Global human trafficking highlights

In Rhode Island, the law makers adopted indoor prostitution ban. Under the new legislation, the indoor prostitution is a misdemeanor, and the prostitutes will face the criminal prosecution for performing sexual services in brothels, strip clubs, or outside of their homes . In Georgia, an Atlanta man pled a guilty in connection with sex trafficking. He was charged with the conspiracy of illegally transporting young women from Mexico. In San Francisco, the authorities celebrated implementing the new legislation clamping down on the pimps trafficking children yesterday.

Latin America

In Brazil, journalists are still threatened when reporting serous crimes including human trafficking.

The U.S. protection policy over Cuban nationals are abused by the Cuban organized criminals for trafficking Cubans.


In England, two arrests in raid were made in Northhampton area as part of the government’s sex trafficking crack down effort. The victims were from Lithuania, Brazil, and Thailand. Also, three Chinese nationals were sentenced 10 years of imprisonment for human trafficking in Worcester, England.


The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) urged ASEAN nations to help fighting human trafficking in South Asia. A CHR representative said that drafting a regional anti-human trafficking protocol to protect women and children would be a significant contribution to end the translational crime.


Published in: on October 31, 2009 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

TED Case Studies: Trafficking of Burmese Women and Children into Thailand

This study is 12 years old, I posted it so the public can see this problem isn’t a new one.

Trafficking of Burmese Women and Children into Thailand

Case Number: 426
Case Mnemonic: MYANSEX
Case Name: Myanmar Sex Trade


1. The Issue

Trade in human beings for sex industry work and the continued
trafficking of women and children into Thailand from Myanmar is a
major human rights violation and also a serious health issue. In
a given year, thousands of Burmese women and children are bought
and sold as commodities, destined to become prostitutes. In
Thailand, ever younger girls are being lured and abducted into
forced prostitution, because they are thought to be safe from AIDS
(acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). The expansion of the sex
market to include this safe commodity (young girls) has resulted in
the creation of activist groups against the exploitation of
children. These local and international groups, particularly
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), have been effective in
informing the world about the problem of trafficked women and

2. Description

Although the illegal trafficking in women and girls
possesses distinct characteristics in each country or region where
it occurs, certain patterns have emerged that cut across
geographical boundaries. In a typical situation, a women or girl
is first recruited by an agent who promises a good job in another
country or province. In the case of Thailand, the common practice
is to lure young Burmese women to Thailand with promises of
employment as a waitress or domestic servant — but instead, the
girls are tricked into working as prostitutes.
As part of their recruitment or abduction, the women and girls
are controlled through debt bondage. The initial debt is usually
a payment to the woman’s family at the time of recruitment, which
she must repay, with interest, by working in a brothel. This debt
also includes the brothel owner’s normal charge of food, clothes,
medicine and other expenses. Escape is virtually impossible
without repaying the debt. Leaving the brothel without repayment
puts the woman at risk of punishment by the brothel owner, or
pimps. Also retribution against the prostitutes’ parents and other
relatives for defaulting on her debt is not uncommon. To make
matters worse, police can and do arrest the trafficked woman on
illegal immigrant charges. The distance from home, lack of
familiarity with local language or dialect, and inability to find
local support networks further reinforce the women’s and girls’
dependence on the brothel owners and pimps.
Many thousands of women and children from Myanmar are lured,
abducted or sold into brothels in Thailand. They are bartered at
prices that vary depending on their age, beauty and virginity.
Women and children who have been trafficked can rarely escape, and
are victims of exploitation. While it is true that heavy
trafficking of persons, particularly women, has taken place from
the Shan State in Myanmar for an extended period, the present
situation sees women from all over Myanmar being lured into
prostitution because of economic difficulties.
The number of Burmese women and girls recruited to work in
Thailand brothels has soared in recent years as an indirect
consequence of political repression in Myanmar by the ruling State
Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) and because of improved
economic relations between Myanmar and Thailand. After the 1988
crack down on the pro-democracy movement by the Burmese military,
many countries around the world responded with economic sanctions
and withdrawal of foreign aid, resulting in the shortage of foreign
capital and exchange for Myanmar. Desperate for foreign exchange,
SLORC turned to Thailand which offered a range of economic
concessions. Such economic links led to official openings along
Thai-Myanmar border, allowing both Thai and Burmese citizens to
cross the common border easily (1).
This opening of trade and border crossings has facilitated the
rise in trafficking of men, women and children from Myanmar. The
same routes which are used to transport drugs and goods are now
also used to transport people. Although trafficking in women and
girls has become a lucrative and expanding cross-border trade,
which routinely escapes effective national and international
sanctions. This is due to corruption among police and immigration
officials at borders who aid the illegal passage of traffic in
A border boom brought about by the increased trade with
Myanmar, coupled with the profitable tourist industry in Thailand,
has increased the demand for women in the sex industry, especially
for younger girls. Tourism in Thailand generates some US$4 billion
annually, and sex is one of its most valuable sub-sectors(2).
Combined with the tourist demand for prostitutes, the local demand
is also high and helps sustain the sex market in Thailand. It is
estimated that 75 percent of Thai men have had sex with prostitutes
In addition to economic ties with Thailand, Myanmar’s
suppressive military regime has led many members of ethnic minority
groups to become economically desperate enough to be recruited into
prostitution. Myanmar continues to be ruled by a highly
authoritarian military regime, (SLORC), which is widely condemned
for its serious human rights abuses. There continues to be
credible reports, particularly in ethnic minority areas, that
soldiers commit serious human rights abuses, including
extrajudicial killing and rape. Disappearance continues, and
prison conditions remain harsh, with the members of security force
randomly beating or otherwise abusing prisoners. Arbitrary
arrests and detention continue for expression of dissenting
political views, resulting in a few thousand students and
dissidents remaining in exile in Thailand.
According to a US Department of State Report on Myanmar,
approximately 90,000 people were residing in ethnic minority camps
along the Thai-Burma border, among these are thousands of new
arrivals driven out by army attacks in the ares controlled by the
Karen and Karenni ethnic minorities.(4) SLORC is suppressing
ethnic minority groups that are fighting for autonomy, and
consequently, women belonging to these groups, such as the Karen,
face difficulties because of militarism and the resulting economic
hardship. Discrimination against women and ethnic minorities,
violence against women and child prostitution, as well as
trafficking in women and girls in border areas remains a serious
problem.(5) Many women and children of the ethnic minority groups
in border areas, and particularly in the Shan State, were forced or
lured into working as prostitutes in Thailand.
The main center for trafficking in Eastern Myanmar is
Kengtung, in Shan State, Northern Burma. Thousands of Burmese
women of Akha, Lisu, Wa, Shan, Tai Yai and Burman ethnic origin are
bought, recruited and then sent on to Northern Thailand.
The following factors help to encourage the trafficking of
women from the Eastern Shan State. Shan women face severe
economic, physical, religious, cultural and political
discrimination. They are expected to find work that will support
their parents and families, as well as to work the fields and do
the house work when at home. Religious discrimination takes place
in the context of Theravada Buddhism. Shan women are not
considered pure enough even to enter the temples in central pagoda
areas. At an official level, there is little participation of Shan
women in the local decision making process.
The adverse socioeconomic conditions in Myanmar increase the
likelihood that women and girls will be lured into forced
prostitution. Notably in rural areas, women and girls have little
education and few economic opportunities. Myanmar is a poor
country, with an estimated average per capita income of US$200 to
US$300 per year on a cash basis or about US$600 to US$800 on a
purchasing power parity basis.(6) The complete lack of development
in the Eastern Shan State have also contributed to migration. In
many areas there are no roads, let alone cars, schools or clinics.
The vast majority of Shan women never had the opportunity to go to
school. Those who decide to cross the border into Thailand often
know nothing about AIDS. It is widely understood that prostitution
is an employment option where they can raise more money than
through any other work, given their limited education. Thus, the
burgeoning trade in women and girls is linked fundamentally to the
women’s unequal status.
Disturbingly, some of these agents who recruit young women for
the brothel gangs in urban centers in Thailand are ordinary people
who are known by the women. Sometimes trusted villagers and townsþ
people or even friends and relatives have been known to lure
unsuspecting women to leave their homes with promises of jobs with
high wages, such as waitressing, in Thailand.
Once they arrive in Thailand, these victims rarely stay in
one location. While some women stay in one brothel for a year or
more, many are frequently moved around by the owners to avoid being
caught or found by the womenþs family members who want them back.
Many Burmese women end up in brothels in Ranong province which are
usually owned by Thai businessmen and employ both Thai and Burmese
women. Brothel owners use a combination of threats, force, debt
bondage and illegal confinement to control the women and girls, and
force them to work in deplorable conditions. This eliminates any
possibility of escape. In many cases, the women especially those
from Myanmar are forced to work in conditions which amount to
nothing short of slavery. Most of them are confined to their rooms
and only occasionally allowed to go out under the guard of a pimp.
For example, one brothel from which prostitutes were freed was
surrounded by barbed wired and an electrified fence (7).
Procurement and trafficking for the purpose of forced
prostitution are not only widespread in Thailand, but in many
instances occur with the direct involvement of the Thai police or
border guards. Police and immigration agents at the border not
only aid in the passage of Burmese women and girls, police
involvement extends to maintaining forced prostitution after the
women and girls enter the brothel. Brothels in Thailand are
officially illegal, but they continue to flourish. Brothels
routinely operate with police knowledge and police protection. For
instance, the Crime Suppression Division of the police force raided
houses suspected to be brothels in Bangkok and found account books
listing protection payments to Thai government officials (8).
Furthermore, police also are frequent clients at brothels.
Women and girls from brothels in the Ranong area who are
arrested as illegal immigrants are normally deported back to
Myanmar by Thai police and immigration officials. In most
deportations, many victims are met by agents offering to take them
to Bangkok for sex work, again (9). Or, the deported victims go
straight into the arms of SLORC officials who, in turn, charge them
of illegally leaving Myanmar and send them to prison.
The young women who are trafficked internationally are
especially victimized because of the language barrier in their
destination country. This creates a situation where they are
easily exploited by customers, are at the mercy of brothel owners,
are at disadvantage seeking help if they run away, are unaware of
laws that might protect them. Besides being forced to work off
their debt, which can take years, the women are charged for all
their expenses at the brothel. It is believed that some 20,000
women from Myanmar are presently in Thai brothels, with 10,000 new
recruits each year. The total number of prostitutes in Thailand is
estimated between 800,000 and 2 million (10).
Victims of forced prostitution are particularly exposed to
health risks, especially sexually transmitted diseases (STDs),
including AIDS, because they are not allowed to negotiate the terms
of sex. Aside from the risk of infection through sexual
intercourse with many clients, the growing popularity of
contraceptive injections in brothels also contributes to the spread
of disease, since brothels owners often use the same and possibly
contaminated needle several times. Other women have become
infertile due to STDs and, thus, unmarriageable. This is a great
stigma in cultures where the primary purpose of marriage is
procreation (11). Upon returning to Myanmar, these victims are
shunned by SLORC for being both minority ethnic members and
prostitutes and many are thrown into jails allegedly for illegal
migration to Thailand. Some are forced to return to prostitution
back in Thailand in order to support themselves. Many Burmese
prostitutes, who were known to have AIDS, are murdered by Burmese
soldiers when upon returning to Myanmar (12).
A report from the United Nations International Drug Control
Program states that 74.3% of all tested drug users, 9% of the
prostitutes, 0.5% of blood donors and 1.4% of pregnant women in
Myanmar were HIV-positive (13). The AIDS virus is spreading at an
extreme pace among prostitutes in Asia. Thailand could have up to
800,000 people infected with the virus, and Myanmar — where
condoms were banned until 1992 and are still rare — has some
400,000 infected people (14).
In Thailand, which has a high prevalence rate of HIV, the
clients fear of infection has led traffickers to recruit younger
women and girls, sometimes as young as ten. Many come from remote
areas in neighboring countries which are perceived to be unaffected
by the AIDS pandemic. This ensures their “purity” or virginity
which increase their value (15). Child prostitution in Thailand
refers to children under fourteen. Although pedophiles have always
sought out young children, the AIDS scare has escalated the use of
children by all consumers. Young children are sometimes marketed
as ‘virgins’ in order to attract customers who believe that
children are not exposed to AIDS, and thus can provide safe sex.
Moreover, virgins are in great demand among Chinese from
Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. Chinese men prize sexual
intercourse with young girls for the rejuvenating properties they
believe to be associated with the act. According to O’Grady,
“there are surprisingly large number of aging and wealthy Chinese
businessmen who believe that they must deflower a virgin at least
once a year to gain the energy needed to be successful in their
business enterprise and have a long life”(16). However, the idea
that a child is safer than an adult in terms of transmitting STDs
and AIDS is only fallacy. In fact, children are at greater risks
because of youth: their vaginas and anuses are easily torn,
creating sores and bleeding that permit the AIDS virus to spread
Dr. Werasit, director of AIDS research at the Anonymous Clinic
run by the Red Cross and World Health Organization (WHO) in
Bangkok, completed his tests of prostitution in the Chiang Mai area
in December of 1992. Four out of five prostitutes tested in the
Chiang Mai area were HIV-positive. He estimated that 50 to 80
percent of prostitutes in Thailand are infected. According to the
WHO, between 125,000 and 150,000 Thais will have died from AIDS by
1997. The Population and Community Development Association of
Thailand estimates that AIDS could infect as many as 5.3 million by
the year 2000, with more than a projected million dead from AIDS
(17). Thailand, as a developing nation, does not have the health-
care infrastructure to deal with an epidemic of this impending
size. It will be easy for prostitutes to become part of a
disposable population that receives little, if any, health care.
The epidemic could eventually throttle the country’s economic
boom, which has exported its way to an annual growth rate averaging
7.5 percent over the last decade. Since rapid economic growth has
already created a shortage of technically skilled Thais, losses
from AIDS will add a still greater cost to the work force. “The
center of gravity of the AIDS epidemic in the world is moving to
Asia,” says David E. Bloom, professor of economics at Columbia
University in New York (18). The gravity of the AIDS crisis has
begun to wake up Western transnational and Asian corporations.
These companies facing a scarcity of skilled labor in many parts of
Asia could face more problems if they suddenly began to lose
experienced staff to AIDS.
Health-care costs are sure to skyrocket, a labor shortage will
emerge, and foreign investment could dry up. Treatment for AIDS,
excluding expensive drugs, costs $1,000 a year, or 50 percent of
the annual income for an average family. Each death due to AIDs,
which usually strikes victims in the peak of their productive
years, equals a loss in future earnings of $22,000 per person.
This is compounded by the slacking off of the $5 billion tourism
industry, in part from the impact of AIDS (19).
The virus spreads rapidly from country to country in part
because of trafficking of prostitutes across borders, but also
because customers tend to hop from place to place. Sex tours
started in Japan, allowing groups of men to visit brothels in South
Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. Now South Korean and Taiwanese men
are prosperous enough to travel on sex tours of their own to places
like Bangkok or Manila.
Southeast Asia is now the world’s number one destination for
tourists looking for sex.(20). Many sex tourists are from the
West, but a great number of Japanese and Chinese are also drawn by
the low prices, easy access to prostitutes of either sex at any age
and the lack of enforcement of laws. Without doubt, the rising sex
tourism is contributing to the spread of AIDS everywhere. It is
also true in Thailand that prostitutes who use condoms with their
clients do not necessarily use them with men whom they are have
personal relationships, and, hence, intimate relationships
currently present a great danger in contracting STDs and AIDS (21).
At the same time, those Thai men who frequently visit prostitutes
also present the same danger to their wives and girlfriends at
Sex tourism in Asia is fed both by the use of local women and
children and by international trafficking in persons. Sex tourism
is closely tied to economic development in Thailand. The enormous
increase in sex tourism in Thailand in the 1970s and 1980s is
directly tied to the Vietnam War. Bangkok became a major center
for Rest and Recreation (R & R) leave, commonly known the by GIs as
I & I (Intoxication and Intercourse).(22) A large and steady
stream of dollars entered the local economy through the sex
industry. When the war ended, the Thai government, the military,
and business, needed to continue the flow of foreign exchange
earnings. To this end, they promoted sex tourism, to such an extent
that a group of high-ranking military generalþs wives created a
travel agency to organize the tours. After the war, many Americans
chose not to go home. The saying was that there were no MIA in
Vietnam; in reality they were all MIBs — Mischief in Bangkok.(23)
From 1965 to 1993, the number of tourists grew from 250,000 to over
5 billion (24).
Tour agencies in industrialized countries, especially Japan,
Australia, Europe, North America, and recently, Korea, organize
tours to major sex industry centers for men explicitly for sexual
activity. Cities and resort areas specialize in particular types
of sex or certain nationalities of men. For example, a city in
northern Thailand is a noted homosexual center. Various areas in
Bangkok are set up to serve men from different countries. Patpong
is the famous area for Western tourists. Several island resorts in
Thailand are specifically for pedophiles, and their remote nature
makes them that much more difficult to be found in order to protest
their acts.
The exploitation of boys and girls exemplify the single most
unsavory element of the worldwide growth in the sex trade: an
explosion in child prostitution, driven in part by the fear of
AIDS. Since 1985, child prostitution has escalated dramatically
worldwide. In the developing world the number of child prostitutes
are staggering: an estimated 800,000 underage prostitutes in
Thailand, 400,000 in India, 250,000 in Brazil and 60,000 in the
Philippines.(25) The newest international sites for child
prostitution are Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, China and the Dominican
In recent years, religious groups, and feminist organizations,
and nongovernmental organizations have begun to press for an end to
sex tourism. For example, in Thailand, the recent government
efforts to curb the sex industry can be viewed, in part, as
facilitated by the growth of female tourists, new social movements
against women and child prostitutes, and of the increasing
awareness of AIDS.
Example of the newly emerged social movement group is The End
Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT), founded in 1990 by
Asia-based Christian groups, now has offices in 14 nations and
extensive links with religious and social organizations around the
world dedicated to fighting child prostitution. Pressure by ECPAT,
and groups like it has already had some impact; in 1992 the
Philippine government adopted a Child Protection Code to guard
against child abuse.
Another effective fighter against sexual exploitation of
children is the Task Force to End Child Exploitation in Thailand,
a coalition of 24 government and private agencies dedicated to
exposing links between Europe and the child sex trade in Bangkok.
In 1991, the group disclosed the existence of a Swiss network of
airline-ticket agencies catering to European pedophiles.(26)
Local, regional and international nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs) have been at the forefront of efforts to raise
awareness of trafficking and to press for accountability. NGOs,
particularly local groups, are carrying out desperately needed
programs to warn girls and their families of the dangers of
trafficking, shelter those who have managed to escape, provide
urgent medical and psychological care, assist in repatriation, and
press governments to strengthen domestic laws against trafficking.
The work of NGOs has filled the gaps left by government
inaction and, at times, has led to governmentsþ improving their
behavior. For example, in Thailand, NGOs working alone find that
after they rescue girls and send them back to their country, they
often come back again, especially those from Myanmar and the border
areas, where the ongoing political conflict meant there was no one
to take care of the children sent back across the border. Thus,
NGOs have sheltered Burmese women and girls and found safe,
undisclosed ways to return them home over the borders. In
addition, Thai NGOs have advocated that their government adopt the
necessary legislation and ratify the relevant international
instruments to improve projections for trafficking victims.
From the international level, according to the American-based
human-rights group, Asia Watch, the Thai government turns a blind
eye to the traffic in women and girls brought from Myanmar to
Thailand in forced prostitution.(27) Furthermore, the border
controls that exist between Thailand and Myanmar are evaded by
corrupt police on both sides. According to the Asia Watch, despite
clear evidence of direct official involvement in every stage of the
trafficking process, no Thai officer has been prosecuted, except in
one highly publicized case of murder.(28)
Due to the NGOs demand, in March 1994 the United Nations
Commission on Human Rights adopted Resolution 1994/45 calling for
the elimination of trafficking in women for the purposes of
prostitution. The appointment of a U.N. Special Rapporteur on
Violence Against Women and the work of the U.N. Special Rapporteur
on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography,
in particular, have helped put pressure on the U.N. and its members
to recognize the seriousness of the trafficking problem. U.N.
Specialized agencies, including UNICEF, UNDP and WHO, have begun to
analyze the issue of trafficking and prostitution in relation to
their education, development, and relief work. The International
Police Organization (INTERPOL) has also held several conferences on
trafficking and has attempted to coordinate cross-border efforts of
law enforcement agencies to curb trafficking in children, as
mentioned earlier.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) launched a program
to combat the trafficking of children and their exploitation in
prostitution and sweatshops in Asia in the beginning of 1997. In
Southeast Asia, Thailand appears to be the center of the problem
according to ILO International Program on the Elimination of Child
Labor (IPEC) for Asia. In addition to prostitution, surveys by ILO
and NGOs found foreign boys and girls, mainly from Myanmar, in
factories, construction sites, gas station and sweatshops in
Bangkok and across the country.(29) Economic progress and
development in Thailand may have actually contributed to the flow
of children from other countries of the Mekong River region, where
many face poverty and underdevelopment, political instability and
civil war.

3. Related Cases

CIGAR case

Keyword Clusters
(1) Trade Product = HUMAN beings
(2) Bio-geography = TROPical
(3) Environmental Problem = Health

4. Draft Author: Kalaya Chareonying (April 3, 1997)

B. LEGAL Clusters

5. Discourse and Status: DISagreement and ALLEGation

6. Forum and Scope: Thailand and REGION

7. Decision Breadth: 2 (Myanmar, Thailand)

8. Legal Standing: Law

Thailand historically has addressed the problem of
trafficking of women by adopting several international laws
concerning this issue. Thailand ratified three international
agreements that ended the sanction of prostitution by the
government. These three agreements are:
1. The international Agreement for the Suppression of the
White Slave Trade of 1904.
2. The International Convention of the Suppression of the
Traffic in Women and Children of 1922.
3. The International Convention for the Suppression of the
Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of
Others of 1950.
Under the terms of the third agreement, state parties “agree
to punish any person who, to gratify the passions of another,
procures, entices or leads away, for purposes of prostitution,
another person…”(30) Furthermore, Article 5 of the Traffick
Convention requires state parties to sanction any person who runs
or finances a brothel.
Additionally, the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) also reiterated the
state parties to take all appropriate measures to suppress the
traffic in women.(31)
Despite the passage of the Suppression of Prostitution Act,
the Thai governmentþs commitment to eradicating prostitution was
called into serious question with the introduction of the
Entertainment Places Act of 1966 (the R & R treaty). This act
regulates nightclubs, dance halls, bars and places for massage or
steam baths which have women attend to customers. This law
basically allows prostitutes to operate under the disguise of those
entertainment establishments. Thus, Thailand has contributed to
both the trafficking of human beings and forced prostitution by not
enforcing laws that it has ratified.


9. Geographic Locations

a. Geographic Domain: Asia
b. Geographic Site: Southeast Asia
c. Geographic Impact: Thailand and Myanmar

10. Sub-National Factors: NO

11. Type of Habitat: TROPical

D. TRADE Clusters

12. Type of Measure: Regulatory Standard

13. Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: INDirect

14. Relation of Measure to Environment Impact

a. Directly Related: YES Human beings
b. Indirectly Related: NO
c. Not Related: NO
d. Process Related: YES Health

15. Trade Product Identification: Entertainment

16. Economic Data

With the existing law enforcement officials, Thailand already
has the human resources to carry out the Anti-Trafficking Law,
given those involved are not corrupt. In addition, Thailand has
the economic resources generated from the tourism industry to carry
out anti-child prostitution and anti-AIDS campaigns. However, the
alarming data about the possible number of AIDS cases by the year
2000 has worried not only the Thai government, but also foreign
investors who must rely on a good standing labor force for economic
progress of the country.

17. Impact of Measure of Trade Competitiveness: HIGH

18. Industry Sector: Services

19. Exporter and Importer: Myanmar and Thailand

E. Environmental Clusters

20. Environmental Problem Type: Health

21. Species

22. Impact and Effect: HIGH and REGULatory

23. Urgency and Lifetime: HIGH and about 60 years

24. Substitutes: Ecotourism

F. OTHER Factors

25. Culture: YES

A double-standard code of conduct reinforces and reflects the
demand for prostitution. In Thai society, while strict rules of
sexual conduct are applied to women, men can maintain their sexual
freedom, and in many cases promiscuity is taken as proof of
manhood. A demonstration of heterosexual orientation by having sex
with a female prostitute is an important rite of passage for some
groups of Thai men.(32) For example, it is a common practice for
second-year university students to take freshmen to the local
brothel.(33) One study has shown that many Thai men, around 73%,
have their first sexual experience with a prostitute.(34) In
addition, according to Harvard researcher Hnin Hnin Pyne, 75% of
Thai men frequently visit prostitutes (35).
Furthermore, many Thai people accept as the norm sexual non-
restraint for males. In a recent study by Deemar Corporation, 80%
of the males and 74% of the females responded that it was þnatural
for men to pursue sex at every opportunityþ (36). Many Thai men
continue visiting prostitutes after marriage and their spouses
accept this as an alternative to having an affair. Since divorced
Thai women end up alone, many are forced to stay with their
irresponsible husbands. Thus, the promiscuity of Thai men and the
mentality that leads to this promiscuity are key reasons for the
enormity of the prostitution problem.

26. Trans-Border: YES

Trafficked victims are not only sent to Thailand for
prostitution, but Thailand is also used as the main route for
sending prostitutes to other countries.

27. Human Rights: YES

It does not matter whether trafficked victims are men, women
or children, with or without STDs or AIDS, they are human beings,
and thus deserved to be treated as human. Many victims who carry
the AIDS virus are shunned by society and the government and are
left to die.

28. Relevant Literature.

(1) “New Border Checkpoints Open,” Bangkok Post, 7 October 1992.

(2) Steven Schlosstein, Asiaþs New Little Dragon (Chicago:
Contemporary Books, 1991), 196-197.

(3) Aaron Sachs, “The Last Commodity: Child Prostitution in
the Developing World,” World Watch (July/August 1994), 28.

(4) “Burma Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996,”
Department of State Human Rights Country Reports (1997 U.S.
Department of State, February 1997).

(5) Ibid.

(6) Ibid.

(7) “An International Trade in Sex Slavery,” Bangkok Post, 18
July 1991.

(8) “89 Suspected Call-girls Arrested,” The Nation (Thailand), 28
July 1993.

(9) Bertil Lintner, “Immigrant viruses,” Far Eastern Economic
Review, 20 February 1992, 31.

(10) “The Slaves from Myanmar,” Economist 330, 5 February 1994: 32.

(11) “Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its Causes and
Consequences,” U.N. Document E/CN.4/1995/42, (Geneva: United
Nations, 22 November 1994), 50.

(12) Michael S. Serrill, “Defiling the Children,” Time, 21 June
1993, 53.

(13) Bertil Lintner, “Burma: Plague Without Borders,” Far Eastern
Economic Review 157, 21 July 1994: 26.

(14) Nicholas D. Kristof, “Children for Sale — A special report;
Asian childhoods sacrificed to prosperity’s lust,” New York Time,
14 April 1996.

(15) Marlise Simons, “The Sex Market: Scrounge on the World’s
Children,” New York Times, 9 April 1993.

(16) Ron O’Grady, The Child and the Tourist (Bangkok, ECPAT: 1992),

(17) Steven Erlanger, “A Plague Awaits,” New York Times
Magazine, 14 July 1991, 24.

(18) Ibid., 54.

(19) Joyce Barnathan, “The AIDS Disaster Unfolding in Asia: Nations
are Ill-equipped to Manage the Onslaught,” Business Week, 22
February 1993, 53.

(20) “The Lost Children,” Asiaweek, 7 February 1997, 36.

(21) Cleo Odzer, Patpong Sisters (New York: Blue Moon Books,

(22) Ibid., 2.

(23) Ibid.

(24) Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific, Economic and
Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Bangkok: United Nations,

(25) Michael S. Serrill, “Defiling the Children,” Time 21 June
1993, 52-56.

(26) Ibid., 52.

(27) A Modern Form of Slavery: Trafficking of Burmese Women
and Girls into Brothels in Thailand (New York: Human Rights Watch,

(28) Ibid.

(29) “ILO Program to Combat Child Prostitution and Trafficking,”
Agence France Presse, 6 December 1996.

(30) Trafficking Convention, Article 1.

(31) CEDAW, Article 6.

(32) Steven Erlanger, “A plague awaits,” New York Times
Magazine, 14 July 1991, 26.

(33) “Thailand: Sense about sex,” Economist, 8 February 1992,

(34) Tawesak Nopkesorn, Suebpong Sungkorom, and Rungkan Sornlum,
HIV Prevalence and Sexual Behavior among Thai Men aged 21 in
Northern Thailand (Bangkok: Thai Red Cross Society, 1991).

(35) Aaron Sachs, “The Last Commodity: Child Prostitution in the
Developing World,” World Watch (July/August 1994), 28.

(36) Deemar Corporation, Presentations of Findings. Knowledge,
Attitudes and Practices. Study on AIDS in Urban Thailand
(Bangkok: Deemar, 1990), 2; quoted in Mark J. Vanlandingham,
“Sexual activities among never-married men in northern Thailand,”
Demography 30 no. 3 (August 1993): 297-311.
May, 1997


Beli’s story

Beli was only fourteen years old when she was sold in to a life of prostitution. The brothel madams beat her, starved her, assaulted her both physically and mentally, and locked her in a room until she lost the will to escape. After nearly four years in a brothel, of never being allowed out on the street to buy anything, of living and working in a tiny room with four other people, servicing up to 45 men a day, Beli has escaped to a shelter in Bombay, rescued by Vinod Gupta, a millionaire social worker dedicated to helping these young girls escape the prostitution rings.

But Beli will never shake the legacy of the brothel. Now, at 17, she has found out that she is HIV-positive. She doesn’t want to return home, and she has refused to see her brother after he spit in her face when told she had AIDS.

Life would seem desperate to others not in Beli’s position. But she will be kept safe and happy, among her new family at Anuradha Koirala’s shelter, and looks forward to being able to provide for herself after she completes her painting courses.

Beli’s story of kidnapping and rape is not uncommon. Experts believe there are more than 10,000 Nepalese prostitutes in India, many of whom were forcibly abducted or tricked into going there by friends and family who sold them to pimps or brothel owners for prices that range from US $40 to US $1,000.{2} While prostitution is not a crime in India, soliciting and sexual contact with children under 18 is illegal. Areas notorious for selling their innocent girls to India consist of: Ichok, Mahankal, Thakani, Duwachaur of Sinduphalchowk District, and Sikharbese. Also included are Gyangphedi, Kulu, Dhade, Bolgapm, Pating Sireese, Likhu and Kharbuji of Nawakot District. These are the most common villages where deceit is not often necessary. The families willingly sell their young girls for ‘big money.'{3} The practice of selling the girl-child is so commonly accepted in some areas that entire villages have been depopulated of women. With the sale of a young woman bringing as much as 10 year’s income, there is little surprise at the support to sell the girls. Other times, the girls will return to their villages with new clothes, cash, and jewelry, recruiting even more people into the trafficking ring.

The Constitution of Nepal stipulates that children (a person who has not reached the age of 16) shall not be employed in factories, mines, or similar hazardous work. It also forbids slavery, bonded labor, and trafficking of individuals. The government has a poor record for enforcing the constitutional provisions protecting human rights. Many government and private reports conclude that not enough is known about child prostitution and trafficking in Nepal to do anything, although some estimates state that between 5,000 and 7,000 Nepalese women and girls are taken to Indian brothels each year. Social activists say that 20 percent are younger than 16 and more than one third are taken by force or lured with the false promise of jobs or marriage. {4}

Girls are often recruited with promises of work, wealth, and freedom in the big city. This is a far cry from the life they would lead if they stay in the villages, where they are considered little more than chattel. Traffickers buy them from their families, and sell them to interested individuals and groups running prostitution rings or brothels, or as bonded labor in carpet factories. Kathmandu is the only boom economy in the poor country of Nepal. Cheap, unskilled labor is in great demand, especially in the carpet industry. Many women and girls leave their villages as laborers to find work in the carpet factory. In order to cover the cost of buying labor, the factory owners will sell the prettiest girls to the city brothels, making this industry one of the first contact points for prostitution.

Nepalese women are favored in India because of their light skin and facial structure. Some are taken as early as nine years old. The trafficking of these young girls from Nepal has become a booming business for the brothels, so much so that the pimps and procurers have set up a system to “break in” the new girls by teaching them how to dress, how to talk, and how to put on their make-up. Also during this breaking in period they are locked in a room so they cannot escape, raped, beaten and barely fed. They are then forced to have sex with as many as 35 men per day, for as little as 60 – 100 rupees or US$1 – $2 per client, depending on their age and beauty. Younger girls are worked especially hard to get as much money out of them as possible before they become too old or disease ridden. Almost all of the proceeds go directly to the brothel madams to pay off their “buying price” from the pimps and procurers. The girls never know how much they have been bought for, nor do they know how much they make per client. They can spend nearly 10 years trying to repay the money, virtually enslaving them to the brothel madams.

Traditions of Exploitation

The sale of women and girls has its roots in Nepalese culture and religion. The sex industry in India has been active since the Vedic period, made reference to in the Ramayana and Mahabharata spiritual texts of the Hindu religion. Sex workers were called “Vaishyas’ and have accompanied kings to the battlefield, formed the main bodyguard of Emperor Chandra Gupta Maurya, and engaged in intelligence services for the kingdom. During the Vijayanagara Empire (1336-1565) the highest honor bestowed on a young girl was to be sold as a Devadasis, a temple prostitute, literally meaning, “slave of god.”{5} The devadasi is a Hindu temple servant who, before reaching puberty, is dedicated for life to the goddess Yallamma.

In other cases, a young girl is “married” to the temple. Traditionally, the divine marriage would transport a low-caste girl into a devotional career of temple singing and dancing. In modern times, this outlawed ritual is believed to absorb nearly 10,000 girls a year, often condemning them to a life of sexual enslavement to temple priests or city brothels. {6}”Untouchable” caste women are also traditionally prostitutes, while other castes allow unmarried women and children to be offered to the temple as offerings. In many cases, there is an established network between the temples and the city brothels. Temple leaders take advantage of the ignorance of the law and the cultural and traditional beliefs of the local communities. In the majority of the cases, this invariable results in the children being sold to the temples then in turn sold to brothel madams. “Some of these forms of child prostitution in India emerge from deeply rooted, traditional practices and beliefs which still prevail,” said Richard Young, chief of community development for the United Nations Children’s Fund in India. ” They may be legally outlawed, but they do continue.”{7} Without helping the population overcome some of the historically rooted prejudices, such as women as second class citizens, the birth of a Nepalese child will be rejoiced, but for all the wrong reasons – such as the money she will bring to the family when she is sold.

These traditions of exploitation are some of the many barriers that need to be overcome in order to eradicate the trafficking of women and girls across the border between India and Nepal. These cultural heritages along the caste system are ingrained in their world view. The upper class, especially those in government, does not see trafficking (or the caste system) as a problem since they are not negatively affected. However, outside forces cannot impose their own moral and cultural standards on a sovereign nation, the need for change needs to be recognized within if the traditions are not to be perpetuated. History, traditions, and cultural norms will be extremely difficult to overcome in order to stop the exploitation of the poor Nepalese villagers who are compelled to sell their children in order to survive.

The trafficking of girls has reached high levels of organization and government cooperation. The sex tourism trade is big business for many cities with high tourism, such as Bombay and Kathmandu. In Nepal, tourism is the country’s chief industry and sex workers have begun to play a major role in Nepal’s tourism earnings.{8} One of the many reasons for the growth of the sex trade in South Asia is the crackdown of other sex trade destinations in the East, such as Bangkok. As these other areas begin to clamp down on their own sex trade, tourists began looking for other “exotic” locations, finding an alternative in South Asia.

Measures to suppress trafficking of women and children have proven inadequate, primarily since law enforcement agencies and government officials are unwilling to enforce the law. Police take bribes to look the other way, and officers leave the brothels alone because corrupt politicians protect them. In the case of rape against prostitutes, sentences range from a fine of 500 rupees (US $9.00) to one year’s imprisonment. Brothel owners can be sentenced between 7 to 14 years imprisonment for forcing children into prostitution under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act of 1986. However, there is a general unwillingness among citizens, particularly government figures, to recognize violence against women as a problem. {9} One lawyer at the Institute of Legal Research and Resources (ILRR) has stated that one of the most significant factors in being unable to halt the sex trade is the lack of adequate laws. “We don’t have laws to prosecute anyone involved in illegal prostitution. Our laws can only prosecute those who have forced others in to prostitution against their wishes.”{10} Moreover, since many young girls leave their home villages willingly in pursuit of jobs and a better life, it is difficult to prosecute any of the middlemen or brothel owners, who have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Impact of AIDS

The fear of AIDS by returning prostitutes has discouraged the government from promoting the rehabilitation of prostitutes. It has been estimated that 60% of the prostitutes are HIV positive, some as young as 16.{11} There is a belief that the young girls are less likely to be infected, which has increased the demand for children. Most clients refuse to wear condoms, and if a girl insists, they can always find one who will not. Many of the girls need the money to support their children, or to try and save what little they can for the future. When they are too old or disease-ridden they will be kicked out of the brothel, hopefully having saved enough money to buy a bed on the street.

By their middle teens, many of the prostitutes have developed AIDS symptoms, if not a full-blown case of AIDS. It is estimated that 1,000,000 women between the ages of 15-49, and 48,000 children are infected with HIV in India. The cumulative total is 4,100,000 of the adult population (ages 15-49) are living with HIV/AIDS.{12} Many of the doctors take advantage of the girls’ ignorance and illiteracy, and misprescribe the medication while not educating the girls on how to take care of themselves. Healthcare professionals such as the International Health Organization workers and community volunteers try to educate the girls in how to protect and take care of themselves, but in most cases it is too late.

Take for example Durga, a devadasi in the red-light district of Sangli, India, 10 hours from Bombay. She was put through the ritualistic ceremony before her first menstrual cycle, having been raised in a Bombay brothel, where her mother was sold into prostitution by her father. She remembers carrying water for less than a penny a trip, and being raped, beaten and hospitalized at 13 for refusing a customer. But now she makes about $120 a month, enough to support her two children, two brothers, and her mother, and knows no other way of life. In Sangli, the tradition of serving a squatter camp in a prosperous farm-belt has remained unchanged in many ways except one: men have come in asking for younger and younger women. Even here the fear of AIDS has hit the brothels. One young Durga’s prostitute once asked her if AIDS was really a disease with no cure. Durga told her yes, and that two of her other co-workers had recently died from it. Durga also told her about Ichalkarana, a textile-mill center not far from Sangli, where eight prostitutes died from AIDS. There, the red-light population, which once numbered around 70, is down to 35.

Durga once thought she would dedicate her daughter to be a devadasi, like herself and her mother. But not anymore. “We are afraid of death,” she explained. “We do not want our children to die.”{13}

According to some accounts, the sex trade is declining in Bombay. The reasons appear varied, but are primarily due to the AIDS scare. But as the business declines, many men are choosing to buy younger and younger girls, ones who have less chance of having AIDS. There is a culture of child prostitution that will need to be changed before substantive laws will be enforced. “Attitudes and mind sets, corruption and apathy are major obstacles which will not be overcome by any scheme,” said Richard Young. {14} Rather than a reactive response or rehabilitation, measures should be proactive and focused on education and empowerment of women and female children. Because of the poverty of the region, women and girls have little in the way of other employment opportunities.

Illiteracy has proven to be one of largest contributors to social inequality in Nepal and India. Although the Nepalese constitution offers women equal opportunities for education, many social, economic, and cultural factors contribute to lower enrollment and higher drop out rates for girls. A direct correlation exists between the level of education and status. Female children of wealthy families have much higher education levels and access to relatively high-status positions in government and the private sector. Poorer women are caught in a vicious circle imposed by the patriarchal society. Their lower status hinders their education, and the lack of education constricts their status and position.

Saving the Girls

This has not stopped some people from trying to rescue these young girls. Vinod Gupta, one of Bombay’s most active millionaires, has devoted his retirement to fighting the evils of India’s most corrupt city. Gupta started an organization called Savdhan to organize the rescue of these young prostitutes. When Gupta receives a smuggled letter asking for help, he organizes a raid on the brothel (with local police cooperation in order to make it legal) to seize the girl and get her out. By his account, nearly 5,800 girls have been rescued. He surprised Bombay in 1982 by rescuing a 13-year-old Nepalese girl who was being prostituted to foreign sex tourists in luxury hotels in a case that made international news. More than a decade after that renowned case, and a decade after India and Nepal signed a treaty to stop child trafficking, Gupta estimates prostitution is still worth about $800,000 a day to Bombay’s underworld mafia, pimps, and local politicians. {15} The police may raid the brothels and imprison sex workers along with pimps, madams, and traffickers, but corruption permits the sex industry to thrive, and police are among the men who use the brothels. Because of this, there are many vested interests in not pulling off a successful raid. Oftentimes, the madams are tipped off in advance, hide the girls and get out of the brothels before the raiders can rescue any of their girls.

Even if a raid is successful, other problems occur in trying to decide what to do with the girls. In February 1996, Bombay police “rescued’ over 400 women and children (over 60 percent were minors) from India’s largest brothel. Two hundred and eighteen of those rescued had been trafficked from Nepal. The women were detained and were unable to be released since the governments of India and Nepal refused a dialogue about what to do with the girls. Social workers say the Indian government has been reluctant to resolve the issue other than to send the sick back to their home villages.

Rescue operations have also been ineffective. Of 547 young girls rescued during a much-publicized police raid on Bombay brothels in February 1996, 238 were Nepali. They were sent to remand homes where they languished for five months due to authorities’ inaction. Five girls died and 32 escaped during this time. Following pressure from Nepali non-governmental organizations, 124 were finally sent back to Nepal in July, though many face continued problems of social rehabilitation, venereal diseases, including HIV infection, and rejection by their families.{16}

However, many of the rescued girls want to return to the brothel. They do not feel as though they will be accepted back in their villages. In many cases, they are correct. Many regions in Nepal do not want to become the dumping ground for “India’s soiled goods.”{17} They do not see these girls as victims. India and Nepal share an open border, so there is no telling how many ex-prostitutes are returning to their home villages, or how many new girls are entering the brothels.

Hopeful Future?

Not all hope is lost, though. There are a growing number of women empowerment activists and human rights groups in Nepal, and nearly all political parties have their own women’s group. However, little success has come of enacting tougher legislation. Authorities in Nepal fear loss of face. An awareness of Western concern might help motivate massive penalties for the corruption that permits these practices to happen.

Internationally, steps are being taken at the national level to target sexual exploitation at home and abroad. New extraterritorial laws in some countries, including Australia, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States now permit countries to prosecute nationals guilty of sex offenses overseas. This might help to decrease the interest in sexual tourism, since visitors may have to pay a price for their activities. Recently, the World Trade Organization established a Task Force to target tour operators and hotels that knowingly cater to sex tourists. Enforcing these new sanctions and laws will require international cooperation from a variety of participants, including government entities such as the police and judicial systems, as well as local and international NGOs. However, it is the enforcement of the law that has been the primary problem in the Bombay area. Many local officials and policemen benefit from prostitution.

Prostitution and the sex trade are issues nobody wishes to talk about in India or Nepal. Many think it is an unavoidable evil. In the short run, it helps the economy and benefits those in power. However, over time, ignoring the unsustainable situation will only enhance the negative impact on the culture and health of the society. If the country become so highly infected with AIDS, drastic measures may become necessary and will only hurt the economy even more. Enforcement of local, national and international laws that have been largely nonexistent need to be adhered to. With the underlying causes of the issue being multifaceted, (the poor economic conditions and the cultural norms that allow women to be sold into sexual slavery), these socioeconomic issues also need to be addressed before a substantive solution can be found. But with the growing awareness of the massive human rights violations, not to mention the increasing number of AIDS cases, isn’t it about time this issue is seriously discussed between the Indian and Nepalese governments?


More on the One Girl initiative

As many as 20,000 Nepalese girls are trafficked to India every year, according to Siddharth Kara’s 2008 book, “Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery.”

They’re taken across the border, often through the lie of good jobs on the other side. The average age is 14.

Nepali females are desired for their beauty and innocence, says Paul Yates of Lincoln, who began the One Girl prayer/fundraising initiative. Their “relentless” poverty makes them vulnerable.

Yates works for Tiny Hands International, a Lincoln-based Christian group that supports orphanages and homes for the poor in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. Princess Home in Kathmandu is for girls and women who are vulnerable to the sex trafficking industry, or those rescued from it.

To learn more about Tiny Hands and its One Girl bracelet/prayer initiative, go to

Today is the final day of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s first conference on human trafficking. Organizers hope to find ways to raise awareness of slavery worldwide.


Published in: on October 31, 2009 at 8:40 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,

Atlanta Man Pleads Guilty in Connection with Sex Trafficking Scheme and Mann Act Charges

Miguel Rugerio, 28, a Mexican national, pleaded guilty today in federal district court
in Atlanta to charges of conspiracy to illegally transport young women from Mexico
into the United States, and to harbor them, all for purposes of prostitution, and to engage in
the sex trafficking of these victims. Rugerio also pleaded guilty to the
substantive offense of transporting victim “N.M.” in interstate and foreign
commerce for purposes of prostitution.

“Mr. Rugerio pleaded guilty to crimes that robbed the victims not only of
their freedom, but also of their dignity,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant
Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We are committed to combating
human trafficking and prosecuting those who sexually exploit vulnerable women
for financial benefit.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said of today’s plea, “Human
traffickers trick, lie and coerce young women into this country with the
promise that they will have their freedom, and work a legitimate job. Instead
it is just the opposite: these young women are in essence held captive with
almost no way out, and the so-called job they are forced to do demeans them.
We will continue to find these traffickers and put them in federal prison,
where there is no parole.”

“This case is a perfect example of the outstanding cooperation between
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and our sister law enforcement
agencies. Because of positive interagency cooperation, human trafficking and
smuggling criminal organizations are discovering how difficult it is for them
to hide their illegal activities from authorities,” said Kenneth Smith,
Special Agent in Charge of ICE’s Office of Investigations in Atlanta. “We are
dedicated to identifying and dismantling these types of illicit operations
wherever and whenever we find them.”

FBI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Greg Jones said, “As a direct result of
this criminal investigation and recently passed human trafficking legislation
in Mexico, Mexican law enforcement has, for the first time, been able to
launch their own investigation in an effort to combat this crime problem. We
would like to express our gratitude to the Mexican Consulate in Atlanta,
Georgia for not only their assistance in this matter in general but
specifically in assisting the victims that were being exploited by Mr.

According to Yates, the plea agreement, the indictment and information
presented in court: Rugerio admitted in his plea that from July 2006 to August
2008, he conspired with others to use force, fraud and coercion to cause
approximately five victims to come to the Atlanta area from Mexico and to
engage in prostitution for the financial benefit of the members of the alleged
conspiracy. He further admitted to transporting a victim to states outside of
Georgia, including Alabama and Florida, to engage her in prostitution. Rugerio
used false promises of better lives and marriage to lure young, impoverished
Mexican women to come to the United States, knowing that he would cause the
victims to engage in prostitution upon their arrival. Rugerio required his
victims to engage in commercial sex with many men per night, seven days a
week. Rugerio was indicted on the charges on August 12, 2008.

Rugerio faces a sentence of 5 years in prison. Rugerio remains in custody
pending his sentencing, which is scheduled for Jan. 27, 2010, at 9:00 a.m.
before Senior United States District Judge Clarence Cooper.

This case is the result of a joint investigation conducted by ICE and the FBI.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Moultrie, Jr.,
and Trial Attorney Karima Maloney of the Civil Rights Division’s Human
Trafficking Prosecution Unit.

For further information please contact Sally Quillian Yates, Acting United
States Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States
Attorney, through Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney’s
Office, at (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S.
Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice

Published in: on October 30, 2009 at 8:53 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , ,

Why Human Trafficking Goes Unreported

CHANNEL 5 NEWS brought you the story of two women who were victims of the slave trade. Their horrific journey brought them to the Valley where they were made to work as house and sex slaves.

Luckily these two women reached out to friends who helped them escape the slave trade, but as FBI Agent Maritza Conde-Vasquez tells us, not all slaves are as lucky.

She says, “Sex trade, sex trafficking is an area that we have a lot of trouble with. It’s because of the intimate nature of the act. Victims are not coming forward, they are not feeling comfortable coming forward. They feel embarrassed, they feel ashamed t,hey feel trapped and they’re threatened. They are not going to come to law enforcement and say, ‘I am a victim of human trafficking.’ They don’t know what human trafficking is. They don’t even know they have rights. They are thinking, ‘I am not a citizen. I don’t have a right to do anything. I don’t have a right to protection,’ which is wrong. Our constitution protects every human being. It does not discriminate if you are an illegal immigrant, if you are a U.S. citizen, if you are an immigrant with a permit or a visa, you’re still protected under the U.S. Constitution.

The FBI has set up a hotline for anyone who needs to call and report human trafficking. You can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.


New law clamps down on pimps trafficking children

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley and state Sen. Sandré Swanson celebrated a legislative and prosecutorial victory Thursday in an ongoing effort to combat what they described as a proliferating crime of human trafficking in children.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB17 into law Oct. 11 with little fanfare amid a flurry of other legislation getting his signature. Though it received little notice, the law could greatly alter the risk calculations of those who pimp and pander children for sex, officials said. The law quadruples fines on those convicted of pimping or pandering to $20,000 per count and, for the first time, allows prosecutors to seize the assets of convicted pimps to pay those fines. The law also stipulates that half of the fines collected would go to community organizations helping child victims of human trafficking.

O’Malley, who built a career around prosecuting sex traffickers and child abusers, said, “The effect of human trafficking on children can be lifelong” and sometimes lead to the loss of life when the relationship between a pimp and his or her young charge is coercive. She called the new law an important deterrent to pimps.

O’Malley and Swanson worked together on previous bills that have changed state statute regarding prostitution involving minors. They have called each piece of legislation a victory. Nonetheless, they said the numbers of children on the street selling sex or following orders of others to sell sex appear to be growing with the recession.

“This is part of a new underground economy, and in some places it is supplanting the drug trade,” Swanson said.

Other officials said it is a very lucrative crime and the risk of trouble from children, who are easy to persuade and cajole, is low.

“For criminal entrepreneurs, there is sadly no better economic return then that of selling a child for sex. It has been said that the sexual exploitation of minors might soon exceed drugs and guns as the largest criminal contribution to GDP,” said Deputy District Attorney Sharmin Eshragi Bock, who heads the human trafficking division at the District Attorney’s Office.

In 2006, O’Malley helped push through a human trafficking statute to the California Penal Code and then formed the Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit within Alameda County. Since then the unit has brought charges against 163 individuals and convicted 110 of them as pimps. But Bock has complained that state statute on sentences for people convicted of pimping or pandering a youth has been too soft.


Published in: on October 30, 2009 at 8:36 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , ,


One woman was sold on an auction block. Another became an involuntary servant in the land of the free.

“Human slavery, we have it. It is in our neighborhood but a lot of people don’t want to see it,” says Jaime Ortiz, a coordinator for the South Texas Civil Rights Project.

“Slavery is still here in our neighborhood in the Rio Grande Valley.”

During CHANNEL 5 NEWS’ investigation into the slave trade, we met a woman in Reynosa who had escaped her life as a sex slave the night before we spoke to her. We’ll call her “Carlita.”

The Honduran native says her captivity began the moment she arrived by boat in Veracruz, Mexico. Her smuggler sold her to a madam and the nightmare began.

“Carlita” tells us she ended up in a nearby brothel. Forty-five days later, she was lined up again for auction in Reynosa. She was allegedly one of half a dozen women up for sale.

She gestured at house and explains a man bought her there for $1,000.

“Carlita” says she was held captive in a home for three months. She tells us her imprisonment took place in a conventional inner Mexican city home.

Her captors would allegedly rape her and other slaves repeatedly. “Carlita” tells us screaming and yelling only made it worse. She learned to be quiet and turn the pain inward.

Eventually, she asked a trusted friend for help and escaped.

“Carlita” tells us her buyer wanted a child. But his long-term plans were to add “Carlita” into “the pipeline.” It’s the dangerous underground sex slave trade in American cities.

It starts in Houston.

FBI Agent Maritza Conde-Vazquez says Latin women like “Carlita” become cantineras.

They’re forced to work in dirty saloons found among a cluster of cantinas. The businesses cater to Central Americans and are often owned by people from those countries.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS found such a spot along Clinton Drive near the busy Port of Houston.

One store front had a single blinking sign that read “Open.”

We learned customers could get more than a full-body rubdown for $150. The worker there was a girl who didn’t speak English. But she made the suggestion sex was for sale.

We’re told young Asian woman often find themselves working in massage parlors and nail salons. They’re popular stage fronts for sex trafficking.

From Houston, slaves are taken to Atlanta and moved up the East Coast. From Washington, D.C., the pipeline continues to New York. Some women are eventually trafficked west to San Francisco.

Conde-Vazquez says the only reason traffickers force women into prostitution is to make money.

“It’s a very profitable business, when you come to think about it,” explains the FBI agent. “It’s a human being. And it’s basically a person who can provide you endless services as long as that person is alive and in fair condition. It’s going to provide you services for the life of that person.”

The FBI tells us victims rarely come forward and traffickers are difficult to catch.

However, the first human trafficking case criminally prosecuted in Texas happened in the Rio Grande Valley.

Maria Batres needed money to save her three children from a life of poverty in Guatemala. She had hopes of coming to the U.S. and working to earn honest money.

Instead, Batres became a victim of the labor slave trade.

“Traffickers are smart. They purposely recruit vulnerable people,” explains Erica Schommer, a lawyer with Texas Rural Legal Aid in Weslaco. “That desire to work hard and do work that nobody wants to do is exploited into the point where they essentially become slaves.”

Batres says she was forced to serve her captors and put it countless unpaid hours at the Papasito’s Adult Day Care in Mission.

Batres tells us she and a friend worked 20 to 22 hours a day. She adds sometimes they were denied food and water.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS pulled the original case file at the South Texas Civil Rights Project office in San Juan. The agency’s coordinator says, “Owners claim they had to get reimbursed for how much it cost them to bring them over.”

Batres describes nightmares she still has of dances at the Alamo Flea Market.

She says the people who held her against her will would force her to court elderly men. Batres became a recruiter for the adult day care center her captors owned. It was her job to get the men to enroll.

She claims she was forced to kiss and romance drunken old men. She was threatened with physical abuse or a call to immigration if she failed.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” says Conde-Vasquez. “Once you get in, it is very difficult to get out, because the trafficker is constantly abusing you emotionally, sometimes physically.”

She recalled the physical abuse and sexual assault she endured, while locked in her “master’s” house. She called her captors cold-blooded and cruel.

A 2×4 was allegedly a favorite weapon for beating. She adds her captors would slap her in the face to see her cry.

Batres says she and a fellow victim met a young man and his sister at the adult day care center. The two offered to help the women.

Batres then climbed out of a window in her room during the night, as her captors watched television in the living room. Her ride to freedom was waiting just down the road.

The couple accused of holding Batres against her will were tried in 2007. Neither served any jail time.

Batres and the woman she escaped with are now suing in civil court to get their back wages.

However, even with her freedom, Batres still lives in the shadows. The windows in her home are opened with caution.

She tells us her spirit is still imprisoned and fears her former captors may come after her.

As for “Carlita,” she was headed home to Honduras. There’s no word where she is tonight.


Published in: on October 30, 2009 at 8:24 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Transcript: Stop Human Trafficking

1027_ruchira-gupta_170x170Activist Ruchira Gupta fights to end the selling of people into modern-day slavery.

Hidden In Plain Sight
My name is Ruchira Gupta, and I’m an anti-trafficking activist. I work against the sex trafficking of women and children. I started as a journalist and I ended up in some villages of Nepal which didn’t have any girls from age 15 to 45. And I’ve began to ask the villagers, “Where are the girls?” And it was very, very odd because some of them said, “Don’t you know?” And some smiled sheepishly, and a few answered and said, “They’re all in Bombay.”

And I said, “How come? How can so many people be in Bombay?” And the answer unraveled, the whole flesh trading thing, starting from the remote village in Nepal to the brothels of Bombay. There was a local village procurer or recruiter, there was the transporter, there was the border guard, there was the lodge keeper. There were pimps, there were middle men, there were brothel owners, brothel managers, money lenders and organized criminal networks. And of course, the final end user–the clients or the johns who were buying these girls.

I began to follow the story and spent about 18 months making a documentary called The Selling of Innocence: From the Villages of Nepal to the Brothels of Bombay. And I was horrified because by the time I reached Bombay in my investigation, I came to these four-by-four rooms where 7-, 9-year-old girls were being raped repeatedly and kept in locked rooms with food given to them once a day as bonded slaves. And nobody to look out for them. Nobody to ask, “Why is this child not in school?” or “Why is she not out playing in a park?” I am a journalist. I’ve covered war, I’ve covered famine, I’ve covered hunger, but I’ve never covered outright exploitation like this, of one human being by another. And I was really outraged.

Modern-Day Slavery

According to the International Labor Organization, there are 12.3 million people trapped in situations of slavery right now. And according to some anti-trafficking activists, they say the number is 27 million. So the scale of the problem is huge. And just to give you an idea, actually, in the 19th century, when we know about slavery and the trans-national slave trade, there were about 50,000 to 60,000 people trafficked into slavery [every] year, at its peak in the years–I’m talking about the 19th century.

And now we’re talking about 27 million people, an estimate by activists. And if you go by the U.N. statistics, 12.3 million. So it’s bigger than 19th century slavery. And the tragedy is that the numbers are going up and the ages are coming down. I think the reason for the growth in trafficking could be a combination of factors. One is that you have the technology now to seduce, recruit, bring in people, to either buy or sell people. You have the technology, both the Internet and also, you know, in terms of speed–planes, trucks, buses, etc.–so you can move people further and further away with less inconvenience. That’s one reason.

The other is that the demand for trafficking is growing for two reasons. One is that there are always companies who want trafficked labor on the cheap at discounted rates because they don’t want to meet labor obligations or labor standards. Then the other is, of course, sexual exploitation. And this is such a big demand nowadays. According, again, to the U.N., 56% of those trafficked are for the purposes of sexual exploitation in the world.

Changing Lives

I made the documentary. I won an Emmy for the documentary for outstanding investigative journalism. But because I had spent so much time with the women and girls getting to know their situation, and I made eye contact with them, and I was talking to them, I couldn’t walk away. And so I decided to give up journalism and do something more about it. I did two things at the same time. One was that I set up a small, what I then thought was a community-based, organization with the 22 women who had helped me make the documentary.

It started as a small cooperative with a community classroom. Then it got a legal cell which gave legal protection to the women and children as they tried to change their lives. And then you had to add a livelihood training cell because the women wanted to change their lives. And from the 22 women in prostitution, now we have reached out to more than 10,000 women and children all over India. And from the courage of those 22 women in Bombay, we have now been able to set up a community center which we now call anti-trafficking units in Bihar, in West Bengal, in Delhi, and we’re going to be starting out in Rajasthan too. And each of these anti-trafficking units has a community classroom both for the girls and the adult women.

We show them how to open a bank account. We show them how to keep an accounts book, minutes book, how to get job training or skills training. And then from the savings, we teach them how to go to a bank and apply for a small loan so that they can start a small business. And we now have 67 such self-help groups all over India. And some of them are running canteens for daily wage earners. One group is providing gas station attendants to gas stations in Calcutta. A third group has applied to sell subsidized cooking oil from the government, a government contract to do that. A fourth group is making goods for export to America, handicrafts like bags and paper mache envelopes and things like that. Each group is finding a viable business which is small, rooted in the local economy, and building on what they know already.

Investing In Women
What we have found in our work is that the majority of the trafficked are women and girls all over the world, more than 70%, according to the U.N. Also what we have found in India is that the majority of the trafficked are people of low caste. So we have to address these inequalities. After all, it is the intersection of sexism with poverty which creates the risk to trafficking. So how can we turn this around? Is it education? With legal protection? With health, access to health [care], and jobs. Livelihoods. You know, everywhere it’s not a job, it could be a livelihood. It could be farming. It could be land. It could be agricultural cooperatives. It doesn’t have to be one size fits all, but it can be done.

All issues are interconnected, actually, and that’s why, you know, when President Clinton said that this year’s focus for the Clinton Global Foundation is going to be on investing in women and girls, he got it absolutely right. Because they are the most vulnerable. They are doing the most work without getting paid for it, and they are not even getting the skills. They don’t even have access to education. So if we invest in them, then it can have a huge effect. It can turn the world around.

And all we need to do is invest in women and girls to start with and tell those who use trafficked people that it’s not OK, both legally and morally, and we can turn this around. It’s a challenge. And literally I believe that this is the challenge of our generation. We will be asked by future generations, where did we stand on the situation of slavery in our lifetime?


‘Trafficked’ sex workers found in brothel raid

C_67_article_2059889_body_articleblock_0_bodyimageForeign women believed to have been sex trafficked into the UK were found during a raid of a suspected brothel in Reading town centre.

Two Reading people were arrested in connection with the UK Border Agency’s raids of addresses in the town centre, Southcote and West Reading on Wednesday afternoon.

The suspected town centre brothel was uncovered during a raid on Vachel Road, off Caversham Road.

Border Agency officers, supported by Thames Valley Police officers, also raided addresses in Josephine Court, off Southcote Road, Southcote, and Hollins Walk, off Parkside Road, West Reading.

An address in Northampton was also targeted in what was described as a “major operation” by Border Agency spokesman Adam Edwards.

A 51-year-old Reading man found in Vachel Road was arrested on suspicion of human trafficking for sexual exploitation and controlling prostitution for gain.

A 22-year-old woman with dual British and Thai nationality, also from the Reading area, was arrested in Northampton on suspicion of assisting in the management of brothels.

Three women of Lithuanian, Brazilian and Thai nationalities discovered at addresses in Reading, two of them in Vachel Road, were put into the care of police and the UK Border Agency.

Sergeant John Donachy, of the Home Office’s Immigration Crime Team, said: “Officers have executed five warrants in Reading and Northampton as part of a complex ongoing investigation into the trafficking of women into the UK sex trade.

“Working together, the UK Border Agency and police are determined to create a hostile environment for traffickers and take action against those who break the law.”

The two arrested people were both questioned at police stations in Reading and Northampton and were subsequently bailed to re-appear at a police station in the Thames Valley in mid-December.