Amerikan Beauty II: Civilised Slavery

“Slavery is a weed that grows on every soil.
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– Edmund Burke
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IJzeren_voetring_voor_gevangenen_transparent_background

We have discussed the networks of Establishment led child abuse. But what of other streams of exploitation which inevitably provide a steady supply of victims of cross-cultural victims with home grown pathologies adapting and shifting to the demands of globalisation? Rapid transformation from the underworld of crime into an overworld of deep politics fusing with mafia-led supply and demand. It is this criminal psychopathy which is determining the trajectory of the vulnerable and dispossessed, assisted by the Structural Adjustment Team, world state policies and trans-national corporations.

Commensurate with this change is the lucrative slaved trade which is back with a vengeance. In fact it never went away, it adapted to the rapid global changes that have swept the globe in the last few decades resulting in more then 35. 8 million adults and children classed as slaves worldwide. [1] Human trafficking, immigration, narcotics, bonded labour, prostitution, money laundering, the weapons industry – all interconnect and weave in and out of each respective well of misery  since they are all rooted in the same toxic dance of perennial exploitation. As the disasters of Shock Doctrine economic plunder reverberate around the world we are seeing the tangible results come home to roost. Be it the mass exodus of displaced populations in Africa and the Middle East from the West’s manipulated wars, or the destruction of social welfare in countries of Europe, the steady rise of human trafficking and its brutal slavery is rising up through the tattered cloth of Western cultures in ways which will not be ignored for much longer.

With the disappearance of border controls in Europe and and new countries keen to join the European Union there is effectively nothing to stop the commensurate trade in humans feeding this demand. Deregulated capitalism as given a green light to organised crime. Many young men and women desperate to leave their homelands due to high unemployment and poverty the American Dream is an alluring prospect. However, this idealism can become a literal death trap for the vulnerable, most of whom have no idea of the realities of exploitation. Nor is this restricted to those without income or struggling to survive, and where visions of “the grass is always greener” often determine choices made.

Author Victor Malarek described it in the following terms:

“Crime syndicates use a variety of methods to capture young women. A girl walking down a road in Moldova is forced into a car. An overflowing Romanian orphanage receives a visit from ‘social workers’ offering ‘apprentice programs’ for adolescent girls. A young Ukrainian woman desperate to help her starving parents responds to a newspaper advertisement for au pairs to work in Germany. An ambitious young graduate signs up with what appears to be a legitimate foreign corporation at a job fair at a Russian university.” [2]

The vulnerable are the new commodity in the 21st century. According to the U.S. Department of Justice human trafficking is the second fastest growing criminal industry – just behind drug trafficking – with children accounting for roughly half of all victims. Of the 2,515 cases under investigation in the U.S. in 2010, more than 1,000 involved children. [2] For an industry now worth at least $32-billion worldwide and surpassing the sale of arms, it is the new source of shadow employment set to engage law and justice authorities well into the future – that is, if they are not partaking in the dividends themselves.

The United States has another form of slavery which is perhaps more Orwellian/Huxleyian than overt slavery. But the two authoritarian mindsets are inextricably linked.

 79072591_global_slavery_20141711_624v4Global Slavery Index 2014


1280px-Map3.3Trafficking_compressedWomen’s Stats project (wikipedia)


Modern_incidence_of_slaveryWalk Free Foundation (2013) Wikipedia


A March 2002 report from The Coalition against Trafficking in Women found that trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation is a national problem, and one that is increasing in scope and magnitude. The U.S. government estimates that 50,000 women and children are trafficked each year into the United States, primarily from “Latin America, countries of the former Soviet Union and Southeast Asia.” Their report was the first of its kind drawn from national and international data along with interviews with prostitutes themselves. However, NGO’s and charities put the total number of women and children trafficked into the US as 100,000 with speculation that this is another conservative estimate. Six years later up to 2.5 million people trafficked were from 127 different countries into 137 countries around the world. [3]  By 2013, the number of UK-born children trafficked for sexual exploitation had doubled in 2013 – a rise of 155% according to the National Crime Agency.

If there is a problem with obtaining accurate statistics for any issue then human trafficking will be found at the top of such a list. This is due to both confusion between the terms “trafficking” which uses forms of transport and coercion and “smuggling” which implies voluntary acts and financial remuneration. Trafficking itself is also a highly dynamic process interconnected with a host of other entities which oil the wheels of its progress. Corrupt governments, outsourced agencies and other lesser-known financial intermediaries ensure that trafficking and other crimes necessarily intersect making real statistical analyses of the problem fraught with difficult. Where does it end and begin?

It is also true that figures tend to be inflated in much the same way as the Climate Change industry – if there is money to be made from erecting a vast subset of anti-trafficking NGOs and related bureaucracies then money tends to flow in greater quantities when figures are high. Even by 2009, The Global Report on Trafficking in Persons admitted that the exact scope of international trafficking is still “one of the key unanswered questions.” [4]


 “[S]ex trafficking and mass rape should no more be seen as women’s issues than slavery was a black issue or the Holocaust was a Jewish issue. These are all humanitarian concerns, transcending any one race, gender, or creed.”


Mexico and South America as a whole has historically been a place of exploitation for the North America. With sex trafficking businesses burgeoning in Colombia and Venezuela and with Curacao or Aruba within sight of the Caribbean Islands “Spotters,” can be paid to watch for women on vacation as potential sex slaves. Guiding them into situations which leave them drugged and transported to a waiting car and boat for transportation to the mainland or island brothels is a relatively easy enterprise. Yet this is simply mirroring the developing trade within the US itself.

Back in 1997 one San Francisco resident, 36 year-old Catalina Suarez, testified before the United Nations about her ordeal as a sex slave. She told the San Francisco Examiner how she was 9 years old when “… a grandfatherly neighbour lured her with a gift, kidnapped her and kept her chained her to a bed in a rural Puerto Rico shack, forcing the child to have brutal sex with a succession of men.” There are hundreds of similar accounts. Federal and State officials told the San Francisco Examiner that: “The multimillion-dollar sex-slave trafficking stretches from Thailand to San Francisco, from Russia to New York City. The U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C., is conducting a nationwide investigation of the prostitution slavery of Thai women and girls.” [5]

This report is over ten years old and since that time, the market has steadily and significantly increased.

US Human rights groups, immigration attorneys and former workers have revealed that thousands of domestic servants are being brought into the United States from impoverished countries and then severely exploited by foreign employers, many of whom work for embassies and international organisations, particularly in the Washington area. [6] There have been a number of prosecutions involving the trafficking and/or forced prostitution of children. For example:

  • two defendants in Maryland who brought a 14-year-old girl from Cameroon and, with threats and sexual and physical assaults, forced her to be their domestic servant.
  • A businessman in California trafficked numerous young girls into the United States to work in prostitution and a group of defendants recruited approximately 40 girls aged 12-17 from Georgia for prostitution, threatening them with violence if they tried to leave.
  • A wealthy landlord from Berkley, California was charged with buying two teenage girls in India and bringing them to the United States for forced labour.
  • A couple in Eastern New York State pleaded guilty to a variety of charges related to smuggling Peruvians into the United States with the same intention.

These cases have resulted in jail sentences for the defendants and orders that restitution be paid to the victims. Such examples are typical.

Washington State is reported to be a hotbed of trafficking in brides, sex workers, domestic workers and children. The director of the US State Department, John Miller was forced to confront the issue that slavery was “still alive”: ‘I’m reading about how they lured these girls from Asian nations, promised them restaurant jobs, modelling jobs, … seized their passports, beat them, raped them, moved them from brothel to brothel,’ he said. This was not happening in some distant Third World nation, however. ‘There it was in civil Seattle …’ [7]

The US government would have us believe that forced prostitution and trafficking is predominantly an external problem. This is far from the truth. The international trade in women and children is fast becoming more prevalent in the US than many other destination and transit countries. Jody Raphael, of the Women and Girls Prostitution Project at the Centre for Impact Policy Research, based in Chicago, believes that this control extends across all levels of the industry:

“‘For example, police who pick women up from the ‘stroll’ on Halsted and North/Clybourn (west of downtown Chicago) say a lot of the girls are from Milwaukee or Tennessee. They’re being moved around. It helps them avoid detection and gives the customers a variety of new girls. From our grassroots studies, I’m learning to no longer make such a distinction between local and international trafficking.’ […]

‘Men will go to recruit girls at shopping malls, places like that, they’ll find girls who have run away from home,’ explains Raphael. ‘They’ll say you can earn a lot of money, it will be really glamorous, they’ll tell a girl she’s beautiful and does she want to be in a movie or make a music video. Then they’ll drive her to Chicago and not let her leave. She’ll be watched day and night by these goons. This happens with more frequency than people want to admit.’ [8]

Women and children within the United States of America and abroad who are locked into poverty are far more likely to become victims of exploitation, most particularly trafficking. This inevitably  leads to a catch-22 of long-lasting physical and psychological trauma; disease (including HIV/AIDS), violence/abuse; drug addiction; unwanted pregnancy; malnutrition; social ostracism; and in many cases, death. All this is exacerbated and prolonged by the growing market in sex tourism from both the United States and Europe. [9]

One journalist described sex trafficking as “systemic rape for profit” the likes of which hasn’t stopped the profit-making prison business cashing in.  One would think that victims of trafficking would receive counselling in government sponsored facility but this is not the case. Trafficked children inside the US are frequently arrested on prostitution charges, incarcerated and treated like criminals despite being minors. Juvenile detention is the next port of call where more stress and trauma is overlaid on already deep wounds.

According to The National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking America’s Prostituted Children: “… they typically are given a quota by their trafficker/pimp of 10 to 15 buyers per night. Utilizing a conservative estimate, a domestic minor sex-trafficking victim would be raped by 6,000 buyers during the course of her victimization through prostitution.” [10]  Change is coming albeit slowly. In 2008, “New York established a Safe Harbor Law to decriminalize underage victims of sexual exploitation. Since then, 9 states have followed suit, but in the remaining states, children who are bought and sold for sex are still sent to jail.” [11]

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Visit covenanthouse.org and help to stop sexual exploitation of children


chart-image-822097305760-site_display_607-race-and-human-traffickingimage credit: Natalie Lubsen | Sources: victimsofcrime.org


Perhaps one of the most shocking stories to finally receive some public attention in recent years are the child rape camps of San Diego County, California, involving hundreds of Mexican girls between 7 and 18 that were kidnapped or subjected to entrapment by organised criminal sex trafficking gangs.

According to libertadlatina.org (now defunct) who have tried to campaign for this information to be given a mainstream hearing, the victims: “were brought to San Diego County, California. Over a 10 year period these girls were raped by hundreds of men per day in more than 2 dozen home based and agricultural camp based brothels.” [12] The girls were sold to farm workers – between 100 and 300 at a time – in small “caves” made of reeds in the fields. Many of the girls had babies, who were used as hostages with death threats against them, so their mothers would not try to escape. It was only in January of 2003 when the Mexican paper El Universal published a three part series on the trafficking and brothel camps that interest began to take place further afield.

The cover-up was evident not just for the zero coverage from the MSM but for another reason: A Latina medical doctor employed by a U.S. federal agency provided condoms to the victims for years, and was told by her supervisors not to speak out and organise efforts to rescue the victims. This doctor was ordered under threat of legal action to keep quiet about the mass victimization of children in “rape camps.”  Numbers of murdered immigrant teen girls are still being found in San Diego, possibly linked to trafficking rings. Despite a programme filmed by a local T.V. station and occasional arrests of supposed ring leaders who only receive minor jail terms – the camps continue to exist.

With crime networks emerging as the channels for the new and strengthened forms of trafficking, narcotics and arms we can see parallel increase in the commercial sector – the seemingly “presentable” face of exploitation. In the United States research has revealed that between 244,000 and 325,000 American children are at risk of being victimized by commercial sexual exploitation each year.

Dr. Melissa Farley of Prostitution Research and Education, and Dr. Richard Estes of the University of Pennsylvania have provided the American public with a snapshot of the commercial sex trade in the US today. Dr. Farley’s interviews with 130 people working as prostitutes in the San Francisco area revealed that:

  • 83 percent have been threatened with a weapon;
  • 82 percent have been physically assaulted
  • 68 percent have been raped (59 percent of these have been raped four or more times)
  • 84 percent reported past or current homelessness.
  • 49 percent reported that pornography was made of them in prostitution
  • 75 percent have a drug abuse problem
  • 50 percent now have a physical health problem
  • 88 percent want to leave prostitution
  • 57 percent were sexually abused as children. [13]

This latter figure confirms a correlation with the sexual abuse in society and its connections to other forms of non-familial systems of exploitation.

If the US government’s “ownership society” is allowed to continue, where the richest 1 percent of households already owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined; one out of six Americans has no health insurance and one out of eight Americans live below the official poverty line, then exploitation can only increase still further. (This equally applies to Europe, the Latin American and African continents).

We should not be surprised that The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services program Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking, remains terminally under-funded. [14] Indeed, the Bush Administration’s feckless attempts to prove their credentials regarding the slave trade went the way of most of their legislative promises by waiving any financial sanctions on Saudi Arabia. Up until to this year, the Saudis were one of the closest Arab allies in the phony “War on Terrorism so it made perfect sense for the Neo-Cons and why ”The Saudi government has consistently failed to do enough to stop the modern-day slave trade in prostitutes, child sex workers and forced labourers. [15] Despite falling out with its oil-hungry allies it remains one of the most repressive regimes on the planet.

prop-35

© infrakshun

Ten years later and President Obama has at least taken the step to address this particular issue (if nothing else) stating in a recent speech for the Clinton Global Initiative: “For the first time, at Hillary’s direction, our annual trafficking report now includes the United States, because we can’t ask other nations to do what we are not doing ourselves.” (Once this is extended to almost every foreign and domestic policy in the US there may well be the kind of hope and change we can all believe in.)

Perhaps the most contentious response to human trafficking in the US is California’s recently passed Proposition 35 which has dropped like a large stone into a very complex set of influences that make up pornography, sex workers and human trafficking. The law exacts harsher sentences on human traffickers, requiring them to register as sex offenders and disclose internet activities and identities. The maximum sentence for traffickers is now 12 years with crimes involving children extended to a life sentence. For a first time offence the fines have increased from $100,000 to $1.5 million. [16]

Aside from the possibility that such huge sums would “wipe out traffickers’ assets and prevent victims from suing for restitution” Prop 35 also expands the trafficking definition to include the distribution of child pornography. If the reader recalls the difficulties and corruption associated with anti-sexuality and child pornography operations discussed previously we can see the same misunderstanding of the issues appearing in this legislation which probably does very little to either address the issues as to why trafficking is present in societies and on the increase. Although marketed as a bill targeting human traffickers it is actually targeting those most vulnerable and operating at the margins of society. Confusion stems from US states which have their own trafficking laws which blur the lines between existing laws covering child labour and prostitution. Much of the advocacy is concerned with purely increasing penalties and allocating more resources for Federal authorities to enforce these emerging laws. Relying on greater power for law enforcement to place more traffickers in prison amounts to bailing out a boat which fills up with water day and day out – the faster you do it the more water comes seeping in. Since Prop 35 is founded on the erroneous premise that tougher sentencing prevents crime it is destined to fail.

In response to the primary campaigner of Prop 35, John Vanek, a retired lieutenant from the San Jose Police Department’s human trafficking task force asked: “how has higher sentencing worked for our war on drugs on California? It may cut down on recidivism when that person is in custody, but it doesn’t prevent crime. That thinking is flawed…” [17]

Author and journalist Melissa Gira Grant’s excellent article on Prop 35 goes to the heart of the matter and reveals why US laws so often fail to address serious social problems due to ignorant, though well-intentioned wishes coupled with the inevitable politicization it attracts.

Backed by millions from Chief Privacy Officer of Facebook Chris Kelly and Daphne Phung, executive director of the new non-profit Californians Against Slavery who had no previous experience working on trafficking and no legal qualifications it follows the same pattern  of community (or celebrity) reaction against issues which need both the expertise and financial support of civic society not the Rule of Law as advocated by law enforcement and government who are more often than not taking a slice of the pie themselves aside from the legislative issues which give rise to the problems in the first place.

Rather than protecting Californians, Grant’s research has shown that “… it will expose their communities to increased police surveillance, arrest, and the possibility of being labeled a ‘sex offender’ for the rest of their lives.” What the anti-trafficking advocates are trying to legislate for in many states is a standard law along the lines of Prop 35 which is part of an emerging “war on trafficking.” If there is one thing that anyone worth their salt knows in law, justice and social work is that a “war” on anything never works – it only exacerbates the problem.

prostitution© infrakshun

Melissa Gira Grant explains that under the current Under Prop 35 legislation “… anyone involved in the sex trade could potentially be viewed as being involved in trafficking, and could face all of the criminal penalties associated with this redefinition of who is involved in ‘trafficking,’ which include fines of between $500,000 and $1 million and prison sentences ranging from five years to life.” Grant reminds us that this is quite apart from the mandatory registering as a sex offender which will mean the person accused will have to: “… surrender to lifelong internet monitoring: that is, turning over all of one’s ‘internet identifiers,’ which includes ‘any electronic mail address, user name, screen name, or similar identifier used for the purpose of Internet forum discussions, Internet chat room discussion, instant messaging, social networking, or similar Internet communication.’ ” [18]

The end result is that the conflation of the sex trade which will endanger sex workers and prove counterproductive for survivors of trafficking, where the merging of very different crimes that merit very different charges will inevitably produce many miscarriages of justice. Grant underlines the fact that retroactive charges will be enforced under the law which means: “… anyone in California convicted of some prostitution-related offenses as far back as 1944 to also register as a sex offender and submit to lifelong internet monitoring.” [19]

She relates the example of Naomi Akers, the Executive Director of St. James Infirmary, an occupational health and safety clinic run by and for sex workers in San Francisco, who [came] out hard against the bill. In a Facebook image that spread quickly through sex worker communities online, Akers wrote: “I have a previous conviction for 647a” – that is, lewd conduct, one of several common charges brought by California law enforcement against sex workers – “when I was a prostitute on the streets and if Prop 35 passes, I will be required to register as a sex offender.” [20]

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California were also against the Prop 35 precisely because: “the measure requires that registrants provide online screen names and information about their Internet service providers to law enforcement – even if their convictions are very old and have nothing to do with the Internet or children.” [21]

Finally, Grant summarizes the problem of moral panic in addressing societal issues which can so easily be used for the opposite of their intended purpose. She states: “Historically and to this day, these charges have been used disproportionately against women in sex work (cisgender and transgender), transgender women whether or not they are sex workers, and women of color, as well as gay men and gender non-conforming people. This is a misguided and dangerous overreach in a bill ostensibly aimed at protecting many of these same people.” [22]

And as one sex trade survivor worker commented on the nature of these laws: “It’s frightening. There’s a sense of emotional reaction, married to this really strong anti-sex worker rights agenda. And it’s playing on the public’s emotions.” [23]

This is exactly why it is so easy to keep the public and political change permanently ring-fenced from real transformation.

 

See also: Modern-Day Child Slavery: Sex Trafficking of Underage Girls in the US

 


Notes

[1]The Natashas: The New Global Sex Trade by Victor Malarek, Arcade Publishing 2004.|ISBN: 1904132545.
[2] ‘Human trafficking a growing crime in the U.S.’ By Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press January 22, 2012.
[3] ‘UN-backed container exhibit spotlights plight of sex trafficking victims’. Un.org. February 6, 2008.
[4] ‘Dark Numbers: Challenges in measuring human trafficking’ By Erin O’Brien 2010 | http://www.polsis.uq.edu.au/dialogue/articleerin2.pdf
[5] ‘Global Sex Slavery’ by Seth Rosenreid, San Francisco Examiner, 6 April 1997.
[6]  Hidden Slaves: Forced Labour in the United States. A 2004 report from the Human Rights Center at University of California – Berkeley and the Free the Slaves organization, concerning contemporary trafficking and slavery in the United States.
[7] ‘The Abolitionist’ by Anne Morse, World Magazine, October 2004.
[8] ‘Women and Children First: The Economics of Sex Trafficking’ by Kari Lydersen, Women and Girls Prostitution Project, Center for Impact Policy Research, April 15, 2002.
[9] A largely Western influx of men are fuelling the demand for sex tourism. Many find their victims via the internet. An extract from one of these websites follows: “This web site is an interactive discussion and archive database dedicated to providing information about prostitution, escort services and sex tourism. Here you will find articles both past and present providing information about escorts throughout the world. This is not a porno site that boasts millions of “hardcore” images. Rather, it is a place where fellow hobbyists gather to share information with one another through real time discussion boards on a variety of topics that deal with prostitution, escort services and sex tourism.” Upon viewing some of the topics and “exploits” I found the first-hand accounts detail how and where to pick up often underage prostitutes by city and country.
[10] The National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (2009) By: Linda A. Smith, Samantha Healy Vardaman and Melissa A. Snow for Shared Hope International | http://www.centerforchildwelfare2.fmhi.usf.edu/kb/humantraf/SHI_National_Report_on_DMST_2009%5B1%5D.pdf
[11] ‘Selling American Girls: The Truth About Domestic Minor Sex-Trafficking’ By Brooke Axtell Contributor, Forbes.com March 12, 2012.
[12] Latino Women and Children at risk: ‘The San Diego Child Sex Trafficking Scandal’ updated article: November 2005 by libertadlatina.org
[13] Statement of Joseph Mettimano Child Protection Policy Advisor, World Vision Before the Subcommittee on the Constitutional, Civil Rights and Property Rights of the Committee on the Judiciary United States Senate July 7, 2004.
[14] ‘Anti-Sex-Slave Trafficking Program Underfunded’ newsday.com, January 2006.
[15]  ‘Bush Waives Saudi Trafficking Sanctions’, Associated Press, September 21, 2005.
[16] ‘Prop 35 Passes: California Voters Approve Harsher Sentencing For Human Traffickers’ The Huffington Post, By Anna Almendrala, November 7, 2012.
[17] ‘Proposition 35 All Sex is now called Human Trafficking’ By Melissa Gira Grant, Truth Out republished from RH Reality Check, a progressive online publication covering global reproductive and sexual health news and information.
[18] Ibid.a
[19] Ibid.b
[20] Ibid.c
[21] Ibid.d
[22] Ibid.e
[23] Ibid.f

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