Thursday, November 13, 2008

Newsweek Opinion: Prosecuting Johns

NEWSWEEK OPINION - Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned in March 2008 after it was discovered that he had used women in prostitution, a violation of New York's comprehensive anti-trafficking law. Last week, we learned that the former prosecutor will not be prosecuted for breaking the law. (Click here for reader response on this story.)

Mr. Spitzer feels that he has paid for his "sins," as he put it. His description of prostitution as sinful carefully positions the buying of a woman for sexual use within the realm of tawdry scandals rather than the harmful sexual exploitation that it actually is. Although Mr. Spitzer apologized to New Yorkers, his friend, lawyer Alan Dershowitz, has said the governor's use of prostitutes is "no big deal."

U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia's decision not to pursue criminal charges against Mr. Spitzer for buying women in prostitution is a stunning betrayal of the public trust. Citing precedent, Mr. Garcia indicated that the Department of Justice (DOJ) does not typically prosecute johns who buy women from pimps, except in cases of prostitution of children. ("In light of the policy of the Department of Justice with respect to prostitution offenses and the longstanding practice of this Office, as well as Mr. Spitzer's acceptance of responsibility for his conduct, we have concluded that the public interest would not be further advanced by filing criminal charges in this matter," he said in a statement.) The DOJ also chose not to charge Mr. Spitzer for transporting a woman across state lines for the purpose of prostitution—a violation of the Mann Act. Congress might be interested to learn that its laws are being effectively nullified by DOJ policy.


US: Craigslist Agrees to Crack Down on Erotic Ads

NEW YORK, NY - Craigslist, the popular Internet classifieds listing service, agreed on Thursday to crack down on advertisements posted by prostitutes in a pact struck with 40 U.S. states.

The listings site has been under pressure to screen out cyber advertisements that offer sexual services. These listings have given prostitutes easy access to potential clients cruising the Web, law enforcement authorities say.

Craigslist will require that posters of erotic services listings on its site give a working phone number and pay a fee with a valid credit card, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a statement. The site will provide the resulting information in response to law enforcement subpoenas, he said.

"Prostitutes will hopefully stop using Craigslist to break the law, knowing that their posts could lead to arrest and conviction," Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal led the effort to negotiate an agreement and was joined in the pact by 39 other states.

Craigslist, a privately held company, provides classifieds and online forums for more than 550 cities in more than 50 countries, according to its website. The company's terms of use state that advertising illegal services, including prostitution, is prohibited...


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

US: Discussion On Human Trafficking in Santa Fe, NM

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO - When human trafficking came up in the New Mexico Legislature earlier in the 2008 session, victims’ advocates had to tread carefully: State officials were hesitant to get involved in enforcing federal immigration laws. However, as Assistant Attorney General María Sánchez-Gagne explains, the focus of the law on victims, rather than smugglers, motivated the Legislature to back the proposal and, in February, New Mexico became the final border state to establish human trafficking as a felony. Ten months later, Sánchez-Gagne, who also is the director of the Attorney General’s Border Violence Division, explains the challenges of educating communities across the state on the local implications of a global crime.

SFR: How did the human trafficking bill come about?
MSG: In developing the Attorney General’s Border Violence Division, we learned of human trafficking affecting other border states, as well as our sister state of Chihuahua, across the border. It’s huge. Human trafficking is the second largest industry next to drug trafficking, tied with illegal arms as the next largest industry in terms of profit. We learned that many states had human trafficking laws in addition to the federal laws and New Mexico did not have a human trafficking law. We needed a law to fight this crime that we are discovering exists in states around us, in both rural and metropolitan areas.

What are the key components of the legislation?
The elements require that a person is exploited for either labor or commercial sexual purposes using force, fraud or coercion. Not unlike kidnapping, a person may be psychologically kept against their will for fear of deportation, fear of reporting them to law enforcement. It provides for penalties: three years if an adult is trafficked and we have higher penalties for children. More than half of trafficking victims are children.

Is there a difference between human trafficking and smuggling?
Good question. Yes, this is the first thing we explain in our trainings because this is often confused and misinterpreted. In Arizona, human trafficking and smuggling are enforced at the state level. At the state level in New Mexico—and this was one of the sticky points for us in the Legislature—New Mexico as a state was not going to move into the realm of enforcing federal immigration law. However, a trafficking case could arise from a smuggling arrangement. A person may want to be smuggled and pay a coyote a fee of $500 but, once they arrive in New Mexico, that fee then goes up and the person owes a debt that keeps mounting or their papers may be held or threats made against their family and they’re not free to leave. At that point, that person is no longer an illegal immigrant but is a trafficking victim. That distinction is very important because a person who is here illegally may be seen as a criminal on a federal level, however, if they’re being exploited they are a trafficking victim and should be entitled to some victim services and benefits...


Sweden: Action Plan against Prostitution and Human Trafficking for Sexual Purposes

SWEDEN - On 10 July 2008, the Government adopted an action plan for combating prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes.

The plan covers five priority areas: greater protection and support for people at risk, more emphasis on preventive work, higher standards and greater efficiency in the justice system, increased national and international cooperation, and a higher level of knowledge and awareness. Altogether, the Government will be investing SEK 213 million in 36 measures up to the year 2010.

Amsterdam: Brothels to Feel a Longer Arm of the Law

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - Patrons visiting one of the Netherlands' red- light districts may soon find themselves on camera. One by one, authorities in cities across the country are stepping up their efforts to regulate, scrutinize and generally clean up the country's sex business.

This week the mayors of the cities of Alkmaar and Utrecht followed moves by Amsterdam in 2007 to toughen regulation and reduce the ability of the sex trade to act as cover for and cause of other illegal activities.

Authorities have cited drug-dealing, money-laundering and the trafficking of women as crimes that are to be targeted.

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance of sex districts is just one method that has been proposed.

The mayor of Utrecht, a city in central Netherlands, announced on Friday that the entire area of Zandpad in the city would be placed under CCTV surveillance in an effort to tackle the trafficking of women.

"We need to know which women are being forced to work as prostitutes," Mayor Aleid Wolfsen explained, "or if women are abused or exploited. Filming the area, and knowing which pimps are connected to which women, will increase our opportunities to help the women."

Wolfsen said that two independent studies had concluded that between 50 and 90 per cent of the women working in the Utrecht prostitution zones were not doing so voluntarily...


Ireland: Ads Target Men Who Use Trafficked Women

IRELAND - Men who buy sex from women trafficked into Ireland for prostitution are being targeted for the first time in an advertising campaign that warns they could go to jail.

The ads, devised by Ruhama, a voluntary group that works with women trapped in the sex industry or escaping from it, will run on RTÉ television and Setanta Sports for a month starting this week.

Ruhama director Kathleen Fahy said the appeal was being made directly to the clients of the sex trade because new legislation makes it an offence to solicit sex from a trafficked woman for the first time, but also because the trade would not exist without its customers.

“The focus is on the users and exploiters of trafficked women. Without them, the trade in human flesh would not be profitable,” she said. “It seems clear that they have bought into the myths that sex is just another commodity for sale and is a mutually beneficial exchange and nobody is hurt in the process, but many are hurt.”

The ads feature an actress playing a young eastern European woman who responds to an advertisement for restaurant staff in Ireland, but arrives here to have her ID and travel documents stolen by her “employer” who puts her to work in a brothel.

The scenario is a familiar one to Ruhama who are coming into contact with trafficked women at the rate of one a fortnight.

Ms Fahy said, however, she believed the true scale of the problem to be far higher as Ruhama usually only discovered the women when they had broken free.

“We need a far more pro-active approach so that more women can be detected and rescued earlier. Ideally we would have a dedicated unit within the gardaí who could focus specifically on this very specialised area,” she said.

Under the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act that came into effect in June, anyone found guilty of soliciting sex from a trafficked woman can be imprisoned for up to five years. Ms Fahy said she hoped prosecutions would follow soon...


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Global: The Feminization of Migration

UNI GLOBAL UNION - As the Global Forum on Migration and Development in Manila comes closer, women’s groups such as The World March of Women Pilipinas (WMW) and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP) held a forum on 24th October,2008 near the PICC, Manila, site of GFMD, to bring to light the exploitation suffered by women looking for work. The Women’s groups were joined by victims-survivors of sex trafficking to condemn the Philippine government's labor export policy and the lack of local full employment program.

WMW-Pilipinas is part of an international feminist action movement connecting grassroots groups and organizations working to eliminate the causes at the root of poverty and violence against women."We struggle against all forms of inequality and discrimination directed at women. Our values and actions are directed at making political, economic and social change," said Jing Geaga,of WMW-Pilipinas.

Andrea Luisa Anolin, Executive Director of Batis Center described the continuing increase of Filipino women overseas, despite government data to the contrary. "More and more of them are leaving as undocumented migrants," says Anolin. She elaborated that marriage channels have been exploited more by traffickers both in Korea and Japan. According to Anolin, in 2007, deployed Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are 1,077,623 and 811,070 are land based and 266,553 are sea based.

Female OFWs out number male OFWs in Middle East and Asia. In the Middle East,118,393 are female OFWs and 89,217 are male OFWs. As for Asia, 52,336 are female OFWs and 22,297 are male OFWs.

Deployed female domestic workers (2007) are:

Hong Kong -22,127

Italy---------- 4,951

Kuwait------- 4,806

UAE --------- 3,149

Saudi Arabia - 2,581

Qatar ---------- 1,912

Cyprus -------- 1,763

Singapore ----- 1,568

Deployed Overseas Female performing artists in 2007 are: Japan -4,592, Korea -1,350, Hong Kong-113, UAE -100 and Saipan-45.

The exploited migrants who testified came from the urban poor, labor and peasant sectors, illustrating that the poorest of women are pushed to the edge, leave their families, given the lack of local job opportunities. Ms. Marites Bagasala, an overseas worker who sought the help of Kaisa-Ka,aWMW member testified that she is one of eight women who came back from Kuwait. "One of us was sold and sexually exploited and another's spine was broken because of her employers' violence" cried Bagasala...


US: Baltimore Imported Sex Trade

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - Baltimore police said they recently closed a "well-organized house of prostitution" in Upper Fells Point and a related residence in Butchers Hill, a community of well-kept rowhouses and close-knit residents. City prosecutors say it is apparently a case of human trafficking, involving Mexican women who arrived in Durham, N.C., and were transported to Baltimore to work as prostitutes.

The rare city-level case, which moved this week to Baltimore Circuit Court, exposes a flourishing underground world of human sex trafficking that is often overlooked in a city with daily exposure to more conspicuous crimes such as robbery and gun violence, said Assistant State's Attorney Joyce Lombardi.

"This kind of thing is hidden so well in the fabric of a neighborhood," said Lombardi, who helped form the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force last year. "The ringleaders are smart. They pick up and move to a new house when they're detected, so they are extremely hard to catch."

Sterling Clifford, a police spokesman, said that while "the vast majority of our prostitution issues, like many other issues, are local and drug-related," police have found other prostitution set-ups similar to the one in East Baltimore...