Lindsay Lohan Banned from India

Well, not yet, but perhaps soon. After she falsely claimed to have saved the lives of 40 children in a daring raid and a teaser accurately portraying Lohan’s naïveté and minimal understanding of the issue was released, the Indian government is taking an aggressive stance against the child star. They are threatening to ban her from entering the country after noticing she was there on a tourist visa rather than a work visa while filming the documentary last December.

Only Danny Cohen, BBC3’s channel controller, and his team are coming to her defense, with others leaving her out to fry all alone. What a shame. Is it time for Lohan to give up her altruistic aspirations and head back to what she knows best; bedrooms full of shoes and designer clothes? I wish not, but I think so …

Back when we first learned that Lohan was going to star in a documentary about trafficking in India, I think we all scratched our heads in confusion. Of all the celebrities out there, was Lindsay Lohan really the best face to represent the plight of desperate women and children in poverty-stricken regions of India? What insight does Lohan have to offer her viewers (really, I want to know)? Is she only using this opportunity as a publicity stunt?

So far, Lohan has made few friends but many enemies as she blunders along the path to saving the world’s poor. Human rights activists, who have refuted Lohan’s claims of heroism, and the Indian government are standing in her way. Who will be next? I hate to say it, but perhaps Cohen erred in this decision.

But coming to Lohan’s defense, Cohen does makes a valid point. He argues that celebrities are needed to bring attention and publicity to modern day human rights issues, and well, he’s right. Mostly. They are influential in raising public awareness and teaching those who may have had no prior knowledge of the subject. But he fails to understand that not all publicity is good publicity, and assigning a celebrity famous for her wild partying and scandal-making love life to the cause may not have been the best idea. Though Cohen claims that Lohan is a staunch human rights supporter and cares deeply (more than we could ever imagine) for oppressed and exploited children, the public certainly doesn’t see her that way, and asking her to frontline a special documentary on the topic doesn’t do much to fix her otherwise tarnished image or bring positive attention to the cause. Sadly, we still only notice (and really care about) the juicy details of Lohan’s tabloid-making antics.

Lohan has brought the wrong kind of publicity to an issue that struggles to get enough attention as is. And for a documentary with the goal of highlighting the importance of human trafficking and the desperation of its victims, choosing such a controversial celebrity will only serve to mask the human rights concerns at hand as we sit here laughing at her conceit.

Photo credit: alacoolb


What ‘Pimpin’ Means And Why It Caused A Celebrity Twitter Feud

There’s been a lot of media coverage in the last week of the Twitter ‘feud’ between Demi Moore and Kim Kardashian. Yet, the glaring omission from all the articles, blogs and commentary is any real analysis of Demi’s point — that we glamorize and glorify pimp culture, use terminology that seems to legitimize the practice, and in doing so, ignore the fact that pimps are modern-day slave-owners.

I’m the founder and executive director of GEMS, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, the nation’s largest service provider to girls and young women who’ve been commercially sexually exploited and domestically trafficked. Every day, I witness the impact that pimps have on the lives of girls in this country. Girls are left with physical and psychological scars from the brutal tactics of adult men who prey upon some of the most vulnerable children in our society and then sell them for profit over and over again.

Demi, and her husband, Ashton, have met some of the girls GEMS serves, heard their horrific stories about being under pimp control and have taken action. They launched the DNA Foundation with the goal of ending child sex trafficking both in the U.S. and abroad and recently, donated a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh grant to support GEMS services for survivors of domestic trafficking. Both Demi and Ashton have been raising the alarm about the epidemic of child sex trafficking that’s happening right here in the U.S. to American girls for over a year now, and yet it’s an exchange with Kim Kardashian that has garnered the most attention.

Kim Kardashian, like most people in this country, is probably totally unaware of the harsh reality of pimping and thinks of it in the context of a Jay-Z song, a 50 Cent video, an Oscar-winning song and movie, or a caricature from the 1970s. I’m sure if Kim knew the real stories, tears and scars behind the glorified images of pimps, she’d think differently about the language she used. I’d encourage her and anyone else who uses ‘pimpin’ as a verb to watch our Showtime documentary ‘Very Young Girls’ to learn the truth about pimp culture.

Ultimately though, this issue isn’t about Kim or Demi. It’s about the girls and young women whose lives are systematically destroyed by pimps and traffickers. It’s about changing our societal acceptance of pimps and ‘pimpin’ and calling it what it really is: trafficking and slaveholding. Over 100,000 children in this country are exploited through the commercial sex industry each year and the median age of entry into the sex industry is estimated to be between 12 and 14 years old. If those facts haven’t been enough to start a national dialogue about domestic trafficking of girls in the U.S., perhaps a Twitter exchange between two celebrities will be.


Demi vs. Kim: The Real Pimpin Issue

Rachel Lloyd is part of’s Changemaker network, comprised of leading voices for social change.

There’s been lots of coverage in the last 24 hours on the Twitter ‘feud’ between Demi Moore and Kim Kardashian. Yet the glaring omission from all the articles, blogs and commentary is any real analysis of Demi’s point – that we glamorize and glorify pimp culture, use terminology that seems to legitimize the practice, and in doing so ignore the fact that pimps are modern-day slave-owners.

I’m the founder and Executive Director of GEMS, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, the nation’s largest service provider to girls and young women who’ve been commercially sexually exploited and domestically trafficked. Every day, I witness the impact that pimps have on the lives of girls in this country. Girls are left with physical and psychological scars from the brutal tactics of adult men who prey upon some of the most vulnerable children in our society and then sell them for profit over and over again.

Demi, and her husband Ashton, have met some of the girls GEMS serves, heard their horrific stories about being under pimp control and have taken action. They launched the DNA Foundation with the goal of ending child sex trafficking both in the US and abroad and recently donated a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh grant to support GEMS services to survivors of domestic trafficking. Both Demi and Ashton have been raising the alarm about the epidemic of child sex trafficking that’s happening right here in the US to American girls for over a year now, and yet it’s an exchange with Kim Kardashian that has garnered the most attention.


House rejects drivers’ license changes

The state House rejected a bill Monday that aimed to let Alaska tailor drivers’ licenses for visa holders and other international visitors to last only as long as they can legally stay in the United States.

State regulations require state-issued driver licenses to be valid for five years, regardless of whether a holder’s immigration papers expire sooner than that, state Division of Motor Vehicles director Whitney Brewster said.

The bill, introduced more than a year ago, had been quiet for almost a year. It drew plenty of attention Monday, with supporters saying it would appropriately help ensure illegal aliens can’t hold a state driver’s license. Opponents said it would saddle Alaska with the responsibility of helping oversee immigration laws and worried it could could complicate the license application process for victims of human sex trafficking.

The House rejected the bill

23-17 but sponsor Rep. Bob Lynn,

R-Anchorage, said he’d seek another vote under legislative reconsideration rules.

Six other Republicans co-sponsored the bill, including Fairbanks Rep. Jay Ramras. It bounced through the House committee process last winter, drawing questions along the way, before falling dormant. But Brewster followed revived debate last week by writing to Lynn Thursday explicitly supporting the bill.

Brewster said the bill would let the state issue drivers licenses that expire when the holder’s legal stay in the United States expires. He said the bill is not about immigration: It would leave the Division of Motor Vehicles simply checking drivers’ qualifications and legal documents. The bill would change nothing for license holders who need to renew their licenses every five years, he said.

“Immigration is a problem but it’s a federal problem and we need to keep it that way,” he said. He said Alaska is one of four states that lack such a measure.

Opponents said the plan could be a back door to compliance with part of the 5-year-old federal REAL ID Act. Some also said the change would make it difficult for victims of human trafficking to gain licenses. It was unclear from the debate Monday how the bill would affect that population, which Rep. Anna Fairclough,

R-Eagle River and one of a handful of Republicans to vote against the bill, estimated at roughly 200 in Alaska.

A clause in the bill would have let the division issue licenses to a sex or human trafficking victim while he or she applied for permanent or conditional resident status. Fairclough and Rep. Beth Kerttula,

D-Juneau, said they remained unconvinced the bill would protect that population.

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, called the bill “well-intentioned” but opposed what she said would saddle state workers with a responsibility — overseeing citizenship — appropriately left to the federal government.

Various clauses in the bill explicitly forbid the state from issuing identification cards “solely to bring the state into compliance” with the 2005 REAL ID Act, which sought to homogenize the process used to issue state-level drivers licenses across the country.

One line reads that the bill “may not be construed as support for, or compliance with, the federal REAL ID Act.” The Legislature has also passed other bills in recent years barring the state from taking similar steps from complying with the federal law.

The bill is House Bill 3.


Published in: on March 30, 2010 at 8:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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2 bodies found near car sought in Oklahoma kidnapping

Police in Oklahoma said Monday that two bodies found near a car belonging to a man accused of killing his estranged wife and kidnapping her 7-year-old daughter more than two months ago are likely those of the girl and the man.

Police said officers discovered the vehicle and bodies after receiving a call about 2:45 p.m. about an abandoned car near Oklahoma Highway 9 in southeast Norman. Police suspect the bodies are those of 7-year-old Aja Johnson and her stepfather, Lester Hobbs.

“We have no reason to believe it’s not those two people,” said Jessica Brown, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, who added that the bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition. “We wish it would have turned out differently.”

Brown said the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s office will use fingerprints to positively identify Hobbs and dental records may have to be used to identify the girl. Brown characterized papers found inside the vehicle as a possible suicide note. She said no weapon had been found and officials hadn’t immediately determined a cause of death.

Hobbs and the child had been missing since Aja’s mother, Tonya Hobbs, was found dead Jan. 24 inside Lester Hobbs’ motor home in Geronimo, about 100 miles southwest of Oklahoma City. Police searched for Hobbs and the girl and an Amber Alert was issued, but information called into authorities didn’t lead to their whereabouts.

Meanwhile, Comanche County prosecutors charged Lester Hobbs with first-degree murder for his estranged wife’s killing and with kidnapping for Aja’s disappearance.

Brown said investigators don’t know how long the vehicle had been at the scene, but it could have been at least a month. The car was found well off the road in a clearing surrounded by trees and thicket.

Brown said Hobbs, 46, lived in Norman for several years in the past and may have been familiar with the area where the car and bodies were discovered.

Brown also said Hobbs’ relatives would be questioned about whether they helped him flee following Tonya Hobbs’ killing.

“We have no indication at this point in time that anyone did that,” she said.

Aja’s father, J.J. Johnson, couldn’t be reached for comment by The Associated Press. He told reporters earlier that the discovery was closure for him and his family and his daughter is in a better place.

“As a parent, you know, the love for your child always burns in you. For some odd reason that fire burned out,” Johnson told KWTV.

“I had a funny feeling something would happen like this. I never really wanted to accept it, but it was in the back of my mind. The thought of what he may be doing to her, I don’t have to think about that anymore.”


Published in: on March 30, 2010 at 8:33 am  Comments (2)  
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Demi Moore Criticizes Kim Kardashian for Pro-Pimping Tweet

Thanks to the sheer volume of famous people on Twitter, reality T.V. shows are no longer the only place you can witness celebrity fights and tiffs. But the latest Tweet-based scuffle between Demi Moore and Kim Kardashian was about much more than the standard, “I’m calling you a skank because you slept with my boyfriend/ate my peanut butter/vomited in my new Gucci bag” fare that makes celeb-reality tv what it is. It was about the word “pimp” — what it has come to mean in pop culture and what is really means for hundreds of thousands of modern-day slaves in America.

The offending Tweet was posted by Kardashian and featured a photo of her and some girl friends, charmingly labeled “Big Pimpin’.'” Moore responded to Kardashian with the following message: “No disrespect I love a girls night out but a pimp and pimping [refers to] nothing more than a slave owner!… if we want to end slavery we need to stop glorifying the ‘pimp’ culture.”

To which, Kardashian eventually responded along the lines of “Everyone uses that word. LOL.”

In a sense, both women are correct. Yes, the word “pimp” in pop culture has come to mean cool, rich, sexy, well-loved, and a host of other positive adjectives. A lot of people use the word in ways that have nothing to do with actual pimping. Point, Kardashian. However, real pimps do exist in the world. Real pimps exploit women and children, steal their money, abuse them, enslave them, and rape them. I’ve seen cases of child sex trafficking where pimps dressed up like police officers to gang rape 14-year-old girls in order to convince those girls to never escape to the police. I’ve seen the tattoos and branding pimps use to mark women as their property, their slaves. There is nothing cool or sexy about actual pimps; they are too often modern-day slave holders. Point, Moore.


Published in: on March 29, 2010 at 9:46 pm  Comments (1)  
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REGION: Two safe houses open for sex trafficking victims

Shelters to help women in their long road to recovery

Women in need of shelter and protection after being rescued from forced prostitution now have two more safe houses in the region, one of which is the first in North County, advocates for the victims said.

Advocates for victims of sex trafficking said the new houses are desperately needed in the region, where women and girls are brought from other parts of the country —- and the world —- to be used in the sex trade.

The North County safe house is nearly ready to serve victims, advocates said.

It is being sponsored by several organizations, including the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition, the Vista Soroptimist Club and other volunteers.

Another safe house opened in San Diego earlier this month and is being run by Generate Hope, a new nonprofit that provides long-term recovery services for victims of sexual exploitation.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Marisa Ugarte, director of the nonprofit National City-based Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition, which rescues victims of sex trafficking.

The coalition also helps run a safe house in South Bay, Ugarte said.

But North County has long been recognized by victims advocates and law enforcement as the hub for sex trafficking.

When women are rescued from a prostitution ring, there are few shelters specifically designed to meet their needs, advocates said.

“These women are brainwashed by their pimps,” Ugarte said. “They are traumatized and filled with fear so that they will not testify against them.”

Victims often are torn from their families and taken to unfamiliar places to serve as prostitutes.

Some are young women and girls brought from other countries, such as Mexico, to work in migrant camps.

In one such case, Adrian Zitlalpopoca, a Mexican man, was found guilty in January of smuggling two women from Mexico to Vista to work as prostitutes in North County migrant camps.

In another case, local teens reportedly were used by criminal gangs to work the streets of North County.

Ten documented Oceanside gang members were indicted in federal court last year on charges related to pimping three teenage females.

Recovery can be a difficult process, said Holly Hepburn, director of program development for Generate Hope.

“These girls have gone through so much, and it takes them years to go through the recovery process,” she said.

Generate Hope’s safe house in San Diego has three victims living in the facility, Hepburn said.

The organization has three other women participating in its long-term recovery program, she said.

The program, funded largely through public donations, offers education, job training, life-skills training, individual and group therapy, recreational activities and other support services.

In North County, the Vista Soroptimist Club has long worked to raise awareness of the sex trafficking problem.

Club president Catherine Manis said she became aware of the problem when she was executive director of the Vista Townsite Community Partnership.

When she became president of the Vista Soroptimists in 2005, Manis said, she decided to use the organization to shed light on the problem.

She organized town hall meetings and presentations on human trafficking and sex slavery.

Subsequent club presidents continued the group’s focus on the topic, Manis said.

A donor recently stepped forward to provide a home that would serve as a safe house.

With the help of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition and two Catholic nuns, they decided to open the shelter.

The two nuns, Sisters Jean Schafer and Sheila Novak, are making final preparations at the house, whose location was not revealed to protect the future residents.

It will house four to six victims at a time, the nuns said.

Schafer and Novak previously operated the Hope House, a safe house, for the California Central Coast Coalition to Stop Enslavement, an anti-human-trafficking organization in Santa Cruz County.

For more information, visit the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition’s Web site at or Generate Hope at


Tighter laws against human trafficking

The National Anti-Human Trafficking Action Plan, which will be launched on Tuesday by Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, has received full support from several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which said that the emphasis should be given to its implementation.

The five-year plan (2010-2015) is aimed at eradicating child labour, sex trafficking and labour trafficking in the country.

Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Nora Murat, said the association welcomed this effort by the government but added the existing acts did not mean anything without proper implementation.

“Sometimes, strict punishment has a deterrent effect. The punishment could be 20 years imprisonment, but how will it work if the implementation is not stressed? The government, therefore, needs to put in serious effort to eliminate human trafficking in Malaysia,” she said.

Temme Lee, the Refuge Coordinator of Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) said: “The penalty for the offences is not an issue. Rather, the government should look at better enforcement of the plan.”

She also said that currently there was lot of focus on sex trafficking when the number of labour trafficking was very much higher.

“Both labour and sex trafficking should be given equal attention.”

When asked if she thought that the punishment for human trafficking as well as human smuggling should be tightened, she said the existing punishment under the related acts were adequate for now.

Currently, those caught for people smuggling could be charged under the Immigration Act which carries a penalty of a RM15,000 fine or three years’ imprisonment, or both.

Under the Anti-Human Trafficking Act 2007, a person guilty of committing the offence could be sentenced to 20 years jail or fined RM500,000, or both.

Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) commissioner Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said that although he welcomed the move of the government to launch the National Anti-Human Trafficking Action Plan, ultimately, there should be enough resources to ensure the success of its implementation.

“Internationally, human trafficking is a severe problem. Even in Malaysia, the problem is getting more serious by the day, in which the middlemen make money out of poor people. But without adequate enforcement resources, this will be a difficult problem to tackle,” he said.

Siva also said the plan should include the recruitment of more marine officers as the sea is often used for human trafficking activities.

On top of that, he said, creating greater public awareness of the problem is extremely vital in eradicating it. He said existing punishment for offenders of human trafficking was sufficient for the moment.

“The government must make sure that the plan is enforced and the culprits punished accordingly,” he added.

Tenaganita director Irene Fernandez said that not enough attention was given to human rights, particularly when it comes to the victims of human trafficking.

“The whole issue does not address the rights of the victims. They are addressing the problem as a crime. For example, if a victim is rescued from human trafficking, does he or she know his or her rights? Do the prosecutors and the police know the rights of the victims?” she asked.

As such, Fernandez feels that in order for the victims to learn their rights, the human rights framework must be clearly defined in the National Anti-Human Trafficking Action Plan.

She also said the government must address the issue of labour trafficking in the country more effectively as the number of cases pertaining to the problem is very high.

A local daily recently reported that Home Ministry secretary-general, Datuk Seri Mahmood Adam, said that a specific charge to act against human smuggling is in the making, as Malaysia tightens its laws on human trafficking, said to be the world’s third most “lucrative” venture after drugs and arms trafficking.

Mahmood said the Attorney-General’s Chambers has yet to decide whether to place the human trafficking charges and penalties under the Immigration Act or the Anti-Human Trafficking Act as they are in the midst of drafting the amendment papers to be tabled at the next Dewan Rakyat session.

Statistics from 2008 until March 15 this year showed that there were 202 human trafficking cases with 282 people arrested while 1,252 were rescued.

The offences involve sex exploitation (143), forced services (43), human trafficking (11), baby sale (4) and exploitation of children for visa (1).

The victims were from various countries, including China (290), Sri Lanka (216), Indonesia (203), Thailand (130) and the Philippines (125).


Why Truckers Are First Line Defenders Against Child Prostitution

There is one group of Americans who are perhaps more powerful than any other to stop children from being sold into prostitution. I’m not talking about parents, teachers, or even police officers. I’m talking about truck drivers. America’s truckers are, in many ways, the first line of defense against child prostitution and child trafficking. And there are more and more groups and resources empowering truckers to use their unique power to save kids’ lives.

There are a number of reasons why truckers are in a special position of power to fight human trafficking. First, a lot of child trafficking goes on at truck stops. Among some truckers, the girls and women sold at truck stops are called “lot lizards,” a derogatory term indicating that the girls are pests. There have been several cases where truck stops were one of the primary locations traffickers sold teen girls. Truck drivers are in an ideal position to observe the prostitution and trafficking that takes place at truck stops and report the presence of minors and adult women who look frightened or like they aren’t in control of the situation.

Another reason truckers are important in the fight against child sex trafficking is that pimps and traffickers use the interstate system to move children from place to place more often than other forms of transportation. As frequent travelers, truckers have the opportunity to observe and report suspicious behavior. Also, the vast majority of truckers are men. Many truckers understand how macho, male-dominated culture that can sometimes support the exploitation of girls and women exists within the industry.

In an effort to help truckers who want to end trafficking within the industry better identify and report human trafficking, the NGO Truckers Against Trafficking is putting on three free educational webinars for truck drivers, truck stop workers, and other people who are involved with the trucking industry. The goal of these programs is to educate people in the trucking industry about human trafficking and how to identify it, in the hopes that more truckers will report trafficking taking place at truck stops. The webinars will take place on April 14, 21, and 29 at 9:00 pm EST. For more information or to find out how to listen to one of these free educational programs, visit Truckers Against Trafficking’s website.


Sex trafficking unit closed. What now for 4,000 victims?

Police team disbanded just as new law makes it an offence to pay for sex with those under duress

The flat in London’s exclusive Belsize Park could have been home to any well-off couple. A tree-lined street, ornate red-brick exterior and luxury cars lining the roadside give the impression of respectability. But last week the truth of what went on behind its walls was exposed as a court found that Hungarian criminals had been trafficking women and holding them as sex slaves.

Many of the women – such as 19-year-old Julianna, whose diary we publish exclusively today – come here to escape dead-end lives and poverty, lured by the promise of big money. Some have no idea what lies ahead, others, naively, believe they can do “erotic work” for a few weeks and go home unscathed with a stack of cash.

Julianna’s diary chronicles her time in the brothel: with no riches, just degradation, pain, drink or drugs. Many of her co-workers had arrived with no idea they were to be fodder for the sex industry and were locked away, forced to work for no money.

The traffickers who abused and robbed Julianna – Andrea Novak, 20, and Joszef Budai, 24 – were sentenced to eight years each at Croydon Crown Court on Tuesday. Paradoxically, the Metropolitan Police team that brought them to justice was disbanded last week.

Judge Simon Pratt described the case as “the closest to human slavery you could possibly get”. The trial detailed how the pair had lured girls as young as 16 over from Hungary, charged £140 an hour for their services and pocketed almost all of the money. This Thursday, a new law will make it a criminal offence to pay for sex with someone who has been forced into the trade.

Tomorrow, members of Operation Maxim, the UK’s only dedicated police unit to tackle human trafficking, will begin new jobs throughout the Met, casualties of a lack of funds.

With the Olympics just two years away, there is concern that the unit has been disbanded prematurely. “What sort of organisation would allow the loss of expertise now, when the Olympics are imminent and the trafficking threat is likely to be at its peak?” asked Christine Beddoe, director of the charity End Child Prostitution and Trafficking. “It is still completely unclear what long-term commitment the Met has to eradicating human trafficking.”

Police intelligence suggests 4,000 people are trafficked to the UK for sexual exploitation every year. These cases will now be dealt with by Scotland Yard’s clubs and vice unit. Charities working with victims say they are worried trafficking will end up at the bottom of the unit’s priorities.


Published in: on March 28, 2010 at 8:39 am  Comments (2)  
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