Saturday, December 23, 2006

Happy Holidays from Captive Daughters

We at Captive Daughters would like to wish everyone a very happy holiday and best wishes for the New Year.

In 2007 we look forward to continuing the fight against the sexual exploitation of women and children throughout the world. Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read this blog, to spread the word about sex trafficking within their communities and to continue the chain of education that is so essential in eventually ending this heinous practice.

We will be back on the blog in 2007. Until then, be well and enjoy your family and friends this holiday season.

Warm wishes,

Captive Daughters

EU: Human Rights Commissioner Lauches Effort to Combat Violence Against Women

This is the keynote address given by Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights at the launching conference on the Council of Europe Campaign to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence. Delivered in Madrid on 27 November 2006.

MADRID -- It has to be said at the outset that violence against women is a manifestation of unequal status between men and women in society. Therefore, violence against women must be addressed in the context of seeking to end all forms of discrimination, to advance gender equality and to empower women.

Women are still grossly underrepresented in almost all political assemblies and decision making bodies at all levels in Europe – also within the Council of Europe. This in turn is reflected in the priorities selected and, very importantly, on budgets and decisions on funding.

In spite of the numerous women’s rights conferences, agreed norms against discrimination and political pledges about gender equity, the gap between rhetoric and the daily reality remains. This is the main message in the UN Study on Violence Against Women which was published just a few days ago.

The UN Study points out that though strong laws have been adopted in many countries, most national-level responses have been inadequate and have not eradicated the impunity perpetrators too often enjoy.

The Study confirms previous reports indicatng that the level of violence against women, including domestic violence, remains very high. Though precise data are lacking, we know that such abuses are widespread and a serious problem also across Europe – affecting the lives of a large number of women, as well as their children.

We also know that where combating violence against women indeed has been made a priority by the government, we have seen tangible improvements in a relatively short time. The host country of this conference has been one of those that have taken the issue very seriously and progress is being made. This is largely thanks to the efforts of the women’s moment and the good co-operation between the government and the women’s groups.

This Conference should clearly send the message across Europe that combating violence against women is a very high priority and something to be taken seriously. The support demonstrated here in statements must be turned into serious action at the national and local levels, where it really matters.


California: 4 Accused of Smuggling Women for Prostitution

LOS ANGELES, CA -- Four women from Guatemala have been arrested as part of a scheme in which young women were lured into the U.S. with promises of good jobs and forced to become prostitutes in Los Angeles.

The women were arrested Wednesday when investigators from the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Labor and the LAPD served search warrants at six Los Angeles homes and apartments linked to the alleged prostitution ring.

Charged with importing and harboring undocumented immigrants as well as harboring them for prostitution were Gladys Vasquez Valenzuela, 36; her sisters, Jeanette, 25, and Albertina, 48; and Albertina's daughter, Maria Vicente de los Angeles, 27.

Another relative, Maribel Vasquez Valenzuela, is being sought by authorities.

The investigation began three months ago when two alleged victims of the ring escaped with the help of a male customer and contacted authorities, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Two other victims were rescued by investigators last month. Ten women at the locations raided Wednesday were also believed to have been working as prostitutes and were being interviewed by authorities to determine if they also were victims.

In a sworn affidavit used for the arrests and searches, FBI Agent Tricia Whitehill provided a harrowing account of how the young women were duped into coming to the U.S., forced into prostitution and held against their will, often beaten when they complained.

One victim, identified only by the initials I.C., told the agent she was first approached in Guatemala about coming to the U.S. by a man named "Chepe." According to the affidavit, he told the woman he had children in the U.S. who needed help with their restaurant business and that she could make plenty of money that she could send back to her daughter in Guatemala.

Agreeing to the offer, I.C. traveled for 20 days by foot and bus, crossing the Mexican border into Texas in February. There, she met a man and woman who drove her from Houston to Los Angeles.

Gladys Vasquez Valenzuela and her niece, Maribel, met the van and paid the smugglers $1,600 for I.C. and another woman, according to the affidavit.

Returning to Vasquez Valenzuela's apartment, I.C. said, she was told by the woman that she owed $10,000 for the trip and would have to work as a prostitute if she did not have the money.


Monday, December 18, 2006

South Africa: Flesh Traffickers Using SA as Prime Brothel

SOUTH AFRICA -- Among the throng of people who arrived at the new Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok from OR Tambo this week was a 29-year-old sex slave.

Napa's touchdown was a bittersweet moment for Thai diplomats in Pretoria and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security which is struggling to cut the human trafficking link between Thailand and South Africa.

Of the estimated 1 000 Thai women and children lured to South Africa this year to work in the sex industry, Napa (not her real name) was one of the lucky 52 to be repatriated.

Although she was whisked away for a debriefing, social workers gave the assurance she would not be treated as a criminal, but rather as a victim of human rights' abuse.

Her experiences in South Africa are vital when it comes to closing in on the extensive network which has, in recent times, increased human trafficking to and from Thailand, and will also serve to protect other potential victims.

In an interview with a South African media group in Bangkok, Thailand's Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Wallop Polytaptim, said South Africa was the third most popular destination for sex slaves from Thailand, the top two being Malaysia and Japan.

Yet, he said - referring to the fact that a South African delegation had been barred from attending a meeting with Thai officials in November - it had not been possible to reach a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on dealing with the problem.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Canada: Reviewing Prositution Laws

CANADA -- Members from the Liberal, New Democratic, and Bloc Québécois Parties are of the view that sexual activities between consenting adults that do not harm others, whether or not payment is involved, should not be prohibited by the state. (p. 92)

The report of the Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws was tabled in the House of Commons. It points to the absence of consensus on the subject of prostitution in Canada, underlining the existence of profound disagreements "as to the nature, causes and effects of prostitution, but also as to the solutions." (p. 5). It also points to the absence of knowledge as to the size of that industry in Canada, to such a degree that two of its seven recommendations deal with that issue.

The report is far from unanimous. The representatives of the Conservative Party have important disagreements with the other three parties. Some positions have the support of the Liberals and New-democrats ; others are backed by the Blockistes.

In short, in spite of the existence of profound differences, the report accepts, not to say justifies, sex as a business, under various excuses : security of the people involved, public health, apparent consent, etc. It reduces to a simple matter of individual choice a question which relates to a huge global and national system organised to the profit of pimps and traffickers as well that of prostituting clients. It also treats equally all sexual relations, “whether or not payment is involved". In such a context, to state that the report trivialises prostitution is an understatement.


More on Canada's Prostitution laws from The majority report of the Justice Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws : a direct assault on women's rights and a gift for organized crime

Canada: NGO Calls for Anti-Sex Trafficking Plan

TORONTO, CANADA -- Save the Children Canada congratulates Joy
Smith, M.P. for her initiative in presenting a Private member's Bill in the
House of Commons to develop a national strategy to combat human trafficking
and protecting victims of trafficking, most of whom are young women and
children. "This is a positive step." said David Morley, President and CEO of
Save the Children Canada. "All effort must be made to ensure that this human
tragedy is eliminated from within our borders and beyond."
Many children who are victims of trafficking are subjected to forced
prostitution, the production of child pornography, domestic servitude, work in
sweat shops and agriculture, and forced to become drug couriers. Children are
also being abducted and sold for illegal adoptions. Girls are more likely to
be trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and domestic service, whereas
boys tend to be trafficked for forced labour in agriculture, crime and the
drug trade.


Cameroon: Sexual Exploitation of Children Study

CAMEROON -- Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) has become a major concern around the world. Although many are still not aware of its effects, it is gaining grounds in African society. As a result, the State and international organs are very much concerned with such an act. Despite numerous studies conducted so far, it still remains difficult to establish exact statistics based on the global view of CSEC. Sexual exploitation of children exists in different forms such as child prostitution, pornography and trafficking of children for sexual purposes. CSEC is provoked by misery and poverty in most families, the limits of public politics on matters such as school attendance and education, the insufficiency of the State to effectively guarantee all the rights prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child of 19891 and those of the ILO Convention No 29 concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour adopted on 28 June 1930; Convention No 138 concerning the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment adopted on the 26 June 1973 and Convention No 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour adopted on 17 June 1999 and ratified by Cameroon in 2000; and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which entered into force in November 1999.2 To resolve such issues as the definition of a child, the root causes of and forms of CESC in Cameroon, the profile of child sex exploiters and what can be done to eliminate CSEC, ECPAT, in collaboration with ASSEJA, launched a research on the commercial sexual exploitation of children in three towns in Cameroon: Yaoundé, Bamenda and Bertoua.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Nigeria: Women Sacrificed to Sex Trade

BENIN CITY, NIGERIA -- A family friend arranged for Gloria to leave Nigeria to work as a prostitute in Italy. Blessing was approached by an aunt. A next-door neighbor organised the trip for Adeyinka.

Thousands of women in southern Nigeria's Benin City -- a run-down port of crumbling buildings and potholed streets where power cuts are frequent and jobs scarce -- are encouraged by their desperate families to sell their bodies abroad.

"Our friend came to my house and said he could help me travel to Europe and make a lot of money. I wanted to help my mother. We are poor," says Gloria, who was 19 at the time and among the youngest of a family of 19 children.

She ended up in Italy after a harrowing journey across the Sahara during which several women died of hunger and thirst.

She arrived in debt, and by the time she was deported back to Nigeria after eight months working on the streets, she was still penniless, having only managed to pay some of the $35,000 she owed her new madam.

"Those years were wasted. When I think about it I feel very desperate," said Gloria, tears smudging her make-up.

Her story is sad but not uncommon in this city.

Trafficking women for prostitution became a problem in Benin City in the mid-1980s when free-market economic reforms led to massive job losses and impoverished many Nigerians...


Monday, December 11, 2006

UK: Children Smuggled in For Life of Crime

BRITAIN: An international gang is smuggling children as young as 5 into Britain and exploiting them in crimes ranging from pickpocketing to prostitution. The children are brought in by women couriers, who pose as their relatives and then hand them over to gangmasters.

The younger children are put to work begging on the streets and as pickpockets, and shuttle back and forth between groups of adults making multiple fraudulent child benefit claims. Teenage girls, some as young as 14, have been forced into prostitution and suffer violent abuse in brothels.

The gang’s activities came to light in May this year with the arrest at Stansted airport of Anna Puzova, a Czech woman, who was trying to enter Britain posing as the guardian of three Romanian children. Inquiries revealed that she had flown alone from Luton airport to Valencia 24 hours earlier.

Puzova, who was pregnant with her ninth child at the time of her arrest, had come to police attention two months earlier after flying into Luton from Barcelona with two children. Further investigations revealed a pattern of frequent travel between British airports and destinations in Spain and Italy.

As a national of a European Union member state, Puzova could travel in and out of Britain free. She always left on her own but returned with children. In police interviews she admitted bringing into Britain 13 Romanian children, aged between 5 and 15, between January and May. The three children who were with her at Stansted are now in the care of social services and are said to be in good health.


South Africa: Rife With Human Trafficking

Innocent victims: A little girl abducted from Mozambique finds sanctuary at the Amazing Grace Children's Home in Mpumalanga. She was one of the lucky ones. Photo: Boxer Ngwenya, The Star

SOUTH AFRICA: They are promised a better life in South Africa, but instead they are kidnapped, branded and sold into sexual slavery for as little as R380 [$54USD].

Women and children, some as young as 13, are falling prey to syndicates operating in Mozambique and Swaziland, trafficking and smuggling them to South Africa on an unprecedented scale.

According to a report from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), at least 1,000 Mozambicans are smuggled into South Africa monthly at a price of about R1,000 [$140USD] each.

Margie de Monchy, the United Nations Children's Fund's child protection adviser, said South African cities, especially Johannesburg, were often used as a marketplace by human traffickers and were also targeted by international syndicates to smuggle girls out of South Africa to Asia and Europe.

Slave traders use the country's cities as a transit point to Europe. Often, rural children who are taken advantage of are offered the chance of an education or a better life.

They are then told that they need to pay large amounts of money to buy their freedom, which they never get, and are then forced into labour or the sex industry, De Monchy said.

Due to the absence of legislation and allegations of police complicity with the traffickers, the South African Police Service is battling to stop the rampant human smuggling.

The IOM says human trafficking is one of the world's most lucrative trades, surpassed only by drug and gun trafficking, and estimates the industry nets organised-crime gangs about R50-billion a year.

An investigation by The Star has revealed cases of syndicates abducting or luring girls as young as eight from their homes to South Africa.

The Mareyane (traffickers), as the syndicates are known along the border areas, operate by pretending to be acquaintances or relatives of the innocent girls and luring them from their homes to Johannesburg.

The victims end up in brothels in, among other places, Hillbrow and Yeoville, where they are used as prostitutes or in porn videos shown on the Internet. Some are sold as sex slaves or for hard labour.


Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Amsterdam: Trafficking Forces Clampdown in Red-Light Area

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS -- The famed tolerance of the Dutch has reached its limits in Amsterdam after city authorities announced the closure of almost one third of the windows from which prostitutes ply their trade in the city's famous red-light district.

The move is a setback to the Amsterdam's thriving sex trade area which attracts thousands of tourists - as well as customers - and which has been well-established since the 17th century.

The authorities' action reflects the trend in the Benelux countries of shifting towards a flexible policy of tolerating some, carefully monitored, prostitution while cracking down on the rest. City authorities and police are increasingly concerned about the criminal underbelly of the sex business, in particular money laundering and human trafficking.

According to some estimates, around 3,500 women are trafficked to the Netherlands each year from eastern Europe and Asia to work in secret brothels or illegal escort agencies, often under appalling conditions.

Though the Dutch government legalised prostitution in 2000 to make it easier to tax and regulate, the authorities in Amsterdam have decided to use powers under a more recent law. This permits them to revoke licences from brothels when they suspect them of other illegal financial activity.

About 100 of the 350 prostitution windows in the Dutch capital's red-light district will be forced to close by the end of the year, though brothel owners can agree to withdraw their permits.


San Diego: Former Teen Prostitute Speaks Out

Former teen prostitute who began prostituting at age 11 tells her story to San Diego's 10 News

SAN DIEGO -- It is a sobering reality walking San Diego’s streets -- young girls, many barely teenagers, working as prostitutes.

10News met with a young woman who spent most of her teenage years as a prostitute.

“A lot of the girls I knew have ended up dead,” said 19-year-old Sarah.

For Sarah, the streets are paved with haunting memories. Two years ago, she left the only profession she had ever known -- prostitution.

“I would walk back and forth on the streets,” said Sarah.

Sarah took 10News to El Cajon Boulevard and one of the corners she worked since she began walking the streets at age 11.

Like so many teen prostitutes, Sarah said she ran away from a troubled home and into a life that earned her plenty of cash.

“On a good night, I made $1,200. Sometimes, I could push myself to $1,500,” said Sarah. “It was crazy. Money was the most addictive part. It was insane.”

The money was even better online, where Sarah said she eventually drummed up most of her business.

She posted ads on Web sites like Craigslist, using a fake age and enticing language designed not to incriminate.

One of Sarah’s ads read, “Looking for a good time, discreet encounter or casual business relations.”

Eventually, those relations proved risky.

Besides being arrested once, Sarah was also raped and was routinely attacked.

“I’ve had guns to my head, Tasers, knives to my eyeballs,” she said.

But Sarah admitted it wasn’t only fear of violence that forced her out of the business, but another fear.

“I didn’t want to get stuck, and I saw myself getting there,” said Sarah.


Israel: Stop Protecting Tel Aviv's Pimps

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL -- (from an editorial in YNet News by, Yuval Ben Ami):

Now is time to raid Tel Aviv brothels, shut them down

A few months ago I stood in the sludge of cigarette butts and empty beer bottles near Tel Aviv's central bus station, amidst a screaming crowd. I was a party to a protest aimed at sounding the alarm regarding the extent of human trade in Israel.

Every year, thousands of women arrive here to see their rights being stripped from them along with their passports. They are fully exploited, regularly raped and threatened, forced to engage in prostitution day and night, and at times receive nothing from the money given to them by the client.

The protest passed through the streets while attracting little attention among passerby and shoe store owners. At one point it reached the corner of Levinsky and Rosh Pina streets, where a neon heart declares the existence of a brothel.

At that point, the rally leaders chose to stop and use a megaphone to speak to the prostitutes, pimps, and customers inside. The two police officers who secured the protest stood next to the brothel's door while protecting both those inside and outside.

The police officers performed the task they were given that day very well, and still, the sight was depressing – cops who are familiar with the law are standing at the entrance to a building, where it is clear that endless crimes are taking place: Exploitation, rape, violence against women, and who knows what else. They did not open the door and did not do a thing.

The night before I saw two police detectives at the nearby Florentin neighborhood charging at a young guy who dared light up a marijuana cigarette at a public place and screaming at him that should he fail to get rid of it, he'll find himself with a police record. Yet this time – nothing. Not even a warning.

It was clear that even after we leave, a well-armed police unit would not be storming the site. I have no doubt it is teeming with action at this very moment.

That's ok, I comforted myself, after all there's logic to those things – these pimps are used as police informers. We cannot just storm their business as long as the intelligence system relies on them. Top officials obviously did a sophisticated calculation here: Maintaining the brothels will provide more security to a larger number of people than raiding them and shutting them down.


UN: United Nations Day for the Abolition of Slavery

UNITED NATIONS, a speech delivered by Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa at New York University, November 30, 2006:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The slave trade was not abolished in the nineteenth century by the British Parliament or by the 13 th amendment to the US Constitution. Slavery is not part of history. It is with us and thrives in our backyard.

Slavery is a booming international trade, less obvious than two hundred years ago for sure, but all around us, even in this well-off neighbourhood.

Of course we know the roots of the problem. Poverty makes people vulnerable. Then evil people exploit their dreams of a better life using deception, coercion and inevitably, violence. Victims end up in sweatshops, in mines or on farms, doing dirty, dodgy or dangerous manual work, or in the sex trade - enslaved and indebted to their masters, afraid or unable to escape. There is no money, no identity, no dignity, and no future in this heart of darkness.

The economy of human trafficking is significant. Since the world woke up to this terrible reality (about 10 years ago), the mass of people trafficked and exploited would populate a state like Kansas, producing an income equivalent also to that of Kansas, or Montana. And yet we don't see this tragedy in our own backyard?

Perhaps we do not want to see this very real and competitive state, as so many middle class, god-fearing, law-abiding citizens buy the products and the services produced on the cheap by slaves.

At the United Nations we talk a lot about failed states. Well, what can we do to make this state fail? As we cannot send blue-helmeted peacekeepers, we may like to volunteer ourselves as freedom fighters, and free the slaves.

We can count on effective weapons. (continues here)


San Francisco: Stemming the Sex Trade

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE EDITORIAL: San Francisco thankfully has summoned the will to crack down on sex trafficking. The Board of Supervisors voted this week to impose extra steps and more public notice for a massage parlor to open anywhere in the city.

The idea is clear enough: Use the city's drawn-out approval procedures and public-hearing processes to warn neighbors and chase off shady operators. With this extra red tape goes earlier city pledges of more legal scrutiny and surprise inspections.

It's about time. San Francisco's anything-goes outlook on sex laws has been exploited by the massage parlors, which in many cases are fronts for prostitution and the worldwide sex trade. Young women are lured here from Asia with talk of nonexistent jobs and obliged to work off travel debts as prostitutes. It's sex slavery that persists by preying on the women's unwillingness to denounce their exploiters and risk deportation and shame back home.

For years, the problem was ignored. Raids and prosecutions were few, until recently. Now there up to 90 massage outlets in the city and even a Web site rating the employees for male customers.

The new city law won't touch these operations, which must be policed by law enforcement and health inspectors. But the board's vote on additional regulation for new businesses could cap the problem's growth and send a clear message. San Francisco doesn't want to be a destination in the global sex trade.

There is more to be done. The far-flung nature of sex trafficking makes it a federal, state and local problem. Laws need to be adjusted to go after all the players, including landlords and customers. The board's action is one such step among many needed to stop the exploitation and misery of this business.


Saturday, December 2, 2006

Africa: Sex Abuse of Girls Growing Problem

Menja Rahamtanirima, 5, who said an uncle abused her, with her mother, Domoima, and brother in Antananarivo. Her mother pressed charges. (Lynsey Addario for The New York Times)

SAMBAVA, Madagascar — Thirty miles outside this down-at-the-heels seaside town, Justin Betombo tends his vanilla plants and cheers the local soccer team as if he had not a care in the world. And in fact, what was once his greatest worry has been almost magically lifted from his shoulders.

Justin Betombo denied his niece Kenia’s accusation. He was freed after convincing a prosecutor that he had falsely confessed after a police beating.

In the local prosecutor’s office, a file filled with accusations that he had sodomized his 9-year-old niece has vanished.

Mr. Betombo was arrested in 2003 after the girl, Kenia, said he had savagely assaulted her. The police obtained his confession, which he later recanted, and a doctor’s certificate that Kenia had been sexually violated, rendering her incontinent and anorexic. Twice they sent the case file to the prosecutor.

There matters ended. Mr. Betombo attended one hearing in the prosecutor’s office, but Kenia’s parents say they were not told about it. The records are nowhere to be found. And Mr. Betombo walked away a free man. Kenia’s parents, distressed by what they saw as a travesty of justice, asked that her name be published, hoping that her case would set an example.

Among sub-Saharan Africa’s children, such stories are disturbingly common. Even as this region races to adopt many of the developed world’s norms for children, including universal education and limits on child labor, one problem — child sexual abuse — remains stubbornly resistant to change.

In much of the continent, child advocates say, perpetrators are shielded by the traditionally low status of girls, a lingering view that sexual abuse should be dealt with privately, and justice systems that constitute obstacle courses for victims. Data is sparse and sexual violence is notoriously underreported. But South African police reports give an inkling of the sweep of child victimization. In the 12 months ending in March 2005, the police reported more than 22,000 cases of child rape. In contrast, England and Wales, with nine million more people than South Africa, reported just 13,300 rapes of women and girls in the most recent 12-month period.