Monday, April 30, 2007

UN: Resolution Approved To Criminalize Child Exploitation

UNITED NATIONS, WASHINGTON - Resolution recognizes international response needed to a global problem.

A resolution introduced by the United States and Ecuador that urges U.N. member states criminalize all aspects of child sexual exploitation was approved at the 2007 meeting of the U.N. Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.

The resolution was approved at the conclusion of the 16th session of the U.N. Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which met in Vienna, Austria, April 23-27.

The Resolution on Effective Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Responses to Combat Sexual Exploitation of Children recognizes that child sexual exploitation is a growing international problem demanding an international response.

The resolution defines child exploitation to include sexually explicit images of children (child pornography), the victimization of children through prostitution and child-sex tourism. The resolution maintains that sexually explicit images of children severely harm children and are linked to other sexual exploitation offenses against children.

International cooperation is absolutely essential to combat these crimes, say U.S. authorities. Sexually explicit images of children are easily distributed across international boundaries through the Internet. Similarly, child-sex trafficking -- including the victimization of children through prostitution and sex tourism -- often involves international travel, with offenders having different nationalities from those of the victims, so international teamwork is considered crucial.

According to a 2006 study by the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, 95 countries have no legislation specifically addressing child pornography.

The U.S. government hopes the resolution will encourage countries lacking such legislation to consider it....


Pres. Candidate, Senator Clinton Offers Stand on Prostitution

Reno Gazette-Journal reporter Ray Hagar talked for 10 minutes with Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. During their conversation she spoke about her opinion of prostitution in general:

Q: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has called Nevada's system of legalized prostitution "repugnant." You are a big advocate for women's rights so would you offer an opinion on Nevada's system of legalized prostitution?

Clinton: "I do not approve of legalized prostitution or any kind of prostitution. It is something that I personally believe is demeaning to women. I have worked against it and I have certainly taken a very strong stand against what happens in many parts of the world where young girls and women are forced into prostitution against their wills. I understand Nevada has a regulated system and it is within the authority of the state. So that is not a federal issue that we will have any role to play in when I am president. But I would obviously speak out against prostitution and try to persuade women that it is not --- even in a regulated system -- necessarily a good way to try to make a living. Let's try to find other jobs that can be there for women who are looking for a good way to support themselves and their families."


Thursday, April 26, 2007

UN: Anti-Trafficking Drive Hits Culture Barriers

Antonio Maria Costa, director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

VIENNA -- Global efforts to crack down on human trafficking are handicapped by lack of information from countries whose cultures have not deemed some forms of slavery to be a crime, U.N. officials said on Monday.

The United Nations is trying to raise awareness that two centuries after the transatlantic slave trade was abolished, millions of adults and children are sold into prostitution or made to work in degrading conditions for little or no pay.

"We operate in an information fog. We don't know the scope of threats we face and can't gauge global trends. We just see the tips of icebergs," said Antonio Maria Costa, director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

"It's time to move from statements of intent and legislative mandates into realisation of goals and delivery of results," he told a meeting of the U.N. Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna.

Costa told a news briefing during a break in the meeting: "When families (in Asian villages) sell their daughter, it's not out of poverty necessarily, it may be cultural."

He said only a fifth of member states had so far responded to a UNODC questionnaire asking them to identify and measure their organised crime problems. "Many do not know (what to say), and ask for our technical assistance."

A diplomat close to the UNODC said its campaign was running up against cultural traditions in some significant developing nations that tolerated human trafficking and related slave labour outlawed by U.N. conventions.

"In case of human trafficking, until now it often hasn't been tracked. It's only now that police in some countries are coming to realise that it's a crime," said the diplomat, asking not to be named.

"Normally, they would arrest a load of women and treat them like prostitutes and completely miss the point that they are actually victims of horrendous (trafficking to clients abroad)."

More than 110 countries have signed and ratified a U.N. protocol against human trafficking since December 2003 but many criminal justice systems have not curbed the practice.


Myanmar: Poverty Drives Hidden Sex Industry

A street vendor in Myanmar sells condoms. An estimated 20-30% of
prostitutes here have HIV.
(AFP/File/Khin Maung Win)

YANGON, MYANMAR -- Sandar was 13 years old when her mother talked her into selling her virginity to help pull the family out of poverty.

Two decades later and still far away from that goal, Sandar has been arrested for prostitution more times then she can recall, jailed twice, and forced to pay bribes or have sex with policemen in exchange for her freedom.

Her friend Sei Sar Nyo, who sits beside Sandar grasping her hand, has been beaten for asking clients to use a condom. Sei Sar Nyo's family no longer talk to her, and she faces regular abuse in socially conservative Myanmar.

Despite the hardships, Sandar, who gave one name only and is now 33, and Sei Sar Nyo, 25, laugh when asked what other job they would do.

Nothing else would pay so well, they say.

"I'm not interested in any other business," says Sei Sar Nyo. "If I worked in a company I would earn 30,000 kyat (about 24 US dollars) in a month -- in this job I earn that in a night."

These two women come from very different social backgrounds, but ended up in Yangon's underground sex industry for the same reason -- to support their families in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Both are now working during the day for international charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), but their nights are spent selling sex in the city's brothels, restaurants and karaoke bars...


Monday, April 23, 2007

India/Nepal Border: 21st Century Slave Trade

Meena Khatum, right, had to fight against brothel owners to be reunited with her son, Vivek.

INDIA/NEPAL BORDER (Nicholas Kristof for the NYT)- Anyone who thinks that the word “slavery” is hyperbole when used to describe human trafficking today should meet Meena Khatun. She not only endured the unbearable, but has also shown that a slave trader’s greed sometimes is no match for a mother’s love.

Human trafficking is the big emerging human rights issue for the 21st century, but it’s an awful term, a convoluted euphemism. As Meena’s story underscores, the real issue is slavery.

Meena was kidnapped from her village in north India by a trafficker and eventually locked up in a 13-girl brothel in the town of Katihar. When she was perhaps 11 or 12 — she remembers only that it was well before she had begun to menstruate — the slaver locked her in a room with a white-haired customer who had bought her virginity. She cried and fought, so the mother and two sons who owned the brothel taught Meena a lesson.

“They beat me mercilessly, with a belt, sticks and iron rods,” Meena recalled. Still, Meena resisted customers, despite fresh beatings and threats to cut her in pieces.

Finally, the brothel owners forced her to drink alcohol until she was drunk. When she passed out, they gave her to a customer.

When she woke up, Meena finally accepted her fate as a prostitute. “I thought, ‘Now I am ruined,’ ” she remembered, “so I gave in.”

Meena thus joined the ranks of some 10 million children prostituted around the world — more are in India than in any other country. The brothels of India are the slave plantations of the 21st century.

Every night, Meena was forced to have sex with 10 to 25 customers. Meena’s owners also wanted to breed her, as is common in Indian brothels. One purpose is to have boys to be laborers and girls to be prostitutes, and a second is to have hostages to force the mother to cooperate.

So Meena soon became pregnant. The resulting baby girl, Naina, was taken from Meena after birth, as was a son, Vivek, who was born a year later.

The two children were raised mostly apart from Meena. Meena alerted the police to her children’s captivity (the police were uninterested), so her owners decided to kill her...


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

UNODC: To Launch Global Intitiative to Fight Human Trafficking

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is launching a Global Initiative to fight human trafficking.

A series of regional events will be organised throughout the world designed to strengthen anti-trafficking networks and generate coordinated initiatives in preparation of a

Global Conference against Human Trafficking
Vienna, 27-29 November 2007

The Vienna Conference, involving government ministers, international organizations, NGOs and the private sector, will focus on three themes:

· Vulnerability: why does this tragedy still occur?

· Impact: the human faces of victims and the humanitarian costs.

· Action: to end trafficking in persons.

The aim is to generate the political will, a plan of action and the financial resources needed to have a significant world-wide impact on ending human trafficking.

Details of the proposed events will be announced in the coming weeks.


NY NOW: Campaign to End Human Trafficking

NY NATIONAL ORGANIZATION of WOMEN - NOW New York State's Campaign, Ending the Business of Human Trafficking, is an initiative dedicated to raising awareness of the pervasiveness of human trafficking throughout New York State, advocating for exploited victims by addressing the need for comprehensive and effective legislation, and working in collaboration with city, state, and federal officials, and non-governmental organizations in a coordinated effort to combat trafficking in all cities in New York State.


Moldova: Helping the Deserted Children

When Anna was nine her mother left to look for work abroad

MOLDOVA - In Moldova, one in six adults has left to work abroad and the children they abandon become rich pickings for human traffickers.

Anna is 16. She lives alone in a ramshackle cottage with a cock and a hen called Romeo and Juliet.

She has a small scrap of land where she grows vegetables to feed herself.

"What I missed most in my childhood was toys and the warmth of my mother. I never felt I was loved," she says.

Anna's father has disappeared. Her mother went to work abroad when she was nine, leaving Anna and her 11-year-old brother under the eye of a neighbour.

But when her mother failed to send money home, the neighbour abandoned the children.

Their mother was away for two years.

"We didn't even know if my mother was alive," says Anna. "There were times when we didn't even have bread in the house."

Anna received fire wood and food from her school and the local mayor's office.

Each day a child under the age of seven is abandoned in Moldova.

Youngsters left alone because their parents work abroad have swelled the ranks of orphanages by 10% in recent years.

One in nine children is living with just one parent, relatives or a distant neighbour.


UN: Fund to Combat Human Trafficking

UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations proposed a new global fund Monday to fight international human trafficking and forced labor, a problem that it said had grown to epidemic proportions and was rarely effectively prosecuted by governments.

"Slavery is a booming international trade that involves several million people a year being trafficked in bondage," said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN Office of Drug and Crime, who announced the new initiative on trafficking in London.

"There is finally a growing awareness of a huge problem in terms of size, money and the human costs in terms of suffering," Costa added.

The UN estimates that 2.5 million people are trafficked and enslaved, although the crime is frequently unreported and many estimates are far higher. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 12.3 million people across the globe in forced work. The U.S. government say that up to 800,000 people are shipped like commodities across international borders to serve as cheap labor.

About 50 percent of people smuggled and sold into forced work are minors and 80 percent are women and girls, according to a 2006 State Department study. Most end up working in the sex trade...


India: Assam's missing women and the sex trade

Many of the missing women end up like these alleged arrested call girls

ASSAM, INDIA - The biggest problem in India's north-eastern state of Assam is separatist militancy. But it faces another, less well known issue. Thousands of its women, old and young, have gone missing over the past 10 years.

A recent police report says 3,184 women and 3,840 female children have gone missing in the state since 1996.

That's around two females a day on average.

The report was compiled by Assam police and their research branch, the Bureau of Police Research and Development.

The local police are far too busy, according to Assam police intelligence chief Khagen Sarmah, fighting insurgents.

"Our counter-insurgency commitments affects our normal policing duties like checking trafficking."

"Too many policemen are involved fighting the insurgents rather than following up on other crimes," Mr Sarmah said...


Israel: National service volunteer fights trafficking in women

ISRAEL - "Women trafficking and prostitution are one and the same, and the women who are exposed to both phenomena display similar symptoms," 21-year-old Naama Yehezkel says. As an activist for Isha L'Isha - the Haifa Feminist Center, which aids local and foreign women working in the sex industry, she should know.

"Women who engage in prostitution usually suffered sexual abuse or neglect at an early age. They're usually looking for a way to survive, and prostitution is just that - a means to survive, but not to live. Not in the full sense of the word, because the pimps know how to prey on them," she says.

Several weeks ago, Yehezkel toured the Tiberias hotel strip with volunteers from the Hotline for Migrant Workers. There, they handed out flyers and booklets listing emergency numbers for women who have fallen victim to human trafficking. They talked to hotel workers, kiosk employees and taxi drivers to find out where women were being exploited in the local sex industry...


Monday, April 16, 2007

California: Man Pleads Guilty to Forcing Teens Into Prostitution

An Oceanside man pleaded guilty to two federal charges of sex trafficking children by force, admitting that he forced two teen-age girls to work as prostitutes.

Luther Gene Ray Jr., 23, pleaded guilty to the two felony counts [in late March] before United States District Judge Edward Rafeedie in Los Angeles. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Ray is expected to receive a sentence of 100 months in federal prison.

In a plea agreement and in court today, Ray admitted that he was a pimp to two minor girls in May 2004, and that he had them work for him as prostitutes in Los Angeles and Orange counties, as well as in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ray required the girls to engage in commercial sex acts and to give him all of the money they earned. Ray used coercive methods to ensure that the girls would perform sex acts in exchange for money. Ray kept a close watch over the girls while they worked as prostitutes and made them believe that if they disobeyed him or broke one of his rules, he would physically harm them.

Ray is scheduled to be sentenced on June 18, 2007.

This is the second prosecution of child sex trafficking brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the past 6 months.


San Francisco: Sex Slave Figure Sentenced

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - A San Bruno man who admitted to hiring undocumented immigrant women to work as prostitutes in his South of Market massage parlor was sentenced in federal court Wednesday to a year in prison for money laundering.

Anthony Gar Lau, 46, operated Golden Flower Steam and Sauna Spa, one of 11 Asian massage parlors raided in July 2005 by federal agents who were investigating a Korean sex-trafficking ring.

Lau is among 29 people indicted by a federal grand jury in 2005 in connection with the raid. Investigators said the sex-trafficking ring allegedly brought young women from Korea and forced them to work as sex slaves in Asian massage parlors and unmarked apartments in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

During the "Operation Gilded Cage" raid, 104 Korean women were removed from 11 San Francisco massage parlors.

None of the 29 has gone to trial. Lau is the first among them to receive prison time.

Lau was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer to forfeit $1 million in income from Golden Flower Steam and Sauna Spa and to spend two years on supervised release after his prison term...


Moldova & Pridnestrovie: NGO's Urge Countries to Unity Against Sex Slavery

Pridnestrovie (green) is a de facto independent republic
within the borders of Modolva (dark gray)

CHISINAU, MOLDOVA - NGOs are working in both Chisinau and Tiraspol, respectively the capitals of Moldova and Pridnestrovie, to cut down on human trafficking and the sale of underage girls as sex slaves.

They receive limited help from the two governments, and since Tiraspol and Chisinau don't see eye to eye due to their long-running territorial dispute, there is a near-total lack of cooperation and partnerships at the official level.

Despite a lack of help from Moldova, in Pridnestrovie, or Transdniestria as it is also known, there are separate hotline and prevention activities as part of a program of collaboration with the United Nations, Danida, EU and NGOs to stop human trafficking. The new initiative involves a forum, educational activities and a hotline designed to prevent human trafficking.

The work is sponsored by the European Union (EU), the Italian anti-immigration exploitation program, IOM (International Organization for Migration, a United Nations agency) and Danida, of the Danish foreign ministry.

The group also collaborates with a YMCA-led anti trafficking group originally from Belarus, La Strada. They have set up a hotline which victims and everyone else can call from both within Transdniestria and from without. The number is 0800 88888 and is a free call, locally. If calling from abroad, it is + 373 533 8 60 30.

A spokesperson consulted by Tiraspol Times says that the problem exists, but it is nowhere near the levels of neighboring Ukraine or Moldova, the #1 trafficking hub in Europe. Even so, the group wants to alert locals in Tiraspol and other parts of Pridnestrovie to the risks, and prevent traffickers - some of whom come from Chisinau - from recruiting new sex slave victims locally...


China: Women, Children Face Growing Trafficking Risk

BEIJING, CHINA - Women and children in China face a growing threat of being trafficked and sold into marriage or sex work, as labour migration and a widening gender imbalance put them at risk, an international aid group said on Wednesday.

Wedgwood said it also meant many poor, rural families were reluctant to register children born outside of the plan, leaving them vulnerable to trafficking or exploitation by local officials who encourage them to hand over their babies in return for being excused a fine.

About 119 boys are born in China for every 100 girls, an imbalance that has grown since Beijing introduced a one-child policy more than 25 years ago that has bolstered a traditional preference for boys, resulting in abortions of female foetuses and abandonment of baby girls.

"Lack of girls for marriage in the eastern and rural areas is fuelling a demand for girl babies to be raised as future brides for better-off farmers' sons," Kate Wedgwood, China country director for Save the Children, told the Foreign Correspondents' Club.

The strict family-planning policy means China will be home to 30 million more men of marriageable age than women by 2020, state media has reported.

Migration for employment was also leaving many vulnerable to traffickers, both rural workers who move across the country to huge urban centres, and children who are left behind, often without adequate care...


"NoJoeGirls" - Anti-Joe Francis Blog Promotes Spring Break With a Purpose

NoJoeGirls, a new blog promoting Spring Break alternatives to the pure hedonism captured on film by pornographer, Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild, keeps us apprised of the latest transgressions by that idiot we so love to hate, Joe Francis.

Watch the blog's video mission statement here.

US: Joe Francis, GGW Pornographer, Adds to His Rap Sheet

Girls Gone Wild founder, Joe Francis, "mugging" for the camera

Joe Francis, famous for exploiting Spring Break exhibitionism on film, then distributing myriad Girls Gone Wild videos via the internet and late-night television ads, has gone and got himself in even more trouble following his arrest for contempt of court earlier this month.

He now adds the following felonies to his rap sheet: tax evasion, bribing a prison guard and having drugs and large amounts of cash in his prison cell.

KLTV 7 reports on the tax evasion charges:
"Joe Francis, the creator of the video series "Girls Gone Wild," has been indicted for federal tax evasion for deducting more than $20 million in false business expenses.

The "Girls Gone Wild" series has been hugely successful for Francis and his companies, Sands Media Inc. and Mantra Films Inc. Francis has raked in millions from the videos, which showcase alcohol-fueled binges and intoxicated coeds exposing themselves at popular spring break destinations and Mardi Gras.

A federal grand jury in Reno, Nev., returned the indictment against Francis for allegedly using offshore bank accounts to conceal his earnings in 2002 and 2003. Francis is believed to make more than $25 million a year from the videos.

According to the Justice Department, in addition to deducting $20 million in fraudulent business expenses, Francis allegedly transferred more than $15 million from a U.S.- based brokerage account to Rothwell Ltd., a Cayman Islands corporation that was established by Francis."

The Houston Chronicle reports on the bribery & contraband charges:
The millionaire founder of the Girls Gone Wild video empire was charged Thursday with bribing a jail guard for a bottle of water and having prescription sleeping pills in his cell, authorities said.

When he learned of the new charges, Joe Francis waived his right to a bond hearing for the contempt of court charge that had led to his being jailed. Francis cried as his mother blew him a kiss while he was led from a federal court room back to his cell.

"I didn't do anything," he told his parents as he was led away, the News Herald of Panama City reported.

Francis, 34, was charged with bribing a public servant, three counts of possessing a controlled substance and five counts of introducing contraband — cash and drugs — into a detention facility. The charges are third-degree felonies punishable by up to five years in prison.

Francis offered a jail guard $100 for a bottled water Wednesday evening, court records said. When the guard refused, Francis showed him $500, investigators said. Inmates are not allowed to have cash in the jail.

When supervisors searched Francis' cell, they found 16 prescription pills, including the sleeping medication Lunesta and the anti-anxiety pill lorazepam, according to court records.

US/Taiwan: Human Trafficking Likely to Worsen

TAIPEI, TAIWAN: Once billed as merely a challenge to the government, human trafficking has snowballed to the point of "threatening national security" amid a surge in the number of foreigners who go missing after arriving in Taiwan, immigration experts said yesterday, adding that the crisis will likely worsen as the government fumbles in its efforts to fight it.

Speaking to immigration officials and experts at the International Conference on Human Trafficking in Taipei yesterday, US Deputy Assistant Attorney General Grace Becker called such trafficking the "largest human rights violation in today's world."

The problem is set to further intensify, she added, as the number of people traversing international borders to find work doubles annually, as it has for the past seven years.

Local charity workers said such trends mean the country must heed Becker's advice to foster a progressive attitude in handling trafficked foreigners, many of whom drop off the government's radar and become sex slaves known only to the underworld.

Traveling with US Department of Justice officials yesterday, Becker said the key to fighting human trafficking is to "empower" trafficked people and overlook the crimes -- especially prostitution -- that they were forced or swindled into committing by traffickers.

Earning the victims' trust, Becker added, typically leads to their divulging information that allows authorities to root out the "big fish," the traffickers.

"We believe in the US, like I'm sure you do in Taiwan, that treating victims with care exemplifies our highest values," she said.


Saturday, April 7, 2007

Special: Girls Gone Wild Pornographer Ordered to Jail

PANAMA CITY, FLORIDA -- A federal judge in Panama City, Fla., on Thursday ordered "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis jailed for contempt of court in a civil suit brought by seven young women who claimed the entrepreneur's film crews had placed them in sexually explicit situations.

Francis, the Santa Monica-based multimillionaire who has made a fortune selling risque videos of scantily clad coeds, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak to surrender to court by noon Thursday, but hadn't done so by mid-evening.

Francis told the Associated Press late Thursday that Smoak "had lost his mind."

"This judge has gone as far as to call me the devil and an evildoer," he said. "It is a case of a judge gone wild."

The court order followed a last-minute collapse in settlement talks between Francis' legal team and lawyers for the women, who were filmed on a Florida beach in 2003. The plaintiffs allege that they were "victimized" by Francis' crew by being put in explicit scenes.

"It is not the judge's role to compel a settlement with the threat of putting one of the parties in jail," said Francis lawyer Jan L. Handzlik, who is appealing the judge's order.

Plaintiffs' attorney Larry Selander declined to comment.

Smoak originally found Francis, 34, in contempt last week after plaintiffs' lawyers complained that Francis had shouted obscenities at their clients in a March 21 outburst during the settlement negotiations.

Smoak ordered Francis jailed if an accord had not been reached in the case by Saturday, but he suspended that order when it appeared that a deal had been struck.

At an emergency hearing Wednesday, a lawyer for the plaintiffs told the judge that he thought the case was resolved but then learned Francis had altered the offer, making it unacceptable to his clients.

A mediator said Francis insisted on a payment plan that would stretch several years.

"He may have snookered us and gotten out Saturday, but he's coming back," Smoak said.

The judge reinstated his civil contempt order, which means Francis could be jailed until a formal mediation session is set up and he participates in a "meaningful" way.


Thursday, April 5, 2007

Mexico: Mex City's Refuge for Retired Prostitutes

A QUIET PLACE: Carmen Muñoz, director of Casa Xochiquetzal,
talks with a resident at the Mexico City group home that shelters
former sex workers who are at least over 65.
“There are many very sad life stories,” Muñoz says.
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - Carmen Muñoz ticks off the basic facts of her life in a quiet, neutral voice that belies the horrors she has known:

Married at 12 to a man 10 years her senior. First-time mother at 14. Worked as a housecleaner while her husband spent his days idling, confiscating the few pesos she'd earned and burning her with cigarettes to keep her in line.

"What he liked was money and beating me up," she says of her former spouse. "He enjoyed making me bleed."

Then someone told Muñoz about a man who was willing to pay 1,000 pesos if she'd go to a certain hotel and do what she was told. Uncertain but desperate, she took the offer and began her new life as a sex worker.

"It was very difficult, but as soon as I began to see money, as soon as I saw that I had enabled my children to eat, the situation definitely changed for me," Muñoz says of those long-ago days.

Perhaps the only thing tougher than being a prostitute in this churning capital is being a prostitute in what Mexicans poetically call the tercera edad, literally the "third age," or "third stage of life."

Though technically illegal, prostitution is widespread in many parts of Mexico, often poorly regulated and still a taboo subject in this roughly 80% Roman Catholic country. In the past, sex workers who survived to their golden years could expect to be broke and living on the streets.

But for some of them, that may not be the case.

Since November, a number of elderly, retired sex workers here have found refuge in the Casa Xochiquetzal, a group home that is believed to be the first such facility in Latin America. Opened in a renovated historic building that once housed a boxing museum, the Casa was donated by the Mexico City government, which also is paying for the women's food, medicine and utilities. To be admitted to the free facility, an applicant must be at least 65, no longer active in sex work and be receiving no other aid.

For the 20 women who call it home, including two 85-year-olds, the Casa has been a godsend.

"Previously, my preferred saying was, 'In the end, we all end up in jail,' " says Muñoz, the home's director. "Today I say, 'In the end, we all end up in peace,' because for us this house is a place of peace, because it is ours."


US: Trafficking Victim Set to be Deported

The Africans in America group has helped about 25 victims
of trafficking from Nigeria in the US since 2001.

WASHINGTON, DC - Celestina Ifeacho Joseph was trafficked to the United States from Nigeria in 1984, at the age of 10. She was then forced to work for a wealthy Nigerian couple in Houston for 15 years without pay, and sexually abused. Today she awaits deportation in a US government detention center.

On March 25, Ms. Joseph was interviewed from jail by a local Houston radio station. Clearly distraught, Ms. Joseph said that she has been visited by associates of her traffickers in jail and that her parents and sister in Nigeria are in hiding. "They are threatening my life," she said. "Please - I just need help. I'm helpless here."

Ms. Joseph's case is being publicized by Africans in America (AIA), an advocacy organization in New York that seeks to educate the Nigerian diaspora in the US about trafficking. AIA has appealed for a lawyer to assist Ms. Joseph and is asking the US immigration service to reconsider the deportation order.

At first sight, Ms. Joseph would seem a logical candidate for protection under the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which seeks to protect, rather than punish, victims of trafficking and offers them special permission ("T" visa) to stay in the US if they denounce their traffickers. The TVPA is considered one of the main human rights success stories of the current Bush administration. Each June the US issues a report that grades all countries except the US for their efforts to stop trafficking.

At the same time, the TVPA runs up against the need to control illegal immigration. Most trafficking victims enter the US illegally because they are brought in by their traffickers on forged documents.

Ms. Joseph managed to escape from her traffickers in 1999 - a year before the TVPA was enacted - and missed the 2002 deadline for applying for a T visa. But AIA says that after missing the deadline, she was too intimidated to approach the authorities.

Ms. Joseph told the radio station that she was brought to the US on a promise of being put through school. She was delivered to the home of Mrs. Beatrice Ikeakor, a wealthy Houston-based Nigerian businesswoman, where she looked after the children before being put to work in a restaurant owned by Mrs. Ikeakor and her husband, Ms. Joseph said. Ms. Joseph was then sent to work in an old people's home owned by the couple. According to AIA, Ms. Joseph was recruited in Nigeria by Mrs. Ikeakor's sister.

Ms. Joseph claims that she was sexually abused during her enslavement. In 1997 she was forced to marry a man. After escaping in 1999, she started to rebuild her life and entered a community college where she was studying to be a nurse when she was arrested.

The case has been complicated by the fact that Ms. Joseph's lawyer appears to have been close to the traffickers, and consistently misrepresented her case. She asked him to withdraw and hand over the files, which he has yet to do. In an added twist, Mrs. Ikeakor herself contacted AIA and complained that she did not know the meaning of trafficking.

The case illustrates the central involvement of diaspora communities in trafficking, both as a source of traffickers but also as an ally in preventing and exposing the crime. Mr. Ezekwenna from AIA told The Advocacy Project that his group, which was founded in 2001, has helped about 25 victims of trafficking from Nigeria in the US.

AIA recently secured a T visa for Stella Okereke, a 68-year-old Nigerian who was forced to work in a New York basement for 12 years. Mrs. Okereke escaped from her traffickers in 2000, but AIA managed to secure a T visa for her after finding pro bono legal aid. AIA introduced Mrs. Okereke to the Nigerian Minister of Women's Affairs at a recent event in New York, to publicize the role of the diaspora in trafficking.

On Monday, AIA sent Ms. Joseph's case to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which coordinates a network of support groups for victims of trafficking in the US. A lawyer met with Ms. Joseph on Tuesday.
To hear the interview by Ms. Joseph, log into KPFT radio Houston, register, and play the March 25 edition of the Haiti show (7.30 pm). Ms. Joseph's interview comes on after several minutes.

To read the press release by Africans in America, or to contact AIA, visit

India: High School Girls Getting into High End Prostitution

Yet to pass out of teenage years, young girls are being pushed
by lifestyle demands into high-end prostitution

CALCUTTA, INDIA -- Riya (name changed) claims to be 18 years old but looks younger. She is wearing a body-hugging low-waist jeans and a white skintight cropped top that may look a little too screaming, but she could be a teen party-goer. Though Riya works at night.

She claims she is from New Delhi. The aspiring model says she is a first-year science student who has come to the city to follow up a modelling assignment. She services clients on the side. She can’t do so in New Delhi because her family stays there, but has clients in Mumbai too. Her rate for an evening — Rs 3,500 [approx. $82 US], out of which Rs 1,000 [approx. $29US] will go to the “contact” (read her agent).

But her agent Meera (name changed) has a different story. “She is very much from the city and goes to one of the high-end schools here. Otherwise her rate would be much higher. Girls from outside the city cost a lot more,” she says. “Most of the girls make up such stories,” she adds.

Mobile syndrome

Riya is not alone. Like her, more young girls, many of them “English-speaking” and allegedly from reputed schools, are joining the high end of prostitution to earn that extra buck. Much of it has to do with the demands of lifestyle.

“Student prostitution has increased in the last five to six years. Especially since the price of mobiles has gone down. It makes students more accessible,” says an NGO worker in the city who works with the floating population of women in prostitution...


Japan: Historian Stands By Proof of Wartime Sex Slavery

Yoshiaki Yoshimi, historian who uncovered proof of wartime sex slavery

TOKYO, JAPAN -- It was about 15 years ago, recalled Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a mild-mannered historian, when he grew fed up with the Japanese government’s denials that the military had set up and run brothels throughout Asia during World War II.

Instead of firing off a letter to a newspaper, though, Mr. Yoshimi went to the Defense Agency’s library and combed through official documents from the 1930s. In just two days, he found a rare trove that uncovered the military’s direct role in managing the brothels, including documents that carried the personal seals of high-ranking Imperial Army officers.

Faced with this smoking gun, a red-faced Japanese government immediately dropped its long-standing claim that only private businessmen had operated the brothels. A year later, in 1993, it acknowledged in a statement that the Japanese state itself had been responsible. In time, all government-approved junior high school textbooks carried passages on the history of Japan’s military sex slaves, known euphemistically as comfort women.

“Back then, I was optimistic that this would effectively settle the issue,” Mr. Yoshimi said. “But there was a fierce backlash.”

The backlash came from young nationalist politicians led by Shinzo Abe, an obscure lawmaker at the time in the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, who lobbied to rescind the 1993 admission of state responsibility. Their goal finally seemed close at hand after Mr. Abe became prime minister last September.

Mr. Abe said he would adhere to the 1993 statement, but he also undercut it by asserting that there was no evidence showing the military’s role in forcing women into sexual slavery. His comments incited outrage in Asia and the United States, where the House of Representatives is considering a nonbinding resolution that would call on Japan to admit unequivocally its history of sexual slavery and to apologize for it.


UN: UNODC Launches Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking

"Trafficking Victims: Countries of ORIGIN"
red=very high, peach=high, green=medium, teal=low, blue=very low, white=not reported (from "Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns")

"Trafficking Victims: Countries of DESTINATION"
red=very high, peach=high, green=medium, teal=low, blue=very low, white=not reported (from "Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns")

LONDON, (UNODC) - The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, together with other United Nations agencies, Governments, and NGOs, on Monday announced the launch of The Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.

The launch, hosted by Baroness Mary Goudie, Member of the House of Lords and Board Member of Vital Voices Global Partnership, coincided with both the two hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the bicentennial of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire.

A series of events throughout the world will culminate in Vienna with an International Conference against Human Trafficking from 27 - 29 November 2007.

Some 2.5 million people throughout the world are at any given time recruited, entrapped, transported and exploited - a process called human trafficking - according to estimates of international experts.

Trafficking in persons, whether for sexual exploitation or forced labor, affects virtually every region of the world. UNODC reports that persons from 127 countries become exploited in 137 nations.

"Slavery is a booming international trade, less obvious than two hundred years ago for sure, but all around us," said UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa. "Perhaps we simply prefer to close our eyes to it, as many law-abiding citizens buy the products and the services produced on the cheap by slaves."

Because human trafficking is an underground crime, with many undiscovered and unidentified victims, the true numbers are not known. The United States government estimates that between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year.

Human trafficking has become big business. The U.N. and other experts estimate the total market value of illicit human trafficking at $32 billion - about $10 billion is derived from the initial "sale" of individuals, with the remainder representing the estimated profits from the activities or goods produced by the victims of this barbaric crime.