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Professor advocates for human trafficking victims


By Nick Sobecki



Her fingers flew across the keyboard with machine gun-like chatter as she typed another email and sent it to one of many allies.

Professor Stepanka Korytova, a visiting scholar-in-residence at IU’s Center for the Study of Global Change, combats human trafficking.

“It’s a crime that doesn’t have enough coverage,” Korytova said. “If there’s any coverage, it’s sex trafficking and it’s usually about some really violent cases.”

Human trafficking is “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction” and other techniques to gain control of a person and exploit them, according to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime.

“But I think it’s more than that,” Korytova said.

Korytova said she is passionate about the study of immigration and the migration of undocumented workers. She started a multi-disciplinary faculty study group, The Many Faces of Trafficking, which has met at least twice.

Associate Professor Lynn Duggan, who has a Ph.D. in economics and studies class, race and gender in the workplace, is one of Korytova’s recruits for the study group.

“She is a versatile person,” Duggan said. “She’s very interesting and well-organized. Being from Eastern Europe she is even more knowledgeable because there’s a lot of human trafficking there.”

Korytova is from the former Czechoslovakia and lived through the Soviet Union takeover. She then moved to England and then the United States. She has also taught in all three countries.

Korytova is the 2011 recipient of the Association for Women in Slavic Studies Zirin Prize, awarded “in the hopes of encouraging and supporting her study of sex trafficking in Central and Eastern Europe, and recognizing her past scholarly accomplishments,” according to a College of Arts and Sciences press release.

“I think they all sort of appreciated that I’m academically active,” Korytova said.

She has written a chapter in a book titled “To Reap a Bountiful Harvest: Czech Emigration Beyond the Mississippi River, 1850-1900”. Her chapter is about Slavic emigrants and another book about Slovaks’ ties to the Homeland.

Korytova will travel to Washington, D.C., to pick up the award for her book on Nov. 19.

“I’m very happy about it,” Korytova said. “It’s not only a personal award, but it’s also a tribute award for letting me teach this course.”

Aside from getting published and starting a study group, Korytova is much more active as a leader.

“I’ve formed a closer relationship with her, as a professor, this semester than any other professor,” said Justin Kingsolver, president of the Indiana University Student Association. “She is passionate, interested in her students and engaging.”

Kingsolver is a student in Korytova’s international studies course.

“She has caused me to see beyond (the United States’) boundaries,” Kingsolver said. “I’m a very American-centric person, but now I’m more globally minded.”

Korytova has been invited to teach another class during the spring 2012 at the IU campus. Korytova said she will teach here as long as faculty members continue to invite her to do so.

However, she said she wants to start a research center at IU that would focus on compiling statistics and reports about human trafficking in all of its forms. One of her ideas is for the center to take a look at trafficking in the Midwest.

The center would involve several IU departments as well as undergraduates and graduates to establish internships and raise awareness in Bloomington.

“It’d be a great thing to do,” Duggan said. “I think Indiana needs that center and Bloomington would be the obvious place.”

Korytova has brought different leaders together to combat human trafficking. These individuals include Rachel Irby, the executive director of the nonprofit Unchained Movement, as well as Peggy Welch, District 60’s representative in the Indiana House of Representatives.

Korytova and her students will assist Welch in writing a new human trafficking law for Indiana, which will appear before a committee and in hearings sometime early
next year.

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