Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Proposition to legalize prostitution strikes chord in San Francisco

By Elizabeth Pfeffer and Angela Hart

There may be truth to the cliché "sex sells," but when it comes to the sale of sex, everyone pays.

This is the central argument by both opponents and supporters of Proposition K, which would make San Francisco the first U.S. city to decriminalize prostitution.

Many sex workers say there's a cost to their line of work that goes beyond dollars and cents: Routinely exposing themselves to dangerous, sometimes violent situations, prostitutes are unable to seek the protection of the law without simultaneously exposing themselves to prosecution.


Yet the proposition's critics warn decriminalization of sex work could come at too high a price. Beyond the day-to-day protection of sex workers, they say it would draw pimps and traffickers to San Francisco like moths to a flame.

"I don't see any good coming from a law, which, if passed, would codify the exploitation of women and create a greater demand for human-trafficking victims," said Sharmin Eshraghi Bock, an Alameda County deputy district attorney who heads the Human Exploitation and Trafficking unit.


Not only would the proposition decriminalize prostitution, it would also prohibit law enforcement agencies from applying for or receiving federal and state money for programs that require compilation of racial information, a commonly used tactic in investigating human trafficking. These funds — more than $11 million, the city Budget Analyst's Office estimates — would be reallocated to programs that aim to reduce violence and discrimination against sex workers, under the proposal.


"This ballot measure reflects the myth that prostitution is a victimless crime. But the reality is this is a billion-dollar international industry of commercial sexual exploitation and child molestation," Harris said. "If passed, the measure would severely hamper the city's ability to investigate and prosecute human-trafficking cases."

City officials fear San Francisco will become a haven for human traffickers because of the provision that would prevent investigations based on racial profiling.

But the measure's proponents hope the proposal would create an even playing field for sex workers, who often say they are targeted by police based on their race, particularly Asians.

Read the full story here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Freedom, Justice, and Rock ’n’ Roll

By Steve Beard

It was Justin Dillon’s passion and profession that unexpectedly exposed him to the dark underworld of the international slave trade. He’s a musician, and his band was touring through backwater cities in Russia when a young female translator began talking about an upcoming extraordinary opportunity she had to come to the United States. When he asked for more details, he discovered that what she thought was a great opportunity was instead an elaborate and nefarious seduction — the kind of effective ruse targeting vulnerable young women around the globe.

The musical documentary Call + Response is Dillon’s ambitious and masterful artistic counterattack to an all-too-easy-to-overlook enemy who still sells men, women, and children like commodities to the highest bidders. The grainy, undercover film footage taken in Asian brothels is interspersed with the testimony of eloquent activists such as Gary Haugen of the International Justice Mission and actress Ashley Judd, as well as performances by the Cold War Kids and Matisyahu, the Orthodox Jewish reggae artist.

According to Dillon, it is not as if he tapped his speed-dials in order to call in favors from his celebrity friends: He really didn’t have any. Instead, he began cold-calling managers and agents. It worked. The film features performances by Natasha Bedingfield, Moby, Five for Fighting, Imogen Heap, Talib Kweli, Switchfoot, and the incomparable rapper Emmanuel Jal. As a child, Jal was taken from his family in Sudan in 1987 and trained to serve in the rebel army, Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). In almost five years, Jal fought in two civil wars as a child soldier. He was later smuggled out of the country by a British humanitarian. Jal began rapping to express the repercussions of his experiences.

In the midst of the rock and rap, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, actress Daryl Hannah, and Kevin Bales of the activist group Free the Slaves etch out the scope and enormity of human trafficking — what the film refers to as “the world’s 27 million most terrifying secrets.”

Continue reading here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Connecticut Man Sentenced to 360 Months in Prison for Leading Brutal Sex Trafficking Ring That Victimized U.S. Citizens

WASHINGTON, Oct 14, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Prosecution Illustrates DOJ 'Victim-Centered' Model

Dennis Paris of Middletown, Conn., was sentenced today to 360 months in prison, five years of supervised release and $46,116 in restitution for his role in organizing and facilitating a prostitution ring that victimized minors and coerced multiple young women to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. Paris --- one of 10 defendants associated with this trafficking ring --- was convicted in June 2007 on multiple counts of commercial sex trafficking through force, fraud or coercion.

"As this case illustrates, human trafficking can victimize any vulnerable person, including U.S. citizens, and girls as young as 14 years old," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Department works with non-governmental organizations to address the needs of victims and our investigators and prosecutors take the time to earn their trust. This victim-centered approach has been essential to our success in dismantling networks who exploit minors or adults for commercial sex."

Read more here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dr. Phil and the Polaris Project

Dear Friends,

This Friday, October 10th, the Dr. Phil show will address the issue of human trafficking and publicize the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) Hotline.

Tune in and hear survivors tell their stories, an FBI agent recount a recent human trafficking case in Texas, and the filmmaker behind the new documenary film Call + Response discuss his anti-trafficking efforts. Julia Ormond, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and featured actress in the new documentary film, Call + Response, will also join Dr. Phil to share her firsthand experience of witnessing and fighting human trafficking. Preview the show and find show times.

We are excited that the show will increase awareness about modern-day slavery and the services of the NHTRC hotline. We are preparing diligently for an increase in calls due to the coverage.

Currently, we receive hundreds of calls directly from trafficking victims, law enforcement agents, medical and legal professionals, community members, and policy-makers every month. In the past 10 months, the NHTRC has:

  • Answered more than 4,200 calls
  • Received calls in reference to more than 2,000 potential victims
  • Reached an audience of over 4,000 people through more than 100 trainings and presentations
  • Experienced a call volume increase of over 200% from the previous year.

More and more, as the hotline is being featured in the media, we need your help to build capacity to meet the increase in demand for hotline services.

Make a donation of $10, $50, or more right now to help ensure that hotline services are available to everyone who needs them.

Your contribution makes a significant impact in the lives of human trafficking victims.

Thank you for your support,

Katherine Chon
President and Co-founder of the Polaris Project

Monday, October 6, 2008

LAGON: Modern-day slavery--Human trafficking's terrible toll

Written by Mark P. Lagon

A millionaire perfume maker in Islip, N.Y. was convicted and sentenced to 11 years imprisonment for committing a crime - human trafficking - that most people had never heard of just five years ago. That crime is the modern-day equivalent of slavery. In this case, the victims were two Indonesian women who were beaten, starved and never allowed out of the mansion where they worked as domestic servants.

The same month, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice released the eighth annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report assessing 170 countries, a report widely considered the most authoritative account of international efforts to end modern-day slavery.

Since 2003, often based on U.S. recommendation, foreign governments have passed over 150 acts creating or amending anti-trafficking legislation to cover this crime against human freedom which is also a global health threat and a threat to national security. At home, since 2003, 39 states have approved anti-trafficking statutes to combat this despicable crime.

Across the span of his presidency, at home and abroad, George W. Bush has led U. S. government efforts to eradicate modern-day slavery.

It is a fight that has received consistent support from the White House and bipartisan backing from Congress. It is a legacy of achievement that should make Americans proud. Taking aggressive action at home is essential if the United States is to be credible and urge other nations to do more. Prostituted children are considered victims of human trafficking under U.S. law. Because U.S. law enforcement is now giving special, targeted attention to end the prostitution of children, I am able to urge other countries to do the same, especially in Latin America and Asia.

Read more here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

for the next meeting!

a quick reminder to make sure you all, if you're able to attend, come in with some ideas for T-shirt designs for our group!

make sure...
-it's simple and short!
-it catches attention
-it might possibly make them faint and fall over with surprise and shock! (after which those of us wearing said T-shirt would need to step in and make absolutely certainly the falling person is caught before impact with the ground and that they are henceforth educated about the current global slave trade!)

the next meeting will be Wednesday October 8, at 8.30pm, to make sure it's a nicely averaged start time! it'll be relatively short and will primarily be for the purpose of checking into T-shirt designs and all things related!

thanks everyone! if you've got any questions, feel free to comment here or e-mail me or any other author here on the blog!