Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Child Labor, Meet Radiohead

Recently Radiohead teamed up with the MTV EXIT campaign, a multimedia initiative to end exploitation and human trafficking, to create a documentary style music video of their song, "All I Need" to call attention to harsh labor practices and the exploitation of children. See the video here.

For more than two decades Radiohead has exercised their voice as political, human rights, and environmental activists. The band is now calling listeners' attention to the need to end harsh labor practices and the exploitation of children. Check out this interview with Radiohead front man Thom Yorke, to learn more about why the issue of child labor is so important to address.

Two Men Sentenced for Human Trafficking & Alien Smuggling Charges

From PR Newswire:

WASHINGTON, United States- Two brothers, Victor
Omar Lopez and Oscar Mondragon, were sentenced for their roles in a scheme to smuggle Central American women and girls into the United States and hold them in a condition of forced labor in bars and cantinas in the Houston area, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Grace C. Becker and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Don DeGabrielle.

U.S. District Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore sentenced
Lopez to 109 months in prison followed by three years of probation and ordered that he, jointly with his co-defendants, pay $1.7 million in restitution to the victims. Mondragon was sentenced to 180 months of imprisonment and was ordered to pay, jointly and severally with his co-defendants, over $1.1 million of the total of over $1.7 million in restitution awarded in the case.

In all, eight defendants have been convicted in connection with this
scheme to compel the victims into service in restaurants, bars and cantinas in the Houston area, using threats to harm the victims and their families if they attempted to leave before paying off their smuggling debts.

Both Lopez and Mondragon previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to
hold persons in a condition of peonage; to illegally recruiting, harboring and transporting persons for labor and services; and to conspiring to bring, harbor, and transport known illegal aliens for commercial advantage and private financial gain. Peonage is a condition of involuntary servitude imposed to extract repayment of an indebtedness.

Lopez and Mondragon lured Central American women to the United States
with promises of good jobs. However, once the young women arrived, they were forced to work in the bars and cantinas of the defendant and co-defendants selling alcoholic drinks to male customers. The women were subjected to numerous threats of harm to themselves and family members in order to compel their servitude.

"Defendants Victor Omar Lopez and Oscar Mondragon were members of an
international conspiracy that lured young women from Central America to Texas on false promises of a better life and then betrayed that promise by holding these women in a condition of forced servitude in restaurants and bars in Houston," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Grace Chung Becker. "This is a despicable crime that harms all of society, and the Department of Justice will continue to aggressively work to prosecute human traffickers."

Read the full article

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chinese Children Sold "like Cabbages" into Slavery

From Reuters:

BEIJING, China - Thousands of children in southwest China have been sold into slavery like "cabbages", to work as labourers in more prosperous areas such as the booming southern province of Guangdong, a newspaper said on Tuesday.

China announced a nationwide crackdown on slavery and child labor last year after reports that hundreds of poor farmers, children and mentally disabled were forced to work in kilns and mines in Shanxi province and neighboring Henan.

"The bustling child labor market (in Sichuan province) was set up by the local chief foreman and his gang of 18 minor foremen, who each manage 50 to 100 child labourers," the Southern Metropolis Newspaper said.

"The children generally fall between the ages of 13 and 15, but many look under 10," it added.

The newspaper said 76 children from the same county, Liangshan, had been missing since the Chinese Lunar Year festival in February, 42 of whom had already left the region to work. "The youngest kids found in the child labor market were only seven and nine years old," it said.

Read the full article

New Yorker Special on Trafficking

From The New Yorker:

The upcoming May 5th edition of the New Yorker features a lengthy article entitled, "The Countertraffickers: Rescuing the victims of the global sex trade." on trafficking in Moldova. This article is extremely useful to learn more about the many facets of trafficking and the response to trafficking. The main focus of the story is the work of a reintegration specialist for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Moldova and her tales of success and challenge in her years of work on this issue.

Rotaru, who is twenty-six, works for the International Organization for Migration, a group connected to the United Nations, in Chisinau, Moldova. She is a repatriation specialist. Her main task is bringing lost Moldovans home. Nearly all her clients are victims of human trafficking, most of them women sold into prostitution abroad, and their stories pour across her desk in stark vignettes and muddled sagas of desperation, violence, betrayal, and sorrow.

Her allies and colleagues in this work are widely scattered. An ebullient Dubai prison officer named Omer, who calls Rotaru "sister," has been a help. So have Russian policemen, an Israeli lawyer, a Ukrainian psychologist, an Irish social worker, a Turkish women's shelter, Interpol, and various consulates and embassies, as well as travel agents, priests, and partner organizations, including an anti-trafficking group called La Strada, which has offices downstairs from Rotaru's and a dedicated victims' hot line.

The article does go on to introduce the reader to some of these colleagues. The article also provides a bigger picture of human trafficking and responses to it.

There are roughly two hundred million migrants today - migrants being defined as people living outside their homelands. The reasons for this are globalization, and wars, and new border freedoms, and, above all, disparities in economic opportunity. Along the nether edge of the huge movement of people, human trafficking thrives.

Migrant smuggling is different from trafficking. Migrants pay smugglers to deliver them, illegally, to their destinations. The line into trafficking is crossed when coercion and fraud are used. (This line is not always clear, and many migrants endure varying degrees of mistreatment.) Trafficking can start with a kidnapping. More commonly, it starts with a broken agreement about a job promised, conditions of work, or one's true destination. Most victims suffer some combination of threats, violence, forced labor, and effective imprisonment. The commercial sex industry, according to the International Labor Organization, absorbs slightly less than half of all trafficked labor worldwide. Construction, agriculture, domestic service, hazardous industries, armed conflict, and begging are some of the other frequent sites of extreme, illegal exploitation.

Not all trafficking is international. India, for instance, has an immense domestic network, with large numbers of children being sold and resold, for labor and household servitude and prostitution. No reliable numbers exist, though. For cross-border trafficking worldwide, estimates range from half a million people annually to several times that figure.

The article also takes time to point out the difficulties facing organizations trying to work with victims including domestic violence, psychological problems, risks of re-trafficking, mistrust of authorities, victim-blaming, etc. All of this comes out in detail through interviews with various people, organizations, and victims. As well, the article points out that awareness can only do so much to prevent people from becoming victims. Even is a victim is aware of the problem, they often feel it is somehow distant from them or that it won't happen to them personally. This is also the case with former victims who decide to go abroad again: they think they're smarter now and can avoid any such situation.

One victim's story is also quite important for breaking the notion that it is just uneducated, poor people who are tricked into trafficking:

Were all her beneficiaries from broken, violent, alcoholic, impoverished families?

"Not at all," she said. "We received a call from one of our embassies last year. A girl from a prominent family had been trafficked. They wanted to keep the case quiet, of course. So this tragedy happened to her, but she has good parents. Bright future. Not like most girls."

The only area the article doesn't really cover is labor trafficking, child trafficking or trafficking of men. Obviously, as the title suggests, the article is meant to explain more about women caught up in the global sex trade. However, organizations like the International Organization for Migration also deal with the growing field of labor and child trafficking. In fact, it has been found that sometimes the two areas are overlapping and people are trafficked for both sex and labor. Also, especially women and children, are at risk of sexual abuse if they are trafficked for labor.

One area that does graze the issue of child trafficking are the risks of "social orphans" or children who are missing parents because the parents have gone abroad. This is also a major issue for Ukraine. For the most part, no one knows what happens to these children once they leave the orphanages.

The article follows the trail and structure of organized traffickers, delving into areas of corruption and poor attitudes among law enforcement, courts, and government ministries that only fuel the problem.

If you do not have time to read the article right away, there is an audio clip interviewing the author about the article with some of the interesting pieces there.

Lap Dance Link to Prostitution & Crime

By Jamie Doward

From the Guardian:

A 'rapid expansion' of lap-dancing clubs across the UK has been allowed by the government despite concerns about links with prostitution and human trafficking, according to an influential report to be issued this week.

A coalition of MPs, peers, government advisers and think-tanks says that lap dancing has exploited the 2005 Licensing Act - a flagship piece of government legislation - allowing hundreds of new clubs to open in the face of opposition from councils, residents and police.

The result is that there are now more than 300 in the UK, with applications to open scores more. The small town of Stourbridge in the West Midlands has five pubs but two lap-dancing clubs. Along Hackney Road in east London there are now five lap-dancing clubs within a mile.

Object, the campaign calling for a change in the law to have lap-dancing clubs reclassified as 'sex encounter establishments' and therefore subject to tighter regulation, blames a loophole in the legislation which has put lap-dancing clubs in the same category as cafes, karaoke bars and pubs, making it relatively easy to obtain licences.

This week's report highlights the link between lap dancing and criminality, citing research that links clubs to prostitution and human trafficking.

The proliferation of lap-dancing clubs, adds the report, has fuelled an 'increased demand for the purchase of sex' while encouraging 'factors driving human trafficking flows'.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Immigration Agents Probed for Human Trafficking

By Margaux Ortiz

From the Inquirer:

MANILA, Philippines- An officer of the Bureau of Immigration was relieved recently for alleged involvement in the trafficking of undocumented Filipino workers abroad.

Acting Immigration Commissioner Roy Almoro issued an order recalling Immigration Officer I Vic Ferrer from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to the bureau's main office in Intramuros, Manila, after the latter was implicated in the activities of 17 suspected illegal recruiters arrested recently by police.

Almoro said the bureau was watching another immigration officer who was previously assigned to the NAIA but has been working at the BI's main office lately. Almoro said the tips came from Vice President Noli de Castro.

"The two officers will be afforded due process," Almoro said in a statement on Sunday. He said the recent arrest of 17 suspected members of an illegal recruitment ring run by a Chinese-Filipino businessman prompted the action against the immigration officers.

The Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group said the suspected illegal recruiters were arrested after their victims sought De Castro's help.

The New Economics of Hunger

By Anthony Faiola

From the Washington Post:

The globe's worst food crisis in a generation emerged as a blip on the big boards and computer screens of America's great grain exchanges. At first, it seemed like little more than a bout of bad weather.

In Chicago, Minneapolis and Kansas City, traders watched from the pits early last summer as wheat prices spiked amid mediocre harvests in the United States and Europe and signs of prolonged drought in Australia. But within a few weeks, the traders discerned an ominous snowball effect -- one that would eventually bring down a prime minister in Haiti, make more children in Mauritania go to bed hungry, even cause American executives at Sam's Club to restrict sales of large bags of rice.

As prices rose, major grain producers including Argentina and Ukraine, battling inflation caused in part by soaring oil bills, were moving to bar exports on a range of crops to control costs at home. It meant less supply on world markets even as global demand entered a fundamentally new phase. Already, corn prices had been climbing for months on the back of booming government-subsidized ethanol programs. Soybeans were facing pressure from surging demand in China. But as supplies in the pipelines of global trade shrank, prices for corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, rice and other grains began shooting through the roof.

At the same time, food was becoming the new gold. Investors fleeing Wall Street's mortgage-related strife plowed hundreds of millions of dollars into grain futures, driving prices up even more. By Christmas, a global panic was building. With fewer places to turn, and tempted by the weaker dollar, nations staged a run on the American wheat harvest.

Foreign buyers, who typically seek to purchase one or two months' supply of wheat at a time, suddenly began to stockpile. They put in orders on U.S. grain exchanges two to three times larger than normal as food riots began to erupt worldwide. This led major domestic U.S. mills to jump into the fray with their own massive orders, fearing that there would soon be no wheat left at any price.

"Japan, the Philippines, [South] Korea, Taiwan -- they all came in with huge orders, and no matter how high prices go, they keep on buying," said Jeff Voge, chairman of the Kansas City Board of Trade and also an independent trader. Grains have surged so high, he said, that some traders are walking off the floor for weeks at a time, unable to handle the stress.

"We have never seen anything like this before," Voge said. "Prices are going up more in one day than they have during entire years in the past. But no matter the price, there always seems to be a buyer. . . . This isn't just any commodity. It is food, and people need to eat."

Read the full article

Related: Global food shortage linked to biofuel use

From the Guardian:

The global rush to switch from oil to energy derived from plants will drive deforestation, push small farmers off the land and lead to serious food shortages and increased poverty unless carefully managed, says the most comprehensive survey yet completed of energy crops.

The United Nations report, compiled by all 30 of the world organisation's agencies, points to crops like palm oil, maize, sugar cane, soya and jatropha. Rich countries want to see these extensively grown for fuel as a way to reduce their own climate changing emissions. Their production could help stabilise the price of oil, open up new markets and lead to higher commodity prices for the poor.

But the UN urges governments to beware their human and environmental impacts, some of which could have irreversible consequences.

The report, which predicts winners and losers, will be studied carefully by the emerging multi-billion dollar a year biofuel industry which wants to provide as much as 25% of the world's energy within 20 years.

Global production of energy crops is doubling every few years, and 17 countries have so far committed themselves to growing the crops on a large scale.

Last year more than a third of the entire US maize crop went to ethanol for fuel, a 48% increase on 2005, and Brazil and China grew the crops on nearly 50m acres of land. The EU has said that 10% of all fuel must come from biofuels by 2020. Biofuels can be used in place of petrol and diesel and can play a part in reducing emissions from transport.

On the positive side, the UN says that the crops have the potential to reduce and stabilise the price of oil, which could be very beneficial to poor countries. But it acknowledges that forests are already being felled to provide the land to grow vast plantations of palm oil trees. Environment groups argue strongly that this is catastrophic for the climate, and potentially devastating for forest animals like orangutans in Indonesia.

The UN warns: "Where crops are grown for energy purposes the use of large scale cropping could lead to significant biodiversity loss, soil erosion, and nutrient leaching. Even varied crops could
have negative impacts if they replace wild forests or grasslands."

Read the full article

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Romanian & International NGOs Work Together to Fight Trafficking

From Reuters:

Over 40 representatives of national and international NGOs, Churches and local authorities dedicated to combating human trafficking came together to find common approaches to identifying the most effective trafficking prevention campaigns, the most efficient and coherent legislation and the best counselling and reintegration strategies for the victims of trafficking in the Romanian capital Bucharest recently.

The participants focused on creating an international network of people working in preventing and limiting the effects of trafficking.

Starting with February 2008, World Vision Romania, through its office in Iasi County, North-Eastern Romania, started a new pilot project dedicated to preventing human trafficking in a rural community where WVR has been working. Due to the migration phenomenon intensifying especially in Romania's poorest rural areas, the danger of being exposed to trafficking has increased significantly.

'There are many people interested in working abroad, especially young people who are 'charmed' into believing unverified success stories presented by friends or relatives who have already left the country in search of a better life. Our work in this community right now consists of organizing monthly informational sessions for over 180 children and vocational courses for another 60 young people in the community, in order to help them access better jobs, here in Romania', said WVR project coordinator.

According to the Romanian National Agency Against Trafficking in Human Beings statistics, since January 2007, 936 Romanian citizens were identified as victims of human trafficking in Europe, for the following reasons (some of the victims were trafficked for various reasons): The distribution of victims according to the type of exploitation: 406 – sexual exploitation, 425 – labor exploitation, 171 – on the street, 253 – construction, 145 – agriculture, etc.

Read the full article

Moldovan Sex Slaves Released in U.K. Trafficking Raids

From the Tiraspol Times:

April 22nd, 2008, NORWICH - A group of Moldovan women who were forced into prostitution have been freed in raids across London and Surrey, in the United Kingdom.

The raids, which took place over the past three days, uncovered a Moldovan-linked network of brothels and human trafficking which so far has led to the arrest of 15 people. They are suspected of being involved in an international criminal network managing people trafficking and prostitution, the Norwich Evening Post reports.

Moldova, Europe's poorest country, is the continent's leading supplier of underage girls for sexual exploitation. Human trafficking rings operate with impunity in Moldova, where they are for the most part under government protection and where a number of local government officials are involved as participants behind the rings. Due to a climate of impunity, no government officials have ever been charged with human trafficking and prostitution offenses in Moldova.

"This major operation successfully disrupted a long standing organized criminal network. Human trafficking is simply modern day slavery and, as we've discovered, it is happening in this county," said British Detective Chief Inspector Christine Wilson, head of Norfolk's Vulnerable People Directorate. In the investigation into the gangs involved in human trafficking, British police received no cooperation of any kind from Moldova's authorities.

Read the full article

Related: Corruption breaks new records in Moldova
By Karen Ryan

April 25, 2008 CHISINAU- Being in charge of Moldova's government is a lucrative business, as long as you can still get money from the people who are left in the country. A large percentage of Moldova's working-age population has already gone abroad, but those who remain in the country are targeted for bribes like never before.

The country's government has been listed as Europe's most corrupt in a number of international studies, and the latest to weigh in is Transparency International with a fresh survey released this week. According to the poll, which was conducted on a sample of 1105 people in Moldova between 23 February and 10 March 2008, incidents of corruption now breaks new records in Moldova.

The polls excluded nearby Transdniestria (Pridnestrovie), which has 'de facto' not been a functioning part of Moldova since 1990.

Corruption is one of Moldova's main problems, Transparency International Director Lilia Carasciuc said at a 22 April press conference in Chisinau. Over 80% of Moldovans think that corruption is holding back the development of their country. "

- According to the survey, people place corruption as third among the problems they meet, it following only poverty and unemployment. The business people also feel that, and place this phenomenon as second after great taxes," says Lilia Carasciuc.

Over 76% of the Moldovans are prepared to pay a bribe, Basa Press reports. The percentage is higher when reported to the business people: over 81%.

According to the survey, Moldovans pay bribes in 80.7% of the cases when they try to get visas to leave their country. Many need visas to be able to work abroad. Among the lucky ones who manage to get out, most show no inclination of ever wanting to return.

Crossing the border in and out of Moldova, crooked customs officers demand their baksheesh 57.2 % of the time. And if that wasn't enough, once you are inside Moldova you will be forced to cough up even more cash: In dealing with police, bribes are required in 51.2% of all cases.

Read the full article

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Anderson Cooper Reports on Sex Slavery in Cambodia

Conviction in Canada

From the Canadian Press:

VANCOUVER — A Vancouver man convicted of smuggling women into this country to work as prostitutes was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in jail.

Michael Wai Chi Ng was charged with 22 counts of human smuggling, prostitution offences and offences against the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. He was the first person in Canada charged under the relatively new human trafficking law but Ng was acquitted of the human smuggling charge last year, and was instead convicted of five lesser charges.

Ng was sentenced to nine months for two counts of falsifying immigration documents and an additional six months for the charges of keeping a common bawdy house and two counts of procuring a person to have illicit sexual intercourse with another. Charges of living off the avails on prostitution were dismissed.

The prostitution ring was uncovered when police were called to the massage parlour for a disturbance.During Ng's trial, provincial court Judge Malcolm MacLean was told Ng brought women to Canada, promising them jobs as waitresses and then putting them to work as prostitutes in his east Vancouver massage parlour.

One woman, whose identity is protected by court order, told MacLean she had been brought to Canada by Ng to work in what she thought was a restaurant.Instead of a waitress job, the woman testified she was taken to a Ng's massage parlour and told she was expected to pay him $11,000 a month by prostituting herself.

Read the full article

Friday, April 25, 2008

Dreams Die Hard- Kevin Bales

More videos from Free the Slaves

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

Demont Bowie, shown in a booking photo, is the man who kidnapped M.B. from a party on Minnehaha Avenue in Minneapolis and brought her to Iowa.

The Gazette recently released a special report about a rural Iowa prostitution business that yielded Iowa’s first federal human trafficking case.

From the report:

In the basement of an ordinary-looking Williamsburg home, the 13-year-old girl was given a choice. Either she would have sex with two men nearly twice her age or she would be given back to her kidnapper.

The girl would come to be known as M.B. in court documents in Linn, Johnson, Iowa, Washington and Clayton counties, as well as U.S. District Court. Getting her out of the business that seemed to produce poison in so many ways would almost cost one Iowa woman her life.

Locking up the people who'd exploited her would take more than two years.

Hers, the first human trafficking case prosecuted in Iowa federal court, would test the resources, skills and patience of investigators and prosecutors who never had dealt with such a complex case, and who hope, even as they ready themselves to better respond to the next, to never see another like it.

People unfamiliar with the business sometimes think of prostitution as a victimless crime — a simple transaction of money for sex. In reality, experts say, pimps prey on vulnerable women and girls with few other options, isolating them, coercing them into the business and keeping them there by force.

It's a drug-infused, violence-infested culture that can operate below the surface in even the smallest and safest of Eastern Iowa's small towns, as M.B.'s case would show.

As one prosecutor put it: "This isn't 'Pretty Woman.'"

Read the special report here

Gazette Dropping "Spas, Escorts" Ads

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Earlier this afternoon, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), held a picket line protest from 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm in front of the corporate offices of HBO in New York City, protesting its reality series Cathouse set in a brothel.

Here are excerpts from CATW's letter to Richard Parson, Bill Nelson and Sue Naegle, the Chair of Time Warner, Chair of HBO, and President of HBO respectively:

CATW urges HBO to stop promoting prostitution and sex trafficking. Rather than revealing the reality of the exploitation of prostitution and its inextricable link to sex trafficking, HBO's show Cathouse serves as propaganda for the sex industry, denying and concealing the harms to both prostituted women and society at large. HBO must cease glamorizing commercial sexual exploitation through so-called "documentary" shows like Cathouse. Instead, we urge HBO to produce programming that tells the truth about prostitution and its profound impact on human trafficking.

Shows like Cathouse are highly staged, one-sided advertisements for the pips that seek to increase social acceptance of buying and selling women. HBO has adopted the false image that no one is ever hurt in prostitution. Through our work with trafficking survivors, CATW and its partners around the world know that this belief is tragically and dangerously inaccurate.

By airing shows like Cathouse, HBO normalizes prostitution and its legalization. The cultural and legal acceptance of prostitution, in turn, encourages the demand for prostituted and trafficked women and girls in the global sex trade. Legitimizing pimps as entrepreneurs and managers, as well as portraying patronizing prostituted women as acceptable, harmless entertainment commences a vicious cycle in which the sex industry expands, and increases the demand for sex trafficked women and girls.

CATW calls upon HBO to take responsibility for its role in normalizing and promoting prostitution by removing the series Cathouse (and all other shows promoting prostitution) from its programming. HBO must not only stop airing Cathouse and all similar pro-exploitation shows but also use its resources to produce programming that exposes the truth about the harms of prostitution and trafficking, rather than profiting from the further exploitation of its victims.

NYC Council Member John C. Liu discusses Human Trafficking & HBO at the protest

Council Member John C. Liu Continued...

PBS Documentary on Illegal Trade

Last week a PBS documentary aired about illicit trade and the organized crime syndicates behind it. Very well done with footage from Panama, Colombia, China, Italy, New York and California- The Dark Trade sheds light on the worldwide network of illegal trade that transports everything from fake medicine, counterfeit purses and people around the world generating profits of approximately $650 billion a year.

The Trailer

Hopefully they will be re-airing it in the near future.
In the meantime read about it here.

For more information on counterfeiting visit

An interview with Dr Moises Naim, the author of
Illicit, the book on which the PBS documentary is based.

More info on Dr Naim's book here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

HBO's Cathouse

From the CATW:

On April 24, 2008, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), will hold a picket line protest from 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm in front of the corporate offices of HBO, located at 1100 6th Avenue at 42nd Street in New York City, protesting its reality series Cathouse set in a brothel.

“HBO for some time now has been normalizing the demand for prostitution, which fuels sex trafficking. Its most recent example, Cathouse, distorts the reality of the sex industry by transforming pimps into businessmen, and by presenting the buying and selling of women as harmless and normal,” says Norma Ramos, Co-Executive Director of CATW.

CATW’s campaign will address HBO's effort to erase the harm of prostitution. 80% of all human trafficking victims are women and girls, 70% of which end up in prostitution. “HBO cynically labels Cathouse as a documentary when in fact it packages prostitution as entertainment. HBO has a social responsibility to tell the truth about prostitution and sex trafficking, not profit from and promote the world's oldest oppression,” says Founding Board Member, Dorchen Leidholdt. “HBO is creating a culture of acceptance of sexual exploitation, and it needs to take responsibility for that,” says Norma Ramos. CATW calls upon HBO to fund social services for trafficking victims and produce a credible documentary that exposes the true nature and human cost of commercial sexual exploitation.

Author Victor Malarek and NYC Council Member John C. Liu will be joining CATW and making statements. Victor Malarek is the author of The Natasha’s and the upcoming book, The Johns. Co-sponsors of the protest will be ECPAT-USA, Prostitution Research and Education (PRE), Equality Now and NOW NYC. Joining the protest will be two ‘HBO’ blow-up doll pimps dressed in their Cathouse gear. A press conference will be held at the protest.

Download the press release


About the show

HBO delves into its Cathouse vault to mine the most memorable scenes and wildest moments, from six glorious years filming at one of Nevada's premier tourist attractions: the Moonlite BunnyRanch, the bustling legal brothel located outside of Reno. Featuring up-close-and-personal interviews with many of the girls, good-time proprietor Dennis Hof, and longtime Ranch manager Madam Suzette, this month's half-hour show brings Cathouse fans classic footage with the likes of Sunset Thomas, Isabella Soprano, Brooke Taylor, Bridget the Midget, Air Force Amy and many others.

No Human Trafficking Here

*A continuation of the Myanmar illegal migrants' ordeal who were supposedly smuggled, if not trafficked, into Thailand.

By Anchalee Kongrut and Wimol Nukaew

From the Bangkok Post:

Authorities say that under Thai law human trafficking required an act of exploitation, which was absent from the smuggling of people seeking proper work.

The death-truck tragedy involving 120 illegal Burmese job seekers, 54 of whom suffocated to death, is likely to be treated as a smuggling case and not human trafficking.

An initial investigation had determined the evidence did not support a human-trafficking case, immigration bureau chief Pol Lt-Gen Chatchawal Suksomjit said yesterday. It was a matter of legal interpretation, he said. "This initial finding may run counter to general sentiment and reports which labelled this as a case of human trafficking.

But there is a difference between human smuggling and trafficking, it's a matter of degree," Pol Lt-Gen Chatchawal said.

The offenders in the case would still be brought to justice.

Under Thai law human trafficking required an act of exploitation, which was absent from the smuggling of people seeking proper work. Human trafficking must involve smuggling of people with the specific objective of employing them in slave-like conditions and jobs, such as forced prostitution.

People smuggling was a crime of lesser degree. The penalties were also different.

Human rights commissioner Sunee Chaiyarose disagreed with such an interpretation, which she said was based on vague, incomprehensive laws. Treating the case as human smuggling would enable the authorities to speed up the deportations.

The survivors should be allowed to stay and claim compensation.

Representatives of the Lawyers Council would meet with the survivors, who had been moved from prison to the Ranong immigration office, and see if any would like to file complaints.

Orathai Junsawanarak, manager of the anti-trafficking and child-protection section of World Vision, said the authorities should urgently provide counselling for the Burmese. The survivors, particularly children, badly needed such services after such trauma, she said.

Ms Orathai said World Vision staff in Burma would look after these survivors when they return home and provide shelter and counselling.

Read the full article

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Birthrates Help Keep Filipinos in Poverty

By Blaine Harden

From the Washington Post:

MANILA -- Maria Susana Espinoza wanted only two children. But it was not until after the birth of her fourth child in six years that she learned any details about birth control.

"I knew it existed, but I didn't know how it works," said Espinoza, who lives with her husband and children in a squatter's hut in a vast, stinking garbage dump by Manila Bay. She and her family belong to the fastest-growing segment of the Philippine population: very poor people with large families.

There are many reasons why this country is poor, including feudal patterns of land ownership and corrupt government. But there is a compelling link between family size and poverty. It increases in lock step with the number of children, as nutrition, health, education and job prospects all decline, government statistics and many studies show.

Birth and poverty rates here are among the highest in Asia. And the Philippines, where four out of five of the country's 91 million people are Roman Catholic, also stands out in Asia for its government's rejection of modern contraception as part of family planning. Acceding to Catholic doctrine, the government for the past five years has supported only what it calls "natural" family planning.

No national government funds can be used to buy contraceptives for the poor, although anyone who can afford them is permitted to buy them. Local governments can also buy and distribute contraceptives, but many lack the money.

Distribution of donated contraceptives in the government's nationwide network of clinics ends this year, as does a contraception-commodities program paid for by the U.S. Agency for International Development. For years it has supplied most of the condoms, pills and intrauterine devices used by poor Filipinos.

"Family planning helps reduce poverty," President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said in a 2003 speech that detailed her approach to birth control. But she said then and has since insisted that the government would support only family planning methods acceptable to the Catholic Church.

Read the full article

54 Dead: Thailand Addresses Illegal Migrants from Myanmar

From Yahoo News:

BANGKOK, Thailand - Six Thai nationals will be charged with death by negligence after 54 illegal Myanmar migrants suffocated while being smuggled through Thailand in a tiny, locked truck, police said Monday.

The 54 dead were among some 120 job seekers from Myanmar crammed inside the truck, which was abandoned by the driver on April 10 when he noticed passengers dying in the back.

The migrants began suffocating when the air conditioning failed in the vehicle, normally used for transporting seafood. The migrants had been seeking jobs in the booming resort area of Phuket after being smuggled by boat from their country into the Thai port of Ranong on the Andaman Sea.

Immigration police commander Lt. Gen. Chatchawal Suksomjit said the crime of causing death by negligence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail for each person that died.

Read the full article

: Thailand sets June 6 as 'D-Day' for human trafficking

From MCOT:

BANGKOK -Thailand is set to issue a law on June 6 prohibiting human trafficking, following the tragedy in which 54 illegal Myanmar job seekers suffocated to death in a truck in the southern province of Ranong, senior officials said Monday.

The decision was made after a meeting earlier Monday between six government agencies and representatives from private organisations.

Currently, the Kingdom has a more modest law barring the trafficking of children and women and the new law which prohibits the activity will replace the current one, they said.

Participants at the meeting told a press conference that the 66 surviving Myanmar workers from the April 10 tragedy would be charged with illegal entry and given a suspended jail term and be fined 2,000 baht (US$63) each.

Workers without money to pay as fine were instead jailed for 10 days, said Immigration Police commander Pol. Lt-Gen. Chatchawal Suksomjit.

The survivors would also be asked to testify as witnesses against those who had been apprehended and initially charged in the case with negligence causing death to others, said Pol. Lt-Gen. Chatchawal.

Six Thai nationals – five men and a woman – have been arrested to date, while it is believed that several others, now still at large, are behind the illegal activity.

The April 10 incident has drawn great attention, nationally and internationally, to the plight of migrant workers who are willing to risk their lives escaping the hardships in their country in search of what they believe to be a better life.

*The difference between smuggling and trafficking- had the migrants been trafficked they would receive support from the government most likely in the form of food, shelter and counseling. Instead, as illegal immigrants they are being asked to help prosecute the smuggler and are being jailed and fined. Not enough evidence exists to charge the defendants with human trafficking, but if sufficient evidence is gathered in the coming weeks, this would then change the status of the illegal migrants to trafficking victims who are then eligible for government resources under the trafficking law.

The Yahoo article says an investigation could take up to 3 months to complete. Ultimately, if the defendants are found to be traffickers, wouldn't that mean the illegal migrants would have been wrongly jailed and fined? How is the government supposed to handle this issue?

Monday, April 21, 2008

UN Chief Warns World Must Urgently Increase Food Production

By Francis Kokutse

From Breitbart:

ACCRA, Ghana (AP) - The U.N. chief warned Sunday that the world must urgently increase food production to ease skyrocketing prices and pledged to set up a task force on a crisis threatening to destabilize developing nations.

The cost of food has increased by around 40 percent since mid-2007 worldwide, and the strain has caused riots and protests in countries like Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Haiti and Egypt.

"We must make no mistake, the problem is big. If we offer the right aid, the solutions will come," Ban said at the opening of a a five-day U.N. conference on trade and development in Ghana's capital, Accra. "One thing is certain, the world has consumed more than it has produced" over the last three years, he said.

Ban blamed a host of causes for the soaring cost of food, including rising oil prices, the fall of the U.S. dollar and natural disasters. He said he would put together a special task force to help deal with the problem and called on the international community to help.

He said the U.N. World Food Program plans to raise $750 million per year to help feed 73 million people in 80 countries. "We need a real world and not the world of economic theories," Ban said. "I will work on this right now with a sense of urgency."

Ban said the Millennium Development Goals—adopted at a U.N. summit in 2000 to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015—were not being met.

Read the full article


A short film in the Tribeca Film Festival.

From the Tribeca website:

Believing he is about to cross a border to a new life, a young runaway instead finds himself on the road, about to be sold as a slave. In a remarkable moment of pity he is spared, but his liberation comes at a
tremendous personal cost.

See the preview here.

Check the Tribeca website for screenings in New York.

Former Pakistani Minister Detained for Trafficking

From the Earth Times:

Islamabad - Pakistani authorities arrested a former government minister Saturday for allegedly smuggling about two dozen people into Germany and other European countries, officials said.

Police detained former minister for religious affairs Mushtaq Victor after a pre-dawn raid at his home in Islamabad. He will be held for seven days while they investigate the case.

"The action was taken on a complaint from the Norwegian Embassy that the minister had used official recommendation letters to illegally send people aboard," Omar Hyyat, an investigator with the Federal Investigation Agency told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, dpa. "The former minister sent at least 23 people, including three women, to Germany, the UK, Austria, Italy and Canada," he said.

Victor, a Catholic, used his position as minister to prepare fake identity cards where he would register himself as husband, father or brother of those he wanted to smuggle, Hyyat said, adding he would then request the concerning embassy to issue visas for his family members. The former minister sent one woman and five children to Germany by pretending they were his wife and children.

In another instance in late 2007 Victor requested visas for 20 people on the pretension that the group wanted to see the new Pope in Rome. The Italian embassy issued visas to 10 of them, including Victor, but eight were deported back to Pakistan after a short time in Italy.

The FIA first learned of what Victor was doing in August 2006 when he was a member of President Pervez Musharraf's cabinet, but took no action because of pressure from the government. He quit his post following the dissolution of parliament last December.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Courage of Washington

By John C. Bersia

From the Anniston Star:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — In 1799, George Washington, America's first president, personally took an important but still-debated step against one of the most despicable practices in human society: slavery.

Standing near the spot where he freed his own slaves in a deathbed will, viewing every accessible documentary and file on the subject (for more information, visit, and paying my respects at the slave memorial here, I thought about Washington's decision to defy the accepted standards of his time. And I wondered what might have happened, had he advocated an anti-slavery position as president.

Sadly, despite Washington's example, the Civil War, the outlawing of slavery in the United States, the fight for civil rights in this country, the end of colonialism and the moves by nations the world over to give at least constitutional attention to human rights, the scourge is more prevalent than ever. Some 30 million people suffer the indignities of one form or another of human trafficking, as the problem commonly is known today.

Modern slaves are found everywhere, including in the United States, which leads me to ask: Where are the 21st-century abolitionists? And, in the context of American politics, which of the leading candidates for the 44th U.S. presidency will follow in Washington's footsteps?

Time is running out for them to make a difference in this campaign, and I do not mean in the sense of offering general statements. The top contenders should put serious thought and energy into no less than a global strategy to confront slavery. The U.S. government's current program to monitor human trafficking, while commendable, falls short of the challenge.

Read the full article

Cops to Be Taught Humane Approach to Trafficking Victims

From Thaindian News:

NEW DELHI, India- Victims of trafficking need to be handled more humanely during and after rescue operations, [policemen need to be made aware during training of stereotypes and judgments faced by victims].

With around 200,000 people trafficked in the country annually, the Centre for Social Research (CSR) has prepared a manual for police seeking to train them to be more humane towards trafficking victims during and after rescue operations. “While the law demands viewing trafficked persons as vulnerable victims in need of protection and support, assumptions and stereotypes that result in the judgement and accusation of trafficked persons are still widely prevalent and in dire need of change,” said Ranjana Kumari, human rights activist and CSR director.

The manual, supported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the central government, was unveiled on the occasion of CSR’s annual day here Friday. To be used in police training colleges across the country, the manual has been designed specially to make the policemen understand the importance of approaching human trafficking from a multi-disciplinary human rights perspective with emphasis on issues of child rights and gender sensitivity.

The manual stresses the negative perception of the police against the victims/survivors and aims to act as a reminder to the policemen to work as ‘delivery agents’, ensuring that justice and basic rights of the survivor are delivered.

Read the full article

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Emma Thompson on Trafficking

Emma Thompson writes about human trafficking and how she first came into contact with the issue.

From Newsweek:

When I was growing up in London, I walked past a massage parlor on the way to school every day. If my friends and I ever gave a thought to what went on behind its doors, we saw it as a bit of a giggle; it existed in a world away from our own. Fast-forward 30 years to 2006, when I first met 19-year-old Elena through my work with the Helen Bamber Foundation, a U.K. charity that helps abuse victims.

Elena's story was all too common but had a huge impact on me. An intelligent girl with ambitions, Elena had been enticed to London from Moldova with a promise of a good job and a bright future. Once in the U.K., however, her passport was taken from her and she was kept in solitary confinement to break her will. She was warned that her family in Moldova would suffer harm unless she did what she was told. And then she was put to work as a sex slave, servicing a procession of men in the most appalling circumstances.

What made her story so personal for me was where she'd been imprisoned: the same massage parlor I'd once treated as a joke. It underlined an awful truth: that human trafficking is not just a problem for other communities or other people. It exists on our own doorsteps, and our lack of action shames us all.

Read the full article

Organ Trafficking During Kosovo War

Kidnapping of Women on the Rise in Pakistan

From the Daily Times:

ISLAMABAD: Seventy-six kidnapping cases of women were registered by 14 police stations of the federal capital in the last 14 months compared with 13 cases of men, data gathered from police stations revealed.

The kidnapped women, married and unmarried, were abducted for various reasons.

Requesting anonymity, a police official said that women kidnapping incidents were increasing in the capital due to failure of police and other law-enforcement agencies to crack down on organized gangs dealing in human trafficking. He said parents were also responsible for the rising incidents of kidnapping.

The official said in most cases girls married against their will absconded with men of choice, instigating parents to label such cases as kidnapping to save their face. He said better understanding between parents and their daughters could avoid such cases.

Malik Naveed Fazal advocate said that lack of understanding between parents and their daughters had caused an increase in divorce rate and court marriage cases.

Naeem Mirza, the Aurat Foundation, director said that the main reason for rising women kidnapping cases across the country was that internal human trafficking was yet to be included into the human trafficking law. He said law-enforcement agencies need to crack down on the internal kidnapping gangs, as most of them were linked with international human traffickers.

Shehnaz Bukhari, a women rights activist, said that the main reason for rise in women kidnapping cases was the inability of the state to implement the human trafficking law. She said corruption in police department was another reason for rising women kidnapping cases.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Eliot Spitzer Created the Toughest Anti-Sex-Trade Law in the Nation

By Nina Bernstein

From the New York Times:

As New York’s attorney general, Eliot Spitzer had broken up prostitution rings before, but this 2004 case took on a special urgency for him.

Prosecuting an international sex tourism business based in Queens, he listened to the entreaties of women’s advocates long frustrated by state laws that fell short of dealing with a sex trade expanding rapidly across borders. And with his typical zeal, he embraced their push for new legislation, including a novel idea at its heart: Go after the men who seek out prostitutes.

It was a question of supply and demand, they all agreed. And one effective way to suppress the demand was to raise the penalties for patronizing a prostitute.

In his first months as governor last year, Mr. Spitzer signed the bill into law. Now the human rights groups, which credit him with what they call the toughest and most comprehensive anti-sex-trade law in the nation, are in shock. Mr. Spitzer stands accused of being one of the very men his law was designed to catch and punish.

“It leaves those of us who worked with his office absolutely feeling betrayed,” said Dorchen Leidholdt, director of Sanctuary for Families Legal Services, one of the leaders of the coalition that drafted the legislation.

The law, which went into effect Nov. 1, mainly deals with redefining and prosecuting forms of human trafficking, which Governor Spitzer called “modern-day slavery.” It offers help to the women who are victims of the practice, rather than treating them as participants in crime. But it also lays the groundwork for a more aggressive crackdown on demand, by increasing the penalty for patronizing a prostitute, a misdemeanor, to up to a year in jail, from a maximum of three months.

That was a key shift in approach for New York State, and one the governor and his top aides seemed to support wholeheartedly, said Ken Franzblau, now director of the law’s implementation at the State Division of Criminal Justice Services. Generally, the law and its enforcers focus on pimps and prostitutes, and treat customers as an afterthought.

“If you eliminate the demand, you eliminate the problem,” said Mr. Franzblau, who worked for years with Equality Now, a women’s advocacy and human rights group that had long urged prosecution of the Queens sex tourism business operating as Big Apple Oriental Tours. “In fact, the demand is really the lower-hanging fruit,” he added. “The johns are really afraid of being caught. The idea is that if we get some real penalties, and get D.A.’s to insist on them, we really could create a deterrent to this.”

“We had tremendous difficulty trying to get this law passed, year after year,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of Equality Now. “Our only hope was for Eliot Spitzer to be elected governor.”“He understood,” she added. “He got it, unlike hundreds of other politicians and law enforcement officials that we talked to.”

“There’s no sliding scale in the exploitation of women,” she said. “Either you exploit a woman in the commercial sex trade or you don’t.”Because Mr. Spitzer seemed to agree, she said, “he was our hero.”

Read the full article

Aljazeera Reports on Trafficking in Thailand

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Trafficking Arrest Made at Airport in Philippines

By Julie Alipala

From the Inquirer:

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- A foreigner who allegedly posed as a US citizen to dupe job seekers has been charged and detained here along with his Filipino live-in partner, authorities said Wednesday.

Superintendent Jonathan Perez, Zambonaga City police officer in charge, said Yehezkel Goldenberg, 73, identified as a Romanian national, faces 17 counts of estafa (fraud) and illegal trafficking. No bail has been recommended for the foreigner, he said. Goldenberg had allegedly defrauded more than 30 people here before he was arrested in front of the Mabini Mansion Hotel in Manila on April 11 by operatives of the Manila Police District's Anti-Organized Task Force, Perez said.

Based on the complaints, Goldenberg allegedly promised the victims' lucrative jobs in the United States in exchange for money. Sometime in March, Goldenberg asked at least 12 victims, mostly women, to fly with him to Manila so arrangements could be made for their flight to the United States, specifically to the state of Nevada.

The victims said they went to Manila, where they stayed for several days, while Goldenberg was "processing their papers." Goldenberg later allegedly asked them to give him the "show money" -- P70,000 and $500 each -- required of those flying to the US. He then gave the victims tickets for Hong Kong and asked them to meet him at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport because he would fly with them to the US.

The victims could not find Goldenberg at the airport, but after a long wait, one of them spotted him in another lane with his live-in partner, Raquel Amper. The two were apparently on their way to boarding another plane. The victims immediately alerted airport authorities, who in turn called the Pasay police for help.

Goldenberg managed to slip away but Amper was arrested and immediately flown to Zamboanga.

Read the full article

Prostitute Numbers Expected to Jump During DNC

By J. C. OConnell

From RH Reality Check:

Denver's goal to make August's Democratic National Convention eco-friendly could overshadow other important issues - such as the spike in prostitutes being imported to town to cater to the city's 35,000 guests.

"The amount of awareness that there is among activist communities is high. I think not a lot of (other) people have been listening," said Amanda Moon, a graduate student in international human rights at the University of Denver.

"I think this DNC is trying to achieve a lot of things that have never been done before like the green movement, which is a great movement. But a lot of energy is being focused toward that, and a lot of other issues aren't being heard."

The exact number of sex workers trafficked into the city for the DNCC would be impossible to calculate. But many metro area strip bars have already tripled their staff in preparation for the convention, said Stephanie Sharp, who has done outreach work with Denver prostitutes and works for the STD division of the Colorado Department of Public Health. "[The police] have a whole list of things they have to be concerned about as well, and prostitution and sex trafficking is not at the top," Moon added.

State Rep. Alice Borodkin, D-Denver, who has worked to crack down on human trafficking the last three years, said the convention could be a good opportunity to make contact with prostitutes brought into Denver, but logistically any outreach effort would be complicated. "My personal feeling is that we need to do a lot more. I'm not 100 percent convinced that people understand what they're looking at," Borodkin said.

Sharp said ideally outreach groups will join forces to offer resources and options outside of prostitution to any trafficked-in women.

Read the full article

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

UN Council Hails Bahrain Human Rights Actions

By Sandeep Singh Grewal

From All Headline News:

GENEVA, Switzerland- Bahrain made gender equality, women's empowerment and protection of migrant workers its main bragging points Monday as the country became the first to come under the scanner of the UN Human Rights Council here.

The three-hour interactive Universal Periodic Process session, shown live on the Web, was led by Dr. Nizar Al Baharna, minister of state for foreign affairs, who headed the Bahrain delegation. He was accompanied by lawmakers and senior government officials.

Bahrain is the first country whose human rights record will be reviewed at the Council. Forty-eight countries are scheduled to undergo the UPR process.

Representatives of member states praised Bahrain's report and said it was a model for other countries to follow.Women's empowerment was one of the main issues raised by member states.

Sameera Rajab, member of the Bahrain Shura (Consultative) Council said, "There is a law enacted which provides maternity leave for women. We will also continue to amend legislations which discriminate women."

Bahrain's only women parliamentarian, Lathifa Al Gaoud, added that "The parliament is studying a bill which enables women to work from their home. The MP's also voted unanimously for setting up a National Human Rights Commission."

Al Baharna revealed that the Commission was approved by the Bahrain cabinet and would be set up this year.

The minister also spoke about the new press law and freedom of expression and association. He added that Bahrain was considering a law to give more rights and privileges to female domestic workers.

Bahrain's report was also praised by the representative from the United States, who said the kingdom had made efforts to integrate Shias in the community and to protect expatriate workers.

However it was not all praise. Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab, who attended the session, told AHN on Monday, "It is a great disappointment that Arab countries hijacked the process by consuming time praising the report rather than raising key issues. I am also not happy with the response from Indian and Bangladeshi representatives who only praised and did not speak about protection of migrant workers," he said.

The UPR process calls for all UN member states to be reviewed over the next four years.

Read the full article

More Korean International Marriage Woes

From the Korea Times:

South Korea has increasingly come under attack for the abuse and exploitation of foreign wives, especially those from Southeast Asian countries. The plight of Vietnamese wives married to Koreans has already invited international criticism over rights abuses and human trafficking. It is heart-wrenching to read frequent stories that Vietnamese spouses were beaten to death or committed suicide ― far from realizing their ``Korean dream.''

What's more worrisome is that such a story does not stop with the ill-fated Vietnamese. The problem is now spreading to Cambodia. The Cambodian government has recently suspended processing all documents for marriages of its citizens with foreigners as a measure to minimize the possibility of human trafficking. You Ay, Cambodia's deputy minister of women's affairs, said April 3 that the suspension was prompted by concerns about exploitation and trafficking amid a surge in the number of Cambodian women marrying South Koreans.

She said the suspension affects all foreigners, not just South Koreans. But it is apparent that the measure was closely related to soaring cases of abuse of foreign wives in South Korea. She was quoted as saying that seven Cambodian women recently returned to their country because they could not endure pain from their married life with their Korean husbands. However, the official said the country has yet to uncover systematic exploitation.

The Cambodian move came after the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM) disclosed a report that thousands of South Korean men went to the Southeast Asian country to marry Cambodian women through brokers. The report featured the plight of a rising number of Cambodian brides migrating to South Korea in marriages hastily arranged by brokers who make huge profits.

A revised interracial marriage brokerage law is to go into effect in June in a bid to crack down on brokers for human trafficking-style methods. And a multicultural family support law is scheduled to take effect in September. It is urgent for the country to establish a firmer system to embrace foreign wives as well as migrant workers as indispensable members of our society. Interracial marriages now account for 10 percent of total marriages. Therefore, we have to roll up our sleeves to ensure human rights and equal opportunity for brides and workers from other countries.

Read the full article