Sex Trafficking Bust

It was hell on earth just a few feet away from well kept homes and legitimate businesses. Young women and girls locked away in rooms above cantina forced to have sex with strangers.

“They were hiding in plain sight.” Says Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

Cell phone video captured the opening phases of the raid.. The task force alleges that pimps trafficked in the women from Mexico. The girls and young women were rented out for fifteen minute intervals. They were beaten if they failed to satisfy and then after the place closed.. they were taken to other places to have sex until dawn. Three of the businesses occupied one building.. Ironically one has a sign reading “not minors” in Spanish. Another one, Las Palmas., was right down Telephone road.

It was all under the control of a the family’s 66 year old matriarch named Hortencia Medeles Arguello. nicknamed Tencha. Most of the people indicted are related. The fourteen people indicted face a variety of charges, from prostitution to money laundering.. A family member who was not indicted says they are innocent.

“These are hardworking people. they are innocent. they go to church. they just have the wrong information and wrong people.” Says Maine Arroyo Rodriguez.

Attorney Todd Dupont might represent some of the indicted.. he says because they are related the state could have a rough time of it.

“History tells us that it’s very uncommon but it happens that family is going to want to cooperate against other family members.”

Over the course of the two and a half year investigation they rescued twelve women, five of them under fifteen. The task force knows there are more victims out there and they want to hear from them.. They say the victims don’t have to fear deportation.. They’d also like to hear about one of the accused pimps. .a Mexican national named Alfonso Diaz-Juarez.. He is on the run but has a reward on his head… But as sad as this story is.. it gets worse.. here’s why.. Those on the front likes of the human trafficking problem think the fight is far from over.

“Unfortunately I’m not sure we made a huge dent. Like the sheriff alluded to there are other businesses out there doing this and there are other victims out there. This is one case. This is one investigation.” Said Special Agent In Charge Stephen Morris with the FBI.

Thursday night’s raid netted twenty-two women. The task force doesn’t’ know yet ifd they are part of the conspiracy, are innocent employees, or more victims.

Published in: on October 16, 2013 at 9:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Oceanside couple arrested for sex trafficking a child

Girl grew up and came back to seek justice

A Mexican girl sent to America for a better life never saw the inside of a classroom. Instead, she became a human-trafficking victim in Oceanside.

For nearly two years, the 12-year-old was raped repeatedly, beaten, sold for sex and forced to work for no pay by a couple related to her, law-enforcement sources said.

The alleged traffickers, a husband and wife, were arrested Thursday on Brooks Street near Maxson Street by the North County Human Trafficking Task Force. That coalition includes the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, Oceanside police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations team.

Inez Martinez Garcia, 43, and her husband, Marcial Garcia Hernandez, 45, were booked on 13 felony counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child under age 14, the sheriff’s department. Both immigrated from Mexico and are legal permanent residents of the United States.

“There have been some real bad cases, but this is one of the worst cases we’ve had,” said Sgt. Joe Mata of the sheriff’s department. “This was so important because there are so many victims and nothing gets done.”

The victim, now an adult, came forward two and a half years ago with details of the abuses she suffered after she was smuggled into the country. Her name and current age have not been released because of the sexual nature of the crime and authorities’ ongoing investigation.

Once at the Hernandez home, she was forced to care for the couple’s three young children, cook and clean, said sheriff’s deputy George Crysler, the case investigator. She was also forced to have sex with Hernandez and occasionally sold as a sex slave, he said.

In addition, the suspects allegedly made the girl lie about her age to get a job at a restaurant and then kept her wages.

The victim was beaten whenever she refused to participate in sex or did not complete her work to her traffickers’ satisfaction, said Crysler, who added that she was “under the constant threat of physical abuse.”

The captivity lasted 21 months before the girl was beaten so severely that someone reported the situation to authorities. Child Protective Services removed the victim from the home and eventually returned her to her family in Mexico, Mata said.

At the time of the trafficking, the child did not have permission to be in the United States. She has legal status today, according to the sheriff’s department.

In the past decade, law-enforcement agencies and nongovernmental groups across the country have focused on human trafficking and strived to increase awareness of the crime. Human trafficking — labor and sex — rivals drug trafficking as the second most profitable criminal enterprise behind the arms trade.

National and international leaders have also been paying more attention to the crime, which they said has ensnared tens of millions of people. A study released this week by a San Diego State University researcher estimated that 31 percent of unauthorized immigrants who were surveyed had experienced labor trafficking, often including sexual abuse.

Experts said foreigners are often lured to the U.S. with promises of a better life, but find themselves sold for sex or working in terrible conditions with little to no pay. Confinement can be physical as well as psychological.

Trafficking victims can also be U.S. citizens — including those enslaved by gangs, which have become involved in sex trafficking in recent years, said Don Stump, executive director of North County Lifeline. His organization provides counseling and mental-health services to victims of trafficking and child abuse, among other clients.

Lifeline is helping the victim in the Oceanside case, but Stump said he could not give specifics to protect the victim and maintain her privacy.

“She has been a very cooperative and forthright client in working with law enforcement because she wants to see some justice,” said Stump, whose organization hosted a daylong conference about trafficking on Friday in Oceanside. “The biggest challenge right now with human trafficking is making sure the services are in place for the victims, but also making sure the community is aware of the specifics of trafficking right in their own neighborhoods.”

Mata of the sheriff’s department said when the young woman returned to the U.S., she was encouraged to come forward by someone close to her. She had begun to experience flashbacks and showed symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.

She sought help from the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition, which works with trafficking victims. The group, based in National City, helped reopen her juvenile case and notify authorities about the abuse she had suffered as a child.

Marisa Ugarte, director of the coalition, said her organization maintains victims’ confidentiality. She did say the survivor in this case is no longer a client.

“There are many, many cases like this one,” Ugarte said. “The most important part now is that she is here and she is going to get justice.”

One challenge for groups that help trafficking victims is that unauthorized immigrants, including children, are often returned to their native country even though they may qualify for legal status as a victim of trafficking or other crimes. In such situations, including the Oceanside case, the alleged abusers are not prosecuted.

Hernandez and Garcia are in jail and will be arraigned early next week. A spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s office said it is too soon to comment on the case.




Alameda DA Gets Grant To Fight Sex Trafficking

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has been selected as one of only four recipients of a U.S. Department of Justice grant to combat human trafficking of minors, District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced Tuesday.

The district attorney’s office will receive $300,000 over two years from an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program Grant, which was awarded after a nationwide submission process, O’Malley said.

She said the grant will help advocates for victims of human trafficking increase their capacity to identify children at risk or those involved in commercial sexual exploitation and to link those children to essential services throughout the Bay Area.

O’Malley said fighting human trafficking is important because the sale and purchase of children for sex has become a multi-million-dollar industry. Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the U.S.

The district attorney’s office created a human exploitation and trafficking unit called HEAT – or Human Exploitation and Trafficking – in 2005.

Earlier this year, the district attorney’s office collaborated with several community partners to introduce HEAT Watch, which O’Malley said is a multi-system, multi-jurisdictional collaborative approach to combating the sexual exploitation of minors.

The program involves training law enforcement officials, vigorously prosecuting offenders, pursuing legislation through policymakers and providing services for children who have been sexually exploited.

O’Malley said the grant will fund the coordination and training efforts of HEAT Watch.

Deputy District Attorney Sharmin Bock, who heads the HEAT unit, said, “This grant will greatly assist in our fight to combat the trafficking of children.”

The other grant recipients are the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the city of Boston and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office in Chicago.



Published in: on August 11, 2010 at 8:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Clockwork Orange 7 Ways to Save “Steven Seagal Lawman”

As close readers know, Clockwork is a huuuuuuuge fan of Steven Seagal Lawman. Sadly, the A&E reality series has shut down due to silly allegations of sexual harassment, illegal trafficking of females for sex, failure to prevent sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination in violation of public policy, and false representations about employment lodged against the actor/lawman.

First, can you imagine how much better the show would have been if all those things had happened in front of the cameras? Personal assistant Kayden Nguyen alleges Steven Seagal had two Russian hookers at the ready to fulfill his sex needs. Russian hookers = ratings gold. They spent an entire Lawman last season debating whether to kill rats, fer chrissakes.

B) No doubt rejoicing are the thugs, petty criminals and assorted scum of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, where Steven Seagal served as deputy chief of the reserve deputies. (Don’t go telling me that was a title made up for the reality show; Steven Seagal was the only member of the force always shown in a flak jacket with “Sheriff” emblazoned across the chest.)

Well, good citizens of Jefferson Parish, rejoice. Clockwork presents seven ways to save Steven Seagal Lawman.

* Weave in a plot line about how Steven Seagal was performing an undercover sex trafficking investigation. Why hadn’t Steven Seagal told anyone Steven Seagal was performing an undercover sex trafficking investigation? Because he’s Steven Seagal! Steven Seagal doesn’t follow the suits’ “rules.”

* Point out that the two Russian hookers were actually Sgt. Larry Dyess and Captain Alex Norman in drag.

* Blame it all on PTKSD (Post Traumatic Katrina Stress Disorder).

* Explain Steven Seagal did not reach Steven Seagal’s ham hands up the skirt, try to touch the breasts and stick his ham hands down the pants of Nguyen on her first night just for jollies. Steven Seagal was teaching the 23-year-old the proper way to pat down a perp.

* As for repeating the unscheduled pat down the next day, state that Steven Seagal was again giving a lesson. As Steven Seagal’s sensei taught Steven Seagal: repetition, repetition, repetition!

* Let Fortunato take the fall. Works every time!

* Change the name of the series to Steven Seagal Lawman? Not So Much.


Published in: on April 17, 2010 at 2:36 am  Comments (1)  
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Tour Packages Offer Hunting, Fishing, and F*cking Kids for One Low Price

What could be more relaxing than cruising down the Amazon on a boat, fishing rod in hand, bonding with other hunting, fishing, and sports enthusiasts? How about luring a 13-year-old girl onto that boat, giving her cocaine, and then having sex with her? A recent undercover investigation from ABC news has discovered that for some hunting and fishing tours, sex with children is part of the package deal.

At least three young Brazilian girls, 13 and 16, have come forward with allegations of abuse aboard hunting and fishing tour boats filled with American tourists. They were offered jobs cleaning the boats, but when they showed up for work, they were given string bikinis, cocaine, and the order to have sex with the tourists. They were also forced to pose nude for pornography. When the boat left the shore, the girls had nowhere to escape to. You may want to think the tours that abused these girls aren’t be arranged and promoted in the U.S., but they absolutely are.

Wearing hidden cameras, some undercover reporters from ABC News recently entered a convention sponsored by the Dallas Safari Club, which brought together hunting and fishing-themed tour operators from all over the world. The operators were promising what you would expect from such tours — beautiful scenery, luxury accommodations, adventure — but also had some unexpected offerings. Several tour operators promised fantastic parties with beautiful women. But how young can we get those women? the undercover reporters asked. Apparently, pretty young.


Men Trafficked from Africa to Scotland for … Sex?

Human trafficking service organizations in Scotland recently reported identifying two new male victims. But they weren’t working in factories, farming fields, or constructing buildings like many other male trafficking victims. They were being forced into prostitution. Are these two cases unusual outliers or the beginning of a new trend of trafficking men into prostitution?

The two men in question were trafficked from Africa (countries not specified) into Scotland separately. One was forced to make pornography and the other was sold into traditional street prostitution. Both men, however, thought they were accepting non-sexual jobs in Scotland, only to be forced to have sex once they arrived. Male prostitution is not a new phenomenon in Scotland, with about 400 male escorts listed on the web. But most of those have been Scottish men who chose to go into the industry. There have been some cases of homelessness or drug addiction forcing men to sell sex acts, but those cases have thus far been relatively rare.

As it turns out, men trafficked into commercial sex may actually have a great deal in common with women in the same situation. Julian Heng, who manages a support project for men in prostitution, says that male and female sex trafficking victims likely have the same repeat clients. That’s because sex with someone held against their will isn’t about sexual pleasure or orientation, he says. It’s about power and control. Men rape male trafficking victims for the same reason they rape female trafficking victims — because they want to assert their control. Even the act of paying for sex, for some men, is a way of exercising control.


Book Your Next Sex Tour Today

For a little under $3,000, G&F Tours will send you on a 10-day “nightlife” vacation to Thailand, the Philippines, or Cambodia, where you’ll enjoy the sandy and tranquil beaches, eclectic club scene, and of course, all the girls you could ever image. Highlights include a tour guide to help you navigate the local party scene, personal transportation, and an insider’s guide to the best clubs (and brothels) in town — all important tools in your belt to make your sex-cation unforgettable.

But if this isn’t for you, and you’re looking for true love, G&F Tours offers a “marriage tour,” where they promise to help you find a faithful and beautiful Southeast Asian girl: your soul-mate. All of this for a modest fee. Book today, before all seats fill up.

Disgusted yet? Well, this industry is growing. And fast. Not only that, but many of these destinations, including the Philippines and Cambodia, are inundated with underage sex-workers. And while we have a law in the U.S. prohibiting American citizens and companies from traveling abroad to patronize prostitution with minors or assisting others in doing so — laws that G&F Tours claims to abide by — who knows what really goes on during the wild and crazy nights in the clubs of Bangkok.

This law is at least a good start, however. It was adopted in 2003 as part of the PROTECT Act and carries with it a maximum sentence of 30 years behind bars. Americans are strictly prohibited from traveling within the U.S. or abroad to have sex with minors, and companies, agencies, or individuals that facilitate this process for them are as well.

So far, the laws have been put to some use. Last August, three American citizens returning from Cambodia were arrested on allegations of sex tourism and prostitution involving children. More recently, a man from Florida was sentenced to 20 years in jail for purchasing sex from two sisters, who were 11 and 12 at the time, while on vacation to the Philippines.

I’m glad to see some justice being served, but I hope that we can go further and put a stop to sex tourism agencies all together. Who knows what really goes on behind closed doors? Companies like G&F Tours only increase the chances that one of their faithful patrons will spend the night with a child — boy or girl — for a modest fee.

Some may argue that such laws go beyond our jurisdiction and state that intent to engage in such nefarious activities with a minor is difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, but I believe that it is our duty to protect those that don’t have the means or capabilities to protect themselves and to fight through such skepticism. We need laws like this, because if we don’t have them, who will?

The laws that we currently have in place are crucial to combating human trafficking and exploitation of some of the world’s most vulnerable and innocent citizens. But we must find a way to apply them more heavily and prohibit companies or individuals from helping others exploit the world’s youth. American tourists are still traveling abroad to prey on young boys and girls and “tourist agencies” are still out there helping them do so. Until law enforcement and government authorities begin aggressively fighting child sex tourism, the industry will continue to grow, and the lives of even more children will be ruined.

Photo credit: r e n a t a


Published in: on March 26, 2010 at 5:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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Husband charged with pimping his wife ‘made her feel special’

$150K BAIL | Minnesota man arrested in Chicago met his teen spouse in church, mother-in-law says

They met at church. She was a typical teenager, often rebellious and indifferent to her parents’ religious devotion
Danner, 32, of Rockford, Minn., is accused of forcing his wife to have sex with strangers at locations across the country, including a downtown Chicago Hotel.

But the aspiring beautician still often went with her family to church. It was during those visits, roughly five years ago, that she first laid eyes on Clinton Danner.

He had a checkered past, but was working with the church’s counselor and had seemed to have redeemed himself.

She was 17. Danner was 27.

She got pregnant, and they married.

“She never had a steady boyfriend. Clinton was it. He just charmed her. He made her feel special,” the woman’s mother said.

Now the suburban Minneapolis parents are grappling with a nightmare.

Their oldest child confessed to them about a year ago that her husband was pimping her for sex.

Their son-in-law has been charged in Chicago with prostituting the young woman across the country.

“We’re coping. We have to,” the mother said.

The Sun-Times is not naming the young woman because investigators consider her a victim.

The woman and her 3-year-old daughter are together in a safe location, Cook County sheriff’s officials said. She last phoned her parents Sunday to tell them that she and the child were safe but that her husband was in jail.

They haven’t heard from her since.

“I didn’t know she was back with him until September,” her mother said. “We learned . . . you give her her space, so that’s what we did. She would sometimes call and text [in the last few months], but it was more for the sake of letting her child say ‘hi’ to grandma and grandpa.”

The parents said they had heard about Danner’s past before.

When their daughter met Danner, he already had a string of felony convictions in Minnesota, including two for burglary and one for lottery fraud in 1996, and another for drugs in 2002, prosecutors said.

Still, the woman’s parents said Danner seemed to have turned his life around, with his church activities and the good advice he gave their high school dropout daughter.

“Respect your parents,” he told her.

When the young woman became pregnant a few months later, the family began planning a wedding at the same Christian church where the two had met.

Danner allegedly had plans of his own.

Authorities said even before the birth of their daughter, Danner started pimping his wife to strangers on craigslist.

Within the last six months, Danner’s alleged scheme spread across state lines. He often would shuttle his family in a van while his wife sold her body, prosecutors said.

The couple and their daughter moved into a Minneapolis duplex about a year ago. Neighbors said they were told the couple’s line of work often took them out of town.

“He was putting up ads on wherever for her to dance,” one neighbor told WCCO, a Minneapolis-St. Paul TV station.

“They looked happy. They seemed happy,” another neighbor said.

But Danner was actually threatening his young wife, telling her that he would take their child away from her or harm the child if the woman didn’t prostitute herself on his behalf, the woman told police.

Now 32, Danner was arrested when he came to a downtown Chicago Holiday Inn where he had flown his wife over the weekend.

On Wednesday, a blond Danner stood in court with plaid shorts, sneakers and a fleece jacket. He was ordered held in lieu of $150,000 bail.

“Big dog” was the nickname Danner listed on his MySpace page, where a photo shows him posing in sunglasses behind the wheel of his car.

Danner’s parents told WCCO-TV they were shocked by the charges. They said it was simply not true that their son was holding his wife against her will for four years.

In an e-mail to the Associated Press, craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster said of the arrest: “Criminal exploitation is reprehensible, and craigslist works with law enforcement when called upon to apprehend and prosecute those responsible.”

While the woman’s parents said they were “shocked” over their son-in-law’s arrest this week, the allegations weren’t new.

A year ago, the woman, whom a cousin described as “sweet and beautiful,” first told her parents that she was prostituting herself under Danner’s command.

Danner, who claimed he had been making a living as a limo driver, blamed his wife, the woman’s father said.

“It was a, ‘he-said-she-said’ thing. I said, ‘Who cares who started it. Let’s not do it anymore,’ ” the woman’s father said.

The woman moved back home but eventually went back to Danner.

She wanted “out” before, but in Chicago, she ended her arduous journey by calling a sex-trafficking hotline just a few days shy of her fourth wedding anniversary.

“We went into shock since last year. I’m not sure we had fully recovered,” the woman’s father said.

But they have the same message for their daughter that they had a year ago:

“If I could, I would tell her that I love her and ask her if she wants to come back home. She knows she’s always welcome here,” her mother said Thursday. “We’re just waiting for her to call.”


Does “Sex Sells” Mean Selling Sex?

Someone scratched out her nipple and I say, right on! Before you think I’m blogging for the wrong website, let me explain: I’m talking about a Diesel ad.

I saw a poster (left) for Diesel’s new “Stupid Campaign” beside my neighborhood park. (I’m not name-calling. That’s the actual campaign name.) The ads urge you to ditch safe and smart for more creative and risky pursuits — Be Stupid. This particular ad was in their “Smart may have the brains, but Stupid has the balls” line. In it, a girl is flashing a security camera. The model is posed so that you can see her nipple. Her giant, poster-sized nipple. On the fence right by the kiddie park. Very responsible marketing, Diesel.

When I passed it again, someone had scratched out the nipple on every single poster. I guess they decided to take responsibility into their own hands.

This got me thinking about advertising, responsibility, and “sex sells.” From Gossip Girl to Caprica, we see adult women playing teen girls, hyper-sexualized and meant to grab the attention of men. Correction, meant to arouse men with images of “teenage” girls. Then there are ads like American Apparel’s — ads that are so porn-like they were sued because of it. The AA ads have spurred an entire campaign against them, including Women’s Rights blogger Ruth Fertig calling for a boycott of AA altogether due to their current “Best Butts” contest.

Is there a difference between these ads, pornography, and selling actual sex? If prostitution is illegal in most states, and if child porn is illegal period, what makes these ads “selling sex” okay? Are semantics like, “But the actress is actually 22 even though she is portraying a 16 year old so it’s fine,” hiding the fact that we are still feeding the demand for sold sex, sometimes sold by minors?

I once turned down a date with a photographer after seeing his website. The site was full of practically naked, 20-something girls in compromising poses. He said it was art and that he was helping these girls to further their careers. All I could think about was the guy who looks at the photos and decides to go out and buy some real action for himself. Supply and demand. What is the line between using sex to sell a product and creating demand for sex as the product?

And yes, I know. In Europe the ads are even racier and available to everyone. Americans are prudes. Europe also isn’t doing so hot on the anti-trafficking front. Now, before you send me a strongly worded letter, understand that I’m not saying “sex sells” leads directly to the trafficking of human beings for sex. I am saying that there should be a greater level of responsibility in advertising. As consumers, we also need to think about what we are consuming and if it is ultimately objectifying sex and women, approving them as items to be bought and sold. Because, let’s be honest, when you respond to one of those ads, you’re not just buying the jeans; you’re buying the half-naked girl in the jeans.

Photo credit: Sarah Parker


The dark side of Swedish society

As the film version of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ opens, Stephen Armstrong reports on some shocking truths about Sweden.

“Part of Sweden’s problem overseas is that everyone thinks we’re like Abba and Ikea,” says Stockholm-based stand-up comedian Magnus Betner. “We’re a nation of beautiful people singing happy songs in stylish modernist apartments. But that’s not how we Swedes see ourselves. We have a very, very dark side, and I think you’re only just finding out about it now.”

Betner, the vocal leader of Sweden’s surprisingly large stand-up comedy scene, has just been booked into this summer’s Edinburgh Festival where, consciously or not, he’s part of a subtle cultural invasion by one of Europe’s oddest nations. Everywhere you turn – in film, music, literature, fashion and design – there’s a powerful Swedish presence.

Recently, for instance, impatient shoppers were hospitalised following a mob surge at a new Ikea store opening in North London. High-end style junkies, meanwhile, crave furniture from Frant, an all-girl interior design company. Clubbers across the UK queue for hours to hear hip DJ team Swedish House Mafia, who will dominate Ibiza this summer with their night at the island’s fashionable nightclub, Pacha. In pop, on the other hand, Swede Max Martin has ruled the charts for the past 10 years – writing hits such as Baby One More Time for Britney Spears; I Kissed a Girl for Katy Perry and So What for Pink.

Now there’s a surge of interest in Swedish crime fiction, perhaps prompted by the BBC’s wildly successful adaptation of the Wallander series of crime novels by Swedish author Henning Mankel, which stars Kenneth Branagh as the grumpy policeman. Mankel’s comptatriot, Steig Larsson, meanwhile, died from a heart attack before seeing his international bestselling Millenium Trilogy catapult him to the rank of second-bestselling writer on the planet.

This week sees the film adaptation of the first book in Larsson’s trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, released in Britain. So far, more than 2.5 million Europeans have seen the movie, and No Country For Old Men producer Scott Rudin has just inked a deal to make the Hollywood version. By the time Rudin has finished, many millions more will have followed the story of investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist and chaotic, freewheeling computer hacker Lisbeth Salander. What they find at the end of that story, however, may shock them.

Tattoo begins as a slow-moving, gently unfolding detective story but ends with scenes of horror beyond anything Hannibal Lecter could imagine. Throughout the book version, Larsson keeps dropping genuine figures relating to violent crimes against women in Sweden. The Swedish title for the book is Men Who Hate Women, and footnotes quote real-life incidents to explain how the fictional Salander – whose civil rights are removed at the whim of a judge – is based on real incidents.

Larsson, as with Betner and Mankell, spends much of the time pulling apart the stereotype of happy-ever-after, perfectly educated, socially democratic and joyfully tolerant Swedes enjoying wild sex lives and perfectly cooked meatballs. The Millennium Trilogy tracks Blomkvist and Salander’s attempts to uncover mysterious murders in neo-fascist billionaire families as well as state-sanctioned violent sexual abuse, paedophilia and rape. Larsson himself was a campaigning anti-Nazi journalist who set up his own version of the British anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, so you can see why he’d take this path. Mankell, however, was a well-established mainstream author before he created Wallander. He did so in order to investigate pedophile rings at the heart of Sweden”s security services and expose public and institutionalised racism.

Wallender was born in May 1989 out of a need to talk about xenophobia. So the story came first, then him,” says Mankell. “I was writing the first novel out of anger at what was happening in Sweden at the time – the rise of xenophobia. That was my ambition. And, since acts of xenophobia are a crime, I needed a police officer.

“Even after the second and third books, I really wasn’t thinking of a series. Then I realised I was creating a tool that could be used to tell stories about the situation in Sweden in the Nineties.”

Wallander and Blomkvist also wade through some of the extremely unpleasant undercurrents beneath Sweden’s tranquil social order. In Larsson and Mankel’s stories, both men encounter Neo-Nazis who collude with Sapo, the Swedish version of MI5 and MI6 combined. In their version of Sweden, racism is rife, violence against women is commonplace, while the trafficking of children for sex is facilitated by highly placed lawyers and doctors.

One would be forgiven for dismissing these plotlines as pure fantasy. After all, in 2007 Sweden was rated best practising democracy by The Economist, least corrupt nation by Transparency International, most equal in gender relations by the World Economic Forum, and most generous donor of overseas development aid by the OECD. Even the legend that the country has an unusually high suicide rate isn’t true. Coming about 35th in the world, Sweden comes in lower than France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. And yet, can it merely be coincidence that last year’s runaway Swedish movie hit, Let the Right One In, portrayed a child vampire as a more innocent and sympathetic figure than the bullying, ignorant authority figures she encounters in 1980s Swedish society?

In 2007, the US State Department recorded 6,192 cases of child abuse in Sweden by November of that year. It also reported homophobic crime was on the rise, and tens of thousands of rapes and domestic violence incidents in a population of just nine million. “Violence against women remains a problem,” its report concluded. Likewise, a 2006 report from the group Global Monitoring on the commercial sexual exploitation of children found systemic faults in Sweden, including allowing child pornography to be viewed, although not downloaded, and failing to care properly for children caught up in sex trafficking.

Little of this would come as a surprise to Larsson, Blomkvist or Salander, who encounter all of this and more while investigating the brutal murder of a child, apparently at the hands of her rich, Nazi-sympathising family. “Sweden has yet to come to terms with its Nazi past,” says Anna Blondell, who runs a Swedish restaurant in London. “We were neutral during the war, and our Nazi party still lives on. In fact, I think it will do well at the next election, under a different name. Many people in the older generation were very sympathetic to Nazi ideas like eugenics but, unlike Germany, we have not so open about this.”

Certainly the country practised forced sterilisation of women deemed unfit to be mothers until as recently as 1975. Branded low class, or mentally slow, they were kept in Institutes for Misled and Morally Neglected Children, where they were eventually “treated”. In 1997, the government admitted that 60,000 women had been sterilised.

Meanwhile, Ikea founder and Sweden’s richest man Ingvar Kamprad revealed his youthful Nazi sympathies in 1994, confessing to a nine-year friendship with Per Engdahl, the openly pro-Nazi leader of the Neo-Swedish movement. Kamprad claimed he couldn’t remember if he’d joined the Nordic Youth, Sweden’s equivalent of the Hitler Youth. He apologised to staff in an open letter: “Perhaps you find something in your youth you now, so long afterward, think was ridiculous and stupid.”

Kamprad also admitted to a widespread Swedish vice – alcoholism. In a bid to restrain binge drinking, the government has a monopoly on off-licences and closes them at 7pm. Drinking in the streets is illegal. Copenhagen, just over the water from the Swedish town of Malmö, receives hordes of booze-cruise Swedes every weekend.

So have we got Sweden all wrong? Is it still essentially a nation of Vikings? Mankell bristles at the suggestion. “I would like to emphasise that Sweden is a very decent society to live in,” he insists. “It would be ridiculous to say anything else. But we could have been better today if we had been different before – if we hadn’t thrown a few babies out with some of our bathwater. I would like to change that and we can only change by discussing. We know that if our system of justice doesn’t work, democracy is doomed. I think we are worried about that, so maybe that is why detective stories are so popular in Sweden.

“Until recently it was a very cold isolated culture. Our art can’t bring about social change, but you cannot have social change without arts.”


Published in: on March 13, 2010 at 10:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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