Monday, May 12, 2008

Prostitution Suspects Could Be Victims of Trafficking

This article brings up the tricky process of determining if trafficking occurred, versus prostitution in this case. The issue of consent is especially relevant- what qualifies as consent and what qualifies as coercion? If someone consents to a certain situation knowing generally what the circumstances will be, for example prostitution, but not knowing that they will be virtually enslaved or entered into a form of debt bondage, does that qualify as consent?

By Sarah Moore

From the Beaumont Enterprise:

BEAUMONT, Texas - Possible prostitution at two spas raided last week could be linked to a Houston-area operation and be part of a worldwide human trafficking network, Beaumont police investigators say.

Police suspect one spa owner, who lives out of state, might have been the owner of a similar operation in Montgomery County before being shut down.

Beaumont Lt. Curtis Breaux said the two women arrested Wednesday, Su Han Jun, 45, and Li Zhao, 51, might be among untold numbers of foreign women lured from their homes with promises of lucrative jobs. They then are ensnared in a web of debt and coercion amounting to a form of feudal bondage, Breaux said.

The two were arrested in a sting at the Sun Spa on Old Dowlen Road and VIP Spa on Calder Avenue. Police charged each with three counts of prostitution, a Class B misdemeanor.

If convicted, the women, who are Chinese, face up to six months in jail on each count. They also could be deported, immigration officials have said.

In addition to perhaps being the iceberg tip in a much larger prostitution picture, the case also presents a prosecution challenge similar to what police and lawyers have faced in larger cities.

Police and prosecutors must grapple with small penalties for the offenses, unwilling witnesses and absentee business owners.

Women are lured to work by ads on the Internet, in newspapers and by word of mouth, according to a 2006 Dallas Morning News report.

And while some of them might have known they were expected to prostitute themselves, the issue of consent can become blurred after their arrival, said Terry Coonan, executive director of the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights at Florida State University.

"Consent is always the question. Did they consent initially, and did they continue to consent?" Coonan told the Dallas Morning News. "Even if they initially consented to doing this, even if they knew they were going to come over and work, did they know they were going to ultimately be held as a slave or not have recourse to leave and do anything else?"

Breaux said Jun and Zhao told police that they were free to come and go as they pleased.

"But that's not necessarily true," Breaux said of cases in general, adding that prostitutes often have a misplaced sense of loyalty to their pimps. "They tend to protect the people that are exploiting them."

Read the full article


  1. Excellent article. I really admire your work.

  2. Thank you for your support Malik! Are you involved in anti-trafficking work? If so what do you do?

  3. I'm not directly involved with an anti-trafficking organization or initiative, but I do try to support such organizations to the extent possible, and I examine some of the issues underlying trafficking, such as the status of women, on my blog.