sex workers

Outsourcing Abuse I

By M.K. Styllinski

[NATO soldiers, UN police, and Western aid workers] “operated with near impunity in exploiting the victims of the sex traffickers.”

– Amnesty International


un

In 2003, Kenneth Cain joined forces with former UN officials Heidi Postlewaite and Andrew Thomson, to write a book called Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Matters [1] which hit the shops in June of 2004. The book detailed widespread sexual abuse within the UN and its peace missions. It received significant exposure on many a Neo-Conservative website and newspaper and was gleefully pounced on by ardent anti-UN detractors. Mr. Cain, a Harvard law-school graduate and full time writer paints an unrelenting picture of decadence and corruption where drugs, alcohol and sex are the mainstay of some nations’ peace keeping forces. Dr. Thomson, a U.N. physician was equally unflattering about the world organization describing his missions in Haiti and the Dominican Republic as a “frustrating exercise in futility.”

An uncharacteristically vehement Kofi Annan tried to have the publication banned and then heavily censored, threatening the employees with redundancy if they did not reconsider. According to the UN they “violated staff rules” though in truth, the book is merely a distillation of widespread reports which began to gather pace long before the controversial book went to print. In 2001, about a half-dozen investigators from the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services in New York and investigators from the Office of the Inspector-General of the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees finally examined the allegations. Despite the deluge of referrals and submitted cases surrounding the inquiry the book gave substantial weight to the criticism levelled at the organisation for being far too slow in its general investigations. Dileep Nair, U.N. Undersecretary General and Chief of OIOS said: “We can barely cope with the cases that are being referred to us” with over 400 cases were demanding attention. [2]

Bearing in mind that these are only the recorded cases, the findings that the UN consistently ignored claims of abuse and refused to take action, dating back as far as the late eighties parallels the same methods of denial of the Catholic Church and other institutions. Aid workers for Non-Governmental Organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) and Save the Children UK were also implicated. A full copy of the joint study sponsored by the UNHCR and SC-UK noted the following: “Agency workers from the international and local NGOs as well as U.N. agencies were ranked as among the worst sex exploiters of children, often using the very humanitarian aid and services intended to benefit the refugee population as a tool of exploitation.” The findings further revealed: “In order for a refugee to make a report, they would have to go through the same persons who themselves are perpetrators of sexual exploitation. Most staff appear to connive to hide the actions of other staff.” [3]

Note the ponerisation of not only UN staff but affiliated NGO agencies. This made it easy for UN officials to keep it  quiet, narrow down the scope of investigations and cover-up the abuse. Interestingly enough, the investigator himself, Dileep Nair was investigated after the UN Staff Council, the equivalent of a union, alerted Secretary-General Kofi Annan about alleged “violations of appointments and promotions rules in OIOS, as well as allegations of corrupt practices in the Office and “other misconduct” by Mr. Nair.”[4] However, no “credible” evidence of wrongdoing was found. Whether a smear campaign was enacted against Nair in order to deflect further investigations by discrediting his probe or that the allegations had some grain of truth was never established.

No place to HideNo Place to Hide (2013)

“They took us to a small house. Then they tore the clothes from our bodies and raped us. I was just 17 and still a virgin!” Joari and her friend were raped by men thought to be their saviours: UN peacekeepers. Since 1999, the United Nations has maintained a peace keeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It aims to bring stability to the region and protect the civilian population from attacks and sexual violence of the warring parties. But many of the 20,000 peacekeepers become perpetrators, exploiting the extreme distress and poverty of women and girls.In addition to showing victims of UN soldiers’ sexual attacks for the first time, the film also proves that the issue of sexual violence by peacekeepers has long been known at UN headquarters in New York. For years, the UN has been trying to combat the abuse by increasing staff training and introducing a zero-tolerance policy. Officials claim that the number of incidents has been drastically reduced. At local level however, UN insiders tell us, these measures have no effect at all.”

Over four million people have been killed by war and preventable diseases in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the past eight years, or as one UN humanitarian chief mentioned: “…the equivalent of six Rwandan genocides”, where the ‘Military and civilian authorities are still virtually unaccountable for crimes against civilians…’” [5] The institutionalised abuse by UN personnel is a large part of that desperate picture. Didier Bourguet, a U.N. senior logistics officer was charged with running an internet paedophile ring in the region, where he established a sophisticated porn studio for the procurement of young boys and girls in a multi-media operation. Videos were freely available to buy. According to Human Rights Watch, some of the female victims were as young as eleven years old.

While Bourguet had engaged in similar activity in a previous UN posting in the Central African Republic, he was not alone in his endeavours. Claude Deboosere-Lepidi, Bourguet’s lawyer, said his client admitted he assaulted minors and that his sex crime spree included other U.N. officials. He was insistent in his belief that the UN as a whole was partly to blame for tolerating the continued attacks on Congolese women and young girls. The UN has since confirmed this belief admitting that its peacekeepers regularly raped, abused and prostituted children in their care. A range of sexual abuses from UN troops and aid workers were catalogued including: “Reported rapes of young Congolese girls by blue-helmeted U.N. troops as well as aid workers; a colonel from South Africa accused of molesting his teenage male translators; hundreds of under-age girls having babies fathered by U.N. soldiers who have been able to simply leave their children and their crimes behind. Despite the UN’s official policy of “zero-tolerance” there were 68 allegations of misconduct in the town of Bunia alone. Another case included a 14-year-old girl who had told UN investigators that “she had sex with a UN peacekeeper in exchange for two eggs. Her family was starving.” [6]

A sex trade flourished in Monuc where scores of local women and girls had been made pregnant by Moroccan and Uruguayan peace keeping soldiers as well as two UN officials. One Ukrainian and a Canadian were obliged to leave the country after getting local women pregnant and two Russian pilots based in Mbandaka paid young girls with jars of mayonnaise and jam in order to have sex with them. [7] It appears that a virtual industry has grown up, including the production and selling of pornography and bartering goods for sex.

The lack of screening of UN peace keeping soldiers provided a new opportunity for rebuilding more than just infrastructure and aid. It can hardly be surprising if sexual exploitation infiltrates institutions on the ground, regardless of their humanitarian intentions. It is the proverbial honey-pot for those who have no conscience, or as a Times report so aptly quoted: ‘Never forget this is Heart of Darkness country. People do things here just because they can,” one female UN employee said, in a reference to Joseph Conrad’s novel about the abuses of the former Belgian Congo.” [8]

With UN officials accused and suspended after scores of abuses, one would have thought that it may have dawned on Kofi Annan that these crimes had been occurring for a number of years. Annan was previously head of the UN’s peacekeeping force and acknowledged that “acts of gross misconduct have taken place”. Asked whether he could have, given his experience, done more to prevent abuse in Congo, he said: “You never know when you send that many people out. There may be one or two bad apples.” [9]

Annan is being a little disingenuous to say the least. There is no question that this was a systematic manifestation of variable abuse which the UN consistently hushed up for many years. As such, he is ultimately responsible and should have resigned. Instead, after 150 reported claims of abuse, many of them involving minors, he continued the tradition of secrecy and suppression further damaging what remains of the UN’s standing. A hotline set up to receive complaints about past and future abuse was a case of too little too late.

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Kofi Annan

In March of 2006 another report, this time on the military arm of the UN, concluded: “deeply flawed and recommends withholding salaries of the guilty and requiring nations to pursue legal action against perpetrators.” It also included a host of other recommendations to be fully implemented by 2007. However, as a recent report in May from the Associated Press shows, far from coming down hard on such crimes, the activities actually doubled in 2004. Though this may in part, be due to the heightened awareness of such activities, the vast majority of allegations were still levelled at UN peace keepers. In 2002, the UN was beginning to form its defence against shocking abuse allegations in the Congo. It would finally send an investigation team in 2004 after a seemingly “outraged” Annan decided enough was enough. Whether this was due to media pressure or concerns about his own image, is far from clear.

In any event, within the same year, an exact same pattern of abuse surfaced in Sierra Leone where the UN and NGOs were running programmes to reintegrate former child soldiers from the bloody civil war between the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels and the Civil Defence Force (CDF) a pro-government militia known as the Kamajors. Both committed atrocities that are astonishing for their ferocity. Child protection agencies estimated that the warlords abducted as many as 6,000 children, out of which about 3,500 actually fought in the war. The rest were used for sex and for carrying weapons. Sierra Leone was plagued by the slow deployment of UN troops and the apathetic defence of civilians habitually caught in the cross-fire between the warring sides. One NGO chief executive described the reality: “These atrocities are taking place practically under the noses of government and international troops …Innocent civilians are suffering, and it’s the responsibility of these troops to protect them. They should do their job.”[10]

These atrocities included systematic rape of women and girls, some as young as ten, and the murder of whole families. Infants and children were thrown into burning houses, the hands of toddlers as young as two were severed with machetes and girls as young as eight were sexually assaulted. A newspaper reporter in Sierra Leone told Human Rights Watch: “There was rampant raping. I saw a fifteen-year-old girl raped right before me. They left her, but they captured others, and among them was a seven-year-old girl.” [11]

Amputation of limbs came to be the most prominent horror of the ten year old war but sexual abuse was actually more common. As discussed in Rape: Corporate Camouflage and Across the Gender Divide  the practice of rape as a strategic weapon is no longer rare. By forcing members of families to rape each other and to watch the atrocity, the belief was that this would reduce the likelihood of support for military operations. Even worse was the evidence of sexual atrocities being committed by troops from the regional intervention force, Ecomog, and the UN peacekeeping mission: “Women were used by all sides as chattels, kidnapped from their homes often in rural areas and forced to act as sex slaves for the troops as well as domestic maids responsible for cooking and household chores.” [12]

In 2004 The UN’s UNICEF reported that Sierra Leone, led the world in child mortality with one in four children dying before the age 5, while in Iraq, one in 10 do not make it to their fifth birthday. The UN has within its ranks those that were willing and able to mop up what was left of the shells that were once children. Yet despite the UN “Personnel Conduct Officers” representing system-wide focal points designed to deal with charges of gender-based violence and abuse, the United Nations is facing new allegations of sexual misconduct by U.N. personnel in Burundi, Haiti, and Liberia. This is probably due to the familiar buffering of the fact that such measures alert patterns of abuse but do not address the key issues as to why they arise. Even if this is known, it represents a flow that is hard to stem.

This is exacerbated by the rhetoric of Annan’s earnest bulletin setting out directives for UN personnel yet excluding military troops who are only answerable to their own national military authorities. This amounts to more tinkering at the edges of the cause. With sex workers appearing en masse at the borders needing to feed their families and with thousands of peace keeping soldiers present, the market and so will extensive forms of abuse. Reports of these abuses continued to surface though this was not limited to UN military deployments and operations.

One case in many includes the presence of a weapons inspector who led several sado-masochistic sex rings. “Harvey ‘Jack’ McGeorge, a former US Marine and Secret Service agent, [was] a founding officer of ‘Leather Leadership Conference Inc.’” and recommended by the US State Department.[13] Another report showed UN personnel who were involved in bringing girls from Thailand to East Timor as prostitutes. As abuse allegations have increased, so too the variable unsuitability of those employed by the UN. [14]

NATO forces, UN peace-keepers and the local mafia have all been implicated in sex slavery in Kosovo. UN personnel exploited the victims of sex traffickers for their own ends, adding to the already dire situation in the Balkans since NATO troops and UN administrators took over the province in 1999. The question of why patients at United Nations mental institutions in Kosovo were raped and physically attacked under the eyes of UN staff, also suggests that this was more than an isolated incident but part of a well formed network. [15]

And what of the progress being made to stem this tide? Well, UN soldiers forcing young women and minors to have sex in exchange for material aid still appears to be occurring more than ten years after these initial reports. A UN report interviewed over 200 Haitian women—a third of whom were minors and collated enough data to suggest this was systematic and organised. [16]

While the spectre of sexual abuse is being tackled by UN officials, disturbing questions still remain about the overall functioning of an institution that is seen by many to be dangerously flawed, contributing to chaos rather than the betterment of nations and their peoples. What are we to make of the United Nations that cries out to be a beacon for the world’s poor and oppressed when the reality sees it failing those who are most need of its protection and support? Is this rot from within a mere blip or a peek behind the curtain?

 


Notes


[1] Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Matters – A true Story from Hell on Earth’ By Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, Andrew Thomson 2004 published by Miramax books/Hyperion ISBN 140135201-4
[2] ‘U.N. Finally Forced to Probe Its Paedophilia Scandal’ NewsMax.com Wires and NewsMax.com, Tuesday, May 7, 2002.
[3] Ibid.
[4] ‘Thorough probe finds no evidence of wrongdoing by UN official’ 16 UN News Centre, November 2004, http://www.un.org/
[5] UN calls rape ‘a cancer’ in DRC, BBC News, 15 September 2006.
[6] Ibid.
[7] ‘UN moves to answer child sex allegations’ Sydney Morning Herald, February 18 2005.
[8] ‘Sex scandal in Congo threatens to engulf UN’s peacekeepers’ The Times, December 23, 2004
[9] ‘Secretary-General ‘absolutely outraged’ by gross misconduct by peacekeeping personnel in Democratic Republic of Congo UN Press Release, 19/11/2004. http://www.un.org/
[10] Peter Takirambudde, Executive Director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, quoted from Focus on Human Rights: ‘Civil War in Sierra Leone Rebel Abuses Near Sierra Leone Capital’ United Nations Should Act, Says Rights Group, (New York, March 3, 2000.www.hrw.org/
[11] Human Rights Watch, ‘Getting Away with Murder, Mutilation, and Rape: New Testimony from Sierra Leone’ (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1999), p. 50.
[12] ‘UN troops accused of ‘systematic’ rape in Sierra Leone’ by Tim Butcher, The Daily Telegraph, January 17, 2003.
[13] ‘UN weapons inspector is leader of S&M sex ring’, The Washington Post, November 30, 2002.
[14] ‘UN ship ‘carried child prostitutes’ August 21, 2003 http://www.news.com.au.
[15] ‘UN ‘ignored’ abuse at Kosovo mental homes,’ The Guardian, August 8, 2002.
[16] ‘UN peacekeepers sexually abused hundreds of Haitian women & girls – report’. RT, June 10, 2015.

Amerikan Beauty II: Civilised Slavery

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