel

Note: Click here to book your room at the Pegasus Hotel at a discounted rate

 Anticipated Outcomes

  • Enhanced knowledge of the various ways in which human trafficking manifests in the Caribbean region and how culture has enabled exploitation to go unnoticed.
  • Strengthened capacities of Caribbean anti-trafficking stakeholders to carry out more informed advocacy in their territories.
  • Increased harmonization of efforts across the region through a call to action for greater regionalization.
  • Increased number of Caribbean countries achieving Tier 1 status in the US State Department’s TIP report by filling the gaps in the region’s anti-trafficking response.


DAY 1 – May 20

Day 1 Focus

Exploring Human Trafficking in the Caribbean region: 

  1. What are the various forms of trafficking?
  2. How does culture facilitate some of these forms of trafficking?
  3. Who is being targeted?
  4. Who are the traffickers? 
  1. To explore the various forms of human trafficking that occur within the Caribbean and the ways in which Caribbean people are trafficked outside of the region.  
  2. To explore the ways in which Caribbean history, cultures and norms perpetuate the exploitation of its people. 
  3. To examine the key factors that increase the vulnerability of people within the Caribbean region and the ways in which traffickers operate to exploit these vulnerabilities.  
An overview of human trafficking in the Caribbean region

Following the numbers: Lessons learned from the data in the region

This session will explore the questions: Do we have enough data? How do we treat the anecdotal data on the groundWhere does this data come from and who is providing this data? (including here various countries that are not often recognized in the data or in funding); Who are the victims? Who are the traffickers? How can we use the available data for each country to understand human trafficking? 

The intersection of Caribbean culture and human trafficking

This facilitated discussion will explore the various ways in which the culture in Caribbean nations facilitates various forms of trafficking in the region (migration, trafficking through sports, familial trafficking, views on prostitution/commercial sex, child begging). 

A1: Understanding the traffickers

This workshop will take a deeper look at who are the traffickers in the region and what vulnerabilities they are exploiting. We will explore what traffickers and trafficking organizations look like. (e.g., Sporting, unemployment, schools and children and sponsor-walk sheets) 

A2: Cultural and historical connections within and between the Caribbean Countries.

This workshop will take a look at the cultural and historical commonalities that are perpetuating trafficking in the region such as domestic servitude  linking this to historical legacies such as the house-girl from West Africa and Indo-Caribbean traditions. This workshop will be interactive and include checking biases that make it difficult for people to recognize trafficking when it’s happening; high rates of migration, etc.

Facilitated Discussion & Conclusion
Are we really “One Caribbean” when approaching trafficking in persons?

Do Caribbean countries work together to combat trafficking or are we working in silos?

Wrap Up & Adjourn 

DAY 2 – May 21

Day 2 Focus
Exploring current anti-human trafficking approaches across the region. We will focus on the current practices within the region to address trafficking in the area of policy & legislation, victim identification and referral systems, public-private partnerships, and cross-border collaborations. 

To highlight and examine current anti-trafficking approaches with the Caribbean region, lessons learned and areas for improvement.  

Introductions and Opening Remarks 

Exploring recent developments in counter-human trafficking policy and legislation in the region  

Panelists will provide a critical analysis of the recent developments in counter-trafficking legislation and policy across the region. What are some areas of success? What are some areas for improvement?  

Workshop: Getting It Right
A2: Successful Identification and Referral of Victims of Trafficking in Persons 

This workshop will explore a case study of a successful victim identification and referral system in the region.

B2: Effective Collaboration among state and non-state actors to combat Trafficking in Persons 

This workshop will explore best practices and lessons learned in the region on effective collaboration between state and non-state actors.

Best Practices in the Application of the Non-Punishment Principle 

This plenary discussion will explore how non-punishment principle has been implemented in the region, best practices, lessons learned, the barriers to implementation, and potential solutions to these barriers. 

Responding to Cross Border Trafficking in the Caribean Region

This panel will examine the different ways Caribbean territories are addressing cross-border trafficking, best practices, lessons learned, barriers to effective responses, and potential solutions. 

Building a Movement Narrative: The Caribbean Perspective
Wrap up and Adjourn 
Networking Time 

DAY 3 – May 22

Day 3 Focus

Identifying the gaps in the Caribbean anti-trafficking response and developing a plan of action to fill them On the final day of the forum we will focus on identifying critical gaps in the Caribbean region’s response to human trafficking, developing practical solutions and formulating an action plan to improve prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships nationally and regionally.  

  1. To highlight critical gaps within the Caribbean region that increase the vulnerability of certain groups and exacerbate conditions for survivors; 
  2. To identify practical solutions to improve human trafficking prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership in the region, taking into consideration the critical gaps that exist.  
  3. To develop actionable steps that would inform national and regional approaches for policymakers, law enforcement, the judiciary and CSOs to address human trafficking. 

Introductions and Opening Remarks 

Exploring recent developments in counter-human trafficking policy and legislation in the region  
Unidentified systemic factors contributing to human trafficking in the Caribbean

This session will focus on vulnerable groups, migratory patterns, systems of care for victims/survivors, and legislative procedures in the region which perpetuate victimization and trauma but are often overlooked.

A deeper exploration of the systemic contributing factors to Human Trafficking in the Caribbean

This will be an open plenary discussion on the gaps in the region, incorporating questions and contributions from the audience.   

Workshops: What Needs to be Done? Pt 1 
A4: Prevention

This session will incorporate the learnings on vulnerabilities and systemic gaps from previous sessions to brainstorm practical next steps in improving prevention in the region.

B4: Protection

This session will incorporate the learnings on vulnerabilities and systemic gaps from previous sessions to brainstorm practical next steps in improving protection in the region.

Workshops: What Needs to be Done? Pt 2
A5: Prosecution

This session will incorporate the learnings on vulnerabilities and systemic gaps from previous sessions to brainstorm practical next steps in improving prosecution in the region.

B5: Partnership

This session will incorporate the learnings on vulnerabilities and systemic gaps from previous sessions to brainstorm practical next steps in improving partnerships in the region.

Developing Action Plans for Prevention, Prosecution, Protection & Partnership


Facilitators will lead participants through the process of refining the ideas generated in Workshops A4, B4, A5, and B5 into a regional action plan that addresses vulnerabilities and gaps in the Caribbean anti-trafficking approaches.

What’s next for the Caribbean Region?

This session will focus on the establishment of robust Anti-Trafficking Prevention Initiatives that shift cultures and norms and galvanize support for a regional Survivor-Informed Counter-Trafficking Coalition.

Wrap Up and Adjourn: Walk to Emancipation Park for Community Outreach
Register for the 2024 Caribbean Regional Forum

2024 Caribbean Forum Planning Committee

Dr Jason Haynes

Dr Jason Haynes

Associate Professor of Law and Deputy Head of Postgraduate Studies

University of the Birmingham, UK

Dr Jason Haynes's Bio

Dr Jason Haynes is an attorney-at-law of over 7 years, having been called to the Bar of St Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbados. At present, he is an Associate Professor of Law and Deputy Head of Postgraduate Studies at the University of Birmingham, UK. Previously, he was a Senior Lecturer in Law and Deputy Dean (Graduate Studies and Research) at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados. He served as a Senior Legal Officer at the British High Commission in Barbados for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Crown Prosecution Service. In this capacity, he worked on a range of matters, including human trafficking. 

He has consulted on the issue of human trafficking for the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, and the Caribbean Community. On the issue of migrant smuggling, he has consulted for the International Organisation for Migration (Caribbean). He has advised a range of regional and international actors on human trafficking, including the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Free the Slaves, CARICOM IMPACTS, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and has drafted sentencing guidelines on human trafficking for the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. He has written a book (Hart Publishing) on human trafficking, as well as several journal articles in international peer-reviewed journals. 

He has a First Class Honours LLB degree (University of the West Indies), a LLM with Distinction (University of Nottingham), a MSc (University of Oxford), and a PhD (Durham University). He is a Chevening Scholar and a Commonwealth Scholar, an O’Brien Fellow in Residence at McGill University, an Academic Fellow of the Honourable Society of Middle Temple, UK, and the Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy. His work on human trafficking won the 2022 UNESCO/Juan Bosch Prize for Outstanding Contribution to Social Science Research in Latin America and the Caribbean. 




Disabled People’s International North America & The Caribbean Inc.

Merphilus James's Bio

Merphilus James is an avid disability rights advocate from the island of Saint Lucia. He has served as President of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) in Saint Lucia since January 2015. In 2019 he was elected President of Disabled People’s International North America and The Caribbean Inc. (DPI NAC) at the Tenth Regional Assembly which was held in Saint Kitts. 

Due to an extremely rare condition called Amniotic Band Syndrome, Merphilus was born with differences of his right hand and left leg. He has used a left prosthetic leg from the age of four. James is passionate about the advancement of persons with disabilities through education, social justice and empowerment, harnessing the innate talents of PWDs in advocacy and public awareness. 

 Merphilus James has held positions in the public service as a Programme Officer and National Volunteer Coordinator in the Office of the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia. He is currently a Training Officer with the National Skills Development Center where he cherishes his involvement in the education of youth in invaluable, marketable technical vocational skills. 

Major projects currently being undertaken under James’ leadership in Saint Lucia are prosthetic leg manufacturing, mobility aid distribution, climate resilience aquaponics for persons with disabilities and community-based rehabilitation. 

Sandra Christie Brown

Sandra Christie Brown


Finding Your Light Foundation, Inc.

Sandra Christie Brown's Bio

Sandra Christie Brown is the founder of the Finding Your Light Foundation, Inc. focusing on mental health. She is a member of Metropolitan Dade County Section-NCNW, Inc. (MDCS-NCNW) and served two terms as President. Sandra led the Section to new heights in membership, scholarships, partnerships, and community empowerment. The Section adopted the Bethune Head Start School; partnered with the City of Miami’s Health/Resource Fair; Bethune Cookman University’s Miami Dade Alumni Chapter and National Organization of Black Law Enforcement’s (NOBLE) Annual Holiday Toys Giveaway; and Tallahassee Florida group against Human Trafficking Education Bill. MDCS awarded $1,000 scholarships to seniors attending HBCUs; held Voter Education Workshops kicking-off “Four for The Future.” Sandra introduced the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Vegetable Garden “Plant, Grow, and Eat,” and facilitated the Dr. Dorothy I. Height Forever Black Heritage Stamp Dedication. Sandra has served as NCNW National Executive Board Member-at- Large from 2014-present and was appointed September 2020 by Dr. Johnnetta Cole as NCNW National Chair Human Trafficking Committee

Memberships: NAACP.; National Organization Black Law Enforcement Executives, Toastmasters International; Women’s Chamber of Commerce; Bethune Cookman University Miami-Dade Alumni Chapter-Honorary Member; The People Profile former Executive Director, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives; and Board Member-Foundation of Community Assistance & Leadership.

Honors: Maverley Primary School Wellness Center in honor of Sandra Christie Brown 2023, The People Profile Corporate Leader of the Year 2020.MDCS-NCNW Dr. Dorothy I. Height Leadership Award 2016, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Distinguished Award 2018; and 2016 NOBLE South Florida Chapter Sector Member of the Year.

Sandra attended Miami Dade College and majored in Business Administration. A 31-year career Insurance and finance, she is an Insurance Broker with Access Life and holds a FL 2-15 License in FL, GA, MD, SC, NC, OH, MI, TX, Life, Health, and Variable Annuities.

Ms. Cherisse Francis

Ms. Cherisse Francis

Attorney at law

Doctoral Candidate researching Trafficking in persons

Cherisse Francis's Bio

Ms. Cherisse Francis is a native of the beautiful Caribbean island of Barbados. Although she now considers herself to be an educator and researcher Cherisse began her career as a legal professional having graduated from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus with a Bachelor of Laws (First Class Honours) and the University of Aberdeen with a Master of Laws (Distinction). Cherisse also attended the Hugh Wooding Law School where she completed her Legal Education Certificate on the Principal’s Honour Roll and was subsequently called to the Barbadian legal bar in 2018. Throughout her educational pursuits, Cherisse remained committed to the pursuit of human rights through academia and her volunteering activities. After her LLM, Cherisse spent a short time as an intern at the United Nations Office for Barbados and the OECS before accepting a position with the Human Trafficking Institute (HTI). From 2019 to 2020 Cherisse was employed by the HTI as Judicial Research Assistant to the designated Trafficking in Persons Judge in the Belizean High Court. In this role she was involved in legal writing and research as well as training activities for state and non-state actors both in Belize and across the Caribbean. These experiences led Cherisse to pursue her PhD studies examining the culture, history, discourses and law surrounding anti-trafficking in the Anglophone Caribbean at the University of Warwick, UK which she submitted in January 2024. Since becoming a part of the regional anti-trafficking field Cherisse has also been involved in numerous consultancies, trainings, and workshops as a facilitator and scholar. At present, Cherisse is a Senior Lecturer (Law) at St.Mary’s University, Twickenham in England where she has taught among other things a course on Organised Crime, Trafficking and Contemporary slavery. She also continues to be engaged in research and serves as a trustee for the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (London Office) which has modern slavery as a flagship area. 

Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews

Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews


Immigration Division
Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews's Bio

Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews served in Trinidad and Tobago Public Service for thirty-eight years, thirty-two of which was spent as an Immigration Officer in the Ministry of National Security. She became the first female Chief Immigration Officer in Trinidad and Tobago in 2015, a position she held until her early retirement from Public Service in January of this year.  

Passionate about issues relating to trafficking in persons, Charmaine has been involved in anti-human trafficking activities since 2009. She advocated for and was actively involved in developing and implementing policies and legislation on trafficking in persons in Trinidad and Tobago. In 2012 she was appointed as the first Director to lead the establishment of Trinidad and Tobago’s Counter Trafficking Unit and develop and implement the country’s anti-trafficking efforts. She led the investigation, identification, rescue, rehabilitation, and reunification of victims of human trafficking with their families.

The US State Department recognized Charmaine as a hero acting to end modern-day slavery in its 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report. In December 2022, she was honored with the Migrant Hero Award from the International Organization for Migration, Port of Spain office, for her years of dedication and service in the field of migration. 

Coleen Morris

Coleen Morris

Anti-Human Trafficking Officer

Office of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons (ONRTIP)

Coleen Morris's Bio

Ms. Coleen Morris is the Anti-Human Trafficking Officer for the Office of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons (ONRTIP). She supports the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons and the Senior Anti-Human Trafficking Officer in research, policymaking, monitoring, evaluation, and reporting of strategies geared towards enabling the mitigation and reduction of Human Trafficking in Jamaica.  Ms. Morris plays a key role in the development of initiatives geared towards enabling survivors and vulnerable groups to understand the normative and regulatory framework surrounding the issue of human trafficking and monitors and reports on the nature and scope of human trafficking in Jamaica,  including for the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report.  She holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc.) in Psychology and a Master of Science (MSc.) in Applied Psychology. She has years of experience playing various roles in the design, implementation, analysis, and reporting of data for various stakeholders. 

Diahann Gordon Harrison

Diahann Gordon Harrison

National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons


Diahann Gordon Harrison's Bio

Mrs. Diahann Gordon Harrison has been the Children’s Advocate of Jamaica since January 2012 and has been Jamaica’s National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons since March 2015, making her the first to hold such a post in the Latin American & Caribbean Region. She is an Attorney-at-Law by profession, with over 20 years of experience, and has practiced at the Public Bar since she graduated from The Norman Manley Law School. Before she was appointed Children’s Advocate, Mrs. Gordon Harrison served as a Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions within the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.   

Known for her advocacy skills, she states that her current roles provide a national and regional platform from which to promote the rights of children and other people in vulnerable circumstances from a victim-centered and rights-based orientation. She is also passionate about accountability frameworks through which persons who violate the rights of children and vulnerable persons can be held responsible for their actions.  

Mrs. Gordon Harrison is an Associate Tutor at the Norman Manley Law School,  has also been an external reviewer for the British Council in Jamaica, and has been designated champion for CARICOM’s Regional Sex Guidelines for Courts. In November 2019, she was certified as a global expert by the Geneva-based  Justice Rapid Response Roster of global experts in International Criminal Law for potential deployment worldwide with a focus on Crimes against Humanity,  War Crimes, and International Human Rights Law. Since 2020 she has been a serving member of the Board of Directors for the International Society for the  Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, a United States-based non-profit organization that works in over 200 countries worldwide. 

Neil Bacchus

Neil Bacchus

Chief Executive Officer

Indigenous Peoples’ Commission

Neil Bacchus's Bio

Neil Bacchus is the Chief Executive Officer of the Indigenous Peoples’ Commission which promotes and protects the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Guyana. He has double master’s qualifications, professional qualifications in project management, and a degree and diploma in Public ManagementNeil serves on several NGOs, including the National Task Force on Trafficking in Person and the Inter-religious Organisation in Guyana. He is a community, religious, and youth advocate. He has over twenty-eight years of working experience and possesses excellent logistical, training, and operational skills. Neil has recently completed a  Fellowship Program in Religious Dialogue and culture and is committed to moving Guyana and the Caribbean forward. 

Rene M. Baptiste

Rene M. Baptiste

Managing partner

Baptiste & Co.

Rene M. Baptiste's Bio

René Mercedes Baptiste CMG is a distinguished legal and political figure, renowned for her groundbreaking contributions in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. With a career spanning over four decades, she has earned accolades as a Barrister, Solicitor, Notary Public, and Certified Mediator. René made history as the first female lawyer elected to the Parliament of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 2001, a testament to her trailblazing spirit and dedication to advancing gender equality in the legal and political arenas.

René’s illustrious legal career began when she was called to the Bar of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 1976. She played a pivotal role in shaping the Offshore Finance Sector, establishing and managing its regulatory framework from 1976 to 1986. In 1986, she founded Baptiste & Co. Law Firm, where her expertise in Corporate, Commercial, Family, Probate, and Property Law has garnered widespread recognition.

René served two terms in Parliament from 2001 to 2010, holding senior cabinet positions in Tourism, Culture, Urban Development, Labour, and Electoral Matters. Currently, she serves as the esteemed Speaker of the OECS Parliamentary Assembly, embodying her commitment to regional cooperation and governance.

René has served as President of the SVG Bar Association and held leadership roles in various community organizations, including the SVG Girls Guide Association, Ste. George’s Cathedral Parish, SVG Red Cross Society, and the General Employees Co-operative Credit Union. A passionate advocate for women’s empowerment and youth development, René serves as a patron of the SVG Netball Association and Brownie Sports. 

René Mercedes Baptiste CMG remains actively engaged in professional affiliations, including membership in the UWI Advisory Council Global Campus – SVG, OCCBA, OECS Bar Association, and Commonwealth Lawyers Association. As the Co-Chair of the ADR Committee ECLA, she continues to champion alternative dispute resolution mechanisms for the betterment of society.

Event Resources