Brainstormed Solutions

Christian Science Monitor has been working on a fascinating project to analyze best-practices in combatting human trafficking and recently put together a list of 6 innovative and effective solutions. Check them out here!

 

Human trafficking: 6 solutions that are working

By: Michael Holtz of the Christian Science Monitor

January 25, 2016

 

1. ‘Fair food’ labeling for US produce

Farm workers in Immokalee, Fla., have pushed corporations such as Walmart to submit to “clean labor” audits to cut down on the exploitation of largely Mexican, Haitian, and Guatemalan migrants. Their efforts have helped spur the use of “Fair Food” labels for produce that is grown and packed ethically.

 

“In the past three years, [the tomato fields in Immokalee] have gone from being the worst to the best” in the country, according to Susan Marquis, dean of the Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, Calif.

Last fall, Giant and Stop & Shop, two grocery chains in New England, began carrying the label. Similar labels such as “Food Justice Certified,” which expands farm worker protections to organic products, are also beginning to crop up on supermarket shelves across the country.

Such sourcing clues tap directly into the portion of the US consumer base that has begun to turn once routine shopping decisions into moral guideposts. Labor experts see a lot of promise in using labels as a tool to spread the reforms seen in Immokalee to other agricultural centers around the US.

2. Empower migrant workers and trafficking victims

One of the biggest challenges human trafficking victims face is what to do once they’re back on their own.

In Thailand, the Issara Institute helps formerly enslaved migrant workers by directly giving them cash with no strings attached. The philosophy behind the program is simple: No one knows the needs of human trafficking victims better than the victims themselves. Yet they often lack the resources to address them. By giving them the ability to make their own decisions, the unconditional handouts provide a sense of autonomy that these individuals haven’t experienced in months, if not years.

Across the United States, a handful of nonprofit organizations are working to connect with isolated domestic servants to show them that help is available.

Damayan Migrant Workers Association, a grass-roots group in New York that assists Filipino trafficking victims, provides a model for how to transform a cycle of victimization. Former victims become advocates for others, demanding changes to legal and economic structures that facilitate the trafficking of domestic workers. They also formed a co-op, allowing the former victims to become their own bosses.

They have pressured embassies when diplomatic immunity was shielding traffickers from prosecution, and have helped some women win financial settlements. Damayan’s members played a key role in New York becoming the first of several states to pass a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

3. Joint police-NGO task forces

A small antitrafficking team in Seattle is showing how legal action can be an effective tool in fighting forced labor when detectives, prosecutors, and social workers learn to collaborate.

In its first decade of operations, the task force investigated more than 140 cases of potential human trafficking and prosecuted 60 of those. Given the difficulty of bringing such cases, this is well above average for a prosecutorial district. In September, Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the task force an “extraordinary partnership.”

Experts say the force’s success stems from its ability to bridge the worlds of nongovernment organizations and diverse law enforcement agencies. Where antitrafficking efforts in some other cities have broken down, the members of this team “have come back to the table” after setbacks, says Kirsten Foot, the author of “Collaborating Against Human Trafficking.”

4. Labor trafficking lawsuits in US courts

In February 2015, a federal court awarded five Indian workers $14 million in a labor trafficking lawsuit against Signal International, a maritime construction company, for abuses they faced while repairing offshore oil and gas facilities damaged by hurricane Katrina.

Five months later, Signal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to implement a $20 million settlement with more than 200 other workers who had their own lawsuits pending. It was, lawyers say, the largest monetary penalty ever in a labor trafficking lawsuit, making it a model for how to fight labor trafficking – both in the courtroom and out.

In Mexico and the US, advocates say abuses that can add up to trafficking in the agriculture industry often go unchecked because foreign workers are required to leave the United States at the end of each season. Back home, they are far away from the US legal system that might help them push for justice against abusive or exploitive employers.

To correct this, lawyers, NGOs, government representatives, and migrant advocates have worked together pursue cross-border justice. This includes finding plaintiffs in Mexico and other countries willing to testify in US courts; many don’t know that they are entitled to legal recourse. The work is painstaking and time-consuming, but provides a path to reducing labor trafficking and migrant worker exploitation.

5. Make foreign recruiters register with the state

From Silicon Valley to the Central Valley, California industries rely on about 130,000 foreign guest workers to do everything from tech jobs to picking grapes, peaches, and almonds. Three out of four of them are hired through labor contractors, according to rough estimates. A new law has the potential to transform the way those contractors do business – and protect vulnerable workers.

The California Foreign Labor Recruitment Law, the first of its kind in the nation, requires recruiters to meet certain conditions and register with the state. Taking effect in July, it forces businesses that want to use foreign-labor contractors to work with only those that are registered, and to tell the state which contractors they are using. It provides a host of protections for workers, including a rule against charging them any fees.

“People should be able to look up in a registry who is legitimate and who isn’t,” says Kay Buck, executive director of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking in Los Angeles. “With transparency, the prevalence of modern slavery decreases.”

6. Supply chain transparency

A cluster of California class-action lawsuits against corporations such as Costco is pushing the envelope on accountability for human trafficking in supply chains. The keyword is transparency: If companies are forced to disclose when labor abuses are involved in making a product, they may be more likely to vigorously police their suppliers.

That level of disclosure would go significantly beyond the letter of a 2010 law. The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act requires large retail and manufacturing companies to disclose on their websites what, if anything, they are doing to eradicate trafficking and slavery among suppliers.

In the global cocoa industry, efforts to clean up supply chains have already helped address widespread child labor abuses. Each of the world’s top five chocolate producers – from Nestlé to Mars to Hershey’s – are developing or expanding third-party inspection systems meant to, among other goals, eliminate child trafficking and child labor by 2020 on the farms where they source cocoa.

Meanwhile, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire – together responsible for about 70 percent of global cocoa output – have responded to international pressure by passing laws prohibiting child trafficking and overwork, and mandating primary school attendance.

7. How you can help

  • Here are some of the organizations featured in our series on human trafficking:
  1. The Association of People for Practical Life Education is a Ghana-based organization that works to free trafficked children, including those in the cocoa industry.
  2. Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, the first transnational migrant workers’ rights organization based in Mexico, seeks to improve the conditions of low-wage workers in the US.
  3. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is a Florida-based human rights organization that works to protect migrant farm workers and promote consumer awareness through its Fair Food Program.
  4. The Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking is a Los Angeles-based organization that assists labor trafficking victims and works toward ending all instances of human trafficking.
  5. The Damayan Migrant Workers Association is a grass-roots group in New York that assists Filipino domestic workers to fight for their labor, health, gender, and migration rights.
  6. Free the Slaves is a Washington-based organization that works in human trafficking hot spots across the world to liberate slaves and change the conditions that allow slavery to persist.
  7. The Global Workers Justice Alliance is a New York-based organization that aids transnational migrants through a cross-border network of worker advocates and resources.
  8. The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center is a US-based organization that leads national efforts to hold human traffickers accountable for their crimes and to raise awareness of victims’ rights.
  9. The Issara Institute is a Bangkok-based organization that aids human trafficking victims through unconditional cash transfers and other services such as legal support, medical care, and job placement.
  10. ProDESC, the Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights Project, is a Mexico-based organization that works with migrants, miners, and indigenous communities to defend and advance their rights.
  11. The Southern Poverty Law Center is an Alabama-based group that uses litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy to fight human trafficking and other forms of civil and human rights abuses.
  12. The Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network is a coalition of non-governmental organizations that provide direct services to victims of human trafficking in the State of Washington.

 

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Panama’s Human Trafficking Story

By: Izzy Ullmann

The human trafficking story in Panama is one I have heard before, but never officially: human trafficking does not exist. According to Jenise Lawrence*, an American attorney working to combat human trafficking in Panama, this is the story that the government puts out.

And yet, the US 2015 Annual Trafficking in Persons Report reports Panama as a source, transit, and destination country for primarily sex, but also labor trafficking.

I sat down with Jenise Lawrence* in Panama City to learn about the dynamics that she has noted working on this issue (almost solely in the country). As she explained, prostitution in Panama is legal above the age of 18, thus easing traffickers’ ability to sell their victims. About 80% of those trafficked into the sex trade are from Latin America and the Caribbean. Many are brought through a specific visa program, called alternadora, which the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs explains specifically allows foreign national women to work in entertainment establishments [Read more here]. In a leaked report of the US Trafficking in Persons Office’s visit to Panama in 2006, Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez emphatically stated her distaste for what she deemed, “the alternadora visa for prostitutes,” and wished to speak to the president about abolishing the visa program.  According to Lawrence, however, 12 years later the visa is still being used rampantly.

As Lawrence explained, different mafias control much of the sex industry, which serves as one of the primary reasons that the government is paralyzingly tentative to intervene. She mapped out for me the domains of mafia- controlled prostitution.

Venezuelans and Columbians exert a great degree of control over the sex industry in Panama City and the Colón Free Trade Zone. In the Chinese community, there are a few families with concentrated power. These families go to China and bring back people who are willing to be indentured servants. They are then brought to work in Chinito stores for no pay and are provided housing above or behind the shops, subject to debt bondage. As the Russian embassy has gained in power in Panama, there has additionally been an increased presence of the Russian mafia bringing eastern European girls to the country for trafficked prostitution.

As she described it, human trafficking exists as a pretty well organized criminal network. The industry has been working to improve its sex-tourism, and has coordinated taxi drivers and hotel managers and staff to direct wealthy businessmen to prostitutes, all the while making a cut of the profits.

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Child Trafficking campaign poster in Tocumen International Airport, Panama City

In 2014, Panama’s Ministry of Tourism launched a measly effort to raise awareness about human trafficking with posters in the airport, but this was the extent of the campaign. It was catalyzed by a scandal in which a Columbian couple was caught kidnapping children, killing them, and selling their organs. This enraged people in Panama City where the scandal occurred, and provided fuel for the campaign, but the charges “mysteriously” were dropped and neither of the couple was prosecuted.

This reflects a much larger issue that Panama faces of a debauched legal system. Due process is typically nonexistent and according to several locals, the corrupt police force accept bribes for most crimes. Lawrence explained that along the Columbian border, the Panamanian guards are being constantly paid off by the Columbian traffickers to ensure that they do not expose the criminals.

 

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Immigrant sleeping in shelter, Darien Province, Panama

Another issue that feeds into the exploitation of humans is Panama’s identity as a destination and transit country for immigration. Because of its relatively stable economy, the World Bank calculated the net migration to Panama in 2012 as about 28,105, which (factoring in those that are emigrating from the country) comes to about 100 people immigrating into Panama per day.  According to Lawrence, about 60% of them plan to stay, while 40% are headed towards Mexico or the United States. Despite this high number of incomers, Lawrence explains that Panama only has two official shelters for incoming migrants: one which hosts 25 women, and another which holds 65 men. When these shelters reach capacity, government officials drive immigrants in cattle trucks to a central location where they  are dumped and told they have 48 hours to leave the country. According to Lawrence, “The problem is so overwhelming to the government.” She continued, “[Immigrants] are not allowed to settle. They are all illegal but the country does not know what to do. The people do not have papers for Panama, they are not allowed to go into Costa Rica or any other country that would allow them transit through Panama or to stay in Panama, and Panama does not have the resources to send them back to their country of origin.” And few people do leave immediately. Many of these people are expertly linked into underground networks of trafficking, especially for sex.

Panama_Canal

Container ship, Panama Canal

With limited border patrol, trafficking a person into the country is fairly easy. Lawrence explained that people are trafficked over the Columbian border, through the airports, and in cargo ships through the Panama Canal. She described a survivor from Malaysia who she’d met in an orphanage who had escaped her container on a ship and swam to the edge of the Canal to freedom.

But it is not just foreign nationals; Panamanians are being trafficked too. Lawrence told me a story about two indigenous girls who were simply riding in a taxi one day and were kidnapped by their taxi driver, taken to the border where they were raped and drugged and then forced to work in a push button hotel [essentially a secret room with a menu of women who you can purchase at an hourly rate].  Below is a pretty gross video about push buttons.

 

While the US Trafficking in Persons Report for the past 10 or so years has placed Panama as Tier 2, and commended it for some steps towards combatting trafficking, Lawrence explains how each of Panama’s supposed efforts are moot. The 2015 TIP report says that in 2014, “authorities investigated 11 new trafficking cases, four for sex trafficking and seven for labor trafficking,” and has reported back similar numbers in the 2008, 2011, and 2014 reports, but according to Lawrence, “not one person has been prosecuted.” She explained that the judicial system and enforcement of component of law enforcement is essentially nonexistent. This sentiment was reinforced by many people I spoke to in Panama. The 2015 report also details a “dedicated helpline for reporting human trafficking cases,” but Lawrence counters that, “in reality, there is no phone number or anyone dedicated to the hotline, and if there was, I am sure they were not trained correctly.”

But underlying this slew of issues, Lawrence explains that there is a general apathy about human trafficking. Most people do not know it exists, and those that do are are plagued by the its-not-my-problem mentality. This blockades the serious action needed.

From mafia-controlled areas of the country to an overwhelming immigration problem to an uncoordinated and corrupt justice system to an apathetic public, Panama sure has a lot of issues on its hands. But they do seem solvable. Awareness needs to be raised more fully, especially in schools so that students know about the potential risks that could befall them. And the judicial and legal systems need to be made more accountable, through police trainings, crackdowns on corruption, and instilling an attitude of responsibility among law enforcement and justice officials.

Contrary to public knowledge, human trafficking exists in Panama. Foreigners like Lawrence could continue to enter the country and try to determine ways of combatting the human slavery, but the Panamanian people ultimately need to figure out how to improve their own system to eradicate this problem and protect their citizens and immigrants.

 

Read more about Panama’s human trafficking via The Protection Project’s report. 

 

*name has been changed for anonymity to allow her to maintain legal status in the country

 

The Work Happening in Israel

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Last month, I had the honor to meet with two different Jerusalem-based organizations that address human trafficking in Israel. Mihal Leibel who heads the Task Force on Human Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 11.16.59 AMTrafficking of Atzum and Shari Eshet, the director of the Israel office of the National Coalition of Jewish Women briefed
me on the issues and efforts going on in the
country.
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For the 4th year in a row, Israel has ranked a tier 1 on the US State Department TIP Report — a significant victory in the anti-trafficking efforts going on in the country, but the story is much more complicated than that. Just a little over 10 years ago, Israel was shocked into action by their status as tier 3 on the TIP report and the possibility of sanctions. They illegalized human trafficking, set up state-funded safe shelters around the country, and set a 16-year prison sentence for exploiters.

In Israel, part of the legal definition of trafficking requires cross-border movement. Because of Israel’s very strong borders, legally defined trafficking as suffered extreme losses. As Mihal Leibel, from Atzum noted, “Israel is like an island– it is relatively easy to control its borders,” unlike many countries in which fluid borders exacerbate issues of human trafficking. The fence erected in 2013 on the Egyptian border was a major step in definitively reducing (and almost completely eliminating) illegal immigration (and thus trafficking) from Africa. Using the legal definition of trafficking, Israeli lawyers have been able to prosecute the cases of the over 50,000 Eritrean refugees that escaped to Israel from torture camps where they were held for ransom in the Sinai before the fence was built.

Fence on the Israel-Egypt border

Fence on the Israel-Egypt border

Yet despite the crackdown on international trafficking, what both Mihal and Shari Eshet, of the National Coalition of Jewish Women, explained to me is the prevalence of “local prostitution.” It may not be considered human trafficking by the legal definition, but it is prevalent and exploitative. The penal code in Israel legalizes prostitution and the buying of sex, but it deems illegal pimping, procuring, pandering, promoting prostitution, or owning a brothel. Mihal argues that in defining them in two separate contexts, the law essentially creates a moral judgment– deeming in-country “prostitution” as not as bad as “human trafficking,” regardless of their comparable effects. The long term effects of cross-border sex trafficking and local prostitution are similar: PTSD, disassociation, violence (a prostitute is 200x more likely to be raped than the average citizen), and death.

It is always hard to hone in on specific demographics of those vulnerable to prostitution and those buying their services, but Mihal and Shari both helped lay out some of the basics. Three main characteristics, when in combination, make a person vulnerable to prostitution: 1) previous sexual trauma, 2) parental neglect (especially when it leads to becoming a runaway), 3) poverty. Those buying sex in set aside venues (ie. ‘massage parlors’ and brothels) range from Russian immigrants to ultra orthodox Jews. When there is a demand, the industry provides. As Mihal sarcastically noted, there is no fear of people being trafficked into oncology or law, but a demand for prostitutes open the doors for exploitative provision of services.

There has been a strong move in Israel in the last couple years, spearheaded by Atzum’s Task Force on Human Trafficking, to embrace the Nordic model which would criminalize the purchase of sexual services. This would reduce the demand and attack commercial sexual exploitation as both an economic and a social phemoninon. This has not been embraced all around, though, for some organizations (including the National Council of Jewish Women) worry that it infringes upon sex workers rights.

The conversation continues about who is to be blamed, who is to be considered a victim, which organizations are to be supported, and where the legal system needs to intercede, but it is encouraging to know that Israeli political, legal, and nongovernmental entities are fully engaged in that conversation and are working to make the country one where exploitation does not reign.

FBI Crackdown on MyRedbook

MyRedbook, essentially a site where clients can scroll through women to buy, has been notorious for its perpetuation of human trafficking. Traffickers post their victims on the site, along with bogus descriptions and concocted ages, allowing them to reach clients easily. Finally, the site has been seized by the FBI as a part of a national crackdown on sex trafficking, rescuing a slew of victims.

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Bay Area Prostitutions Site ‘Myredbook’ Seized by Feds

Published 1:16 pm, Wednesday, June 25, 2014
  SAN FRANCISCO — A Bay Area-based website that for years has catered to prostitutes and johns was seized by federal investigators Wednesday amid multiple arrests and search-warrant raids throughout Northern California.

The website, myredbook.com, allowed sex workers to advertise their services and customers to rank their experiences. It purported to offer escorts, exotic dancers and other adult entertainment.

“This domain name has been seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as a result of a joint investigation by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service,” said a federal notice posted on the website Wednesday.

“This domain name is subject to both civil and criminal forfeiture. This seizure is based on probable cause to believe that this domain name was involved in money laundering derived from racketeering based on prostitution in violation of state and federal law.”

Peter Lee, an FBI spokesman in San Francisco, confirmed that the FBI “conducted multiple arrests and search warrants in the Bay Area” on Wednesday morning, but would not say why. He said one search warrant was conducted in Mountain View.

CNN reported Wednesday that the seizure of the website was related to a national crackdown on sex trafficking this month that authorities said led to the rescue of 168 children and the arrest of 281 pimps.

In the Bay Area, six underage teenagers were rescued and 13 suspected pimps arrested, authorities said Monday.

Vivian Ho is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: vho@sfchronicle.comTwitter: @VivianHo

A Different Approach to Prostitution in Amsterdam

By legalizing, regulating, and broadening the collective attention to prostitution in the world-famous Red Light District, Amsterdam is taking a different approach to the issue. With enforced 21 and over age limits, sex-workers unions, and the building of a new museum to show prostitutes’ stories from behind the glass, Amsterdam is working to ensure that prostitution is a legitimate industry, not one that is run by a vile underground of traffickers and tainted by coercion or manipulation. Read about their interesting approach:

RED LIGHTS DISTRICT MUSEUM OPENS IN AMSTERDAM TO TEACH THE REALITY OF PROSTITUTION

By TOBY STERLING,  Associated Press
February 5, 2014 at 5:43 am
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AMSTERDAM (AP) — “On any given evening, thousands of tourists stroll down the narrow canal-side streets of Amsterdam’s famed Red Light District, gawking at ladies in lingerie who work behind windows, making a living selling sex for money. Now a small educational museum is opening Thursday in the heart of the district to show reality from the other side of the glass.

RED LIGHT SECRETS

Netherlands Prostitution Museum

Organizer Melcher de Wind says the Red Light Secrets museum is for those who want to learn more about how the area works without actually visiting a prostitute. It’s located in a former brothel, one of the narrow buildings typical of Amsterdam.

Visitors enter the museum by passing a hologram of a beckoning prostitute. Then the displays attempt to place prostitutes as part of society. There’s a short film showing the many people who work with them: those who clean or repair their rooms, do their laundry, or run over to their windows with coffee or food during shifts.

Prostitutes rent windows on a half-day basis and can work shifts that are 11 hours long, six days a week. They spend a lot of time waiting for customers. In their free time, they visit local hairdressers, nail salons and clothing shops.

There’s also a nursery school in the heart of the Red Light District, right next to the windows. In one scene in the film, a middle-aged prostitute in red leather receives an afternoon visit from her grade-school daughter.

A LONG HISTORY IN AMSTERDAM

The museum makes only a passing attempt to document the history of prostitution tolerance in Amsterdam — starting from the 16th century, when it was a port city flush with wealth from the spice trade and authorities turned a blind eye when sailors went ashore looking for women. Or during the Napoleonic Wars, when prostitutes first began to have mandatory medical checkups to combat venereal disease among soldiers.

Netherlands Prostitution Museum

The museum focuses on the era since 2000, when prostitution became legal in the Netherlands. Since then the city has been struggling — it says with some success — to eradicate pimps and human trafficking.

Yolanda van Doeveren, who manages the city’s prostitution social programs, says the district is regulated by police officers, social workers, health workers, tax authorities and civil rights groups. A new girl who appears in a window will be noticed in a matter of hours and must be able to show that she’s old enough and has approval to work.

The legal age to work as a prostitute in Amsterdam has recently been raised from 18 to 21.

Van Doeveren says trafficking remains at the heart of the Dutch debate over the ethics of prostitution. There’s also an acknowledgement, however, that the worst abuses of underage girls or prostitutes being exploited by pimps now take place out of sight in underground brothels — an ongoing challenge for police.

IN THE WINDOW

At the museum, the tour resumes: In one hallway, there’s a work roster on a white board showing who’s working in which room on what days, along with times for client appointments. There’s also a chance to take a seat in an actual window in front of passers-by.

And then the tour proceeds to a typical “peeskamer,” Dutch for “workroom.”

Netherlands Prostitution Museum

Ilonka Stakelborough, an escort who heads a sex-workers union called “the Geisha Institute,” says the rooms, about nine feet long and six feet wide (3×2 meters) have a standardized look that could really use an update — black lights have been nearly universal since the 1970s.

The beds are low and strong, near a sink and a small cabinet of lubricants, cleansers, condoms and sex toys.

“No perfume,” Stakelborough says. “Because then the smell rubs off on a man’s clothes and he has problems with his wife when he gets home.”

Are married men the main customers? No, you can’t generalize, Stakelborough says. Men of all types, married, unmarried, young or old visit prostitutes at all hours, she says — some even on their way to work in the morning.

How do you know who’s just coming to look and who wants to do business?

“Eye contact,” she said.

THE PROSTITUTES THEMSELVES

Very few women who work as prostitutes ever earn more than a middle class income at best — and usually it’s worse, according to Stakelborough and Van Doeveren.

Stakelborough says it’s not the prettiest or youngest girls who get the most customers or earn the most. And escorts and high-end brothel prostitutes don’t necessarily do better — they have fewer customers, longer sessions and lots of costs, for taxis or splitting profits with brothel owners, she said.

A window typically rents for 150 euros ($202) for a half-day. Given the standard cost of about 50 euros ($70) for a 15-minute session, their take-home pay before taxes is only 150 euros after seeing six clients, or 250 euros ($338) after eight.

Netherlands Prostitution Museum

Approximately 75 percent of the women are from poorer countries, often Romania or Bulgaria.

“Almost all the women who are here are here ‘voluntarily’, in the sense that they come knowing what they’re going to do,” van Doeveren says. “But you can ask yourself what their other options were.”

At the end of the museum there’s a wall of quotes from prostitutes.

“This job is not for the faint-hearted,” wrote Eva from Holland. “I have become much harder.”

“It makes me feel lonely my mother doesn’t know what I do,” wrote Carmen from Romania.

Visitors can write down their own sexual secrets in a mock-up confessional booth before heading back out onto the street.

_____

If you go:

The “Red Light Secrets” Museum of Prostitution is located on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal 60-62 in Amsterdam. The museum is open daily from noon to midnight.

RYOT NOTE: Although many believe all of these women choose to be apart of the prostitution industry, that’s not always the case. Some of these women are trafficked, told they’ll have jobs in dance or waitressing, only to be sold. Stop the Traffik is committed to turning communities into places where it is harder for traffickers to hide their activities and their victims. Their goal is to unite people around the world through global campaigns, believing we are stronger and can create greater change when we work together. Take action by clicking the action box above this story, join the campaign and Become the News!”

 

Read the original article at:  http://www.ryot.org/red-lights-district-museum-opens-amsterdam-teach-reality-prostitution/558301#9gGHy7iATuyImMlb.99

The Grey Area of Prostitution

Recently, I guest-authored on the web site Powerful Women, writing about the grey area between human trafficking and prostitution. Read my article here.

“You better change out of that right now. You look like a prostitute.” I’ve heard this more than once and every time it drills a deeper hole into my heart. Not because I am hurt by being thought of as a prostitute, but because I hate the way prostitutes are singled out as an evil one would not want to be associated with. Every time we slut shame or scoff at a prostitute we are perpetuating a system of blame-the-victim that has so been engrained into us. We have built a culture in which we see the victim as the wrong-doer, the one in need of punishment, without trying to understand why that person is a victim.

No matter what your opinion may be on the debate over the legality of prostitution, the grey area of ‘consent’ must be acknowledged. Those who advocate for prostitution as a legitimate profession often will state that it is something that a women has decided to do out of her own free will. Yet such an assertion fails to acknowledge how she started as a prostitute in the first place.

The average age of entry into prostitution is 12-14. At that age, no sense of consent, whether ethical or legal, is legitimate. This is not just my opinion. It is law. According to Trafficking Victims Protection Act any child under age 18 used for prostitution is considered a commercially sexually exploited child (CSEC). They don’t have to prove that they have been tricked or coerced or abused (1). A twelve year old girl being sold on the streets night after night is not doing it because she wants to be there. In most cases, somebody is working behind the scenes of her nighttime career, pulling the invisible strings of manipulation. These girls are automatically considered victims of human trafficking. (Read about how girls get sexually trafficked  https://tostopthetraffick.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/very-young-girls/). Technically, human trafficking is the exploitation of a human body for labor or sex (for the profit of another person). However, once their are protected as victims until they are 18, suddenly when they pass the magic number, these girls are considered criminals.

A ghastly number of victims of human trafficking are arrested and charged as prostitutes. Pimps sell girls out, whether online, in brothels, in strip clubs, etc and then collect the money. Yet it is those very same girls who are being locked up as punishment for their “misdemeanors” and in some cases “felonies”. Because it is so difficult to prove that a person is not selling her body of her own accord, those who are being manipulated are the ones getting punished. A pimp can so easily turn the situation around, arguing that she made the choice to be there. When it comes to this point, it is all he-said-she-said, and the pimp usually wins.

Some women may start off being trafficked and even once freed, turn to prostitution later in life. It has been engrained into some girls’ minds that sex is all they are good for, thus making it seemingly impossible to forge another career path. Other girls may have been cut off from all other resources–human, financial, skill-building– during the time when they were trafficked, and left jobless, turn to the only thing they know.

Yet so easily we write off prostitutes without trying to understand what has brought them to where they are. We celebrate a culture in which “boys will be boys,” yet if a woman does something overly sexual, there is cause for judgement. This is taken to the extreme when it comes to prostitution. Sure, some prostitutes come to the profession with fully independent intention of being a sex worker. But many girls are manipulated and trafficked into being there. Human trafficking is very real and very prevalent. It needs to be acknowledged as such.

  1. Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000, H.R. 3244, 106th Cong., 2nd Sess. (2000).

Learn more about CSEC: http://www.misssey.org/csec.html

Read up on the laws concerning prostitution in the US: http://prostitution.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000119


Izzy Ullmann

Sex Trafficking: Survivors Share Their Stories

Video

Teresa Flores and Jeanette Bradley discuss their struggles as survivors of sex trafficking with candid intimacy. This video is powerful and very real. I’m not going to say much about it~~I want to let these women speak for themselves.