Sunday, April 19, 2009

International: Abuse, Exploitation & the International Marriage Broker (IMB) Biz

FROM TAHIRIH JUSTICE CENTER - In recent years, the IMB industry has exploded in response to a demand by some American men for a “traditional” wife from countries such as the Philippines and Russia.

Based on 2007 immigration statistics, between 11,000 and 16,500 foreign brides may enter the United States every year as a result of IMB matches.1 The business model and marketing practices of many of these IMBs are attracting predators as clients, and, as a result, a growing number of matches are being made between foreign women and abusive US men as prospective husbands. Despite regulatory reforms spearheaded by Tahirih, many women find themselves in dangerously violent relationships, as they are unfamiliar with the English language and the US legal system, given little information about their prospective husbands, and misled or not told about their rights because IMBs want to preserve their profitable matchmaking track records. Read more about Tahirih's IMB Campaign

Nataliya’s Story

Nataliya, a native of Ukraine, was a successful civil engineer. She trusted Encounters International, a large international marriage broker (IMB) agency, to find a life partner. Nataliya was paired with James, an American, and was told by the agency that he was “the best of the best,” “financially and mentally stable,” and “serious about family.”

Soon into the marriage, Nataliya realized that James was a violent man. When she confided to the agency that James beat her and went into wild rages, Nataliya was told that this was “normal,” that American men were “prone to violence.” The violence escalated and became much worse after Nataliya became pregnant. After an especially brutal encounter three weeks after the birth of their child when James put a gun to her head, Nataliya went to the emergency room, where a nurse told her that she had other options.

Nataliya escaped to a domestic violence shelter, where she found safety and was referred to Tahirih. Tahirih successfully represented Nataliya’s case and on May 29, 2001, Nataliya’s petition under the Violence Against Women Act was approved. Nataliya’s suffering led Tahirih to recognize that the role of the IMB agency in facilitating the abuse was part of a larger problem. Tahirih partnered with Arnold & Porter LLP and brought the first lawsuit in the United States against an IMB. In November 2004, after a two-week federal jury trial, Nataliya won, marking the first time an IMB was held responsible for its role in enabling the abuse of a foreign bride.


Iceland: Country Bans Strip Clubs & Prostitution

From the strip club Goldfinger. Photo by Páll Stefánsson. Taken in relation to Sara Blask's feature "Dancer in the Dark" published in the 2006 winter issue of Iceland Review.

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND - Minister of Social Affairs Ásta Ragnheidur Jóhannesdóttir presented an action plan against human trafficking yesterday, which includes placing bans on operating strip clubs and purchasing sexual services.

It is hoped that the ban will take effect before the parliamentary elections on April 25.

“Human trafficking is the most disgusting form of international and organized crime that exists in the world,” Jóhannesdóttir said while presenting the 25-point action plan, Fréttabladid reports.

In 2007, with an amendment to existing legislation, prostitution was legalized in Iceland as long as a third party doesn’t profit from it.

After Jóhannesdóttir presented the action plan, MP for the Left-Greens Atli Gíslason presented a bill on banning the purchase of sexual services, which is backed by other MPs from the government parties and the Progressive Party.

“A complete victory has been achieved after many years of fighting by women’s rights organization and other social organizations—and no less by MPs who have often submitted bills on this topic to Althingi [the parliament],” Jóhannesdóttir said. “I’m one of them and so this day is an especially happy day for me.”

The new bill will not criminalize the solicitation of sex, which Jóhannesdóttir described as the “Swedish approach” to combating human trafficking.

Click here to read about a recent case of human trafficking in Iceland.


Friday, April 10, 2009

CD Supports Wassyla Tamzali's Nomination for UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women

Wassyla Tamzali, a Franco-Algerian Lawyer is a
leader in the area of international human rights

FROM CAPTIVE DAUGHTERS - Our organization has joined the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), the European Women's Lobby and La Coordination Française pour le Lobby Européen des Femmes (La CLEF) in support of Wassyla Tamzali's nomination to the post of the United Nation's Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women. The current post will be vacant in June of 2009.

From a letter in support of Ms. Tamzali's nomination from CATW:
"Ms. Tamzali, who is a Franco-Algerian lawyer, is a leader in the area of international human rights and has a long and respected experience and expertise in working to prevent and combat all forms of violence against women. In 1979, she joined UNESCO, where she, for over twenty years, was a creative leader of the development and implementation of initiatives and policies on equal opportunities between women and men, including as director for the program on the promotion of women’s rights in the Mediterranean region.

Ms. Tamzali has consistently demonstrated her courage and determination in support of women and girls globally and their right to live lives free from violence. Ms. Tamzali is widely respected and highly regarded by decision makers worldwide as well as among her peers. In 2008, she received the Order of Knight of the Legion of Honour (Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur) from the president of the French Republic for her outstanding work on international human rights."

Maryland: State Senate Rejects Anti-Porn Measure

State Sen. E.J. Pipkin (left) and Sen. Andy Harris (right) offer their differing views during the heated debate. (Baltimore Sun photo by Monica Lopossay / April 8, 2009)

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - Maryland senators rejected an attempt Wednesday morning to tie up funding for public university construction projects if their governing bodies do not set policies on how and when pornographic material may be shown on campus.

In the latest legislative reaction to the screening this week of hard-core pornography at the state's flagship university campus, Sen. Andy Harris, a Republican representing Baltimore and Harford counties, tried to amend the state's $1.1 billion capital budget to prevent public universities from accessing their share of the money unless they develop and put in place a porn policy by July 1.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller ruled the amendment out of order, and senators - including several Republicans - concurred, ending Harris' attempt.

Sen. E.J. Pipkin, an Eastern Shore Republican, said he has been receiving calls from angry constituents demanding to know whether the Senate had anything better to do than spend its time talking about pornography...


Thursday, April 9, 2009

United Nations and Inter-Parliamentary Union Issue Anti-Trafficking Handbook for Governments

UNITED NATIONS - Yesterday in the Ethiopian capital, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UNODC, in the framework of the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT), launched the publication Combating Trafficking in Persons: A Handbook for Parliamentarians. "Parliaments and parliamentarians have the power to prevent human trafficking by raising awareness and curbing exploitative practices", said UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa. The President and Secretary General of IPU, as well as the Speaker of the Austrian Parliament, were present at the launch.

As public awareness of human trafficking grows, people are demanding that action be taken to end it. As elected representatives, parliamentarians have a responsibility and the power to ensure that laws and other measures are put in place and implemented to that end. The Handbook is intended to inspire them to enact sound laws and adopt good practices that will strengthen national responses to human trafficking.

The Handbook also contains a compilation of international laws and good practices developed to combat human trafficking and offers guidance on how national legislation can be brought in line with international standards by, for example, defining trafficking in persons and criminalizing all its forms. It outlines measures to prevent the commission of the crime, to prosecute offenders and to protect victims.

"I urge you to use this Handbook, not only as a reference, but as a blueprint for strengthening your country's response to this crime" Mr. Costa added. Clearly, parliamentarians have a role to play in the fight against human trafficking. As agenda-setters and voices of the people, they can have significant power and influence in developing anti-human trafficking laws and policies.

To view the Handbook for Parliamentarians (pdf)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

China: Hunger for Sons Fuels Boys' Abductions

A picture of Peng Gaofeng's 4-year-old son, who was kidnapped in front of his shop.

SHENZHEN, CHINA - The thieves often strike at dusk, when children are playing outside and their parents are distracted by exhaustion.

Deng Huidong lost her 9-month-old son in the blink of an eye as a man yanked him from the grip of his 7-year-old sister near the doorway of their home. The car did not even stop as a pair of arms reached out the window and grabbed the boy.

Sun Zuo, a gregarious 3 1/2-year-old, was lured off by someone with a slice of mango and a toy car, an abduction that was captured by police surveillance cameras.

Peng Gaofeng was busy with customers when a man snatched his 4-year-old son from the plaza in front of his shop as throngs of factory workers enjoyed a spring evening. “I turned away for a minute, and when I called out for him he was gone,” Mr. Peng said.

These and thousands of other children stolen from the teeming industrial hubs of China’s Pearl River Delta have never been recovered by their parents or by the police. But anecdotal evidence suggests the children do not travel far. Although some are sold to buyers in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, most of the boys are purchased domestically by families desperate for a male heir, parents of abducted children and some law enforcement officials who have investigated the matter say.

The demand is especially strong in rural areas of south China, where a tradition of favoring boys over girls and the country’s strict family planning policies have turned the sale of stolen children into a thriving business...