Monday, February 26, 2007

Iceland: Porn Sexpo Canceled

We posted last week that The Icelandic Counseling and Information Center for Survivors of Sexual Violence (Stígamót) was protesting an upcoming pornography conference to be held in Reykjavík by the group Snowgatherers.

We hear that their efforts were successful, as relayed by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW):
Congratulations to Gudrun Jonsdottir and the women of Stígamót in Iceland for their brilliant strategy and work in getting a major pornography event cancelled there. This event, called Snowgathering, was modeled on the sexpos that are taking place in many other countries. The event was organized by 150 of the major global pornography producers, distributors and webmasters.

Gudrun enlisted the city council, police, other organizations and the hotels to stop the event from being held in Reykjavik. The pornographers were enraged and even threatened, on some of their sites, to "do away" with her and her daughter who is on the city council and introduced the motion to prevent the event from happening.

Check out this website to see how the "snowgatherers" are protesting being thwarted:

APA Report on Increased Sexualization of Girls

The American Psychological Association heeded the evidence that girls were increasingly becoming more sexualized--that is, seen as sexual objects--and so formed a task force to further explore and research this phenomenon. Below is the introduction to the report, and the full report may be downloaded as a PDF here:

Report of the APA Task Force on the Increased Sexualization of Girls

The proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harming girls' self-image and healthy development. This report explores the cognitive and emotional consequences, consequences for mental and physical health, and impact on development of a healthy sexual self-image.

There are several components to sexualization, and these set it apart from healthy sexuality. Sexualization occurs when

  • a person's value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;

  • a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;

  • a person is sexually objectified--that is, made into a thing for others' sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or

  • sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person. All four conditions need not be present; any one is an indication of sexualization.The fourth condition (the inappropriate imposition of sexuality) is especially relevant to children. Anyone (girls, boys, men, women) can be sexualized.

Thailand: Life of an Unwilling Sex Worker

"I think some foreign men think it's okay to pay for sex here in Thailand, as they think the girls actually want to do this. But these men don't understand that most of us have no choice ." -Pim, former Bangkok sex worker

BANGKOK, THAILAND -- Bangkok is a notorious destination for sex tourism. But the lives of many of the city's sex workers are full of danger, disease and the urgent need to send money home.

Pim, who recently left her job in a go-go bar, has a typical story.

"I grew up in the countryside in Phetchabun, northern Thailand. My parents were farmers and I helped them in the fields. We were poor but we always had enough to get by.

When I was about 15, my family fell apart. My father always drank a lot, but it became worse and worse, and he started becoming violent. So my mother, sister and I moved out.

I wanted to study to become a nurse, but when my parents split up I had to leave school and find work as a day labourer, harvesting crops for local farmers. I didn't like it much, and it only paid 100 baht ($3) a day.

At about that time a good friend moved to Bangkok, and when she came back to visit she told me she was earning a lot of money there as a waitress.

There was gossip in the village that she was doing something other than waitressing, as she was sending 10,000 baht ($300) home a month, but she always denied it.

She asked me to come with her, but at the time I was still 16 and too scared. A few years later, though - when I had given birth to my daughter, and my husband and I had separated - I changed my mind.

I left the baby in Phetchabun with my mother, and told her I needed to earn some money in Bangkok. But I didn't tell her what I was doing - I still haven't. She'd be so ashamed.

'Can I do this?'

When my friend took me to a bar in Nana Plaza for the first time, I was really shocked. I'd never been to a place like that before, and at the beginning I didn't even know what the dancers were doing.

When I finally realised, I couldn't take it and I walked out of the bar. I kept thinking 'Can I really do this?'


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Canada: Hundreds of Kids in Sex Trade

Activist Jane Runner says the youngest Winnipeg
child prostitute she's heard of was 8, but the average age is 13.

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA -- Hundreds of vulnerable Winnipeg children, some as young as eight years old, are selling their bodies to adult men for money, drugs and even food and shelter, a provincial inquest was told Monday.

But Winnipeg police say there's very little they can do about it.

Det.-Sgt. Jeff Coates candidly admitted the most heinous sex offenders -- adults who prey on young children -- are largely going unpunished because police lack the resources and ability to go after them. Instead, they focus on the easier arrests, such as men targeting adult prostitutes.

"It's very frustrating. The worst of these offenders fly under the radar. The worst form of prostitution is allowed to prevail," Coates said.

"With adults, we can put officers out there in an undercover role to catch some of these johns. But we can't use an undercover 14-year-old, and there are no police officers that age. So the worst offenders aren't being prosecuted."

He called for the province and city to examine their priorities and look at a dedicated unit to deal with sexually exploited street kids, just as police have partnered with Manitoba Public Insurance to tackle auto theft.

"There needs to be a political will to dedicate resources to this," Coates said.

Coates was called to testify at the inquest of Tracia Owen, a 14-year-old girl who started working the streets in the months before her August 2005 suicide. The teen hung herself with a rope tied to the overhead door of a garage used by prostitutes behind a Victor Street house.

Manitoba's chief medical examiner called for a public inquest last year in an effort to shine a light on the growing problem of youth sexual exploitation and drug use.

"We need to tell the public about what's happening out there," said Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra. "No one wants to talk about it, but it's a rampant problem and we have to talk about it."

Jane Runner has spent the past 21 years talking to sexually exploited teens and women about their experiences on the street. She offered some sobering statistics to the court on Monday.

Runner, who heads programming at New Directions in Winnipeg, said there are "hundreds" of teen and pre-teen girls working the streets, with an even greater number abused by adults behind closed doors. The youngest she has heard of was eight, and the average age is about 13.


US: Trafficking Victims in Plain Sight

ROCKVILLE, MARYLAND -- They are kidnapped, branded and forced into prostitution. Or they are lured from their home countries to the U.S. with the promise of jobs as nannies and housekeepers and then, "once they get to the United States, it turns into quite a nightmare."

That's how Detective Sgt. Paul Liquorie of the Montgomery County Police Department's Vice and Intelligence section describes the typical path into human trafficking.

Liquorie says the victims come from all over the world, but are for the most part, women and children.

"We've seen young children. We have an active case now involving a 13-year-old."

In the case of domestics, they are often forced to work from dawn well into the evening, seven days a week. They are paid meager wages or nothing at all. Their documents are taken from them and they are virtually held captive, threatened with jail or deportation if they complain.

Those forced into prostitution often are brutalized before they get to the U.S. and are cowed into cooperating.

And they could be hidden in plain sight in your neighborhood.

"Makeshift brothels are often in the basements of houses or we find them in apartments. They're very transient, so they'll be set up for one week or one month in one apartment and then move to another apartment so as not to draw the attention of police or neighbors."

Liquorie says tips from neighbors who note lots of foot traffic at all hours of the day and night are often the triggers that lead to discovery and arrests.


EU: Commissioner for Human Rights Publishes New Child Trafficking Report

Mr Thomas Hammarberg was elected Commissioner for Human Rights on 5 October 2005 by the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly.

This week, Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights for the Council of Europe, published his latest viewpoint: "Prevent trafficking in human beings by addressing the root causes".
There has been much talk about trafficking of human beings - but not enough action. UNICEF and Terre des Hommes recently reported about the failure to protect children from traffickers in South Eastern Europe. They requested stronger action to address the root causes and the patterns of supply and demand that govern the cycle. They are right that the campaign against the trafficking of both children and adults must intensify to become more effective. The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings is a key instrument for that purpose and should be ratified by all member states without further delay.

Trafficking is a serious criminal offence and is difficult to uncover. The shadowy nature of the trade, the practice of omertà – “code of silence” - applied by the criminal networks, and the victim’s fear of retaliation if they report their condition, make it particularly difficult to estimate the extent and precise nature of this dirty business. The degree of force and deceit involved in the exploitation also vary from case to case.

What we know, however, is that trafficking is a major source of income for organised criminal groups and that the number of victims is incredibly high. We also know which are the most common countries and regions of origin, transit and destination.

Some of the trafficking is connected to sexual exploitation, but not all. Many of the victims end up in begging, domestic work or manual labour, for instance, in agriculture or construction.
READ THE FULL PAPER at the Commissioner's website at

Hungary: Teen Porn May be Legalized

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY -- A bill modifying Hungary's penal code could allow pornographic material involving 14- to 17-year-olds to be made and kept for personal use.

The Justice Ministry said the draft proposal, presented last month by Hungarian Justice Minister Jozsef Petretei, was in line with European Union norms which give members states the right to regulate the issue at national level.

But Opposition lawmakers attacked the proposal as "legalized pedophilia" and a family welfare group described it as "the waiting room of prostitution."

Petretei said Monday that the proposal had taken into account the age in Hungary — 14 — at which consensual sexual relations are allowed.

"If we consider people 14 years of age to be mature enough to consent to sexual acts, then the chance to make picture recordings of this ... can also be allowed," Petretei told lawmakers in parliament.

The minister added that if deputies felt the issue offended their "moral sensitivity," they could propose changes to the bill.

Petretei also said that to bring Hungarian laws in line with EU norms, the ministry was also advocating changes in the same bill which would increase penalties for some other porn-related issues.

The center-right opposition parties strongly criticized the plan.

"This is a scandal," Miklos Soltesz, from the opposition Christian Democratic Peoples Party, told state television. "We initially thought the intention to legalize child pornography was government insanity ... but it seems they're serious."

Idiko Gall Pelcz from Fidesz, the largest center-right opposition party, described the proposal as "legalized pedophilia," calling it "revolting and distressing."

"I can only hope that there will be many of us here in parliament who agree ... that to make pornographic recordings of minors is not part of and not a necessary condition of natural sexual development," Gall Pelcz said in parliament.

A civic group described the plan as "the waiting room of prostitution."


Ukraine: Tops in Human Trafficking

KIEV, UKRAINE -- More Ukrainian men, women and children have been trafficked abroad and forced into indentured labor or prostitution than in any other Eastern European country since the Soviet collapse, an international migration group said in a report Monday.

Roughly 117,000 Ukrainians have been forced into exploitative situations in Europe, the Middle East and Russia since 1991, the International Organization for Migration said.

Ukrainian officials say low salaries and unemployment force thousands to seek employment abroad, increasing their vulnerability to exploitation by criminals who often seize their passports and refuse to return them.

The organization said the full scale of trafficking through, from and within Eastern Europe is difficult to determine since most victims are unwilling, scared or unable to contact authorities.


Iceland: Porn Conference Protested

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND -- The Icelandic Counseling and Information Center for Survivors of Sexual Violence (Stígamót) has openly protested against an adult film industry conference scheduled to be held in Iceland next month.

Stígamót sent a letter protesting against the event this week, signed by the organization’s spokesperson Gudrún Jónsdóttir, to the Icelandic government, the parliament, Reykjavík City Council, Reykjavík Chief of Police and the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police. reports.

In the letter it says: “Dear persons of authority. In Iceland we have shown that if we do not want representatives of organized crime in our country, we can stop them. […] At Stígamót we do not believe this conference should be tolerated. We challenge you […] to prevent it.”

Stígamót became aware of the adult film industry conference, titled “SnowGathering,” through a press release from PR Adult News, which was issued on January 27. It is cited on Stígamót’s website:

“ announced today the date for the second SnowGathering. It will be held in Reykjavík – Iceland, from the 7th till the 11th of March 2007. SnowGathering is a chance to conduct business, meet new people and discuss business developments […]."

In the press release, owner of, Maurice, is quoted saying: “This year we are aiming for approximately 150 attendees. […] We have chosen Reykjavík because of the possibilities of multiple in- and outdoor activities and its infamous nightlife.”


Monday, February 19, 2007

A Letter from HHS: Trafficking and the Media

HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND THE MEDIA -- Lately, we've noticed an increasing number of mainstream media featuring the issue of human trafficking, from films such as Sold and Amazing Grace, to TV programs like CNN's "Invisible Chains: Sex, Work and Slavery" and the Lifetime Channel movie "Human Trafficking," and books such as Not For Sale. This burgeoning rise of media featuring human trafficking mirrors the growth of the anti-trafficking movement - as we drive awareness of the issue of human trafficking in the U.S we can all do our part to fight this horrific crime.

Each time someone is exposed to a story on human trafficking it is an opportunity - an opportunity to tell a story of survival, to educate and inform, and to alert the public to Rescue & Restore and our cause.

Human Trafficking in the Media Helps Raise Public Awareness

The powerful images from the media can be a real eye-opener to the general public, law enforcement, social service, coalitions, intermediary groups, and even victims themselves. We know of cases where a victim viewed a TV show or media piece on victims of human trafficking and realized that their own situation was similar to what was portrayed. When faced with the reality of their situation, the victim realized that they weren't alone and was able to access help through the Rescue & Restore national network. We also know several of our coalitions that use films as conversation starters about human trafficking. Once this kind of information is widely shared and viewed, groups in the field, and even victims themselves, will be better equipped to help combat this form of modern-slavery and identify victims.

Organizations in the anti-trafficking movement are also serving as a resource, by either being consultants or producing pieces themselves, for media that covers this issue. For example, Maryknoll - the Catholic foreign missions community based in Ossining, NY - made "Lives For Sale," to share what they know about human trafficking with law enforcement authorities, religious communities and anyone who might notice someone who is cut off from a community and could be a victim of human trafficking in the U.S. Some Rescue & Restore members were interviewed for the documentary and it aired on PBS in early 2007 across the country.

In sum, the media can be a powerful tool for us to harness to inform the public about the realities of human trafficking. Moreover, even if a storyline or situation is portrayed in a manner that is sensationalized or too "Hollywood," you can still use media to positive ends. Here are some examples of how:
a. Hold a screening of a movie, TV program, or documentary that includes a trafficking storyline for coalition members, law enforcement, social service providers and the community at-large, with a discussion and "Q & A" period following

b. Order and distribute Rescue & Restore materials around the community on the eve of a book or movie release that includes a trafficking storyline

c. Promote the multi-lingual, toll-free National Human Trafficking Resource Center, 1.888.3737.888, if asked to respond to media stories on trafficking

d. Invite the author of a book on the issue of human trafficking to a signing

e. Consider opportunities to make your own documentary or film, or position yourself as a consultant for productions

f. Order and share the HHS Trafficking Training DVD

Finally, we'd like to let you know that HHS is currently in the process of updating the Trafficking Training DVD, with new information and interviews reflecting HHS's messages on Rescue & Restore. If you would like to order the HHS Trafficking Training DVD, please visit access an order form and all of the Rescue & Restore campaign materials.

Please feel free to respond to this email to share your recent activities or suggestions on using film, books, and TV to initiate discussion within your community. We would also love to hear about movies, documentaries and books on human trafficking you may know of coming out in the near future.

Kind regards,
Vanessa Garza

Program Director

Rescue & Restore

NYC: Faith Group Pressures Hilton Hotels to Combat Child Sex Traffcking

NEW YORK CITY -- A Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) watchdog committee is calling on agencies and partners of the denomination to join forces with the public to demand that Hilton Hotels Corp. take steps in combating child sex trafficking spurred by the tourism industry.

The Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) committee, which monitors PC(USA)-related investments to ensure they are socially responsible and consistent with General Assembly policies, has been attempting to engage Hilton in dialogue since October.

The effort is part of an interfaith initiative to help protect thousands of children worldwide who are being sexually victimized each year through a clandestine multibillion-dollar industry known as child sex tourism - where grown men travel abroad to have sex with minors under the age of 18.

However, Hilton has not responded to a letter or several phone calls by MRTI requesting a meeting to discuss the matter, which is a subject few people want to talk about or even acknowledge.

Aggravated by the global hotel giant's unresponsiveness, MRTI unanimously approved action during a meeting here, Feb. 9-10, to solicit the support of PC(USA) agencies, committees, middle governing bodies, church members, ecumenical partners and the general public in "communicating with Hilton on the seriousness of the need to address this issue."

MRTI sent Hilton a new letter Feb. 13 outlining the committee's recent action in hopes that it will bring the corporation to the table.

If the Beverly Hills, CA-based hotel and hospitality chain fails to agree by the middle of next month to meet with MRTI representatives, then a mass letter writing campaign will be launched.

"I'm strongly convinced that our attempts at dialogue with Hilton have frustrated all of us and that it's time to express to the church that Hilton hasn't been cooperative," said MRTI chair Carol Hylkema. "Maybe by sharing that word around the church through various agencies people will take up the cause and begin to give us assistance and that eventually Hilton might respond positively."

MRTI is leading the charge to engage Hilton, along with eight Roman Catholic groups, through its work with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR). The venture is part of a comprehensive engagement ICCR members are planning for several hotel chains, travel agencies and cruise lines.


Mariana Islands: Filipinas Top List of Battered Women

The Nothern Mariana Islands, a US Commonwealth, is
about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines

COMMONWEALTH OF NORTHEN MARIANA ISLANDS (CNMI) -- They could just be the more courageous ethnic group to report abuses, or there may be just too many of them on island, but regardless of the underlying factors, the fact showed that there are more Filipinos who are victimized by domestic violence than other ethnic groups in the .

This is according to Guma Esperanza in its testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources during the latter's hearing in Washington D.C. last week.

Guma Esperanza-House of Hope, which receives federal funding, extends assistance to victims of domestic violence and human trafficking in the CNMI.

Lauri Ogumoro, manager of Guma Esperanza, said that Filipinos is the largest ethnic group that seeks refuge at the center.

Second largest are Chamorros and third, Chinese.

“The ethnic breakdown of clients and their children seeking refuge at Guma Esperanza mirrors the ethnic diversity of the Commonwealth. Filipinos, followed by Chamorro, then Chinese women, are the three largest ethnic groups served through the shelter,” said Ogumoro in her testimony.

Ogumoro was one of the resource persons from the CNMI invited by the Senate panel to speak about the immigration situation in the Commonwealth.

During the hearing, Ogumoro cited the need for “change” in the current system to ensure protection of its citizens and the entire community.

She cited a number of documented cases of sex trafficking and human rights abuses, which she said are indicative that “there's something wrong in the system.”


California: Stockton Man Gets 40 Years for Child Prostitution

STOCKTON, CALIFORNIA -- A Stockton man convicted of trafficking children for sex was sentenced Thursday to 40 years in prison.

Will Moss Jr., 31, will have to serve at least 85 percent of the sentence, will spend 10 years on supervised release after his prison term and must register for life as a sex offender, according to the Eastern District U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacramento.

During trial, witnesses testified that up to seven women, two of them under the age of 18, worked for Moss as prostitutes. They testified that they traveled between Stockton and Las Vegas and that Moss beat them and brandished firearms to keep them quiet, according to a press release isued by U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott's office.

A jury convicted Moss on June 21 of 12 criminal counts including sex trafficking of children and firearms violations. District Judge Edward J. Garcia said he handed down the stiff sentence because of Moss' brutality, according to prosecutors Carolyn Delaney, Michael Beckwith and Laura Ferris.

The case was initially investigated by the Stockton Police Department and also involved the FBI.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mexico: TJ Police Arrest US Citizen Running Prostitution/Trafficking Ring

The San Diego/Tijuana Border

TIJUANA, MEXICO -- A U.S. citizen accused of running an Internet-based prostitution ring was arrested in the border city of Tijuana.

Dennis Duane Heiny, 47, of Lake Elsinore, California, was being held pending further investigation after he was arrested Monday with three prostitutes and the ring's alleged secretary, according to Lorena Blanco, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana who commented on the case Tuesday.

Heiny allegedly operated the ring out of Tijuana, but catered to American clients who were escorted from the border to Mexican hotels where they met the women, Tijuana Public Safety Secretary Luis Javier Algorri said Monday.

The ring allegedly comprised 35 Mexican women, none of them minors, Blanco said.

Heiny had not been charged with a crime as of Tuesday, and Blanco said the Consulate was not aware of charges pending against him in the U.S. Algorri said the suspect was wanted by U.S. authorities on child pornography charges.


UK: Uncovering the Secret Sex Trade

UNITED KINGDOM -- A new project based on Tyneside aims to help a hidden group - the vulnerable women who work unwillingly in the sex trade.

They might not advertise themselves, but they are there. To all appearances, they might be average types of women, just ordinary faces in the crowd. They're all dressed up in skimpy clothes - but then in Newcastle, that's normal - and men eye them up as they pass. Yet these are not like other women just heading out to hit the town. They're working girls, and what is more, they're not uncommon.

This is the picture that's presented by Laura Seebohm, development worker for the GAP project. She deals with women in the sex trade in Newcastle and beyond, and says the lack of a red light district has kept this secret far too long. "It's a very hidden problem," she says. "I think that because there's no red light district, in some ways the women are more vulnerable because nobody knows about it. It's behind closed doors, really."

Though those who worked with vulnerable women had an inkling of the problem, it was just last year when a statutory body decided to act. Research by the Government Office North East confirmed a trade in prostitution with women largely as its victims. "A researcher interviewed people from around the area in relation to sex work and what came out very clearly showed a lack of support for women," says Laura.

She interviewed some women I was working with and we felt we couldn't just leave them. We felt we needed to do something, so we set up a weekly drop-in in central Newcastle. Gradually, more and more women were coming to that, largely through word of mouth, and through that we got funding for a pilot scheme to actually set up and develop a project for sex workers."


Ireland: Plea for Victims of Sex Trafficking

Visit to purchase the Freedom Key keyring

IRELAND -- The plight of young prostitutes being trafficked to Ireland was highlighted today in a hard-hitting appeal.

A leading charity plans to unlock sex slavery and fight for the rights of the vulnerable to be protected in new legislation.

Ruhama, an organisation that works with and for women involved in prostitution, today launched the Freedom Key keyring.

The symbolic keyring, which costs €2, will highlight the suffering of exploited victims of abuse across Ireland.

“Our aim is to unlock the sex slavery that’s happening in the country today,” said Gerardine Rowley of Ruhama.

“This year marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and incredibly we still have millions of women from poorer countries enslaved in the sex trade of wealthier countries.

“Little is being done to highlight this issue and unravel the massive injustice, which is all around us.”

The charity believes hundreds of women are being duped into coming here from poor countries including Romania, Albania, Ukraine, Venezuela, Brazil, and Nigeria.

Volunteers stress that without demand, these women would not become victims of trafficking.


Special Rapporteur Sigma Huda Submits New Trafficking Report to UN

Special Rapporteur Sigma Huda has submitted her annual report to the U.N. on the current trafficking situation in the various countries visited in 2006. Below is the introduction to her report, and at the end of this post the report is available in its entirety for download.

Introduction: Forced marriages take place in many social, political, cultural, economic and legal contexts around the world. In this report, the Special Rapporteur aims to identify when such forced marriages exist and when they have been carried out in the context of trafficking in persons, especially women and children. The Special Rapporteur also examines the possible causes and consequences of forced marriage in the context of human trafficking and addresses the demand for forced marriage. Finally, she offers recommendations to States and non-State actors on ways to prevent trafficking in persons through or for the purpose of forced marriages, discourage the demand for such marriages, protect and assist the victims, and establish legal and prosecutorial measures to combat forced marriages in the context of trafficking in persons, especially women and children.


Arizona: Lies Trap Children in Prostitution

PHOENIX, ARIZONA -- She was only 13 when she met him on an Internet chat line. He said they could make some money together. She thought he meant selling drugs.

It was not until he brought her to Arizona from Utah the day before her 14th birthday and put her on a street corner that she realized that she would be selling her body.

“At first I was real, real scared to do it,” she said. But she is 15 now, and “used to it. If I end up dead, I’m supposed to end up dead. God’s with me.”

The girl’s story isn’t unique. Child prostitution is a growing problem across the country, as girls and boys, some even 13 and younger, are put on the streets and sold over the Internet for sex.

State and federal prosecutors have begun working together to win the harshest sentences for those caught trafficking minors or having sex with them. And officials in Phoenix — one of 14 cities, including Detroit, that is participating in the FBI’s Innocence Lost initiative — are pushing to strengthen state laws that could put pimps and johns behind bars possibly for life, even if they don’t know the girls are underage.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Syria: Iraqi Refugees Turn to Prostitution to Support Families

Many female Iraqi refugees are forced to turn
to prostitution out of desperation

DAMASCUS, SYRIA -- Many women in Syria are forced to sell their bodies to support their families. It's after midnight, and the action on the Jermana strip on the edge of Damascus is just picking up. CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports that this might seem an unlikely place to look for war refugees from Iraq, but inside — beyond the musicians and the floor show — they are there.

These refugees are selling the only thing they have left of any value: their bodies. In the clubs, the waiters act as dealmakers between clients and the Iraqi prostitutes.

This is the Arab world, where a woman's honor means everything. The fact that so many Iraqi women refugees are turning to prostitution is a mark of their desperation.

Suad fled the war Damascus two years ago with a son to support.

"For me, it is like being raped. There is no desire. It's something I have to do for the money," she says.

They need money because refugees aren't allowed to hold down legitimate jobs in Syria.

Some prostitutes — unwilling to be seen in clubs — work discreetly out of apartments in the cramped Iraqi refugee ghettos of Damascus.

They have no choice, explains May Barazi of the United Nations, because they've lost their husbands or fathers in the war.

Many women "are the only income providers to the family," Barazi says. "They had to become prostitutes."

Farah left her family behind in Baghdad and dreads the day they find out where she is and what she is doing.

"I would commit suicide if they found out, or my family would kill me. But there's no other solution. We are practically dead," she says.

The younger the flesh, the higher the price. Some of the Iraqi refugee prostitutes are still in their early teens.

"This isn't any life for a 15-year old. She should be playing. I'm sure she feels dead inside. Thee is nobody to help these girls," Farah says.

There is no one to help, but a growing stream of men from all over the Middle East is eager to prey on the most desperate refugees from the war.


Sweden: How They Handle Prostitution Laws

Sweden's prostitution laws seek to punish the john, not the worker

SWEDEN -- In 1999, the Swedish government brought in legislation to criminalise the buying of sex, while decriminalising its sale.

The idea behind the move was that prostitution should be regarded as an aspect of male violence against women and children and therefore tackled.

BBC correspondent Claire Marshall travelled to Sweden with former prostitute Alison Marie Fenton, 35.

Ms Fenton stopped working the streets after the birth of her third child and wants to improve the lives of English prostitutes.

Here in her diary, Ms Fenton (photo below) assesses whether the Swedish approach has worked.

When we arrived in Stockholm, we talked to a taxi driver about prostitution in Sweden.

He said he believed that all men who visited prostitutes were guilty of abuse. I wondered whether this man knew enough about the country and its policies.

We went on to meet a lady called Marianne Eriksson. She had helped to bring about the legalisation of prostitution and the criminalisation of paying for sex.

She was a lovely woman who had obviously fought a long battle to stop sex trafficking in Sweden through parlours and brothels. We saw no sign of either while walking around, unlike most European countries.

That night, we went to the only remaining street in the red light area where we were told that we would find working women.

We met five women working as prostitutes. All were Swedish. Two of them had drug habits.

But they said they had not been offered any help getting off the game. One was still waiting after six months for a drug prescription.

She said that because there wasn't supposed to be prostitution, there were no drop-in centres for health checks, and no-one handing out condoms or needles.

Only one of the five had anything positive to say about the legislation.

Eve, 60, who has been working as a prostitute for 40 years, said that the men think twice before they rob or try to beat the women they have paid for, as they are aware that they can be reported to the police.

But, according to another woman, Pia, who had worked the streets since 1979, nothing had really changed.


Thailand & Laos: Survey Shows Grim Reality of Lao Sex Trade

Prostitutes wait for clients at a Thai-Malaysia border town

BANGKOK -- Lao women seeking to escape poverty and poor education are increasingly ending up as sex workers in Laos and neighboring Thailand, mainly to support their families and themselves, experts say.

Though many consider it “bad work,” they believe prostitution amounts to the best economic opportunity they have, according to a survey of sex workers conducted last year in the country’s capital, Vientiane.

Many are children when they start, trafficked or tricked into the sex trade.

“Every one of them said they don’t want to do it,” Thatsaphone Sombandith, a Lao researcher who conducted the survey, said in an interview. “They say it’s necessary because of poverty, because they have nothing to live on.”

With an estimated per capita income of U.S.$460 in 2005, Laos is one of the poorest countries in East Asia. Classified by the United Nations as a Least Developed Country in 2004, 71 percent of its population live on less than U.S.$2 a day, and 23 percent on less than U.S.$1 a day...


Laos: As Country "Loosens" HIV/AIDS Noose Tightens

The attitude towards sex of Laos' 6 million residents
is changing rapidly

VIENTIANE, LAOS -- Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991, when commercial sex, and to a certain degree pre-marital or non-marital sex, was suppressed by the threat of arrest or fines, Laos has experienced a barrage of change.

Laos, a largely Buddhist country, was isolated until fairly recently, but there are now more than 180,000 Lao nationals living as registered migrants in neighbouring Thailand, where prevalence rates among the general population stand at 1.4 percent.

Many mobile men are potential clients of sex workers, but fail to consider themselves as being at risk of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). According to UNAIDS, other factors, such as the low socioeconomic status of women, high levels of poverty and a widening generation gap, are contributing to the spread of HIV.

There is also a growing use of recreational drugs, particularly amphetamines. An alarming number of sex workers are also thought to be injecting drugs, which could substantially deepen the HIV problem. Alcohol plays a significant role in the spread of the virus, particularly in relation to commercial sex and condom use, while behaviour patterns among young people are changing.

"More young people in Laos are having pre-marital sex at a younger age," said Sythong Nouansengsy, executive director of Population Services International, which has been advocating for safer sex and condom use since 1998. "This puts the country's prevalence rates in danger."

"Urban society is loosening up," Tony Bennett of Family Health International (FHI) agreed.

Such changing perceptions can be seen at popular meeting places and restaurants along the banks of the Mekong River, where young patrons may pair off for more romantic interludes afterwards - a sign of more liberal attitudes towards sex in this otherwise conservative society...


Los Angeles: Ex-Marine Accused of Sex w/ Cambodian Children

Violence against Cambodian women and girls is a large problem;
NGO's like the
Cambodian Women's Crisis Center in Phnom Penh aid trafficked girls

LOS ANGELES - A retired U.S. Marine captain has been charged for allegedly having sex with young girls while working as a teacher in Cambodia, federal authorities said Friday.

Michael Joseph Pepe, 53, arrived Wednesday at Los Angeles International Airport accompanied by federal agents after being expelled from Cambodia, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement.

A judge ordered him held without bond pending a March 12 arraignment in federal court. He faces one count of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place and up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

It was unclear whether Pepe, whose last known U.S. address was in Oxnard, had retained an attorney. The phone numbers of Pepe's father and sister, who live in Ventura County, were not listed.

Pepe was arrested in Phnom Penh in June by Cambodian police investigating allegations he sexually abused four girls ages 9 to 12.

According to authorities, the children told federal investigators they lived at Pepe's home and were paid $1 to $5 for sexual favors.

"This is an appalling case, one of the worst I've ever encountered," said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge of the ICE office of investigations in Los Angeles. "You can't go outside our borders as a U.S. citizen and believe that you can treat children this way."

The allegations were brought to authorities' attention by two non-governmental agencies working to combat human trafficking in the impoverished country, Schoch said...


NY: Activists Urge State on Anti-Trafficking Law

Gloria Steinem chairs the anti-trafficking coalition

NEW YORK -- A coalition of women's and human-rights advocates in the United States is pressing New York state legislators to pass a law against human trafficking. Investigators say that traffickers prey on the poor and young in all parts of the world, including East Asia, Africa, the former Soviet Union, Latin America and the United States, where they say New York City is a major port of entry – both for victims trafficked inside the United States and those brought from other countries.

A group of activists say they will protest every week in New York City outside the New York State Supreme Court, until state legislators pass a strong law against human trafficking. “What we need today are modern-day abolitionists,” feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem, who chairs the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition, told the crowd of demonstrators at the first protest. Steinem noted that international organizations estimate that four to 12 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, including women and children trafficked for sex, and people of all ages used as forced labor.

"Trafficking in people is bigger than it's ever been,” Steinem told a reporter. “Slavery is bigger now than it was in the 1800s, and more profitable. The estimated profits from it are bigger than that from the illegal arms trade. Because of globalization, the Internet, the increased inequity between nations, and between rich and poor, ease of travel -- all of those things have made slavery much easier, more profitable, and much more prevalent."...


Thursday, February 8, 2007

Tennessee: Memphis Woman Pleads Guilty in Sex Trafficking Mexican Girls

TENNESSEE -- Cristina Andres Perfecto, of Nashville, Tenn., pleaded guilty [Jan. 29] to two counts of commercial sex trafficking related to her role in a Memphis trafficking ring.

Perfecto admitted that she recruited two Mexican girls to come to the United States under fraudulent pretenses, knowing that the girls would be coerced into engaging in commercial sex acts and knowing that the victims were younger than 18 years of age. She faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for her crimes.

At her plea hearing, Perfecto admitted that she told the girls, who were 13 and 17 years of age at the time, that they would be employed at a restaurant in Nashville, knowing all along that the girls would be coerced to engage in prostitution in brothels in Memphis and Nashville. Perfecto further admitted that co-defendant Juan Mendez then used physical force and threats against the victims and their families to force the victims to engage in prostitution. Perfecto also admitted that she instructed the girls on how to engage in commercial sexual acts...


Ghana: Trafficking on the Rise

There are an estimated 200,000 to 800,000
people trafficked in West Africa each year

GHANA & WEST AFRICA -- The Minister for Women and Children's Affairs (MOWAC), Hajia Alima Mahama, has expressed worry over the increase in human trafficking, also known as trade in persons (TIP) in the past three decades in West Africa and particularly in Ghana.

According to her, this crime is pervasive and fast growing in the regions due to the involvement of organised crime.

"The movement of trafficked people within, through and from the sub-region is complex", she stressed and added that the victims were usually most vulnerable, poor and least educated such as women and children.

This was contained in a statement read on her behalf by the Director in charge of International Desk in the Ministry, Mrs. Marylyn Amponsah Annan at a workshop organised by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) for policymakers to equip all stakeholders including security agencies, judiciary and the general public in Accra.

These people, she noted were often used as domestics, in agriculture, markets and usually forced into prostitution in Europe or the Middle East, pointing out that, "Many young people seeking gainful employment fall into the hands of unscrupulous recruiters who use violence to gain control over them once they are removed from their homes."

To combat TIP in the sub-region, an action was initiated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 2001 and followed by an Agreement of Cooperation among Police Forces of ECOWAS States to facilitate cooperation in investigations and prosecution of criminal matters especially in issues of cross-border trafficking, she stated.


Las Vegas: Anti-Trafficking Task Force Forms

Prostitution is legal in Las Vegas, and
sex trafficking thrives in this type of permissive environment

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA -- Women and children being forced to work as prostitutes on the streets or in brothels throughout the valley. It's called human trafficking and it's a huge problem here in southern Nevada. The victims are usually children or women, lured to Las Vegas with the promise of a new life.

That's why on Tuesday, Metro, along with other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, announced a new anti-trafficking task force. The goal is to establish services for these victims and put the people responsible behind bars.

"This could be considered a brothel. A lot of places like this are just that, a facade."

Metro Vice Sergeant Andy Legro is talking about the massage parlors that we see all over the Las Vegas Valley. "You'll see them pop up all over the place and it's just a way of luring people in for a little rub. Maybe they do get a massage, but then it's always brought to the patron's attention, 'hey would you like a little extra?'"

In this operation, Metro has sent an undercover officer into a massage parlor to see if it's legit. In most cases, Legro says the masseuse always offers more.

The hard part for Metro isn't busting the women who are offering sexual favors for money, it's finding the people who have forced them into this life of prostitution...


Thursday, February 1, 2007

Cambodia: 6-Year Old Girl Embodies Country's Sex Trade

Former child sex workers in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA -- At an age when most children might be preparing for their first day of school, Srey, 6, already has undergone trauma that is almost unspeakable.

She was sold to a brothel by her parents when she was 5. It is not known how much her family got for Srey, but other girls talk of being sold for $100; one was sold for $10.

Before she was rescued, Srey endured months of abuse at the hands of pimps and sex tourists.

Passed from man to man, often drugged to make her compliant, Srey was a commodity at the heart of a massive, multimillion-dollar sex industry in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

"It is huge," said Mu Sochua, a former minister of women's and veteran's affairs who is an anti-sex trade activist.

The precise scale of Cambodia's sex trade is difficult to quantify. International organizations -- such as UNICEF, ECPAT and Save the Children -- say that anywhere from from 50,000 to 100,000 women and children are involved. An estimated 30 percent of the sex workers in Phnom Penh are under the age of 18, according to the United Nations. The actual figure may be much higher, activists say.


Documentary Looks at Immigrants in Slave Trade

60 min. documentary reveals how many Latino
immigrants are forced into the slave trade;
check your local
PBS station for air dates

The investigative documentary Lives For Sale unveils how many Latino immigrants crossing into the United States are forced into a modern-day slave trade. NPR's Farai Chideya speaks with film's executive producer, Larry Rich in an interview.