A nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization providing local coverage of Chicago and the surrounding area for The New York Times.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Chicago just hosted an infuriatingly insightful show and tell on sex trafficking, with a West Side pimp providing the sordid show and a prominent legal scholar providing the tell.
It happened last week as Catharine MacKinnon packed a University of Chicago Law School auditorium for a lecture on “Trafficking, Prostitution and Inequality” just as a federal courtroom revealed the thankfully short run of United States of America v. Datqunn Sawyer, a k a “Daddy,” “P,” “P Child,” “Pharo,” “Pimpin’ P” and “Rabbit.”
When I mentioned this later, Ms. MacKinnon wasn’t aware of the coincidence. It didn’t matter. Worldwide, she’s encountered many people like Mr. Sawyer — who was convicted Monday of running a prostitution ring — and their mostly female victims.
“The underlying allegations fit perfectly into the world I study and engage,” she told me. “Going after this pimp is exactly what should be done, and the facts are standard,” she added, alluding to Mr. Sawyer’s violent ways.
Ms. MacKinnon is a charismatic, even intrepid, scholar and feminist activist who helped pioneer the legal claim for sexual harassment. She serves as special gender adviser to the International Criminal Court, she helped win a case establishing the rape of Bosnian women by Serbs as an act of genocide, and she is one of the most-cited legal scholars in the English language, said Michael Schill, the law school dean.
“She is one of the most dynamic, creative and influential legal thinkers of the past 30 years, having had extraordinary influence raising consciousness about international human rights violations in the realms of rape, prostitution and other forms of sexual abuse,” said Geoffrey Stone, a prominent University of Chicago law professor.
Richard Epstein, a colleague of Professor Stone with a libertarian and contrarian bent, is more qualified: “She is an angry feminist with a strong sense of right and wrong. In some work this manifests itself in libertarian directions by seeking out the perpetrators of mass violence against women. In other cases she is a strong egalitarian in favor of equal wage policies and the like. Always passionate, sometimes informed.”
The lecture was sponsored by the university’s Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. Ms. MacKinnon, who once taught at the university, had rock star trappings and she did not disappoint. Now at the University of Michigan, she mixed compelling analyses with dark-suited elegance and the air of a tall and graying Katharine Hepburn.
She eviscerated distinctions we tend to make — between adult and child prostitution and forced versus voluntary labor, for example. She pilloried some academics’ notion of prostitutes as “sex workers” who act voluntarily and gain a certain liberation, even sexual equality, by being compensated.
Legalization only accelerates illegal prostitution, she said, and most prostitutes never exit poverty. Such exploitation was clear in the Sawyer trial, where David Peilet, a defense lawyer with a hopeless task, did not contest the core allegations.
Testimony showed that nine females who worked for Mr. Sawyer were often homeless and destitute; one was a chronic runaway with bipolar disorder. He impregnated three of the mostly underage girls. They often worked along Cicero Avenue, beside railroad tracks, in cars and alleys, and occasionally in hotels, including a W.
He beat them with a studded belt, his fists, a hammer and the heel of a shoe. In her lecture, Ms. MacKinnon spoke of a diabolically effective strategy by which pimps enforce dependence by “distancing the body and psyche” through brute force and drug addiction.
Mr. Sawyer took in from $100 to $1,000 from each one daily and kept them impoverished, as detailed by Michelle Nasser and Marc Krickbaum, the prosecutors. If they did well, he might let them sleep in a bed with him. Otherwise, it was on a couch or the floor of a small apartment.
Like many Americans, I associate sex trafficking with faraway lands.
“Trafficking happens here and men are spending tiny sums of money, relative to their incomes, to get sexual profits and pleasure out of people who would not be there were it not for child sexual abuse, domestic violence and destitution,” said Kaethe Morris Hoffer, legal director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation.
When I spoke with the prosecutors after the quick verdict, I wondered about Mr. Sawyer’s victims.
The government is trying to help them. Yet, as Ms. Nasser said with fittingly tragic understatement, “It messes them up for a long time.”
A version of this article appeared in print on November 25, 2011, on page A27A of the National edition with the headline: Raising Awareness of Sex Trafficking, One Lecture at a Time.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
After signing Massachusetts' anti-human trafficking bill into law yesterday in his office at the State House, Governor Deval Patrick said, "it has been a long time trying to pass a more modern, more focused, more effective law to deal with a devastating issue that effects all corners of the Commonwealth."
Indeed, for six years, legislators like Senator Mark Montigny and non-profits like the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) have worked to help stop the spread of international sex trafficking with a strong bill in Massachusetts. When the process began, Massachusetts was among the first states in the nation to address the growing crisis. But now, Massachusetts is the 47th state to finally adopt an anti-human trafficking bill into law.
Even so, as Senator Montigny, the Governor, and others noted, the law now propels Massachusetts to the forefront of both prosecution and victim protection. "This law sets a new standard in the nation," Senator Montigny said. "Trafficking is enslaving another human being, and this bill puts those people in jail, but it also remembers the victims."
Attorney General Martha Coakley also offered words of praise for the bill's comprehensive approach, and for the coalition that helped see all its provisions onto the governor's desk. "A true partnership of government and the not-for-profit sector made this bill possible," she noted.
"The victim protections, including the establishment of a Victims Trust Fund to help with the long process of rehabilitation, make the bill a far more effective tool for dealing with this international problem, which often ensnares young immigrants in a dreadful spiral of abuse," said Eva Millona, Executive Director at MIRA. "We are very pleased that the bill addresses both sides of this vital issue, and that the issue has had the support of Attorney General Coakley, Governor Patrick, Senator Montigny, and leadership on both sides of the aisle. It was a long trip, but now we can finally begin the real work of providing relief to victims and punishment to abusers, and begin to end this international nightmare."
Monday, November 21, 2011
Friday, November 18, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Fighting Back, One Brothel Raid at a Time
Published: November 12, 2011
ANLONG VENG, Cambodia
Nicholas D. Kristof/The New York Times
Damon Winter/The New York Times
AGAINST my better judgment, I found myself the other day charging into a well-armed brothel in a police raid. But I was comforted to be with one of my heroes, Somaly Mam.
Somaly dedicates her life to battling forced prostitution, for she herself was sold as a child to a Cambodian brothel. After enduring torture and rapes, Somaly escaped and reinvented herself as an anti-trafficking activist.
It’s partly because of grass-roots activists like Somaly, both in the United States and abroad, that human trafficking is increasingly recognized as a central human rights challenge. A U.N. agency estimates that more than 12 million people are engaged in forced labor, including sexual servitude. Another U.N. report has estimated that in Asia alone, “one million children are involved in the sex trade under conditions that are indistinguishable from slavery.”
In the abstract, the 21st-century abolitionist movement sounds uplifting and even glamorous. But riding beside Somaly in her car toward a brothel bristling with AK-47 assault rifles, it was scary.
This town of Anlong Veng is in northern Cambodia near the Thai border, with a large military presence; it feels like something out of the Wild West. Somaly, whose efforts are financed mostly through American supporters of herSomaly Mam Foundation, had sneaked into this brothel and surreptitiously photographed very young girls. With the photographs, she convinced Cambodia’s anti-trafficking police to mount the raid.
It didn’t help my nerves that Somaly, whom I’ve known for years, is fearless. Brothel-owners have fought back ferociously against Somaly: They’ve sent death threats, held a gun to her head and shot up her car.
“We all know that our lives are in danger,” she says, a little too cavalierly. “I’ve never been so happy in my life. They can kill me now.”
When Somaly refused to back off, she said the traffickers kidnapped her 14-year-old daughter and gang-raped the girl with a video camera rolling. The daughter was recovered in a brothel, and Somaly blames herself. It’s a credit to the courage of mother and daughter that they remain steadfast, upbeat and close, and determined to make a difference. These days, Somaly is very careful with that daughter and her other children.
The three unmarked police cars ahead of us pulled up in front of the brothel, and the police and prosecutor ran in. Somaly and I followed and watched as police with assault rifles confiscated cellphones from the brothel manager, a middle-aged woman, and her male partner, so that they couldn’t call for reinforcements.
We quickly found five girls and one young woman, three Cambodians and three Vietnamese. The youngest turned out to be a seventh grader trafficked from Vietnam three months earlier, making her about 12 years old.
The anti-trafficking police found 10 rooms equipped with beds and full of discarded condoms in the trash; the rooms all locked with padlocks from the outside, presumably to incarcerate girls inside. Several other young girls Somaly had photographed in her earlier visit couldn’t be found, despite a frantic search of all the locked rooms. “They’re probably kept at another house in town, but we don’t know where it is,” Somaly said.
Soon the mood turned ugly. The brothel-owning family had strong military connections, and the man was wearing the uniform of a senior military officer. Someone inside the brothel must have called in reinforcements, and seven armed soldiers soon arrived to order the police and prosecutor to release the military officer. The prosecutor responded with courage and integrity. He declared that the military officer would have to be taken to the police station. “If you want to stop me, you can shoot me if you dare,” he told the soldiers.
The soldiers backed down, but, in the end, the army officer was not charged. The woman, who had more day-to-day involvement in managing the girls, is expected to be prosecuted, and the brothel presumably will now be out of operation. The girls were placed in a shelter run by Somaly, and they are receiving plenty of love from other girls previously extricated from sexual slavery.
That’s how the battle against human trafficking is being fought around the world. Ultimately, the way to end this scourge is to make it less profitable and more risky for the traffickers. Above all, that means targeting not the girls but putting traffickers and pimps in jail, whether in Cambodia or in New York.
Slowly, that is happening. I can see the progress here in Cambodia, where 10-year-old girls were openly for sale when I began reporting on forced prostitution. Now they’re still sold, but fewer of them, and more discreetly — and traffickers are going to jail. There may well be prostitution a century from now, but we don’t have to accept 12-year-olds being raped until they get AIDS.
In the 19th century, the world conquered traditional slavery. And in this century, with leaders like Somaly, we can emancipate the victims of human trafficking.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Although since 2003 the Spanish Penal Code has dictated prison sentences of several years for pandering sex services, to date there is only one person in jail for this crime, according to sociologist Silvia Pérez Freire, an associate professor at Vigo University who has written on prostitution in Galicia.
The macro-clubs have around 100 women and can receive up to 500 or 600 clients a night
Spain, she says, is "abolitionist on paper," but it goes no further as "there is a generalized complicity between the public authorities [politicians, judges, and law enforcement agencies] and the pimps."
For the last eight years, Pérez Freire has been researching an industry that has been allowed to thrive as a result of the gray area surrounding prostitution in Spain, where it is neither legal nor illegal, merely unregulated.
"The pimp is someone with power and social influence, he normally owns other companies that he uses to launder money," she says, adding that most clubs have "collaborators" in the police force.
"Almost all clubs have strong communication channels with the law enforcement agencies," she said during a recent talk in Santiago de Compostela.
A survey of prostitution clients carried out by the Center for Sociological Studies in 2009 - the most ambitious in Spain to date - showed that 32.1 percent of men have hired prostitutes, and 15 percent of them do so regularly.
Successive surveys by the Department of Feminist Studies at Vigo University have yielded different results depending on the number of respondents. In interviews with 214 men working in various industrial sectors in Vigo and Santiago, 45.3 percent said they paid for sex for physiological, social, leisure or emotional reasons, in that order.
Of these, 51 percent were between 30 and 41 years old, and 79.4 percent had a steady girlfriend or a wife. In fact, most of the brothel clients said that they selected the woman who looked the least like their regular partners, and that what they valued the most about brothels was the possibility of going to bed with exotic women, in addition to being able to choose the moment of sex. The inter-racial atmosphere and the man's dominant role fueled their sexual fantasies.
Exoticism is guaranteed in this "microcosm of fictitious flirtation," says Pérez Freire, who has visited most brothels in the Galician region. There, she explains, women work on a rotational basis, spending a few days at one club, then moving on to another. This means that between 8,000 and 10,000 women work as prostitutes in Galicia each year. In that time, any one woman can work "in up to three or four countries."
The prostitutes working in Galicia do business in private apartments, on the streets or in the 232 clubs in the region - four of which are considered 'sex supermarkets' because of the size of their 'staff' and their turnover. They are "macro-clubs with around 100 women," which can receive up to 500 or 600 clients on a weekend night, according to Pérez Freire.
The Department of Feminist Studies at Vigo University is currently conducting three lines of research on prostitution. After publishing other books on the subject, Silvia Pérez and colleague Águeda Gómez continue to explore other sectors of society, from the auto industry to universities, unions and law firms, to draw a portrait of the average prostitution client in Galicia.
There is, in fact, not one average profile, but at least four broad personality types, who share certain traits: they believe that the prostitute is there because she wants to be; they think she is lucky to be earning money in exchange for sex; they believe that men are programmed to have sex frequently and that this animal instinct cannot be placated (they feel the only programming that women have, on the other hand, is to have a child every nine months); brothels allow clients to have sex whenever they like, and with the female body type of their choice, without any commitment on their part; finally, they feel that males, unlike females, "know how to distinguish between sex and love." These comments came up time and again in interviews conducted by the researchers from Vigo University.
In this context, prostitution is a convenient kind of sex in all respects, and "one of the things that interviewees valued the most" was not having to win the woman over before sex, nor having to talk with her afterwards. In addition, the men valued the fact that that nobody questioned their performance afterwards. An additional perk to brothels is the fact that there is an unwritten rule that nobody ever talks about what goes on within their walls. "This makes them very attractive for politicians and influential people," says Pérez Freire.
The four main types of clients identified by researchers are: the homo sexualis, whose self-esteem depends on how often he has sex and with how many women; the samaritan, who seeks a relationship of sex and friendship with a woman weaker than himself and sometimes establishes sentimental relationships with them; the homo economicus, which includes the younger clients, who like to collect women and emotions; and finally, the homo politicus, who has a certain awareness that what he is doing is wrong, but who does it anyway.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
The FSU Center for the Advancement of Human Rights
Is proud to present a special screening of
And book signing of Prof. Wendi Adelson’s new book “This is Our Story” starting at 7:00p.m.
Where: Student Life Cinema, 942 Learning Way (FSU main campus)
When: Monday, November 7th
Book signing starting at 7:00 p.m.
* Refreshments will be served at 7:00p.m.
Film will start at 7:30 p.m.
Admission is free and open to the public.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Thursday, November 3, 2011
By DAVID CARR
Published: October 30, 2011
What if the price of having a vital, well-financed string of newspapers included rare, but inevitable, sexual predation of minors?
Not a tough call, right? But maybe more complicated than you think for the businesses involved.
Before you head out for the lanterns and pitchforks, it’s worth remembering that a free press is not free. One of the offshoots of free speech is that it will be used to pernicious ends. In this instance, Village Voice Media has a classified network calledBackpage.com that includes a section labeled “adult” with categories like “escort” and “strippers & strip clubs.” The vast majority of ads involves one consenting adult seeking another, but there have been instances in which the section was used to offer minors for sexual ends.
Village Voice Media is controlled by Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey, whose weeklies include The Village Voice, Westword and Phoenix New Times. It has an anything-goes approach to advertising, but in a digital age, that policy has new implications.
In September 2010, Craigslist, which hosted a great deal of sexually related advertising, bowed to pressure and banned that advertising in the United States. A number of crimes, including several murders, had been linked to ads on the site, and many critics, including a number of state attorneys general, suggested that Craigslist was enabling the trafficking of minors.
A significant portion of the estimated $44 million in sex-related advertising on Craigslist found a home on Backpage.com. Like a lot of newspapers, Village Voice Media’s chain of 13 weeklies has struggled through the terrible economic cycle and big changes in advertising spending, so the revenue from Backpage.com, much of it unrelated to sex, has played a critical role in its survival.
But in August the country’s 51 attorneys general sent a letter demanding that the site close its “adult” section, and now a coalition of religious leaders has joined that effort. Last Tuesday, Groundswell, an interfaith social justice group sponsored by Auburn Seminary in New York, published a full-page ad in The New York Times that was signed by clergy members of all stripes and cited the arrests of adults who had sold minors for sex using Backpage.com. The ad stated, “It is a basic fact of the moral universe that girls and boys should not be sold for sex.”
“While we empathize with your business challenges and the increasingly difficult marketplace in which Village Voice Media competes,” the letter went on, “we trust that you are committed to running your business without compromising the lives of our nation’s boys and girls.”
The Rev. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, the president of Auburn Theological Seminary, said that while the issue was complicated, the bottom line was not.
“On Backpage.com, you can buy a toaster, a car or a girl for sex,” she said. “We agree with the attorney generals on the legal issues, but we are raising this as a moral issue. Even if one minor is sold for sex, it is one too many.”
Mr. Larkin and Mr. Lacey are accustomed to having people come after them. They were harassed and arrested in the middle of the night in response to the coverage by one of their newspapers of Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz. Mr. Lacey, who has made a career out of tweaking the powers that be, sees this battle as no different.
“I am beginning to like our odds,” he said. “We have all these practicing politicians and concerned clergy after us. We must be doing something right.”
In a phone call, he and Mr. Larkin pointed out that Web sites likeBackpage.com are not legally responsible for posted content and added that the company had spent millions on both human and technological efforts to screen ads that feature minors. They said they had worked with law enforcement officials and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in an effort to make sureBackpage.com’s “adult” section included only adults.
Both men see the debate as a free speech issue.
“We have always had a very libertarian approach to advertising,” said Mr. Larkin, adding that classifieds represented 30 to 35 percent of their business. “We don’t ban cigarettes, we take adult advertising. We take ads that sell guns.”
From their perspective, the claims of their opponents are wildly exaggerated and all the money being spent trying to wipe out advertising would be better spent on the root causes of the problem, including drug addiction, poverty and family abuse.
“There is a lot of mythmaking around the issue and I think it’s a way of avoiding the real problem,” Mr. Lacey said.
Rob McKenna, the attorney general of Washington State and the head of the association of attorneys general that went after both Craigslist and now Backpage.com, says the issue goes beyond minors.
“I think we have to be careful to protect the First Amendment rights of publishers, but free speech does not extend to the knowing facilitation of criminal activity,” he said. “This is not just about children being prostituted, this is about human beings being trafficked into the sex trades, as adults and as children.”
It’s no news to anyone that sex is an integral component of the Internet and much of the mainstream media. Early on, AOL included lots of raunchy backrooms. The brand-name cable channels make a great deal of money on sexually explicit content, and if someone is looking to buy sex, there are any number of Web sites that cater to all manner of interests.
It’s worth remembering that while pressure from the attorneys general and Congress led to a change at Craigslist, the whack-a-mole on the Web continues. If Backpage.com retreats — not likely given the predispositions of its owners — some other alternative will immediately take its place.
It reminds me a great deal of the early 1990s, when I was the editor of The Twin Cities Reader, an alternative weekly in Minneapolis. At the time, we were under fire for publishing ads for strip clubs, escort services and massage parlors. The staff and the publisher at the time, R. T. Rybak, were keenly attuned to the community and always looking for points of difference from City Pages, our weekly competitor. With support from the staff, Mr. Rybak announced that we would no longer take ads that “objectified” women, a bold move. It was thought that beyond the good will we earned in the community, other, nonracy advertisers might find our paper to be a more suitable platform.
Our critics, including many women’s groups, were thrilled at their victory and congratulated us on our sensitivity. The policy went into effect, wiping out, as I recall, about 15 percent of the bottom line. City Pages left its ad policy unchanged. Some of what we lost went to them and little in the way of new ads materialized to fill the hole.
City Pages eventually became the dominant paper — in part because it was very good and run by smart people — and when, yes, Village Voice Media decided to enter the market, it bought both papers and closed The Twin Cities Reader. I was gone by then, but I thought the decision to be selective about ads contributed to its demise.
I called Mr. Rybak, who is now the mayor of Minneapolis, to ask if he regretted the decision.
“It was absolutely the right move,” he said. “When you engage in a certain kind of journalism that is designed to be an alternative to the mainstream, you have a special obligation to have your editorial, your values and your advertising align.”
“If we had more time, I think it may have worked out,” he said. “But I often think about what would have happened if we had those two pages of ads in the back. Would the paper still be around? It wasn’t the only reason it went out of business, but it played a role.”
Although Mr. Larkin and Mr. Lacey hardly agree, they are taking their own version of a principled stand. And just because it aligns with their business interests doesn’t mean it isn’t valid.