Friday, August 31, 2007

Protest Sigma Huda's Jail Sentence

BANGLADESH: Sigma Huda, human rights lawyer and UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking, sentenced to a 3 year jail term. Write letters protesting this unjust sentence--see below...

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women condemns the 3-year sentence handed down by a special military-controlled court in Dhaka against human rights lawyer, Sigma Huda, and calls for her immediate release. Sigma was convicted in a mock trial on trumped-up charges of
corruption. Proceedings were conducted in a special court, with irregular procedures, under close army supervision.

The sentence is yet another travesty of justice imposed by the current military-backed government who continues to arrest and imprison thousands of people since taking control in January 2007. In spite of the fact that Sigma Huda has a debilitating heart condition and is in
secondary renal failure, she has been detained in prison since the beginning of July 2007 under appalling conditions with no access to the doctors or the treatment that she needs.

Dr. Janice Raymond, representative of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, states: "It is an irony that Sigma Huda, who has spent much of her life fighting corruption has now been condemned as corrupt, with the court using "evidence" obtained from witnesses under duress in a legal trial whose judgment was pre-ordained. And it is a mockery of international human rights that a woman who has defended many victims of human rights abuses is now the victim herself of state-sponsored human rights abuses, deprived of her right to medical treatment and of her right to a free and fair trial."

Please send letters of protest to your government's embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh and to your foreign ministries. In the United States, please send these letters to the Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520.

In Europe, please send additional e-mails to Luis Filipe Marques Amado at and to Jose Manueal Barroso, President of the European Commission at


UK: Trafficked Women Auctioned in Pubs

CAMBRIDGESHIRE, UK -- A major police operation to crack down on the trafficking of women has discovered that some victims are being 'sold' at auctions in pubs before they are forced to work in brothels.

In the largest operation of its kind, police in Cambridgeshire have raided 73 suspected brothels in the past few months. They have already rescued seven women, some with serious injuries sustained as they tried to escape.

The scale of the abuse has horrified the officers and other agencies working with them, who have found women being forced to work in the sex trade in houses in villages as well as city centres, being unable to go out and having sex with up to 60 men a day, earning thousands of pounds for the gangs...


India: Moves to Decriminalise 'Victim' Prostitutes

INDIA -- India plans to decriminalise prostitution by treating sex workers as victims and not offenders, and instead going after traffickers, pimps, brothel owners and clients, a government official said on Friday.

Hundreds of thousands of women and girls in India are kidnapped, sold, coerced or trafficked for sex in a highly organised yet illicit trade, with many brought in from neighbouring countries.

Yet activists have long said the sex workers, who are mostly forced into the trade, are treated as criminals by the law which should instead focus on punishing those behind the trade.

Officials said new amendments to the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 -- which would no longer penalise sex workers -- are expected to go before the cabinet in the coming days. The proposal would then go before parliament.

"We are hoping that the amendments would be passed in this session of parliament," said Nandita Mishra, an official from the ministry of women and child development.

Proposals include deleting sections in the more than 50-year-old law relating to seducing or soliciting for the purpose of prostitution being punishable with a maximum jail term of six months and a fine of 500 rupees ($10).

Prostitutes would also no longer be forced to vacate the property they reside in...


NEPAL: Traffickers Exploit Increased Mobility of Underage Girls

Traffickers target Nepalese girls from poor families in the villages.

BANKE, NEPAL - Sixteen-year-old Sushma does not want to reveal her true identity for fear that the traffickers who sold her into the notorious brothel area of Kamathipura in Mumbai, India, could track her down and kill her.

"I should have listened to my village schoolteacher who told me not to be taken in by false promises of a job abroad," she told IRIN, expressing regret that she had left her village in Banke, nearly 600km southwest of Kathmandu, without even informing her parents.

"There are so many innocent village girls who have been lured by traffickers with false promises of earning a lot of money in a foreign country," said Sushma.

Anti girl-trafficking activists have asked the local police authorities, especially those stationed near the open Nepal-Indian border, to be on the lookout for any young underage girls leaving the country.

In the last week alone a prominent local non-governmental organisation (NGO), Maiti Nepal, intercepted around 15 girls, half of whom were underage. "They were all carrying fake passports and didn't even know where they were travelling to," said activist Keshab Koirala from Maiti Nepal in Banke...


Editorial: The Problem with Prostitution

Vancouver Sun Files / A sign in Sydney, Australia, advises the publc of a brothel in the Pyrmont neighbourhood. The city put the sign up after some residents expressed worries that a cluster of brothels might sprout up around a nearby casino. Critics claimed the sign was a free advertisement for the brothel.

CANADA--Over the past two decades, Canada's prostitution laws have faced a number of challenges. Soon they will face another.

A group of Vancouver lawyers and sex workers have initiated a Charter challenge arguing that our present laws violate their right to life, liberty, security, equality and free expression.

Our laws don't actually prohibit prostitution per se. They just ban any mechanism of engaging in it -- from soliciting for the purposes of prostitution to operating a common bawdy house.

Those bringing the challenge argue that the laws do more harm than good. They argue that our criminal laws expose sex workers to significant harm: Physical and sexual violence, lack of access to police protection, social stigma, inequality, exploitation and murder.

Their solution? Strike down the laws and institute a regulatory scheme to help make being a prostitute safer.

There is something fundamentally wrong with this vision.

Prostitution laws don't expose sex workers to an increased risk of physical and sexual violence, psychological injury, kidnapping and death. Prostitution does that...


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bangladesh: A Shelter for Trafficked Girls

JESSORE, BANGLADESH--Dhaka Ahsania Mission offers a safe haven for trafficked girls who managed to escape their captors and return home.

At the shelter home near the Indo-Bangladesh border in Jessore, the girls find a safe place to stay, heal and recover as they prepare to rejoin the real world. They receive advice, regain their self-esteem and confidence, learn to sew, paint and build a new life.

Morzina (not a real name), a young girl living in the shelter says, 'My story is a simple one'. 'I got pregnant and had a child by a neighbour who promised to marry me. Shortly after giving birth to the child, the man refused to accept me as his wife. When my stepmother drove me out of house, I managed to find a place to live in but soon started to have financial problems. I could not cope and a woman, a distant relative, suggested that I try working abroad. I thought it might be a good solution for a while until I got back on my feet. The woman took me to Kolkata in India. To my utter astonishment, I found myself locked up in a house during the day and forced to go out with clients at night. Finally, a kind man helped me escape back to Bangladesh.'

'I am so mad at myself that I let myself befooled by all kinds of empty promises,' says Morzina. 'I believed all kinds of lies'...


Editorial: No More Pedophile Tourists

WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL--One sexual predator, when interviewed by the FBI, described his experience with foreign child prostitutes this way: "It's like being a star. They want to try my food. They want to see what clothes I wear. They want to watch my television." Such "stars" are the global consumers of innocence, exercising a particularly brutal form of power over the poorest, most vulnerable children on Earth.

About 25 percent of sex tourists targeting children are from the United States, traveling to Latin America, Asia and Africa in search of abomination on the modified American plan.

Another predator told the FBI that he shouldn't be prosecuted because the girls he used were professionals. In his case, they ranged from 13 to 15 years old. Other transactions involve boys younger than 10. These "professionals" are often recruited by kidnapping or deception. With two or three "customers" a night, they suffer lasting physical damage and become particularly susceptible to venereal disease. They often end their lives as social outcasts, addicted to drugs and alcohol...


India: Women Trafficked for Baby Boys

INDIA: Punjab and Haryana continue to exploit the girl child. A new United Nations report released on Wednesday reveals that girls and women are not only trafficked to these two states to improve the skewed sex ratio but also, and mainly, to bear male children. Once they give birth to a boy, they are usually sexually exploited and either abandoned or passed on to another man.

Punjab and Haryana — two of India’s wealthiest states — also have the dubious distinction of being among the states with the most skewed sex ratios — in the age group of 0-6 — in the country. Punjab has a ratio of 886 girls to 1,000 boys while the number in Haryana is 867.

The districts with the worst sex ratios also come from the two states. The worst offender is Fathegarh Sahib in Punjab, which has a ratio of just 766 girls to a 1,000 boys...


Monday, August 27, 2007

UN Special Rappoteur on Trafficking Sentenced to Jail

Today, August 27, the Bangladeshi court handed down its judgment on Sigma Huda and condemned her to 3 years in jail. Nazmul, Sigma's husband, was condemned to 7 years in jail. The court proceeding was a travesty of justice, and the evidence brought against Sigma was ludicrous.

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) _ A special court sentenced a U.N. human rights lawyer to three years in prison and imprisoned her politician husband for seven years for extortion in the Bangadeshi capital Monday, a news report said.

Sigma Huda, a Bangladeshi lawyer appointed in 2004 as an independent expert on people trafficking by the United Nations, was convicted of abetting her husband in extorting more than 20 million takas (US$294,000; euro336,100) from a construction firm while he was communications minister, CSB News said.
The same court sentenced her husband, Nazmul Huda, to seven years in jail, the report said.

Court officials and the couple's lawyers were not immediately available for comment on the latest conviction in a government campaign to crack down on corruption.

Borhan Uddin, Huda's lawyer, told the court his client was innocent, and that she had been targeted for speaking out against Bangladesh's military-backed government, CSB reported. The military assumed power in January following violent clashes over electoral reforms that left more than 30 people dead.

She has been outspoken about corruption in the police service and has campaigned on behalf of women and the homeless, Uddin said.

Under international conventions, Huda enjoys diplomatic privileges that prevent her arrest or detention while she is acting in her role as a U.N. rights expert but not in other capacities.

Dozens of top politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen accused of amassing wealth through corruption or misuse of power have been arrested under the campaign to clean up the impoverished country's political, business and public service sectors.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sudan: Women Abducted, Raped and Kept as Sex Slaves following the December 2006 Attacks on Deribat

SUDAN -- The Government of the Sudan must protect women and children from sexual and gender-based violence, says a new report from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that details cases of abduction, rape and sexual violence in South Darfur.

The report, a follow-up to one issued in April 2007, contains testimonies from victims and eyewitnesses describing how women were abducted, kept as sex slaves or subjected to other human rights violations in Deribat and surrounding towns by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and affiliated groups. These and other violations occurred in late December 2006 in the wake of air and ground attacks on civilians in the area.

The report, prepared in cooperation with the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), stresses the Government’s responsibility for the actions of the armed forces and other informal allied groups, notably the Popular Defense Forces and the Southern Liberation Army/Abu Gasim faction. The report says the abuses may also constitute war crimes, recalling that no investigation had been carried out by the Sudanese Government. Local authorities have indicated that they have forwarded the allegations to the Sudanese Armed Forces. Meanwhile, Sudan's Advisory Council on Human Rights has informed UNMIS that it is proposing to establish an investigation committee jointly with the African Union Mission in Sudan to inquire into the allegations contained in the report...


Monday, August 20, 2007

Georgia: Provision in Immigration Bill Targets Trafficking

ATLANTA, GEORGIA -- While immigrant rights groups loudly protested a broad new Georgia law that denies many state benefits to those here illegally, there is one provision buried within the legislation that they had quietly supported.

In a display of affection toward a law they had so bitterly opposed, many of the bill's most vocal critics gathered Thursday at the Latin American Association's Atlanta office to celebrate a provision in the bill that cracks down on human trafficking.

"Many of us had problems with the bill, it's terrible in many respects," said Stephanie Davis, a policy adviser for Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin. "But we fought hard for this portion of it."

Even critics couldn't help but cheer the portion that ramps up the penalties for those found guilty of trafficking people. It's partly because many of the victims are immigrants, said Alia El-Sawi, who heads the Georgia Rescue and Restore Coalition, a group that tries to help victims.

The law, which took effect in July, makes human trafficking a felony and sets a minimum prison sentence at 10 years. It also gives authorities more leeway to prosecute pimps and johns, lowering the standard they must meet to prove suspects are guilty...


Canada: Trafficking Victim Deported

TORONTO, CANADA -- A Romanian woman who claims she was brought to Canada by human smugglers to work as a prostitute has been temporarily spared deportation after claiming she'll be harmed if sent home.

Monica Streanga, of Toronto, said she could be hurt by the smugglers who want to retaliate against her after ring members were jailed for up to 10 years in Romania.

Even worse, Streanga said she can be forced to return to prostitution if deported.

She appealed to the Federal Court of Canada a deportation order by an immigration officer who said she could obtain state protection in Romania.

Justice Michel Shore agreed with Streanga and halted her removal to Bucharest. He ordered her to undergo another hearing by another panel.

"There's a serious risk to her life or cruel and unusual treatment at the hands of the men who formerly trafficked her into prostitition," Shore said in a decision.

Court heard members of the ring often went to Romanian shelters looking for women who had escaped from them.

"Trafficking involves degradation and sexually based offences," Shore said...


India: Sex Industry Perturbed, Pressured + Poignant

NEW DEHLI, INDIA -- A dark gloom hovers over the red light area of New Delhi. Hundreds of women stare out of dingy pigeonholes with preening eyes. Who will be their next client, what will they experience and if here is a hope for them when they cross the age of 35 and experience the hatred and stigma pushed on them by society?

Most sex workers in the country are victims of poverty, guilt, sexually transmitted diseases and live a life that is worse than death. They succumb to dire circumstances and have no platform to voice their concerns. They are constantly subjugated to violence and abuse and their plight is never-ending.

Welcome to Kamathipura, a flourishing red light district in Mumbai. This is the hub of the AIDS epidemic in India which affects more than four and a half million people. Over 60,000 sex workers live in Kamathipura and more than 50 per cent of them are HIV positive.

The sex workers in these areas have been sold by their family members or have been tricked in the trade. Their lives lay barren and ragged. They are victims of the society as well as of those who use them for a few minutes of physical saturation. What goes unnoticed is the quandary and challenges faced by these women...


South Africa: Lack of Laws Lets Human Trafficking Flourish

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA -- Although the United Nations (UN) protocol to suppress and punish trafficking in persons has been ratified by more than 100 countries, few countries had antitrafficking legislation, making the prosecution of offenders difficult, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) .

SA was being lobbied by the UN to help fight the battle as it was increasingly becoming the traffickers' country of choice. Because of its infrastructure, the syndicates were using SA as a transit point.

The protocol came into force in December 2003. It encourages the prosecution of offenders and promotes international cooperation. Countries have to adopt measures to protect the victims of trafficking and help them return safely to their own or another country...


Mexico: 16,000 Child Victims of Sexual Exploitation

MEXICO CITY -- The child pornography and commercial sexual exploitation industry enjoys total impunity in the Mexican capital, according to a report by the Mexico City Human Rights Commission.

The "special report on commercial sexual exploitation of children in the Federal District" confirms that there are at least 20 spots in Mexico City where these illegal activities flourish, under the protection of corrupt elements in the police force.

Although there are no figures on the extent of the phenomenon in the capital, an estimated 16,000 girls and boys are victims of sexual exploitation in this country of 108 million people.

Emilio Álvarez Icaza, head of the local Human Rights Commission, complained about the lack of strategies to clamp down on the problem.

"The state is largely absent in the question of commercial sexual exploitation of children," Álvarez Icaza recently told the press. "We have compiled all of the reports that we requested, and in essence what we found is that there are no specific programmes or actions at the local level."

International organisations fighting child sex tourism say Mexico is one of the leading hotspots of child sexual exploitation, along with Thailand, Cambodia, India, and Brazil.

The global child sex trade, including prostitution, pornography and trafficking for sexual purposes, is a multi-billion dollar business.

According to the Federal Preventive Police, it takes a pedophile an average of 15 days to have sexual relations with a minor after "meeting" the adolescent or child over the Internet...


US: Children For Sale on Craigslist

WORLD WIDE WEB--I'm sure most of us are familiar with Craigslist, an online Web community where people post job opportunities, items for sale, and find activity partners. Over the past years, Craigslist has grown by leaps and bounds and now has Web sites representing over 300 U.S. cities. Many of us have used Craigslist to find a garage sale or buy a used couch.

However, despite its millions of users and various social benefits, there's a dark side of Craigslist that most users don't see. In the "Erotic" section, human traffickers have found Craigslist to be one of the most efficient, effective (and free) ways to post children and women for sale.

With a bit of research, one can realize just how much of a problem this has become. In one recent case, two Chicago women were charged for selling girls as young as 14 years old on Craigslist. The girls were forced to have sex with 10-12 men per day, and the traffickers made tens of thousands of dollars. A Boston man and his niece were charged with plotting a child trafficking operation with teenagers as young as 13 by selling them on Craigslist to predators from Massachusetts to New York. These cases are just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, law enforcement efforts to fight trafficking nationwide are consistently reporting a spike in online Craigslist ads, and how sex trafficking has "moved online" lately...


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Philippines: Detained Anti-Trafficking Activists Return to US

LOS ANGELES, CA - GABRIELA Network (GABNet) National Chairperson and USC Professor Dr. Annalisa Enrile was greeted by GABNet members, friends, family, lawyers and members of the media as she exited US Customs at the Tom Bradley International Terminal of LAX this evening. She and two other GABNet leaders, Judith Mirkinson and Ninotchka Rosca, all landed in the United States at approximately 8:30 PM local time, with Mirkinson and Rosca arriving in San Francisco.

At Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, the three human rights activists attempted to board flights back home to the US despite the fact that they had been placed on a "watchlist" by Philippine authorities. The women spent over an hour besieged by smug immigration authorities at the Ninoy Aquino Airport, until GABRIELA Women’s Partylist Representative Liza Maza and GABRIELA Attorney Alnie Foja intervened.

In spite of being denied the right to board her first flight on August 5th, US-born Enrile and the two other women were never informed of the reason their names appeared on a watchlist. The only reason they were targeted, the women speculate, is because of their efforts to defend human rights in the Philippines. “I am glad to be back home,” Dr. Enrile states, “but this will not discourage me from going back to the Philippines and exposing the tyrannical policies of the Macapagal-Arroyo regime.” Since President Macapagal Arroyo took office in 2001, there have been approximately 900 murders and disappearances of activists, clergy, labor leaders and their families, 90 of which were GABRIELA members or affiliates. The Philippines is also cited as being the most dangerous country for journalists after Iraq, according to the International Press Institute...


Iraq: Mothers Prostituting to Feed Children

BAGHDAD, IRAQ - The women are too afraid and ashamed to show their faces or have their real names used. They have been driven to sell their bodies to put food on the table for their children -- for as little as $8 a day.

Suha, 37, is a mother of three. She says her husband thinks she is cleaning houses when she leaves home.

"People shouldn't criticize women, or talk badly about them," says 37-year-old Suha as she adjusts the light colored scarf she wears these days to avoid extremists who insist women cover themselves. "They all say we have lost our way, but they never ask why we had to take this path."

A mother of three, she wears light makeup, a gold pendant of Iraq around her neck, and an unexpected air of elegance about her.

"I don't have money to take my kid to the doctor. I have to do anything that I can to preserve my child, because I am a mother," she says, explaining why she prostitutes herself.

Anger and frustration rise in her voice as she speaks.

"No matter what else I may be, no matter how off the path I may be, I am a mother!"

Her clasped hands clench and unclench nervously. Suha's husband thinks that she is cleaning houses when she goes away...


Friday, August 10, 2007

New U.S. Anti-Trafficking Chief Emphasizes Partnerships

WASHINGTON – When the United States asks other countries to cooperate in improving human trafficking law enforcement, victim assistance, and public awareness, those countries should know the U.S. government is working on the same problems at home and that recommendations are made “in the spirit of partnership,” Mark Lagon, the new head of the State Department’s anti-trafficking office, says.

“We have a serious effort at home that’s victim-centered to help those who have been caught in human trafficking,” he told USINFO June 5.

Lagon has worked on human rights issues before. So when the U.S. Congress confirmed him as the new director of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat of Trafficking in Persons in May, he already had priorities in mind.

Emphasizing U.S. leadership responsibility, Lagon said, “We need to look at how products that are important in the United States might in fact be the result of slave labor,” he said. Forced labor is an important issue “whether it’s child labor, bonded labor, [or] labor explained away by caste.”

“Because democratization is so much about women’s empowerment worldwide, we have to grapple with the situation of trafficking in persons, which is perhaps the most acute form of the disempowerment of women,” he said. The rule of law must be strengthened wherever human trafficking is a problem, and where “complicit officials in governments … are, through their corruption, advancing degradation of people,” he said...


US Dept. of State: 7th Annual Trafficking in Persons Report Released

View the: Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000: Trafficking in Persons Report 2007

Remarks about the 2007 report from SECRETARY CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Thank you all for coming. I'd like to thank Ambassador Mark Lagon who just twelve days ago assumed his duties as director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. And it's my pleasure to be here today to release that report. Human traffickers prey on the most vulnerable members of society, most often innocent women and children, exploiting and abusing them and profiting from their suffering. The President's dedication to defending human dignity and advancing human freedom worldwide is at the center of our foreign policy and as a result, we have made combating human trafficking a prominent and deeply felt commitment for the United States Government.

In my travels, I have noticed a greater desire by our partners to fight this crime and protect its victims. And across the globe, the United States is building new partnerships to rescue and shelter the victims. We are helping to lead a global movement, not just to confront this crime, but to abolish it. More and more countries are coming to see human trafficking for what it is -- a modern-day form of slavery that devastates families and communities around the world. Much of the growing desire to fight this crime is due in no small part to our annual Trafficking in Persons Report. The report's purpose is to raise awareness, to highlight best practices and to inspire governments to take action against trafficking. I am pleased that this year's report covers more countries than ever before -- 164 in total.

When we first began tackling this issue several years ago, the idea of human trafficking was akin to a global family secret. It was known, but not often discussed publicly. I am proud that our office in just a few short years has brought global attention to this problem. Millions more people know about human trafficking today than when the first report was issued in 2001 and we hope that this greater awareness translates into greater prevention...


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Congo: New Bid to Stop Child Trafficking

Children at an orphanage in Brazzaville

BRAZZAVILLE, CONGO -- The Congolese government, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Justice and Peace Diocesan Commission (CJP) have signed an agreement to work together to stop child trafficking in the country.

At a meeting of the three parties in the country’s capital, Brazzaville, CJP coordinator Father Félicien Mavoungou said they wanted to find ways to prevent this type of exploitation of children.

“The problem exists and we have to start sending the children home,” he said. “As a test project, we will reintegrate 20 children. This is the starting point. Then we will evaluate which strategy works to free children who are victims of trafficking.”

The project will cost US$245,000 and focus on rehabilitation and reintegration, as well as education programmes...


US: Filmmaker Champions Sex-Trafficking Victims

Just look at 29-year-old Michael Cory Davis, and you might wonder why he has yet to become a household name. He's an attractive young actor with chocolate-brown skin, shoulder-length locks and endearing eyes, who may end up getting more attention for his activism than his work in Hollywood.

If you can get beyond his striking good looks and actually listen to what he has to say, you'll find an adamant and articulate activist with an infectious passion for combating global injustice.

This passion is quite evident in his latest film, "Cargo: Innocence Lost," which sheds much-needed light on the billion-dollar sex trafficking and forced prostitution industry. For the past four years, Davis has been working as an activist for sex trafficking victims, after he found unexpected celebrity in eastern Europe and was approached to lend his name to the cause...