Monday, June 23, 2008

CA: Man Sentenced for Sex Trafficking

RICHMOND, CALIFORNIA - A 33-year-old Richmond man has been sentenced to more than 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to a sex trafficking charge involving a 16-year-old girl.

Melvin Parker Jr. pleaded guilty on Feb. 20 to one count of sex trafficking of a minor, admitting he paid for the 16-year-old girl's travel to Oakland, where he set her up briefly as a prostitute in July 2007. A month later, he brought her again from her home state for similar work in Marin and Contra Costa counties.

The unidentified girl was stopped by San Rafael police on August 9 "in an area known for prostitution," and Parker was arrested the same day, according to U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello, who announced the sentencing on Wednesday. The case was originally handled by Marin County authorities, but those charges were dismissed in favor of a federal prosecution.

Parker was sentenced to 130 months' imprisonment by U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton. After completing the sentence, he will be eligible for a 10-year period of "supervised release" under which he will be required to register as a sex offender, receive counseling and be barred from contact with minors...


NY: Queens Man Indicted in State's First Sex Trafficking Case

QUEENS, NEW YORK - A Queens grand jury handed down the state’s first human trafficking indictment yesterday, accusing a South-Ozone Park man of forcing a 16-year-old girl into prostitution.

Woodley Gaston, 22, was charged with sex trafficking, second and third-degree promoting prostitution, third-degree rape, endangering the welfare of a child and permitting prostitution.

“The defendant is accused of participating in a modern-day version of slavery by holding a teenage girl captive and coercing her through psychological intimidation to prostitute herself for his own financial gain,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. “

Gaston allegedly befriended the girl and forced her to work as a prostitute between March 5 and March 23, according to the charges. The girl was allegedly forced to work routes along Sutphin Boulevard and at Conduit Avenue near John F. Kennedy Airport. Gatson is also accused of advertising the girl on the Craig’s List, a popular Internet classifieds site. She was allegedly given a quota of 10 men per day and forced to give Gaston her prostitution earnings.

He is also accused of having sex with the girl and repeatedly threatening to kill her if she left him or found another pimp.

Gatson plead not guilty to the charges. His attorney, Alan Gordon, declined to comment on the case.

The trafficking indictment was made possible by new state legislation strengthening penalties against human traffickers, which went into effect on Nov. 1, 2007. The bill created a new class B felony – sex trafficking – for those who profit from prostitution through sex trafficking. The bill also requires those convicted to register as sex offenders with the state.


UN: Ban Leads Call for Greater Effort to End 'Silent War' of Sexual Violence in Conflict

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at Council meeting

UNITED NATIONS - Noting that an increasing number of women and girls are falling victim to the “silent war” of sexual violence in conflict areas, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today led a chorus of United Nations officials in urging greater efforts to combat the scourge.

Violence against women has reached unspeakable and pandemic proportions in some societies attempting to recover from conflict,” Mr. Ban told a Security Council debate focusing on sexual violence in situations of armed conflict.

Today’s meeting comes almost eight years after the Council adopted its landmark resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, and is chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of the United States, which holds the 15-member body’s rotating presidency for this month.

Mr. Ban stressed that responding to this “silent war against women and girls” requires leadership, comprehensive strategies and the involvement of everyone, from the UN and national governments to rape survivors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

In March the Secretary-General launched a global campaign to end violence against women, including the practice of sexual violence in armed conflict. He announced today that he will soon appoint a UN envoy tasked entirely with advocacy for ending violence against women...


Norway: Less Prostitutes Following Raid

Scenes like this, where Nigerian prostitutes try to snare new customers, have led to police action against the world's oldest profession in Oslo.

OSLO, NORWAY - There's been a marked decline in the number of prostitutes on the streets of Oslo this week. The decline follows two waves of arrests aimed at cracking down on human trafficking.

Police in Oslo arrested nearly 70 persons earlier this week, all of them tied to the Nigerian circles of prostitutes who have been aggressively going after customers on downtown streets during the past year.

Of the 66 persons rounded up, 18 have been charged with offenses including human trafficking, pimping and dealing in stolen property. Prostitution itself is not illegal in Norway, but pimping is. Anyone considered to have organized prostitutes' activities is subject to prosecution, and a new law also opens for prosecution of persons buying sexual services.

All the persons arrested were women, except one. Most were held pending examination of their identity papers and proof of resident status.

It's believed that most of the active foreign prostitutes in Oslo have obtained resident status in another European country, thus giving them permission to live and work in Norway. Even athough Norway is not a member of the European Union, it is part of economic trade and cooperation agreements that allow EU residents to freely move across borders...


Asia: Chinese Prostitutes Trafficked to Afghanistan

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - A string of lights spells out the name of the bar in the back of the basement in capitalletters, PARADISE. A dozen Chinese women in skintight miniskirts and halter-tops flit around clusters of beefy Western men and flirt in broken English.

Now and then, a man and woman climb the stairs to the upper reaches of the house, where Paradise does its real business.

Paradise is a brothel in an unmarked residential compound in an upscale Kabul neighbuorhood where prostitutes from China cater to Western men. Since the US-led invasion in 2001, thousands of Westerners working for security firms, companies and aid groups have poured into Afghanistan. Not long after came Chinese prostitutes, in some cases trafficked into the country.

The International Organisation for Migration helped 96 Chinese women who were deported in 2006. They told IOM they were deceived by a travel agency in China and promised employment in a restaurant for $300 a month. But when they arrived, they said, the Chinese restaurant owner denied them salary and forced them to provide sexual services by night.

An IOM staffer said one Chinese woman thought she was going to work in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and had no idea she had instead landed in Kabul.

Afghan officials deny these claims.

''They come here of their own will. They want to do business here. Police caught them red-handed,'' said Gen Ali Shah Paktiawal, head of Kabul's criminal investigations...


US: Boston Sets Up Shelter Beds for Teen Prostitutes

BOSTON - Massachusetts is launching a new program to help children and runaways lured into prostitution.

The Massachusetts Department of Social Services next month plans to open nine shelter beds at a secure Boston location for girls from 12 to 21 who had been coerced into prostitution.

Another five beds for girls, boys and transgendered youths who have been sexually exploited will be opened in private homes.

The $1 million program is a response to a spike in the number of cases of teen runaways who have become prostitutes DSS spokeswoman Jennifer Kritz told The Boston Sunday Herald.

Statistics released by the Teen Prostitution Prevention Project found 70 percent of underage prostitutes arrested in Suffolk County since 2005 were runaways.


Nepal: Gang Sells Women to Brothels After Selling Kidneys

KATHMANDU, NEPAL - Nepal Police and an NGO fighting trafficking are searching for four Nepali women who were sold in India's eastern Kolkata city by a gang that first duped them into selling their kidneys.

The gang was busted by police and Maiti Nepal, a prominent NGO working for the prevention of trafficking in woman and children, with the arrest of eight people Wednesday.

While one is still at large, the 10th member of the gang is already behind bars for involvement in a kidney selling racket.

A diabolical tale of heartlessness and boundless greed came to light as the arrested men began to confess to the police.

According to police officials, the victims included the men's wives, sisters and sisters-in-law. At least four of the men had sold their own kidneys in India. They then turned their attention to gullible relatives and other women, who were lured with the bait of highly paid jobs in India.

To ensure that the victims fell in line, the gang members pretended to fall in love with them and marry them. After taking the women to the Indian city, the gang first made them sell their kidneys. Then they sold the women to brothel owners.

Police said the men were arrested on the basis of information given by four victims who managed to flee from a brothel in Kolkata.

Every year, taking advantage of the open border between India and Nepal, thousands of Nepali women and children are sold in the red-light areas of India...


NY: Couple's Downfall Is Culminating in Sentencing in Long Island Slavery Case

Varsha Sabhnani, left, and her husband, Mahender, after their arrests in May 2007. Two of their servants testified about being starved and beaten in the couple’s home in Muttontown, N.Y.

MUTTONTOWN, N.Y. — With their courtship complete and their arranged marriage only a few weeks old, Mahender and Varsha Sabhnani set out for New York from India in 1981, leaving behind their wealthy families and households with live-in servants.

By American standards, they did not have much money. But they started a perfume company and embarked on a typical exurban migration — from Queens to Hicksville to Muttontown, where they moved into Muttontown Knolls, a new subdivision of 88 half-acre plots that offered three models of houses.

Theirs was a modern Long Island chalet: about 5,900 square feet, with diagonal cedar siding, a sharply sloping roof and two bronze lions standing guard before their front stoop.

Working from home and selling fortified-strength fragrances to customers in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, the Sabhnanis made millions. “It started in our basement and just kind of grew from there,” said Pooja Sabhnani, 23, the oldest of their four children. “My parents worked incredibly hard.”

Eventually, they brought servants from Indonesia, where Varsha Sabhnani had been raised. On May 13, 2007, the police were called to a Dunkin’ Donuts in Syosset, N.Y., where one of the domestic workers had turned up. Her face was bruised and she wore only pants and a towel.

When the Dunkin’ Donuts employees tried to talk to the 51-year-old woman, identified as Samirah — like many Indonesians, she uses only one name — she made gestures of hitting herself and uttered what sounded to them like the word “master.”

Immigration officials who searched the Sabhnanis’ house found Samirah’s co-worker, Enung, then 46, hiding in a closet.

Speaking through an interpreter, the two women described for authorities an existence on Long Island that sounded very much like slave labor. They spoke of starvation, beatings and torture. Their compensation of $100 a month for working 17-hour days with no days off amounted to a wage of roughly 20 cents an hour.

Mr. Sabhnani, 52, and Mrs. Sabhnani, 46, will be sentenced on Thursday and Friday, respectively, in federal court. They were convicted late last year on 12 counts, including forced labor, peonage and harboring aliens. Lawyers involved in the case estimated last week that Mrs. Sabhnani, who was found to have physically harmed the workers and is now in jail, might receive 12 to 15 years in prison. They said that Mr. Sabhnani, who is under house arrest, might be sentenced to five or six years...


Monday, June 9, 2008

India: Alarm Over Assam Sex Trade

Traffickers take advantage of widespread poverty among women

ASSAM, INDIA - Women leaders in India's north-eastern state of Assam say trafficking from the state has reached "dangerous proportions" over the past decade.

"More and more of our women have been lured into the national flesh trade, taken away by job or marriage offers to all over India," said Sumitra Hazarika Gogoi , a senior member of the Assam State Women Commission.

"We have rescued some recently and they all have very sad tales to say."

Mrs Gogoi told the BBC in an interview that many top politicians and police officials in the state were involved in the women trafficking racket.

"This is a huge scandal waiting to be exposed and we will do it when we have all the evidence," said Mrs Gogoi...


Korea: Cited as Source for Sex Trafficking

KOREA - North Korea remains a source country for trafficking humans for forced labor and sexual exploitation, and South Korea also actively trades women and girls for sex in and out of the nation, according to a U.S. report.

An annual U.S. report by the Department of State said a growing number of South Korean women and girls are traded within the country and to other destinations including Japan, Hong Kong and even Western Europe.

The report, titled ``Trafficking in Persons Report’’ for 2008 attributed the causes of the trend to South Korea's strict law against domestic sex trafficking, adding that South Korea is a source of sex trafficking for women from Uzbekistan, the Philippines, Thailand and China.

It classified the North as a ``tier three’’ country under the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protections Act (TVPA) this year. Tier three is the lowest possible rank and refers to countries that fail to satisfy the minimum conditions required. It said the North Korean government ``does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.’’...


Friday, June 6, 2008

UN Trafficking in Persons Report 2008

"We are pleased that in the seven years since the creation of the Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, the United States and our friends and allies have made important strides in confronting the reality that human beings continue to be bought and sold in the twenty-first century. It has been gratifying to witness the determined governments, human rights and women’s groups, faith-based organizations, and many brave individuals who are dedicated to advancing human dignity worldwide. Trafficking and exploitation plague all nations, and no country, even ours, is immune."
--Secretary Rice, June 4, 2008

The Report
The report is available in PDF format as a single file [PDF: 49 MBGet Adobe Acrobat Reader]. Due to its large size, the PDF has been separated into sections for easier download: Introduction; Country Narratives: A-G, H-R, S-Z; Special Cases. To view the PDF file, you will need to download, at no cost, the Adobe Acrobat Reader.

UN: General Assembly Address at Anti-Trafficking Summit

UNITED NATIONS - With millions worldwide estimated to be trapped by the trade in people for profit, General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim today urged United Nations Member countries to do more to ensure that effective mechanisms were available to protect and assist the trafficked, prosecute the traffickers and bolster prevention measures.

“While it is clear that we have worked hard to put in place a normative framework to fight human trafficking, there remains a vast gulf between the letter of the law and the situation on the ground,” President Kerim said, citing a recent International Labour Organization (ILO) report, which suggests that the illicit profits realized annually from trafficked labourers alone now amounted to some $32 billion.

He said trafficking was thriving because it was taking place against the backdrop of increased demand for cheap labour and service -- particularly in the sex industry –- and the easy global communication and transport. Given the breadth of the problem, it was imperative that each and every country stood firm against trafficking. However, the ability to tackle human trafficking was “only as strong as the weakest link in the chain that can be exploited by criminals”.

Therefore, he said, eliminating “the modern form of slavery” meant scrupulously addressing the conditions that fed it -- both on the demand and on the supply side. Trafficking had first been denounced as incompatible with human dignity in the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Trafficking in Persons and Exploitation or Prostitution of Others. In 2000, the adoption of the landmark United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, had laid down the first comprehensive definition of trafficking.

“We have the tools. We must use them more effectively to stamp out human trafficking forever,” he declared, calling on Member States to put their commitments into practice by squarely addressing the “three Ps” as defined in the Protocol: protection of the vulnerable; prosecution of criminals; and prevention of trafficking. Those States that were not yet parties to the relevant treaties should adopt the normative frameworks as soon as possible. To speed up implementation of the Convention and its Protocol, it was important to set up a regular review mechanism to hold States and the United Nations system to account...


Ashley Judd 'Lends' Voice to Trafficking Issue

UNITED NATIONS - Ashley Judd says she decided to lend her voice against human trafficking after she "stumbled upon" the issue while visiting brothels, slums, hospices and other clinics in 12 nations to promote public health.

"I know that the unheard are helped when they are heard. I know that compassionate listening helps me, and my goal was to help the U.N. help them," the actress said at a news conference Tuesday at U.N. headquarters in New York.

Judd, a two-time Golden Globe nominee whose screen credits include "De-Lovely" and "Kiss the Girls," also has used her celebrity to focus attention on HIV/AIDS prevention to young adults around the world. She has been serving as a global ambassador for YouthAIDS, an education and prevention program of the group Population Services International.

"I do think that all of the issues are fundamentally connected. They all spring out of gender inequality," she told reporters.

About 2.5 million people worldwide, most of them women and children, are thought to be victims of the $32 billion annual industry of human trafficking, according to U.N. figures. The General Assembly met Tuesday for a "thematic debate" on the subject...