Friday, March 07, 2008

Sex Trafficking Ring Broken in Australia

Sydney Police Free Sex Captives

From the BBC:

Australian police say they have broken up an international sex-trafficking ring after rescuing 10 South Korean women from Sydney brothels.

Five people have been arrested and charged with offences including people trafficking and debt bondage. Police said the women were lured to Australia and forced to work up to 20 hours a day in legal Sydney brothels.

They had agreed to work in the sex industry, but were deceived about conditions, police said. "My understanding is that they came to Australia to work in the sex industry, but under more reasonable conditions," Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Tim Morris said.

'Vanloads of men'

Once the women were in Australia, the syndicate took their passports, officials said. "This is probably the largest alleged syndicate that we have smashed," Immigration Department Assistant Secretary Lyn O'Connell said.

The five people arrested include a South Korean woman and a Korean-Australian woman, who police allege is the head of a syndicate that was making $2.8 m (£1.4m) annually. Government prosecutors said the evidence against the five includes six months of intercepted phone calls and Korean-language business documents, Reuters news agency reported.

Prostitution is legal in most of Australia but new slavery laws were introduced in 1999 to prevent vulnerable women being exploited.

A business owner near one of the brothels said it was staffed by Chinese, Japanese and Korean women and was always busy, says the BBC's Phil Mercer in Sydney.

At the weekends, vanloads of Asian men would descend on the premises, he says.

This is one group of trafficking victims that receives probably the least sympathy for their situation. Because they had initially agreed to get into the sex industry upon arriving in their destination country, it means they knew what they were getting into. This train of thought often leads people to believe these women are not victims. However, as the evidence points out, deception and force were involved.

The debate on whether to legalize prostitution is hardly settled. Some states, like the U.S. have taken a
strong stance against legalizing prostitution, arguing that its legalization does not address the physical, psychological, and emotional harm it does to the women involved. The U.S. also states that most women who are in prostitution do so not out of desire, but out of a lack of opportunities, and that most experience violence and are exposed to long-lasting health problems. Lastly, the U.S. claims that prostitution creates a safe haven for criminals and traffickers.

On the other side, there have been arguments that regulating prostitution causes the industry to come out of the shadows and therefore makes it easier for governments to protect people. For example
this article argues that Sweden's laws that criminalize the purchasing or pimping of sexual services and decriminalize the selling of sexual services has caused problems like trafficking to go down and prevents women from being traumatized by their situation.

Either way, when you have a situation where a person is forced to work up to 20 hours a day, it is modern-day slavery and when the factors of a confiscated passport and deception are added, it becomes a case of trafficking, regardless of whether they consented to work in the sex industry of not.

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