Articles on Modern Day Enslavement - Zola M Dube

Author Archive

North America’s Penal System – History’s record of modified social designs to sustain slavery

In 13 Days of Awareness: 13 Nations Profiled, North America on July 11, 2010 at 11:52 PM

The last thirty years have been, indeed, the era of a great and unparalleled American crackdown. This is an event that deserves a place on the grand American timeline, alongside wars, depressions, and other defining collective experiences… In impoverished parts of black America in particular, the crackdown has struck a disturbing percentage of the male population, with an impact comparable in its epidemiology to any plague. But not only inner-city blacks are involved: From white collar offenders, to minors of all races and segments of American society, the risk and severity of criminal punishment has grown by leaps over the last decades.

James Q. Whitman, Yale Law School (2003)

Less than 5 percent of the world’s population resides in the United States. Yet, it is the home of almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners or 2.5 million people held in penal institutions. North America also has the highest prison population rate in the world, or 756 per 100,000 of the population, followed by Russia (629/100,000), and Rwanda (604/100,000).  In Western Europe the median prison population rate is 95 per 100,000 or Germany (89/100,000), Netherlands (100/100,000), and France (96/100,000), for example (Walmsley, 2008).

American males of African decent comprise less than 7 percent of the U.S. population, but constitute nearly half of the people in prison. The Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners (US Department of Justice) in 2000 reported American women of African decent, as having an incarceration rate of 205 per 100,000; and more than three times as likely as Latinas (60/100,000) and six times more likely than white women (34/100,000) to face imprisonment. A group has been added to America’s prison population; undocumented immigrants in America, where the law allows misdemeanor offenses to be charged as aggravated felony cases.

Some of the offenses for which Americans (Black, Latino, White, Native American, Asian, Oceanic) are locked up include loitering, writing bad checks, possession of marijuana, rape, and murder where violent crimes such as rape and murder among Blacks is 5% to 7%.  Under the three strikes law, lessor offenses such as loitering, writing bad checks, and possession of marijuana have resulted in cases of people sentenced to imprison for 25 years to life. The lesser offenses would rarely produce prison sentences in other Western countries.

In the 20th century questions about imprisonment and punishment typically revolved around retributivist philosophy. In part, as defined by Feinberg (1970): Retributivism opposes excessive harshness as much as excessive leniency, and opposes the violation of the offender’s rights in the interests of social expediency or personal spite and so on. For strong retributivist, it is their burden to justify violating the presumed moral ban on inflicting unnecessary pain.

An analysis of American history informs us that the institution of slavery financed and provided the physical backbone for the nation’s construction and development. Perhaps, the American Civil War should have resulted in undermining social hierarchy characterized by master/enslaved relationship and the broader institution of slavery that embodies deprivation of basic human rights – the right to education and literacy, to vote, to adequate food and shelter, to assemble, to move freely without harassment, to fair trail by jury of ones peers, etc. But, it did not. Acknowledging the legacy of enslavement, Whitman states, The pattern of continental punishment thus reflects the undiminished political power of an unforgotten hierarchical past. To this analysis can be added nuances of legalized bondage in the form of forced labor and human exploitation to create, buttress and perpetuate hierarchy, where the founding and ultimate motive is profit.

The primary catalyst of the Civil War from 1861 to 1865 – the next defining revolution after the American Revolution – was the battle over slavery. One year prior to the start of the war, Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party won the election. The most prosperous sector of the Union’s economy was agriculture in Southern states. A prosperity dependent on 1 million enslaved Africans.

At the center of “King Cotton” maximum profits was the institution of slavery. Between 1793 and 1815 America’s cotton exports grew from 500,000 tons to greater than 800 million. In every effort to ensure the profitability of cotton, the terrors of the enslavement system, informed by the meting out of punishment to bolster human productivity, was intensified. Cotton production was of utmost social and economic value, having financed the Industrial Revolution in Europe and the development of capitalism in America.

As the United States steadily developed outside the agricultural sector, with shifts in the economy of Northern United States, social designs – “law and order” and the rhetorical ethic on slavery – would be modified to sustain slavery. Innovations in communications, transportation and technology characterized the North. By 1850, society advanced around industry in the urban centers. Lincoln favored the direction of Northern states. He sought to preserve the Union and prevent Southern states from seceding to form a strong Southern Confederate.

As new states entered into the Union of the federal government, the aforementioned conditions created a growing divide between North and South. It was believed that if new states entered the Union in support of slavery it would tip the balance of power toward the Confederacy and determine the political and economic destiny of America along Confederate tendencies. Adoption of the institution of slavery would empower the South to block the more rapidly developing North.

By the middle of 1862 Southern states dominated the Civil War. In order to win, in support of the Northern vision towards manufacturing, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation through which the freed enslaved entered the Union Army against the Confederacy, providing the manpower to win the war. The future of slavery still hung in the balance.

It is because of cotton that slaves were brought here, because of cotton that Negroes [far] outnumber whites, because of cotton that the plantation system developed under slavery has been modified to continue ‘after freedom’.

– Hortense Powedermaker, Anthologist – Delta Frontier (Oshinsky, 1996)

In the following segment of this article, three critical areas of reinstitution since the post-Civil War, Reconstruction Period (1865-1875) will be examined: Slavery reinstituted through criminalization and imprisonment; Antebellum Black Codes/Slave Codes reinstituted through Black Codes; and Convict Leasing reinstituted through the privatization of contemporary industrial penitentiary complex.

Reinstituted Antebellum Black Codes/Slave Codes: Black Codes

At first, Black Codes described the laws enacted by British colonial and American governments from 1600s – 1776 to deny basic human rights and civil liberties of enslaved Africans in America. Measures were taken to minimize the threat of African uprisings and escape. Laws stipulated that the enslaved would serve for life, unless freed by their owner, and that any offspring of an enslaved woman was also a lifelong slave. The enslaved were not allowed to vote, carry arms nor to leave their homes without written permission. In 1786 George Washington complained about the assistance one of his runaways received from a “society of Quakers, formed for such purposes.” The Underground Railroad lead by Harriet Tubman and news moving through plantation communities about Nat Turner, Abolitionist like the Quakers, the Haitian Revolution, and the rhetoric of imported people of Africa and her descendants as equally human would incite the benefactors of slavery to tighten up the reins of enslavement.

One month before Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, colonial governments enacted special “Slave Codes” that, among other measures, officially legalized corporal punishment under slavery. This included physical abuse (whipping) and condoned maiming, rape, and murder as suitable forms of retribution. Though these acts of brutality and control over reproductive rights of women had been part of the institution of slavery in America for centuries, slave codes expanded and reinforced the legal statute of the institution.

During Reconstruction, individual states preserved and refined laws, with the support of the federal government. Although the term “Black Codes” reemerges after the 13th Amendment, its inception dates back to the 1600s. “Black Codes” is most often referred to legislation passed by Southern states at the end of the Civil War; reinstituted laws to reinstate bondage, sanction corporal punishment, and control the labor, movement and activities of newly-freed Africans and those still in bondage.

Reinstituted Slavery: Criminalization and imprisonment

13th Amendment, Section 1: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2: Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

It was not until the final era of slavery in the late 1800s that the United States established the penitentiary as an institution. Prior to the penitentiary, people of African decent, Native Americans, and white women were subsumed under the same class of degradation and exclusion from judicial status. The American government did not interfere with punishment delved out, particularly within the domestic and plantation domain. White men exercised corporal punishment on their wives and daughters. The institution of slavery gave license to punish Africans as whites saw fit (Davis 2000).

With the Civil War victory, came the restlessness of Southern Confederate states. The nation, at large, contended with societies dependence on free labor and myth of white supremacy. America solved the problem by transitioning Africans from the slave system to the penal system. Where except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, free labor was preserved and reinstituted through this loophole of the 13th Amendment.

Reinstituted Convict Leasing: Contemporary privatized penitentiary sector

In the absence of the institution of slavery to hold people in bondage, guarantee free labor and exercise total control over the lives of people of African decent, America adopted the Convict Leasing System. Under this system the full potential of the 13th Amendment, with its inherent loophole for free labor, is fully realized. Development of a legal framework to criminalize and duly convict new freemen and women was imperative. Thereby, redirecting people to the conditions of enslavement through legalized bondage in the form of forced labor and human exploitation to create, buttress and perpetuate hierarchy and profits, as mentioned earlier.

The Convict Leasing System is traced back to the period of the Emancipation Proclamation and Reconstruction Era beginning in 1865. People were roped back into the slave system under the guise of punishment for criminal offenses.  Michael J. Klarman (2004) provides a detailed example of criminal surety, a variant of convict leasing in this United States v. Reynolds (1914):

…a criminal-surety law, which authorized the state to hire out minor criminals to private parties who paid their fines and court costs in exchange for promises to labor at specified rates (usually several months) to pay off expenses. Breach of surety contract was itself a criminal offense, which usually lead to another surety contract of longer duration. Those laboring under such agreements often had first been convicted of vagrancy, petty larceny, or some other “Negro crime,” such as incitement of insurrection or trespass.

Klarman continues to describe other petty criminal offenses leading to forced labor:

One could be convicted and hired out for crimes as minor as using offensive language. For such a crime, one might be fined ten dollars plus twenty-five dollars in court costs, which would take eight months to work off. Local law enforcement officers were frequently in cahoots with planters and conducted “vagrancy roundups” or otherwise “manufactured” petty criminals during harvesting season when labor was in great demand.

Criminal surety, with the capacity to extend prison terms for minor offenses, is strikingly similar to North America’s contemporary three strikes law; though it appears that today’s sentences for minor, nonviolent offenses are significantly longer than during the era of convict leasing. The law has been expedient in California. In March 2010 Randal C. Archibold wrote an article about the states current challenge of  severe prison overcrowding. Qualified inmates are being released early. In January 2010 the LA Times reported that the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was considering outsourcing American prisoners to Mexican penitentiaries. “Vagrancy roundups” is hauntingly similar to the current practice of Stop and Frisk in New York City communities such as Bedford Stuyvesant, Harlem, and East New York; where young African American and Latino males are targeting to produce their identity cards by police or face booking at the local precinct.

The Convict Lease System was characterized by private organizations leasing out prisoners to work for farmers and businessmen. The work force supplied free labor for the agricultural sector on former slave plantations and the logging, railroad and construction industries.

In the contemporary era, the emergent prison industrial complex, which is fueled increasingly by privatization trends, recalls the early efforts to create a profitable punishment industry based on the new supply of “free” black male laborers in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Angela Y. Davis

An exposition on American’s legacy of slavery and Convict Lease System, leading up to today’s prison system, makes it impossible to support the idea that the system is humane and rehabilitative. The ulterior motive is engineering human populations via criminalization for the purposes of forced labor and exploitable humans towards the final objective: corporate profit. The extent of historical parallels between Convict Lease System and contemporary privatized penitentiary sector in legal tactics to capture prisoners are staggering.

Eric Schlosser is a writer on the history and impact of marijuana law enforcement. In 1997, he was interviewed by PBS Frontline on the War on Marijuana (click for video). His insights provide an account of cases of “habitual offenders” under the third strike law and punishment.  In fifteen states you can get life for nonviolent offenses related to marijuana. Killing someone with a gun will net you an average sentence of about six years. Perhaps, the discrepancy lies in the fact that it is far easier and expedient to increase prison populations roping in “habitual offenders” committing nonviolent offenses (at least three times) than people who murder with guns.

Scholosser points to a correlation between targeted groups and designated offenses. He cites historical demographic shifts in the war on marijuana. Offenders represent a diverse group of Mexicans, African-Americans, beatniks, jazz musicians, hippies, and hip-hop artists; in what he describes as the war on nonconformists. Even Lil’ Wayne (click for 2008 video) has picked up on bias drug laws and extremity of sentences, offering this highly insightful analysis.

The recognition of free labor as the path to great profit is indelible within the American legal, judiciary and corporate framework. An estimated 3.5% of the 2.5 million prisoners in the USA produced goods and services worth about $1.5 billion. These include, high-end, mainstream, strong brand recognition products. In the book Fair Trade Coffee by Gavin Fridel, Starbucks, a fair-trade certified company, is cited for Christmas products packed by Signature Packaging Solution, a company that employs inmate labor from the Washington State prison system. Gavin states:

The use of prison labour in North America has been growing since the later 1980s as companies have sought to reduce costs by exploiting prison workers, who are paid very low wages, without health or retirement benefits, and can be instantly laid off without consequence when they are no longer needed after the holiday rush.

In the article From the Convict Lease System to the Super-Max Prison, Angela Y. Davis (2000) recounts in historical and contemporary detail the streamline that connects the Convict Lease System and contemporary prison industry sector. There may be an attempt by proponents of privatization of the prison system to deny the connection and ask society to regard the arrangement as altruistic and detached from legacy, however, the statistics reveal a different reality:

African-Americans represent 12.7% of the US population and 15% of US drug users – 72% of all drug users are white (1999). 36.8% of African-Americans are arrested for drug-related crime (1998). African-American’s represent 48.2% of American adults in state, federal prisons, and local jails (1998). African-Americans represent 42.5% of prisoners under sentence of death (1999).

The history of African-American people in the penal system, including inter-generational family members imprisoned, has become something of an American sub-culture. In 2001 Alicia Keys released her debut CD and what has become her signature song, “Fallin”. It accompanies a highly acclaimed video under the same titled, directed by Chris Robinson, replete with all of the nuances of today’s prison culture; including a clip of imprisoned African American women working on a vast plantation, under armed surveillance. Her followed up is  “A Woman’s Worth”, depicting the challenges of reentering society after imprisonment. Both videos feature the reality of African-Americans, women, and people of color disproportionately caught up in the penitentiary system.

The current legal and judicial framework under which America’s penal system operates predates retributivist theory and is based, quite simply, on the 13th Amendment. In the case of institutional enslavement, contemporary human exploitation, and privatization of the prison sector there is a burden on the top-tier of society’s hierarchy; among whom the Confederacy dictates the character and execution of contemporary American ethical authority. Theirs is to defend the notion of their advancement from rapacity and atrociousness.

Information and history paint the picture of American society. In 1862, of the 2.5 million America soldiers in the Civil War an estimated 200,000 Americans of African decent fought to preserve the Union, preempt the expansion of the institution of enslavement across the United States, and free those still held in bondage. Later, in 2010, 2.5 million Americans, disproportionately of African decent, are currently imprisoned within the nation’s penal system through which they are made available for free labor.

– Zola Dube

Whitman, James Q. (2003) A plea against retributivism. Buffalo Criminal Law Review 7: 85-107

Walmsley, Roy.(2008) World prison population list. International Centre  for Prison Studies. School of Law London, King’s College.

Donziger, Steve ed. (1996) The Real War on Crime: The Report of the National Criminal Offenders. New York: Harper Perennial

Davis, Angela Y. (2000) From the Convict Lease System to the Super-Max Prison. States of Confinement: Policing, Detention, and Prison. New York: St. Martin’s Press. pp. 60-74

Joel Feinberg (1970). The Expressive Function of Punishment, in Doing and Deserving 95-118

Klarman, Michael J. (2004) From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the struggle for racial equality. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 74

Oshinsky, David (1996) Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Jim Crow Justice System. New York: The Free Press, p. 114

Fridel, Gavin (2007) Fair Trade Coffee: The prospects and pitfalls of market-driven social justice. University of Toronto Press Incorporated. Toronto: p. 253

Statistical Abstract of the United States (1999), Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, (1998), National Household Survey of Drug Abuse (1998) and Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin: Prisoners and Jail Inmates at Midyear (1999)


North Korean ‘bride trafficking’ linked to China’s ‘bare branches’

In 13 Days of Awareness: 13 Nations Profiled, North Korea on July 9, 2010 at 10:46 PM

It will create a potential threat to national security. Too many men increase the likelihood of sexual crimes occurring. It will make the existing phenomenon of prostitution and the selling of women much worse.

Professor Zhu Chuzhu, Xi’an Jiaotong University (China, 2005)

After a century of wars, unrest and epidemics the People’s Republic of China experienced a population boom, due to improved medicine and sanitation. Mao Zedong became ruler of China in 1949. As the nation’s first communist leader, he encouraged married couples to have large families to strengthen China’s capacity for industry and production. The government denounced birth control and banned contraceptive imports. By 1955 population growth took a strain on the nation’s food supply. There was a brief period of birth control promotion, to only be reversed in 1958 under Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” population growth campaign to develop manpower. Mao died in 1976. Under his successor, Hua Guofeng, China implemented the one-child policy in 1979.

The old-child-policy is credited for stemming China’s population. The Chinese government claims that from 1980 to 2000, 250 million births were prevented. Critiques point to mismanagement and acute human rights abuses over the past 30 years. Chinese culture favors male children, particularly in the countryside, where families rely on sons to assist in farm labor and care giving in old age. Girls are married off to families and are not a source of security. As a consequence of these two factors – one child limit and male preference – China is plagued by a legacy of forced abortions, female infanticide, and selective abortion of females.  Grossly understaffed orphanages are nearly all female. In these institutions an estimated 9 out of 10 children die before the age of one due to neglect and starvation.

Today’s young generation is shrinking. It is projected that in the near future there will not be enough people to support the economy and care for the elderly. China’s one-child-police favoring males has resulted in 119 boys for every 100 girls. For rural China, where in some area the ratio of 14 males to 1 female, the problem is exasperated with Chinese women leaving the country to find more financially stable partners and modern lifestyle in the urban areas. Furthermore, there is a growing trend of Japanese men seeking Chinese women oppose to independent and self-made Japanese career women. This year, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences projected that by 2020, 24 million Chinese men of marrying are will not be met by Chinese women. These men are known as guang guan, or “bare branches“. Other, non-governmental agencies report that the number could be as high as 40 million guang guan.

As a consequence of the deficit, bride trafficking has soared among North Korean women(1). Where northern China meets the border of North Korea, North Korean women are tricked and sold to Chinese rural farmers for as little as $700. As the following paragraph will indicate, not all North Korean women disapprove of forced marriages – an indication of how dire the conditions are in their home country.

For decades North Korea has suffered widespread food shortages. Economic challenges and policy mismanagement, limited arable land, lack of agricultural machinery, insufficient fertilizer, and energy shortages has taken a huge toll on the nations 23 million inhabitants. In August 2007 severe flooding caused widespread damage to crops and infrastructure in six provinces. Key donors China and South Korea have reduced their direct aid to the country over the past few years. In 2008 the World Food Program estimated that already 6.5 million people were short of food. It said state rations were dwindling while prices in markets had doubled – with a kilogram of rice now costing approximately one-third of a worker’s monthly salary. Under these conditions a significant number of North Korean men, women, and children have faced enormous daily, relentless hardships, including conditions leading to starvation. In 2010 North Korea continues to be crippled by food shortages and UN sanctions that limit the country’s ability to profit from weapons sales. In a May 2009 article written by Kristin Butler; Mark Logan, Executive Director of the Polaris Project on Human Trafficking, describes the victimization of North Korean women as “thrice victimized– starved in North Korea, sexually exploited once they escape to China and tortured if they are repatriated to their home country”.

Some North Korean women report choosing to stay in a forced marriage because of the birth of a child and/or they have developed an emotional attachment to their husband(2). There are also trafficked women who have expressed the view that despite everything, their current situation is better than risking repatriation or starvation in North Korea. These attitudes may sound counter-intuitive, until one understands how severe the situation in North Korea. While China scrambles to sort out its gender imbalances with new government sponsored health and education programs, like Care for Girls, North Korean teens and women continue to bear the brunt of North Korea and China’s social, cultural, political, and economic challenges.

– Zola Dube

1. Davis, Kathleen. Brides Bruises and the Border: The Trafficking of North Korean Women into China. SAIS REVIEW 26, no. 1 (2006): 131-142.

2. Muico, Norma Kang. (2005) An absence of choice: The sexual exploitation of North Korean women in China. Anti-Slavery International.

Harvesting organs from Brazil’s street kids – fact or fiction?

In 13 National Profiles, Brazil on July 7, 2010 at 11:38 PM

Many of the babies that were taken were very sick, or were very ethnically Afro-Brazilian, some of them had AIDS… People started questioning, why do they want these babies? …maybe it can be seen as a sort of inchoate testifying by illiterate people on the margins, who don’t have other discourses to fall back upon, but who recognize that their bodies are not safe under these regimes, where there’s torture, disappearances and so forth.

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Organ Watch (University of California)

In 1994 Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Daniel Hoffman wrote an article about street kids that provided extensive information about the nations social attitude and treatment of children. Veja (1991), the magazine with the largest circulation in Brazil, reported that the public morgue in Recife received approximately 15 bodies of dead children and adolescents a month. People of color outnumbered white bodies 12 to 1, and boys outnumbered girls at a ratio of 7 to l.  Damaged or mutilated bodies accounted for 80 percent of the cases. The article goes on to state that the local human rights organization GAJOP characterizes the routine assassinations of poor adolescents as an unofficial death penalty that is carried out “with chilling cruelty and without any chance of defense whatsoever.”

From 1964 to 1985 Brazil was governed under military rule. Disappearances, tortures and deaths of suspected “subversives” at the accused hands of civil and military police was rampant. During this period the underclass residing in the “favela” meaning “shantytown” were kept apart from Brazil’s social classes. With the collapse of military rule, people have become free to roam.

Since the emergence of democratization in 1982 Brazil’s security forces have not been transformed. Extraordinary power exerted to enforce apartheid-like codes of separation continues over impoverished populations. Those most at risk are Brazil’s children of impoverished and often single or abandoned women; largely Afro-Brazilian. In a book journalist Gilberto Dimenstein, entitled The Children’s War, the author explores middle class apathy. Regarded as thugs, hustlers, murderers and thieves; disappearances, murder by death squads, torture, police brutality, and harassment is commonplace and hardly challenged.

For a number of decades since the 1990s accounts of Brazilian child abductions and organ theft were regarded as urban legend.

Brazilian street children live in daily fear of the police, state children’s asylums, anonymous kidnappers, death squads, and (more fantastically) imagined child-and-organ stealers.

While popular story-lines regarding organ theft have not been proven, self proclaimed “militant anthropologist” Nancy Scheper-Hughes provides compelling evidence that, to the contrary, there is reason to acknowledge organ trafficking is a real phenomena. The premise of her argument lies in the culmination of variables including the vulnerability of marginalized and “invisible” people amongst the poorest in the world, the advancement of technology to support organ and human tissue transplants among “strangers”, unregulated and/or criminal agents that work as brokers, and the demand for body parts by wealthier peoples in America and Europe.

As explained in a Newsweek article published on 10 January 2009:

…international organ trafficking—mostly of kidneys, but also of half-livers, eyes, skin and blood—is flourishing; the World Health Organization estimates that one fifth of the 70,000 kidneys transplanted worldwide every year come from the black market.

Social attitudes about Brazil’s street children of shantytown origin and the history of human rights abuses against them, fit the description of those most vulnerable to traffickers – “threat to safety”, poor, invisible, abandoned, expendable.

– Zola Dube

Germany’s legalized sex industry rests within commodities market

In 13 Days of Awareness: 13 Nations Profiled, Germany on July 6, 2010 at 3:46 AM

Definitions of Commodity

15th to 19th century (“obsolete”): convenience

15th century: anything moveable (a good) that is bought and sold; something useful or valuable

16th to 19th century (“obsolete”): self-interest; personal convenience or advantage

Princeton: trade goods, good (articles of commerce)

Oxford: a raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought or sold, such as copper or coffee; a useful thing or valuable thing, such as water or time.

Chambers: an article of trade; (in plural) goods, produce; (“obsolete”) profit, expediency, advantage, convenience or privilege

A 2009 paper published by the German Institute for Human Rights distinguishes different types of human trafficking. Sexual trafficking and exploitation in the form forced prostitution is most common. There is also forced marriage. Another form of human trafficking is the exploitation men and women in forced labor. The paper identifies “Causes of Human Trafficking”. They include: economic imbalance between countries of origin and destination, including societal inequality within countries of origin; demand in destination countries, low risks, and profits for traffickers; traditional gender roles and cultural practices, corruption, armed conflicts, and post-conflict situations; and restrictive immigration policies in destination countries. The paper rejects the perspective on human trafficking as a result of organized crime and illegal migration as too narrow.

Germany legalized prostitution in 2002, abolishing the concept of prostitution as “immoral activity”. By legalizing prostitution, Germany brought the industry under state control.  The decision to legalize was made to remove the social stigma attached to the trade, protect women and children from violence and exploitation associated with organized crime and sex trafficking, provide prostitutes with labor rights and health protection, and in some cases, assist prostitutes to leave the trade.

In May 2010 Jorg Ziercke, the Chief Commissioner of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany announced a 70% increase in human trafficking crimes over the past five years. The majority of the victims are girls and women forced into the commercial sex sector. As explained in a recent article out of Victoria, Australia, where prostitution is also legal, criminal syndicates simply pay off legal license holders for the right to do business under their umbrella, described as the “backdoor method”. In some cases legal brothels engage in both legal and illegal commercial sex activity.

Prior to the legalization of prostitution, the proposal was hotly debated. Opposition was based on evidence from countries that had legalized prostitution and failed to meet the expected returns. Nine months after legalizing brothels on 1 October 2000 in the Netherlands, the New York Times published an article that provided insight into the perspective of prostitutes on the impact. The stigma attached to prostitution did not subside; an issue of social attitudes that regulation advocates said would be rectified through acceptance campaigns. Women reported being shunned by health insurance companies, banks, and accountants, as Netherlands proved legalization does not mean acceptance. In some cases husbands and children do not know their occupation. Being registered removed them from anonymity. Public records made them feel less safe and seek protection from pimps. For their part, brothel owners complained about laws and regulations involving renovations that were running them out of business. Women lamented about taxes cutting into their income. By leaving brothels and not registering, women could secure a higher income and avoid red-tape.

In 2005 Mary Sullivan compiled a thorough and extensive study on prostitution in Victoria, Australia. The paper documents the circumstances under which women work and indicates that most women who “voluntarily” enter the trade do so due to economic hardship. A Prostitutes’ Collective of Victoria survey on the impact of legalization provided this statement from a woman regarding the influx of illegal prostitutes‘far more competition, the clients are extremely demanding [and] the control over what the women will and won’t do is often taken out of their hands’. Another woman faced A$300 fine per booking if she refused a buyer she found  ‘abusive’, ‘drunk’ and ‘threatened physical violence’. Victoria decriminalized brothels in 1995. In 1997 the Victoria survey revealed 64% of women wanted to leave the commercial sex trade. There are no Victoria-Government-sponsored exit programs. A 2003 study by Julie Bindel and Liz Kelly found the number to be 75% of women in the Netherlands wanted to leave.

In Germany, Victoria, Australia and the Netherlands legalized prostitution is not monitored by government ministries of social services and welfare, but business and judiciary. The legalization of prostitution is focused on issues of taxation, zoning, licensing (including fees), costing, structure and amenities “work place” codes, etc. It is not human-focused and does not monitor human rights abuses. Government agencies outside of business and judiciary as well as NGOs fill the gap.

Sullivan goes further to explain:

“This is in circumstances where prostituted women in legal sex operations already give 50 – 60% of their earnings to the brothel or escort agency. Defining prostituted women as ‘legitimate workers’ may serve sex entrepreneurs’ quest to gain legitimacy, but it does nothing to ameliorate the economic vulnerability that draws, then traps women in a cycle of prostitution.”

The commercial sex trade in Australia is the financial equal of the 50 top-ranking, publicly-traded companies. The trade is growing at about 4.6 per cent per year, higher than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In the Netherlands, the commercial sex trade has increased 25 percent in the last decade and is now a $1 billion business, or 5 percent of the Dutch economy.

Adding to the insight presented by Sullivan regarding economic hardship driving entry into prostitution, Brisbane Times published an article in 2008 citing the global economic crisis as a catalyst. The tone is different. The commercial sex trade is spoken of in hard, cold, commodities terms. Reporters Edmund Tadros and Christine Kellett provide the following financial analysis:

“The downturn reflects nationally, with Australia’s $1.22 billion prostitution industry expected to shrink by 6 per cent to $1.15 billion next financial year.”

The world publicly stands in agreement that the sexual abuse and exploitation of women, boys and girls is criminal, illegal, and immoral. There is a litany of global studies providing evidence that the people who enter prostitution are overwhelmingly childhood victims of emotional and sexual abuse and molestation. They are our nations socially embattled runaways, throwaways and drug addicts.  As a commodity, she/he depreciates in value after presenting “damages” (lose of virginity, child birth, aging, bruises, scars, tracks).

While a study of sex trafficking as a means to understand the lack of success in legalization is important, it is not the end-all of investigation. Women, girls and boys have been reduced to the sector of publicly traded commodities within the commercial sex and entertainment industries; whether made available through trafficking or legalized prostitution. Clearly, we live in a world that sanctions the trading of women and children as commodities. The financial benefits and conditions that drive the commercial sex sector and human trafficking in general, and sex trafficking in particular, currently exceed the required intelligence and rigorous social debate and awareness to combat it.

– Zola Dube

In Serbia and Balkans anti-human trafficking may not impact vibrant heroin trade

In 13 Days of Awareness: 13 Nations Profiled, Serbia on July 5, 2010 at 3:52 AM

The main routes towards economically and socially well-off countries of Western Europe are the following: firstly, via Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and partially Slovenia to Italy or Austria; secondly, from Moldova, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro to Albania, and across the Adriatic Sea into Italy; thirdly, from Romania, Bulgaria and Albania (through FYR Macedonia) to Greece…. In some cases corrupt local officials protect traffickers and thus ensure an unimpeded flow of women and children trafficked within the country.

Dejan Anastasijevic

The extent of the culture of corruption in the Balkans, the geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe, presents an excellent example of the conditions under which human trafficking thrives, not just in Serbia and Kosovo, but, around the world. Understanding the conditions involves a deep look into networks and channels, both man-made and geographical, through which illicit transport of “commodities” such as drugs, arms and humans permeate.

Man-made networks describe loyal and empowered organized criminal groups. The networks are characterized by cooperation between former warlords, politicians, and national security sectors, linked to Albanian criminal syndicates. Geographical channels are the combination of water routes and porous roads through which traffickers ease through national boarders. Considering the criminal success rate, there appears to be a seamless overlap between networks and channels.

Serbia is a landlocked nation. It borders Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovia, Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary. Its capital city is Belgrade.  2000 km of transportable rivers and canals ease navigation to outside regions. The largest waterways connect Serbia with Northern, Western, Eastern and Southern Europe. Kosovo, considered the “cradle of Serbian culture”, is Serbia’s Southern province and the home of an ethnic Albanian majority. In 2008 Kosovo declared independence. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty and sees it as a breakaway province.

Surges in Albanian migration to Western Europe can be traced to various wars in history, markedly World Wars I & II and more recently, the Yugoslav wars. After the fall of communism in 1991 an economic crisis and environment of instability ensued throughout the Balkans. The Kosovo war has also done considerable damage, including war crimes that remain unresolved. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, rapid changes in social and economic norms, poor law enforcement, and policy uncertainty have resulting in the increase in organized crime. The region is also plagued by poverty, high unemployment and inadequate social services. Under these conditions, drug trafficking, arms smuggling, and human trafficking have flourished.

The Albania Diaspora has a presence throughout the world and notably within Western Europe. In 2005 it was estimated that between 1989 and 2001 720,000 Albanians emigrated to Italy and Greece. Within Albanian Diaspora is the dispersion of criminal syndicates. Beyond southern Europe, the Albanian mafia has an established presence in Germany, Netherlands, England and Switzerland.

Although Kosovo is supported by NATO, corruption, money laundering, and arms deals have run deep. To the Republican Party’s chagrin in the late 1990s, the Kosovo Liberation Army was accused of providing arms to radical Islamic extremists in the Middle East. In recent years, fear of an arms conflict within the region has subsided. The Balkans cache of arms left behind by decades of war, have reached as far as the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Drug and human trafficking remain a major concern for Western Europe, exceptionally among human rights organization and NGOs. The Balkans role in the global Afghan heroine trade is of particular concern to many groups in that it informs social and political instability, an ever younger addicted youth population and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The monopoly of the world’s heroin is found in Afghanistan, a whopping 85%. The shortest, easiest and preferred route for moving Afghanistan heroin to Western Europe is currently via a southern branch of the Balkan route. On 25 June 2010 Mark Leon Goldberg provided the following statistics on the appreciation of opiates on route to Western Europe:

1 kg of heroin in Afghanistan can fetch $2,000-$2,500. But once that heroin reaches the Af/Pak border, the price increases to $3,000. At the Iran-Afghan border 1 kg of heroin will fetch you $5,000… Iran to Turkey is the first major transit route for Europe-bound heroin. At the border, the price per kg jumps by 60%, to $8,000 a kg… the combined GDP of Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania is about $20 billion – that is equivalent to the value of the entire western European heroin market.

In 2004 the World Customs Organization reported that the “Southern Balkan Route” was used frequently to smuggle opiates into Western Europe. The organization also reported the nationalities of heroin traffickers arrested in Italy from 2000 to 2008: Albanian 32%, Turkish 13%, Other Balkan nationalities 13%, Other 12%, Italian 10%, Pakistani 8%, Nigerian 6%, Other African nationalities 6%.

The geographical smuggling channels of the Balkans consist of water routes and unregulated border crossings. Outside water routes, porous border crossings are passed easily through mountain roads. Many borders along the Balkans route cut across long-standing, close-knit ethic clans. Partnering with the ethnic Albanian Diaspora and multinational crime groups in Europe, criminal Albanian rings dominant European drugs trafficking and distribution.

Dejan Anastasijevic (1) offers the following insight into the network layout:

Qamil Shabani, an ethnic Albanian from Urosevac… was a close associate of Metush Bajrami, an ethnic Albanian from Macedonia with a Bulgarian citizenship, who supervised heroin transports via Turkey, Bulgaria, and Macedonia. But Shabani was also linked with the Serbian crime ring known as the Zemun gang, which was well-connected with BIA, Serbian largest security agency… thanks to their connections with BIA, their vehicles were often escorted by Serbian security officers, ensuring the trucks could pass through police checkpoints without being searched.

Trafficking in human beings has simply been added to the list of “commodities” moved along drug smuggling channels and its networks. In 2010 it has been reported that human trafficking has not subsided, despite 16 May 2005 adoption of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, intended to raise the rule of law on human trafficking to international standards. Recent reports indicate that Serbia and Kosovo are still not achieving measures to stem modern day slavery.

The financial revenues emanating from opiates have been partially addressed in this article. That, combined with a historical exploration into the culture of corruption and collaboration between former warlords of the Yugoslav wars, past and present government officials, Balkan criminal syndicates and their multinational criminal partners (not adequately explored in this article) are key to understanding the difficulties in stemming drug trafficking.  Perhaps, the financial benefits of the heroine trade supersede peace and security in the Balkans. It may be that in NATO’s quest to support Kosovo as a nation worthy of its efforts, a cost/benefits analysis leaves room for tougher regulation and enforced prosecution against human trafficking.

– Zola Dube

(1). Anastasijevic, Dejan. (2006) Organized Crime in the Western Balkans. First Annual Conference on Human Security, Terrorism and Organized Crime in the Western Balkan Region. HUMSEC project in Ljubljana, 23-25 November 2006.

Japan’s lucrative video gaming industry imitates criminal real life

In 13 Days of Awareness: 13 Nations Profiled on July 1, 2010 at 9:51 PM

…choosing young girls to assault, raping them numerous times with an option to impregnate the girl and force her to have an abortion. RapeLay doesn’t stand alone; there are many games in Japan that include high numbers of rapes mixed with violence and torture…That this game specifically focuses on minors fuels the child-sex trade.

Ashley Beudin Smithville

On 21 April 2006 in Japan, RapeLay, a 3D eroge (“erotic game”) video game produced by Illusion was released to the public. The game follows the typical Visual Novel format pioneered by Japan’s video programmers. You, the player, are the main character of the story, “Kimura Masaya”. As you delve deeper and deeper into the psychotic world of Kimura, a habitual “chikan” (“street groper”, common character in Japanese pornography) you select a variety of scenarios to stalk and rape a mother and her two young daughters in a public, crowded train.

Eroge (also “hentai”) “entertainment” or violent games depicting rape, torture and bondage in detail and including children, are not new to Japan. They originated in the 1980’s when Japan was vying with the United States for first rank in computer standards. With the advent of the internet, these games have achieved global outreach. According to a March 2010 CNN report, it is possible to download RapeLay for free.

The questions loom: Why are these games tolerated in a modern, advanced society like Japan? Who and what is liable for the popularity and sustainability of eroge and hentai?

At the time of the writing of this article Japan’s parliament is engaged in a debate around regulating its entertainment industry. At the center of deliberations is whether to regulate sexual images of minors in “manga” comic books, animation and video games. In Japan there is no purchasing age restriction. A leading opponent is Yukari Fujimoto, an Associate Professor of Meiji University in Tokyo, Japan. Fujimoto contends that pornography in Japan has no negative effect on Japanese youth. She cites the positive impact of images opening up discussions about sex with family and friends. If children are sheltered from sexual information they aren’t able to talk about sex with anyone and may develop a sense of guilt about their feelings. Fujimoto also argues that regulation of comic book content in America resulted in a decline in revenues. Japan is among the highest grossing video gaming industries in the world, second only to the America where it holds first place.

Leading experts on Japanese attitudes about sex and sexuality acknowledge that society has traditionally been lax. However, there is a growing tied of Japanese nationals who are pushing for government to take a stronger stance. In a 2003 Asian Times article Japanese men are accused of having views of women as second-class humans. It holds men responsible for the underground sex industry and creating a haven for sex traffickers. The article highlights the sentiments of “Hiroshi Goto”, a 40-year-old secretary to a politician: “I don’t miss having a girlfriend because work is so important to me. When I want female company, I visit Tokyo’s various nightspots with my colleagues. Life is much easier that way.”

The global figure on human trafficking is $32 billion. Japan’s underground sex industry (including sexual enslavement, prostitution, pornography, manga magazines, and video games) is estimated at $83 billion a year. (On the face of it, these estimates, including reports attributing $16 billion dollars to Latin America, are counter-intuitive and represent the need for further studies to establish a truer account of revenues generated by the global human trafficking industry.)

Whereas, there are Japanese experts who put forth arguments to exonerate the entertainment industry from having an adverse impact on society, Yakuza has been a source of social tension for centuries. Yakuza, aka Japanese mafia, is a traditional crime syndicate with a history spanning 400 years. In contemporary Japan, they are linked to blackmail, illegal gambling, money laundering, casinos, prostitution, and smuggling. For many people around the world, information about Yakuza came through recent publications by Jake Adelstein, a former reporter for Tokyo’s largest daily newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun. Jake Adelstein uncovered the inside world of Yakuza while investigating a potential human trafficking ring in Tokyo:

…certain factions of the yakuza engage in human trafficking, the production of child pornography, extortion, stock manipulation, pushing drugs, assault, loan sharking and occasionally murder.

Attempts to curtail Yakuza’s influence in Japanese affairs appear futile. The Japanese National Police Agency (NPA) estimates that the Yakuza have almost 80,000 members. In Tokyo 800 Yakuza front companies are engaged in investment and auditing firms, construction companies and pastry shops. The mafia is also rumored to have set up their own bank in California.

Within Japan’s entertainment and video gaming industry, Yakuza is the inspiration for countless manga, animation, video games and porno flicks.  They are glamorized characters programmed for players to personify in pre-scripted Visual Novels – adventurous, bold, cruel, calculated, yet handsome and sometime charming. On 30 June 2010 Playstation Lifestyle published the release of “Another Yakuza Game on the Horizon”. Yakuza may be a key to understanding Japan’s attitude towards sex and violence.

In 2000 the Journal of Applied Social Psychology published a paper entitled “Attitudes towards prostitution and acceptance of rape myths”(1). The study was conducted among undergraduate students in California, Iowa, Oregon, and Texas. The position of the study is as follows:

Prostitution myths are those which justify the existence of prostitution, promote misinformation about prostitution and prostituted women, and contribute to a social climate that exploits and harms not only prostituted women but all women.

Although the aforementioned 2000 study is based in the United States, its thesis appears as global as human and sex trafficking. A social climate that exploits and harms can be applied to Japan’s unregulated position on “entertainment”. To the extent that globalization informs the dispersion of antisocial “entertainment” programs, those who understand the correlation between “entertainment” imitating real-life criminal behavior are presented with the challenge of chartering a new course and dialogue on the merits of a truly global movement against human trafficking. Human trafficking does not exist in national silos; it is a global phenomena.

– Zola Dube

1. Cotton, Ann and Farely, Melissa and Baron, Robert. (2000). “Attitudes toward prostitution and acceptance of rape myths.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 32(9) pp 1790-1796

In midst of Latin American human trafficking pandemic Uruguay seeks to reduce poverty

In 13 Days of Awareness: 13 Nations Profiled on June 30, 2010 at 5:41 PM

Although it might not seem like it, garbage is a huge, multibillion dollar business, and it’s about time that the weakest link in the chain, the sorters, have a decent life and are respected for our silent contribution to the environment.

– Marcelo Conde, Vice President of Union of Urban Solid Waste Sorters

The global estimate of human trafficking revenues is a staggering $32 billion. Of this amount, $16 billion is generated out of Latin America alone. In Uruguay, the usual suspects – commercial sex trafficking and forced labor – are the bulk of human trafficking.

Between 1986 and 2003 the nation experienced a significant increase in the number of children living in poverty; a contributing factor to human trafficking. According to a 2004 report by UNICEF in Montevideo, in 1986 for every poor adult over sixty-five there were two children living in poverty. In 1995 the number escalated to seven children living in poverty, and in 2003 nine children. In a nutshell, the face of poverty in Uruguay has been children.

The relaxation of labor laws in Uruguay over the past three decades opened up children to the informal job market. Mora Podestra is one of Uruguay’s prominent child rights advocates. Since the late 1980s, the work of NGO leaders like Podestra has kept the needs of children in the consciousness of people, particularly among Uruguay’s middle-class. Her work has included helping families create the condition for kids to stay home, strengthening social awareness about street kids and building a national sense of social responsibility. She has implemented projects in Montevideo through programs sponsored by UNICEF and the Inter-American Foundation and provided a foundation of models of success for future projects.

In an article published in 2004 by Raul Pierri, it was reported that seven out of ten children who work did not attend school. Children as young as nine years old “work” in the city. The jobs performed vary from selling poems, singing, and domestic servitude to dumpster diving, aka waste pickers, garbage sorters, or “hugardores” (derogatory term). On the more sinister side, children are sold to traffickers through a web of deception, parental selling and child abduction.

In recent years, the government has created programs that seek to integrate the nations impoverished into the mainstream job market and out of poverty by formalizing the informal job sector. One area of success has been the role of garbage sorters in waste management.

PANES or National Plan to Address the Social Emergency, is leading an anti-poverty initiative. Among the objectives are: raise the wages of workers above the poverty level, reduce the number of employed children and ensure that children stay in school, and restore the dignity of people through a work code that includes uniforms.

During Uruguay’s military dictatorship from 1973 to 1985 dumpster divers, called “hurgudores” were arrested if caught. Today, Uruguay Clasifica (Uruguay Sorts) are no longer on the fringe of society’s superfluous and invisible people, but recognized as valuable contributors to the nation’s waste management needs. Home appliances are refurbished, clothes, shoes, and furniture in good condition are sold in Montevideo’s street markets. Eligibility for PANES services is limited as family incomes actually exceeded Uruguay’s official poverty line.

Numerous studies on human trafficking have indicated that poverty opens up the gateway to human exploitation. Uruguay presents a viable case study for the impact of poverty alleviation on reduction in human trafficking. Compared to Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay does have proportionately lower levels of human trafficking, however further studies are required to prove a correlation.

– Zola Dube

2012 Olympics in England off to fresh start dismantling modern day slavery

In 13 Days of Awareness: 13 Nations Profiled on June 29, 2010 at 11:40 AM

“It needs to be put out there to people that [men who purchase sex] have to understand this is exploitation of people in the worst way. Lives are ruined just because people want to use what is seen as just a brothel selling prostitution. They do not see the horror story behind it.”

– Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland, London 2010

From as far back as 2006 anti-human trafficking advocates in England have raised concerns over the 2012 Olympic Games. Criminal syndicates stand to gain financially from the illicit multi-billion pound industry. On one hand are free and single male construction workers, including exploited illegal workers. On the other, sex slaves smuggled into England, estimated at 4000 per year, from developing nations of Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. UNICEF has a different estimate of 5000 children alone.

In 2007 Grahame Maxwell, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, reported cases of underage virgins sold in London for £8000 pounds to women sold for £500 forced to service restaurant workers. In July 2009 London police arrested a couple for human trafficking. After a one-year investigation, it is reported that more than £1m in six months of accumulated profits were generated running four brothels around the city. What made the case particularly unusual is the victims that willingly came forward; a key factor in undermining the financial system that makes human trafficking worth the risk to criminals. Up until very recently, this was not the case.

Numerous published reports on treatment of “rescued” human trafficking victims have demonstrated their victimization by authorities. Victims are reminded by their captors that they are in the country illegally and will be deported if found. Physical abuse and intimidating is part of the life of modern day slaves. Indeed, there have been victims who were immediately deported after being “busted for prostitution”.

As recently as 2008 the British government appeared complacent towards human trafficking. Plans were put in place to close the Home Office specialist division on Human Trafficking, set for April 2009, saving the national budget £2.3m. On December 5, 2008 the London Daily News reported that the decision had been reversed.

Today, the Home Office-Human Trafficking Unit, has issued new laws protecting the rights of victims and prosecuting criminal human smugglers as well as criminalizing men who pay for sex.  Men who sleep with victims face criminal charges tantamount to rape. Women in government, namely Harriet Harman, have left nothing to chance and keep the pressure on England to be proactive as enslavement has not yet been eradicated. There are still elements of complacency in government and criminal syndicates looking to reap financial benefits from the exploitation of humans through the Olympic games.

As noted by Jane Esuantsiwa Goldsmith, preparing for the 2012 Olympics should be an evidence-based approach, including input from affected communities, trafficked persons, migrant workers and labor unions. More resources have been provided to investigate criminal smugglers of people as well as customers. This has lead to the discovery of criminal rings. England’s anti-human trafficking operations and campaign now guide victims towards resources available to assist them in overcoming their trauma and delay deportation until they receive recovery treatment.

In what may finally be a focused response to recommendations from NGOs who work directing with human trafficking victims and understand their needs, Scotland Yard has in recent years revamped its London human trafficking operations. There is still more work to be done. By all appearances, authorities have just begun to become sensitized to the impact of human trafficking from the perspective of its victims.

– Zola Dube

Initiation and ritual abuse applied to human trafficking

In Research Topics on June 24, 2010 at 10:23 PM

Ritual abuse can be defined as organized sexual, physical, and psychological abuse, which can be systematic and sustained over a long period of time. It involves the use of rituals, with or without a belief system. It usually involves more than one person as abusers. Ritual abuse usually starts in early childhood and involves using patterns of learning and development to sustain the abuse and silence the abused(1).

Ritual Abuse Definition, Healing Our Past Experiences (HOPE)

When people think about ritual abuse the mind may conjure images of activity taking place in dark rooms, performed by satanic cults and secret societies. Ritual abuse is also practiced by individuals and groups, namely people who sexually abuse children and are known by their victim(2). Human trafficking is another arena where ritual abuse is exercised. Within cults, sex abuse groups, and sex trafficking rings the purpose of ritual abuse is the same:  Condition the victim.

Ritualized abuse functions to destroy the identity of victims, create a sense of powerlessness and perpetual intimidation. As explained by Pauline Carruthers, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, abusers use repetition, routine and ritual to force [victims] into the patterns of behavior they require, to instill fear and ensure silence, thus protecting themselves(3).

Gangs and organized crime syndicates have built the foundation of today’s commercial sex industry on deliberate, methodical and brutal initiation and ritual abuse systems. Among the frequently used tactics are rape, gang rape; isolation, confinement, beatings; and branding and tattoos. This articles provides three examples of ritual abuse practices in Afghanistan, Eastern Europe, and United States.

Beatings, isolation and confinement

Bacha Bazi meaning “Boy Play” is a form of sexually slavery in Afghanistan involving male-child victims exclusively. It is an industry supported by wealthy and powerful businessmen and former warlords. Boys as young as 10 years old are sold by poor families under the guise of promises of a better life. In northern Afghanistan there are an estimated 60,000 street kids; providing an easy source of prey for pedophiles and pimps.

Wearing women’s clothing and make up, the boys are trained to dance and perform for groups of men. After a performance the boys “master” may choose to sell the boy for a night to the highest bidder. The children are frequently the victims of ritual abuse in the form of beatings, isolation, and confinement for attempting to escape or “disobedience” towards their master or client. It is not uncommon for boys seeking escape to be tracked and killed(4).

Branding and tattoos

In an article published in 2009, Susan Abram identifies a correlation between the commercial hip-hop industry and the glamorization of prostitution and pimping that informs sex trafficking to the disadvantage of victims(5). Pop culture and media fixation on illicit sex may partially explain what Bradley Myles of Polaris Project has identified as a similar prostitution business model across the nation(6). Typically, the initial’s or street names of pimps are branded on the body of traffic victims to serve as a reminder to that he/she is “property” under ownership of the pimp. Symbols of material wealth and possession, such as dollar signs and the tag “Daddy”, are also commonly applied. In 2009 Professor Donna M. Hughes collected photographic evidence of the practice of tattooing underage sex trafficking victims(7), demonstrating that tattooing is a national practice.

Repeated rape and gang rape

Since the fall of communism, sex trafficking has become the fastest growing form of organized crime in Eastern Europe. In February 2006, PBS Frontline published the documentary “Sex Slavery”(8). The story documents the journey of Viorel to find his wife; abducted from her homeland and sold into modern day sex slavery. “Sex Slavery” provides a disturbing account of the initiation into modern day slavery, marked by repeated gang rape to suppress resistance and instill compliance and fear.

Loss of identity

The types of ritual abuse explored in this article represent the potential for the effect of severe trauma…, [as a consequence of] usually extreme, repetitive physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse or, what mental health professionals term Dissociative Identity Disorder(9). As with exposure to ritual abuse, it stands to reason that conditioning the behavior of a sex trafficking victim leads to the display of multiple distinct identities according to environment. The victims identity before a pimp, client, and co-victim may differ drastically. As human rights advocates explore ways to take care of sexual enslavement victims, ritual abuse appears to be a viable area for gathering information on post-traumatic stress disorder treatment. To this end, through the work of Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald, the United Nations has taken a decisive lead in making the connection between ritual abuse and human trafficking(10).

– Zola Dube

1, 3. Healing Our Past Experiences. About Ritual Abuse

2. Munro, Kali. Report of the ritual abuse task force. Los Angles county commission for women. March 1991. Retrieved 2010-06-23

4. The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan. Producer, Najibullah Quraishi. PBS Frontline. 20 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-20

5. Abram, Susan. Daily News Los Angeles. Showing prostitutes a way off the streets. 27 July 2009

6. Kristof, Nicholas D. New York Times. The Pimps’ Slaves. 16 March 2008

7. Rowe, Claudia. Seattle Post Intelligencer. No way out: Teen girls sell bodies in Seattle. 30 June 2008

8. Sex Slaves. Producers, Ric Esther Bienstock, Felix Golubev, Simcha Jacobovici. PBS Frontline. 7 February 2006. Retrieved 2010-06-22

9. Dryden-Edwards, Dr. Roxanne. Mental Health: Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder) Retrieved 2010-06-22

10. Sarson, J. & MacDonald, L. Ritual abuse-torture. The most unspoken face of human trafficking. 48th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. United Nations Headquarters, New York City. March 2004

The Virgin Myth: A global and historical perspective

In Research Topics on June 20, 2010 at 2:53 PM

Perhaps, the most notorious case of the Virgin Myth to shock the international community took place in 2001. A nine months old child from Kimberley in the Northern Cape was left in the care of a friend by her underage mother. Six men between the ages of twenty-two and sixty-six were accused of gang raping the infant. A crime that left the child severely injured. (1)

For many people around the world, current awareness about the “Virgin Myth”, also know as the “Virgin Cure”, stem from its presence in South Africa. The health care system and political leadership have been at a loss to respond effectively to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Filling the gap, the “wisdom” of traditional healers has triggered the belief that sex with virgins cures deadly diseases and an assortment of other sexually transmitted diseases.

According to a 2009 article in the Guardian, Zimbabwe’s economic collapse has undermined the family unit and crippled the war against the spread HIV/AIDS, leaving many children vulnerable to the Virgin Myth. Betty Makoni, founder of the Girl Child Network (GCN) has identified the rape of a day-old child in Zimbabwe as the youngest known victim.(2)

Social and cultural institution that purport the Virgin Myth is a global phenomena. The practice is prevalent in Asia, most notably India, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. Besides the Virgin Myth, the region is also plagued by the “Virgin Rejuvenation Myth”, that has given rise to the term “Trafficking in Virgins” within the commercial sex industry. This myth promotes the idea that sleeping with a young virgin enhances virility, promotes youthfulness, and slows down the aging process. Children as young as 5 are bought and sold to grown men.(3)

What is most disturbing is that even wealthy Chinese businessmen are not immune to the myth; debunking the idea that it is a practice of the impoverished and uneducated. Dr. Martin Brass, an international lawyer, wrote an article about his own experience. He recounts an invitation from a Chinese law firm for a gentlemens night out that ended with each lawyer selecting an elegantly dressed Chinese girl, among the many who floated around the entire evening, to spend the night with.(4)

Western tourist are not removed from sex with virgins in foreign countries, though the motivation is unlikely a cure for disease. NGO End Child Prostitution compiled data for 160 foreign males arrest for sexual exploitation of minors in Asia.

40 abusers from the U.S.A., 28 from Germany, 22 from Australia, 19 from the U.K., 10 from France; Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa were also on the list.(5)

Foreign tourists who have sex with virgins fulfill their pedophilic desires with the added advantage of unprotected sex with less chance of contracting AIDS or STDs (for the pedophile). In the grand scheme of things, the vast majority of offenders go unpunished, undetected, and return freely and unblemished to their home country and professions.

The oldest historical records of the Virgin Myth are from Europe. Referred to as the “Virgin Cure” it is first recorded in 16th century in response to syphilis and gonorrhea (today’s HIV/AIDS equivalent). Indigenous peoples were often the victims of early European explorers who raped children as a life-saving measure. The raping of children was also rampant in Europe.

In 2007 Hanne Blank published the book, Virgin: The Untouched History. “In 18th-century London, one in every five capital rape cases involved children under the age of 10, and the rapists commonly cited the virgin-cure myth in their defense.”(6).  In a disturbing twist to the myth, there is the case of Countess Ersebet Bethory who ruled Hungary in the 16th-century. 600 virgins were slaughtered for their blood. The countess bathed in their fluid in order to preserve her beauty.(7)

It is interesting to note that readily available historical information about the Virgin Myth appears to leap from 16th-century Europe to the present. Yet, an extended examination of the history of syphilis reveals a historical omission in contemporary dialogue on the subject of the Virgin Myth.

Between 1918 and 1929 Western Europe was in shambles. Over 10 million people died in the Great War and those who survived represented the many more left wounded. Germany and Italy were ruled by fascism. Austria-Hungary and Germany’s governments collapsed. Western Europe was not equipped to respond effectively to the social and health crisis that continued to be presented by syphilis.

Western Europe’s global market dominance fell and yielded to America and Japan. By most accounts, America also pioneered and provided leadership in managing the global syphilis crisis and searching for a cure. In the 1920 publication Syphilis by Dr. Thompson Loyd, a prominent American doctor, the author provides extensive information about the global social challenges brought to bare by the syphilis pandemic. At the time, its host location was commonly identified in terms of “[harboring] syphilitics in immerse numbers”, or densely populated cities such as London, New York, Paris, and Berlin.(8)

Consider that the scientific, social health, economic, educational, and political challenges of syphilis of the time are similar to what the developing world is facing with HIV/AIDS(9). What is particularly fascinating is that there has also been a similar concerted effort to find a cure for AIDS as there was for syphilis. Countries engaged in rigorous international knowledge sharing conferences, namely the Transactions of the Fifteen International Congress of Hygiene and Demography hosted by the United States took place in the nation’s capital. (10)

In the 16th-century the rapid spread of syphilis lead to the accusation of women engaging in witchcraft (another parallel to contemporary developing world). In Dr. Loyd’s time, females and prostitutes were believed to cause and spread deadly and debilitating diseases. This may explain why the cases studies sighted by Loyd are predominantly male-child victims. Using data collected from various doctors during international conference and correspondence, Loyd revealed the following information.

Wolbarst reports a caschre of the lower abdominal wall in a boy aged two years, while syphilis insontium is far from unknown in the very old. Syphilis contracted during sexual intercourse has been observed at the extremes of life.

Wolbast saw a genital chancre in a boy, aged five years.

That young children sometimes are exposed to syphilitic infection of genitals is due to the superstition still prevalent among certain cases that intercourse with a virgin will cure venereal disease.

It was probably on account of this superstition that the case reported by Haines contracted by syphilis and gonorrhea. In this case a child of sixteen months was found to have a typical chancre of the sulcus, just to the right of the midline, as well as a profuse purulent, meatal discharge which showed gonococci.(11)

As to how a five years old child, let alone sixteen months old develops a caschre on his genitals through the act of Virgin Myth rape leaves a little bit too much for the mind to wrap around.

It was not until 1947 that penicillin had been validated as an effective cure for syphilis. If treated within early stages, one dose of penicillin will prevent painful, chronic physical illness and eventual death brought on by the advancement of syphilis.(12)

Along with eradicating the Virgin Myth, a critical piece to protecting children from sexual slavery and Trafficking in Virgins is effective prosecution of offenders, including those in government and law enforcement. There is a litany of global evidence that shows government and law enforcement corruption deeply undermine efforts to eradicate child trafficking due to its link to criminal syndicates and internal cast of perverse character. Lock Wan Jun, an Advisor at the National University of Singapore, presented an outstanding study in 2008 entitled Supply Side of Child Trafficking: Economic Analysis using Utility Models focused on Southeast Asia. In the paper, four utility models of traffickers are discussed to explain why criminals are inclined to continue to trafficking despite prosecution followed by recommendations to curb activity, decreasing the economic incentive, and empower children to protect themselves. (13)

Given a global and historical overview of the Virgin Myth, the implications of the myth make it difficult to measure whether the greatest calamity is the presence of a globally prevalent and relentless incurable virus itself (with all of its inherit tragic loss of human life, pain and suffering) or the emergence of opportunistic, diabolical human behavior during a historical era of an incurable virus, in the midst of ill equipped and unintelligent social, cultural, traditional and political leadership and institutions.

In the absence of logic and scientific explanation, institutional assumptions that support the Virgin Myth inform abominable and antisocial human responses; proven problematic throughout history and geography. From the Virgin Myths recorded origins in 16th-century Europe, to early 20th-to mid-century North America and Europe, up to Africa and Asia today, humans under the same constraints have reacted the same until otherwise prosecuted, educated and nationally stabilized.

– Zola Dube

(1) CNN. South Africa facing child rape crisis. 26 November 2001

(2) Smith, David. Guardian. Child Rape Epidemic in Zimbabwe. 9 November 2009

(3) Mam, Somaly. The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2009. Page59.

(4, 5) Brass, Dr. Martin. Soldiers of Fortune Magazine. The Modern Scourge of Sex Slavery. 2004

(6) Kuczynski, Alex. New York Times. Sweet Chastity. 25 March 2007

(7) Blank, Hanne. Virgin: The Untouched History. Bloomsbury. 2007

(8,11) Thompson, Loyd. Syphilis. Lea & Febiger. 1920

(9) Andreski, Stanislav. The Syphilitic Shock. pp. 370 – 393  Ritual and Belief: Readings in the Anthropology of Religion, 2nd. ed, Hicks, ed. (McGraw-Hill, 2002)

(10) (Transactions of the Fifteen International Congress on Hygiene and Demography. Washington, DC. September 23-28, 1912

(12) Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (05-2004). STD Facts-Syphilis. Centers for Disease Control.

(13) Jun, L. W. (2008). Supply Side of Child Trafficking: Economic Analysis using Utility Models, The Journal of Young Investigators, 18 (4)