Showing posts with label trafficking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label trafficking. Show all posts

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Canberra Woman Charged With Human Trafficking, Debt Bondage And Prostitution | Gov Monitor
A 42-year-old woman will face ACT Magistrates Court this morning, after being charged by the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

The woman has been charged with offences including possessing a slave, debt bondage and operating an illegal brothel.

It will be alleged in court that the woman brought sex workers to Australia to work in exploitative conditions in Canberra.

Officers from the AFP’s Transnational Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking Teams (TSETT) executed a search warrant on 14 October 2009 in the Canberra suburb of Kambah.

The woman was arrested and charged with the following offences:

* Possessing a slave, contrary to section 270.3(1)(a) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth)

* Debt Bondage, contrary to section 271.8(1) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth)

* Attempting to pervert the course of justice, contrary to section 43 of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth)

* Two counts of allowing a non-citizen to work in breach of a visa condition, contrary to section 245AC of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth)

* Allowing an unlawful non-citizen to work, contrary to section 245AB of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth)

* Operating a brothel other than in a prescribed location, contrary to section 18 of the Prostitution Act (ACT)

The woman was granted conditional bail to appear at the ACT Magistrates Court today (18 November 2009).

A 55-year-old Preston man has also been served with a summons in connection with this matter and is due to appear in ACT Magistrates Court today.

The TSETT were established to investigate Commonwealth offences relating to trafficking in persons for sexual or labour exploitation.

Where a potential victim is identified, the AFP responds immediately to remove identified trafficking victims from harm, and to initiate victim support arrangements in line with the whole-of-government strategy to combat trafficking.

Australia is recognised as a destination country for such activities, though current data suggests the number of victims in Australia is low with 141 victims provided with support on the program since 2004.

By its very nature, this crime type involves people who are reluctant to come forward due to shame, threats or fear.

Police urge anyone with information they believe may be related to people trafficking or sexual servitude to contact the AFP on 1800 813 784 (free call).

The maximum penalty for these offences is 25 years imprisonment.

Topics: AFP, Australia, Australian Federal Police, Canberra, debt bondage, Governance, human trafficking, illegal brothel, Kambah, labour exploitation, prostitution, sex crimes, sex workers, sexual exploitation, slave, Transnational Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking Teams, TSETT

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Sex workers | violence | women | Laura Agustin | feminism | international | Border Thinking on Migration, Culture, Economy and Sex
Sex workers and Violence against Women: Utopic Visions or Battle of the Sexes?

11 September 2008 by laura agustin | 1 comment | print print

Published in 2001, this article - and I - got a lot of flak from anti-prostitutionists. It probably won’t go down any better today, when governments all over the world are considering passing laws to make to make paying for sex a criminal act.

Sex workers and Violence Against Women : Utopic Visions or Battle of the Sexes?

Laura Mª Agustín

Development, 44.3, 107-110 (2001)

Sexual exploitation and prostitution

In the movement to construct a discourse of ‘violence against women’, and thus to raise consciousness about kinds of mistreatment which before were invisible, the stage has been reached where defining crime and achieving punishment appears to be the goal. While it is progressive to raise consciousness about violence and exploitation in an attempt to deter the commitment of crimes, I hope to show that the present emphasis on discipline is very far from a utopic vision and that we should now begin to move toward other suggestions for solutions.

The following argument uses the example of prostitution or ‘sexual exploitation’ as an instance of ‘violence against women’, but the approach can apply to any attempt to deal with not only definitions of gender and sexual violence but with proposals to deal with them. When applied to adult prostitution, the term ‘sexual exploitation’ attempts to change language to make ‘voluntary’ prostitution impossible. For those who wish to ‘abolish’ prostitution, therefore, this change in terms represents progress, for now language itself will not be complicit with the violence involved. For those who may or may not want to ‘abolish’ prostitution but who in the present put the priority on improving the everyday lot of prostitutes, this language change totalizes a variety of situations involving different levels of personal will and makes it more difficult to propose practical solutions. When applied to the prostitution of children, the term ‘sexual exploitation’ represents a project to change perceptions about childhood. For those who believe that the current western model of childhood as a time of innocence should become the ‘right’ of all children in the world, this term is very important.

Criminalization of clients

Efforts to change sexist, racist and other discriminatory forms of language have long been a focus of projects of social justice in western societies, and the push to define ‘violence against women’ clearly forms part of this movement. Along with this, we see a strong move to have actions that fall within these new definitions proclaimed as crimes and their perpetrators punished. If prostitution is globally redefined as sexual exploitation (by ‘globally’ I mean that no distinctions are made according to whether prostitutes say they ‘chose’ sex work to any extent), therefore, all those who purchase sexual services, called usually ‘clients’, become ‘exploiters’.

Obviously, different terms function better or coincide more with different situations, but when social movements consciously work to change language they almost inevitably eliminate these differences. Since there are still plenty of places in the world where prostitutes are simplistically viewed as evil, contaminated, immoral and diseased, campaigns to change language so as to see the lack of choice and elements of exploitation in prostitutes’ situations are positive efforts to help them. Why, then, do these positive efforts have to be based on finding a different villain, to replace the old one?

I am referring to the discipline-and-punishment model that these efforts to change language and change perception inevitably use: in constructing a victim they also construct a victimizer—the ‘exploiter’, the bad person. After that, it is inevitable that punishment becomes the focus of efforts: passing laws against the offense and deciding what price the offender should pay. This model of ‘law and order’ is familiar to most of us as an oppressive, dysfunctional criminal justice system. We know that prisons rarely rehabilitate offenders against the law; we know that in some countries prison conditions are so bad that riots occur frequently, and if they don’t, perhaps they should. We also know that it is usually extremely difficult to prove sexual offenses (because of how the law is constructed, because of the difficulty of all these definitions of victimization, because legal advice can find ways out, etc.). Yet we continue to insist on better policing and more effective punishment, as though we didn’t know all of this.

International regulations on trafficking and sexual exploitation

My own work examines both the discourses and the practical programming surrounding the European phenomenon of migrant prostitution, the term used to describe non-Europeans working in the European sex industry (and, indeed, everyone who travels from one place to another in that vast network of diverse businesses). In most countries of the European Union, migrants appear now to constitute more than half of working prostitutes, and in some countries possibly up to 90 percent (Tampep, 1999). This situation has caused a change in the thinking on violence: now ‘traffickers’ of sex workers are discussed more than their clients. Because so many of the migrants come from ‘third world’ countries, ‘trafficking’ discourses have become a forum for addressing ‘development’ projects such as structural adjustment policies of the International Monetary Fund. But the more active debates have concerned violence, in a way that constructs them as organized crime.

One of the fora of this highly conflictive discussion was the United Nations Commission for the Prevention of Crime and Penal Justice, which met various times in Vienna to elaborate protocols on the trafficking of migrant workers. Two distinct lobbying groups argued over definitions of words such as consent, obligation, force, coercion, deceit, abuse of power and exploitation. Two distinct protocols were produced, one which applies to the ‘trafficking of women and children’ while the other to ‘smuggling of migrants’. The gender distinction is clear, expressing a greater disposition of women –along with children– to be deceived (above all about sex work), and also expressing an apparently lesser disposition to migrate. Men, on the other hand, are seen as capable of migrating but of sometimes being handled like contraband, thus the word agreed on is not trafficking but smuggling. The resulting protocols now form part of the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UN, 2000), which member countries will debate individually and decide to sign or not.

What is the problem? In an effort to save as many victims as possible, the protocols totalize the experience of all women migrants working in the sex industry, and all those who help them migrate—a wide array of family, friends, lovers, agents and entrepreneurs, as well as small-time delinquents and (probably, but this is not proved) big-time criminal networks—are defined as traffickers. Every kind of help, from preparing false working papers, visas or passports to meeting migrants at the airport and finding them a place to stay, is defined as the crime of trafficking.

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) specifically tries, both at the Vienna meetings and internationally, to fuse the two concepts of ‘trafficking’ and ‘prostitution’ and to define them both as crimes of violence against women. Not only everyone who helps people migrate and work in the sex industry but everyone who buys sexual services ends up defined as an exploiter, a rapist and a criminal. CATW favours legislation to penalize clients of prostitutes (CATW, 2000).

The booming sex market

The problem with proposing the penalization of sexual ‘exploiters’, or clients of prostitutes, comes from the magnitude of the phenomenon, which is almost never confronted. Statistics are unreliable for all sectors of an industry overwhelmingly unrecognized legally or in government accounting, and which operates informally and relies on bribes, legal loopholes and facades. However, we can understand from the many studies of different aspects of the sex industry that it is booming. Prostitution and exploitation sites are so numerous everywhere that customers cannot be exceptional cases (yet they are often spoken of as if they were ‘perverts’ or ‘deviants’). Rather it is clear that adult and adolescent men everywhere consider it permissible to buy sexual services, and some estimates calculate that most men do it at some time in their lives.

More than 20 years ago, one Roman prostitute calculated this way:

Rome was known to have 5,000 prostitutes. Let’s say that each one took home at least 50,000 liras a day. Men don’t go more than once a day. That means that for someone who asked 3,000 liras in a car, to arrive at 50,000 she had to do a lot, maybe twenty or so. Figure it out, 20 times 5,000 comes to 100,000 clients. Since it’s rare for them to go every day, maybe they go once or twice a week, the total comes to between 400,000 and 600,000 men going to whores every week. How many men live in Rome? A million and a half. Take away the old men, the children, the homosexuals and the impotent. I mean, definitely, more or less all men go. (Cutrufelli, 1988: 26, author’s translation)

A French report calculated in 1977 that an average of 40,000 men a day have sexual relations with prostitutes (Crimi, 1979). In 1996, a Spanish NGO estimated that 300,000 prostitutes might have three clients a day, making a million buying sexual services every day in Spain (Hernández Velasco, 1996). Other measures may demonstrate the size of the clientele: counts of the number of overt sex businesses, figures on users registered at Internet commercial sex sites, condom sales in sex establishments, turnover of vehicles at a given business site, etc.

The fact that practically none of these consumers acknowledge what they are buying should not distract us. Millions of men lie every day about this aspect of their lives, to someone: wives, friends, girlfriends, children, and themselves. This is a powerful amount of bad faith or bad karma, but do we want to put all these people in jail?