Friday, August 6, 2010

Essay: The Swedish Approach to Sex Trafficking, Prostitution & the Sex Industry

ESSAY BY JANICE RAYMOND - There is no doubt that the Nordic countries lead the world on most indicators of gender equality. Gender equality experts and advocates have long pointed out that in economics, politics and social services, the Nordic countries top the charts. A less noticed equality indicator is that the Nordic countries outpace others in legal action to stem the sex trade by addressing its unnoticed perpetrators -- the mainly male purchasers of women and children in prostitution.

In 1999, with the approval of over 70% of its surveyed population, Sweden passed groundbreaking legislation that criminalized the buyer of sexual services. Part of a larger Violence Against Women bill, the legislation was based on the foundation that the system of prostitution is a violation of gender equality. Sweden's legislation officially recognizes that it is unacceptable for men to purchase women for sexual exploitation, whether masked as sexual pleasure or "sex work." Equally important, its law acknowledges that a country cannot resolve its human trafficking problem without addressing the demand for prostitution. The law
does not target the persons in prostitution.

This month, the government of Sweden published an evaluation of the law's first ten years and how it has actually worked in practice. Compared to the report's understated and cautious tone, the findings are strikingly positive: street prostitution has been cut in half; there is no evidence that the reduction in street prostitution has led to an increase in prostitution elsewhere, whether indoors or on the Internet; the bill provides increased services for women to exit prostitution; fewer men state that they purchase sexual services; and the ban has had a chilling effect on traffickers who find Sweden an unattractive market to sell women and children for sex. Following initial criticism of the law, police now confirm it works well and has had a deterrent effect on other organizers and promoters of prostitution. Sweden appears to be the only country in Europe where prostitution and sex trafficking has not increased...

READ THE FULL ESSAY ON PortSide.org

US:: State Legislatures Step Up Efforts to Fight Human Trafficking

WASHINGTON POST - A burst of activity among state legislatures to target human trafficking has ushered in dozens of laws to step up criminal penalties against traffickers and offer new help to victims.

The laws focus on practices that have remained largely hidden -- traffickers' coercion of victims into becoming prostitutes, forced laborers or domestic slaves. Some states have introduced measurers that criminalize human trafficking specifically for the first time. Advocates say the efforts signal that lawmakers are gaining a fuller appreciation of the scope of human trafficking.

So far this year, more than 40 bills have been enacted and roughly 350 introduced. That compares with just eight bills adopted across the country in 2006, according to the Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking group based in Washington.

Ann Morse, a director at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), said bills tackling human trafficking are "the latest big trend." The efforts have followed coverage of high-profile cases and a growing grass-roots campaign among advocates.

The term "trafficking," said Bradley Myles, executive director of the Polaris Project, "makes people think of whips, chains, brute force and channel slavery." In reality, he said, traffickers may simply use threats or blackmail, or confiscate a victim's travel documents to gain control over them. Victims have included U.S. citizens forced into work without being moved across a border...

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT WashingtonPost.com

Int"l US Policy a Paper Tiger Against Sex Trade in War Zones

WASHINGTON POST - An eight-year-old policy that forbids government contractors and employees to engage in sex trafficking in war zones has proved almost impossible to enforce amid indications that such activities are occurring in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The policy, instituted eight years ago by President George W. Bush and still in effect today, calls for the prosecution of government employees and contractors who engage in trafficking and the suspension or disqualification of companies whose workers do. Bush's get-tough language also threatened criminal prosecutions for solicitation of prostitutes because many of the women are forced into the work.

Agencies say the cases are difficult to pursue because of limited investigative resources and jurisdictional questions. But some experts and lawmakers believe that authorities are turning a blind eye to evidence of such crimes.

"Zero prosecutions," said Martina Vandenberg, a lawyer and former Human Rights Watch investigator, "suggests zero effort to enforce the law."

The State Department reported recently that allegations of contractors' employees procuring commercial sex acts were "well publicized" but that no contractors have been prosecuted and no contracts terminated.

Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), author of a 2000 U.S. anti-trafficking law, questions whether agencies vigorously pursue allegations. He suggested that if authorities really cared about the women being exploited, they would not look away "when those we are paying to do jobs for us are exploiting them."

Justice Department spokesman Alejandro Miyar said the agency "investigates all credible allegations of human trafficking."...

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT WashingtonPost.com