Tag Archives: human trafficking

It is the Fight of the Coalitions!

When I started “Happy Endings?” the National Association of Jewish Women RI Chapter decided to start the “RI COALITION AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING” or RICAHT.  I went to a bunch of their meetings.  It is obvious that I am against Human Trafficking.  I testified in favor of  the bill against Human trafficking this year.  This Coalition had a wide variety of people, men and women from various backgrounds.  Some were social workers, some from religious organizations, all were citizens of RI concerned about trafficking.  They were very adept in politics, and with-in one year they passed the first human trafficking bill in 2007.

It is unfortunate that this group had been hijacked by Donna Hughes and Melanie Shapiro.  People began to drop out.  Nancy Green, a nurse, Providence resident and concerned citizen was one of the first to go.  She wrote about her experiences in her blog calling the transition from their good work to a Big Anti-Trafficking Tent.

“I never wanted to be a part of a moral crusade using law as a weapon. All I cared about was legal protection for people who are trafficked, and punishment for the traffickers.

To fight immorality, I would use other weapons– reason, persuasion and example. Laws against immorality have never been very effective, and have often been cover for worse crimes. Remember the Scarlet Letter?

Morality, like patriotism, provides a convenient cover for other agendas.”

This year RICAHT decided to work for a new trafficking law.  They also maintained that they would not take any position on the two prostitution bills.  This angered Donna Hughes, and she spoke out against RICAHT bill, (yes the bill against Trafficking).  She then left RICAHT and began Citizens Against Trafficking with Melanie Shapiro.  From the CAT website:  “ This year, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Human Trafficking (RICAHT)  failed to advocate for the essential prostitution law needed to make sex trafficking law work.”

It is obvious that we have 2 coalitions.  One against Trafficking, and One against Prostitution.  I don’t understand why the “Citizens” group gets to use Trafficking in their title when the are actually focused on prostitution.  (And I think you should be required to have more than 2 people to have an official Coalition)   It is really unfortunate that a good group like RICAHT could be torn apart by radicals, and when the radicals couldn’t control it they could start their own off shoot with a similar name.  What is ironic is people think it is the Asian massage parlors that set up “Shell Corportation” to hide what they are doing.  It seems that this coalition is a shell corporation for Hughes xenophobia and hatred of prostitutes.

Who do you side with?

I guess it is not a surprise that I would call myself a feminist.  Some might even venture to call me a “Radical Feminist”.  I always go for the side of the woman.  Even when I watch game shows like Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune I root for the women.  I would think that most feminist would be on the side of women, but they are not.  Donna Hughes, the “expert” in my film, has written numerous op. ed. pieces.  Just recently she wrote in the Providence Journal about “The Circus of Prostitution” and I called her the Clown at the Center of the Circus.   Professor Hughes essentially attacks the women she claims to be trying to help.  Not only does she attack their appearance, she attacks them for speaking for themselves.  Let me remind you these are the people she is claiming to help.    Even in her letter in the Projo Hughes writes how the Governor, State Police, Judge, Police, and Reps (all men) spoke compellingly, yet the women’s testimony turned the hearing into a circus. Now please don’t get confused, I think that Donna Hughes is a “Radical Feminist” just like me, but she always sides with the men, and that is something I can’t understand. I think that this is somewhat like the whole “House Slave” and “Field Slave” phenomenon, where Professor Hughes is the “House Slave” and I am the “Field Slave”.

It is really sad that Hughes showed her true colors in this manner, but what is even sadder is some people didn’t see this.  JoAnne Giannini who is the Representative who has put in the bill to re-criminalize prostitution has her heart in the right place.  She had been convinced by Hughes that there were women being victimized and forced into sex slavery.  Giannini wants to help the women, her heart is in the right place, but her brain is not.  For some reason Giannini thinks the women can not be helped or saved unless they are arrested and put in prison.  I don’t understand why she believes this so strongly, there are countries that have no prostitution laws and human sex-traffickers are convicted.  Beside that, the majority of human trafficking is for domestic labor, and we do not make cleaning houses or dish washing illegal to go after the human traffickers. I hope that JoAnne Giannini wakes up from the trance that Donna Hughes has put on her in time to stop this war on women.

Yesterday Donna Hughes wrote a new opinion piece on The National Review, but this time she toned down her woman hating just a tad.  (By the way, The National Review is the same publication that Hughes basically refers to George W. Bush as the first Feminist president)  In this opinion piece she does not attack women’s appearances, but she just calls them uninformed.

Some local and national anti-trafficking organizations have actually worked behind the scenes to oppose the desperately needed reforms. They blame the lack of trafficking prosecutions on lack of political will and inadequate police training. In reality, trafficking laws work only where law enforcement is empowered to fight prostitution.

Other groups, such as the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU and Rhode Island NOW, have opposed passage of a prostitution law for ideological reasons. They support the decriminalization of prostitution and mistakenly believe that good trafficking laws make prostitution laws unnecessary….

It is an unspeakable tragedy that women’s rights groups and even organizations dedicated to fighting trafficking are failing to understand how basic prostitution laws help officials to identify victims and prosecute traffickers.

I think it is incredible that Hughes believes that she knows more that countless women’s groups, anti-trafficking groups, and 50 other university professors that wrote a letter to oppose the law.  And not only does she think that she is better informed than these people who range from those who offer direct services to human trafficking victims to those who have a PhD in these areas, she has the gall to publish an article saying  all of these people lack understanding.  No Professor Hughes, these people understand that in order to free women you do not put them in handcuffs.

50 Very Smart Out-Of-Staters

A letter came out in the Journal today, signed by 50 College and University professors.  I titled this 50 very smart out-of-staters because it seems that people who want to change the law are not giving this letter credit because they are not RI residents. (On a side note I think these people would dismiss the Pope if he came down Providence and asked that the women would not be thrown into prison)  Here is the letter reprinted in its entirety.

PRESS RELEASE

July 31, 2009

LETTER TO MEMBERS OF THE RHODE ISLAND STATE LEGISLATURE

RE:  PROSTITUTION LAW REFORM BILLS, 2009

BY:  Professors Ronald Weitzer & Elizabeth Anne Wood, with 50 signatories (listed below) from the academic community

Rhode Island is currently the only state in the U.S. without a statute expressly prohibiting prostitution. State law bans loitering in public places, which is used to arrest street prostitutes, but does not ban solicitation itself, which leaves the indoor trade untouched because no loitering is involved.

This may change soon. The state legislature recently passed a bill criminalizing prostitution, although the House and Senate versions differ and will require changes before the bill can be forwarded to the governor.

In the past few weeks, advocates of criminalizing prostitution have lobbied Rhode Island’s legislators and made frequent appearances in the media. Many of their assertions about prostitution are myths.

Research shows that there is a world of difference between those who work the streets and those who sell sex indoors (in massage parlors, brothels, for escort agencies, or are independent workers).

Regarding street prostitution, the problems often associated with it are best understood as outcomes of poverty, addiction, homelessness, and runaway youth – suggesting that the best way to deal with street prostitution is to tackle these precursors rather than simply arresting the sellers.

Compared to street workers, women and men who work indoors generally are much safer and less at risk of being assaulted, raped, or robbed. They also have lower rates of sexually transmitted infections, enter prostitution at an older age, have more education, and are less likely to be drug-dependent or have a history of childhood abuse. Indoor workers also tend to enjoy better working conditions, although this is naturally not the case everywhere.

Despite what some activists claim, most of those working indoors in the U.S. have not been trafficked against their will. We oppose coercive trafficking whether for sexual labor, agricultural labor, or any other type of work. But when trafficking is conflated with prostitution, as is so often done now, it confounds law enforcement’s ability to target their efforts to fighting human rights abuses in the trafficking sphere.

Many indoor workers made conscious decisions to enter the trade, and several studies also find that indoor workers have moderate-to-high job satisfaction and believe they provide a valuable service. One Australian study found that half of the call girls and brothel workers interviewed felt that their work was a “major source of satisfaction” in their lives, and more than two-thirds said they would “definitely choose this work” if they had it to do over again. (This study was conducted in the state of Queensland, where indoor prostitution has been decriminalized.) In other studies, a significant percentage of escorts report an increase in self-esteem after they began selling sex.  These findings may surprise some people, because they are not the kinds of stories reported in the media, which usually focus instead on instances of abuse and exploitation.

This is not to romanticize indoor prostitution. Some indoor workers work under oppressive conditions or dislike their work for other reasons. We believe that worker safety should be a high priority in all industries. At the same time, there is plenty of evidence to challenge the myths that most prostitutes are coerced into the sex trade, experience frequent abuse, and want to be rescued. This syndrome is more characteristic of street workers, and is associated with the vulnerabilities of poverty, addiction and abuse. While these are issues that need to be addressed, it is important to point out that the vast majority of American sex providers work indoors.

Since street and indoor sex workers differ markedly in their working conditions, experiences and impact on the surrounding community, public policies should be cognizant of these differences rather than a monolithic, broad brush approach. Policy makers would also do well to listen to those doing the work; all too often, the views of the sex workers themselves are marginalized in public debates. Because street-based prostitution has negative impacts on neighbors, policies should address those impacts separately from indoor prostitution. Moreover, the opportunity to work indoors, in itself, helps to reduce the problems associated with street-based prostitution. Rhode Island’s current system of treating indoor and street prostitution differently is a step in the right direction. Criminalizing indoor sexual services is not the answer.

Signed by the following members of the academic community:

Ronald Weitzer, George Washington University

Elizabeth Wood, Nassau Community College – SUNY

Michael Goodyear, Dalhousie University, Canada

Barbara Brents, University of Nevada

Lisa Wade, Occidental College

Janet Lever, California State University, Los Angeles

Elaine Mossman, Victoria University, New Zealand

Susan Dewey, DePauw University

Christine Milrod, Institute for the Advanced Study of Sexuality

Mindy Bradley-Engen, University of Arkansas

Molly Dragiewicz, University of Ontario, Canada

Ann Lucas, San Jose State University

Frances Shaver, Concordia University

Ariel Eisenberg, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Juline Koken, National Development and Research Institutes, Public Health Solutions

Larry Ashley, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Barry Dank, California State University, Long Beach

Richard Lotspeich, Indiana State University

Tamara O’Doherty, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver Canada

Lauren Joseph, Stony Brook University

Crystal Jackson, University of Nevada

Gayle MacDonald, St. Thomas University

Lyle Hallowell, Nassau Community College

Daniel Sander, New York University

Gert Hekma, University of Amsterdam

John Betts, New York University

Wendy Chapkis, University of Southern Maine

Suzanne Jenkins, Keele University, UK

Benjamin Reed, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Anna Kontula, University of Tampere, Finland

Janell Tryon, New York University

Mindy Chateauvert, University of Maryland

Jessie Daniels, City University of New York – Hunter College

Rachel Hsiung, New York University

Gillian Abel, University of Otago, New Zealand

Deborah Brock, York University, Toronto

Elizabeth Nanas, Wayne State University

Charles Watson, Curtin University

Ilona Margiotta, New York University

Jennifer Manion, Connecticut College

Lyle Hallowell, Nassau Community College

Emily van der Meulen, York University, Toronto

Rebecca Chalker, Pace University

Gilbert Geis, University of California, Irvine

Rachael Stern, New York University

Lynn Comella, University of Nevada

Alessandro De Giorgi, San Jose State University

Martin Schwartz, Ohio University

William Chambliss, George Washington University

Kelley Moult, American University

Rhode Island supports Terrorism!

(I quit smoking cigarettes and drinking diet coke, so forgive me if I was a little slow to make this connection and report how Rhode Island supports terrorism.  It is taking me a while to get back into reality with out nicotine and caffeine)

Don’t be so shocked!  Yes, It is a difficult thing to understand.  Rhode Island supports terrorism!  Just recently RI legalized compassion centers for medical marijuana.  I guess the State Legislature didn’t get the memo that drugs fund terrorism.  Yes, in Rhode Island we have financially supported terrorism.

So does that sound a little outrageous to you?  If it does keep reading, if it doesn’t keep drinking the kool aid that the fear mongers love to poor down your throat in buckets.

Everyday for the past week, Rhode Islanders have been inundated with reports about the loophole for both prostitution and underage stripping.  While I do not agree with underage girls dancing in strip clubs, the entire media craze is a hype to push the agenda to change the prostitution law.  How does this relate to the pot funding terrorism link?  Well, the people trying to push the prostitution law are trying to link prostitution with human trafficking and underage stripping.   They call RI’s lack of indoor prostitution law “a human rights disaster” and say things like RI supports slavery?!?

So if you are the type of person that bought into the whole hype that said if you bought a bag of weed you killed an Arab’s grandmother, you are probably the same type of person that would believe that arresting women is the best way to help them.  I hope we don’t have that many  niave people in Rhode Island.  After reading reactions to articles in the Providence Journal, I tend to think that Rhode Islanders are smarter than that.  More importantly I hope the people in the general assembly are as smart as I think they are.


Is this the ol’ bait n switch?

Today’s Providence Journal has an article on the front page about “Minors in RI can be strippers”  The article tells of how the age of concent in RI is 16, and that all a 16 year old needs is working papers and she or he can be a stripper.  But is this much to do about nothing?

I don’t think it is right for a 16 year old to strip, and I would support a law that would ban the activity, but I can’t help but wonder about this article.  First, the police have visited all of the  strip clubs in the city and found no juveniles performing.  So why this article?  Could it be some people got their panties in a bunch because the prostitution law was not passed, so they are looking for another way to pass it?

I was babysitting all day today, so I didn’t get to listen to talk radio too much, but from what I did hear, all conversations were linking back to prostitution.  From my few minutes of listening, people are going to try to use their outrage about this non-existent law for an non-existent problem to push the anti-prostitution bill farther.  If the state can’t save the women from human trafficking, they will have to save the children from the strip clubs.  It is all propaganda, and it is all sad.

The saddest part of this is that there was one girl who was 16 who was both a vicitm of human trafficking and working in a strip club.  She had used a fake id to get the job, and when the police found her beaten and incoherent outside the club they brought her to jail.  If the General Assembly didn’t waist so much time on a prostitution law, they could have passed the human trafficking law.

Is the message setting in?

Today there is letter to the editor in the Providence Journal that calls for RI to “Regulate, License, and Tax” prostitution. I have reprinted it below, but check the link to read the comments. ( I always think the comments to these letters and articles really give you the pulse of the political will of RI)

I’ve been following the controversy over Rhode Island’s indoor prostitution laws for a while now. Although I’ve seen many impassioned statements suggesting that the women involved are virtual slaves to pimps, I haven’t seen any reports of anyone being arrested for slavery or holding any of these women in servitude. I believe there are laws against slavery in these United States.

Any argument that the police are powerless to investigate and prosecute these perpetrators is nothing more than a vote of no confidence in our police forces. Police departments routinely investigate, infiltrate, make arrests and prosecute a wide variety of criminal organizations. Why haven’t we seen any arrests in these dens of iniquity?

It may be that the women working there are just trying to make a living, albeit in a profession derided by a large segment of society and known as “the world’s oldest profession.” I’m amazed that any society would believe it could eliminate any activity of such antiquity.

The laws of supply and demand would dictate the failure of most of these establishments if the demand for these services did not exist. However their proliferation indicates a good portion of our citizenry prefers their “product.”

Rhode Island enjoys streets devoid of gaudily dressed women, flagging down carloads of “johns,” creating traffic jams.

It might better serve our community to regulate, license and tax this activity.

ED FATZINGER

Here is another letter to the editor from June 24th from Donna Hughes titled “RI’s Carnival of Prostitution”.  I commented on the letter here on my blog calling Donna Hughes the sad clown at the center of the Circus, but here it is with my corrections to her letter in Red.


AFTER MY EXPERIENCE at the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday, I believe Rhode Island is headed for a human rights disaster and nationwide political embarrassment. It is becoming apparent that the Senate is not going to pass a much-needed prostitution bill . Rhode Island will continue to have an expanding number of spa-brothels, prostitution of minors in clubs, and no law that will enable the police to stop it. Well, there was a bill  proposed that would have “closed the loophole” but the police, Governor and Attorney General didn’t think that it was tough enough because the women only got a $100 ticket.  I assume that using the law that would give the women a ticket would have given them the tools to stop this “human rights disaster” but it wasn’t worth it to them if the women they were trying to save didn’t get to go to prison too.

The hearing (on Senate bill 0596, to close the loophole allowing indoor prostitution) was a sordid circus, with pimps and prostitutes coming forward to oppose the legislation. Funny you use the word circus.  Circus is usually full of acts and  illusions.  For all the years I have followed this legislation all I saw was actors and illusions at all the hearings until the people who are actually going to be directly impacted by the law showed up to testify.  For years we there were people testifying about how the women were slaves, yet they never talked to ONE women in ONE spa in RI.  When we finally get to see the people are at the center of the debate you call it a circus?  I think all hearings before this one was a circus. When we actually get to hear the truth, you want to dismiss it.

Midway through the hearing, filmmaker Tara Hurley That Is Me! ushered in women and men she collected from the spa-brothels.  Men? I didn’t usher in any men.  I didn’t drive, transport, or go with any men at all, never mind men I collected from the spa-brothels. Why would I bring men with me?  When I testified I told the senate that if they were hell-bent on creating a new prostitution law why not do a prostitution law like in Sweeden where selling sex is legal but purchasing sex is illegal.  Why would I bring men to a hearing where I asked the senate to make them criminals? They settled in the back of the room. Somewhat later, the women made a dash out of the room and hid in the hallway. Hurley had to coax them back in to testify with an explanation to the committee that they are afraid of cameras.

One 53-year-old Korean woman who needed a translator to speak said she worked as a “receptionist.” She said she had never seen any women coerced into prostitution. But at the end of her testimony she revealed that she had previously been arrested for being a pimp.  Even if this is true an arrest is not a conviction, we see how police go into these places and arrest everyone on site.  The woman is a receptionist, get over it.  I think Donna Hughes just likes to throw around the word Pimp.

Then a man reeking of cigarette smoke and other odors came forward. When you can’t attack the argument attack the person. He was identified to me by Hurley as a pimp. LIAR LIAR LIAR, When did I identify anyone as a pimp? He claimed credit for the growth of the spa-brothels in Rhode Island for his now-deceased wife. Another Korean woman came forward and said she did “it” for depressed, shy guys who needed stress relief. She implicated construction workers, judges and lawyers. She proudly exclaimed that she does “it” to make money. Donna Hughes has no problem saying Pimp every other word, but can’t say sex.  I think this could be really interesting if  that was psycho analysed.

Then a tattooed woman, calling herself a “sexologist and sex educator,” spoke against the bill. She is also a reporter for a prostitutes’ magazine called $pread. (I couldn’t make this stuff up!) No, Hughes didn’t have to make up the fact there is a sex worker’s magazine.  Yes, sex workers can read.  But she makes up so much other stuff in her letter, it is great she points out the fact as the only thing she didn’t make up.

All of their testimonies were accepted by the committee without critical questions. I guess this sentence all relies on the word “critical”, because all the people I saw testify were questioned. Their outrageous appearance and statements muted the serious, precise testimonies of representatives of the Rhode Island state police, the attorney general’s office, the Providence police, and Richard Israel, a former attorney general and Rhode Island Superior Court judge Also all the people who part of their career is involved in putting people in prison, why wouldn’t they want more laws to do so?

Two senators, Charles Levesque and Rhoda Perry, who are known opponents of the prostitution bill, dominated the hearing Because they were basically the only ones left there, most of the senators left. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Michael McCaffery left and turned the hearing over to Senator Levesque, who seemed pleased and entertained by the cadre from the sex industry.

On at least two occasions, Senator Levesque has expressed his opposition to a prostitution bill to me in e-mails. During my testimony, he badgered me to make a statement I knew wasn’t true, until Sen. Leo Blais had to get out of his seat to calm his colleague down.  I think it is safe to say that Hughes will attack anyone that is not in lock step with her views.

Also during my testimony, Senator Perry challenged my report by reading to me from the work of Ron Weitzer, an academic advocate of decriminalized prostitution when it’s indoors. In a June 18 letter published in The Journal (“Some lurid prostitution myths debunked”), he called Rhode Island’s laws — and lack of laws — “a model for other states.”  Hughes was asked a question that compared both her and Weitzer’s point of view.  But I think more people should challenge her report.  She handed in a list of places that she believes are brothels and have human trafficking and she took her information from the internet. When she handed in the list she said you might have missed some because she didn’t get all the nail salons.  I guess the internet doesn’t have updated lists on nail salons.  I think Hughes might just have something against Asians.

I have testified at hearings in the State House on a number of occasions. And said the same thing over and over, propaganda to try to link prostitution with human trafficking. Never have I witnessed such a carnival. In April, I testified for the House prostitution bill (Rep. Joanne Giannini’s H-5044A) and the atmosphere was serious and respectful, even though there was opposition to the bill.

In contrast to the passive encouragement for prostitution in Rhode Island in the Senate Judiciary Committee, earlier on Thursday Governor Carcieri held a press conference calling for passage of the House bill. He was supported by state police Supt. Col. Brendan Doherty and the attorney general’s office. Freshman Rep. Robert DaSilva, a Pawtucket police officer, spoke compellingly about the problem of prostitution. He said there is more juvenile prostitution than he has ever seen before. Representative Giannini said that we do not want Rhode Island to be a safe haven for the sex industry, but then when the Senate bill passed and looked like it was going to become a law, all of them came out against the bill.  So I guess they are not “passive” in their encouragement, they are full on encouraging.  If it is not going to be a bill that throws women in prison, then they really don’t care about saving the children.

The end of the General Assembly session is near. From my observation, I believe the Senate is going to let another year go by without a prostitution law. This will be a tragedy for victims caught in the sex industry, a black eye for Rhode Island’s reputation, and a victory for the pimps. Here we go with pimps again.  Everyone hates pimps, and we already have laws against pimping in RI, so how is not putting women in prison a victory for the pimp?

Donna M. Hughes is a professor of women’s studies at the University of Rhode Island.

It is not over yet

Prison But the time is winding down.  As I have gone over, there are two bills to be voted on.  The Senate has their version by Jabour, and the House has their version by Gianinni.  They are very different bills.

The Senate bill does not call for prison time for the woman.  The House bill calls for 6 months for the first offense.

That is the big difference of the bill.  I am not for either bill.  I do think that it is better to not have prison time, so I will have to admit that the Senate bill is the lesser of two evils.

Today is supposed to be the last day of the legislation session, so really if a law on prostitution would pass, it would more likely than not pass today.  When a bill to become law, it has to be passed in both the house and the senate with the exact same language and then be signed by the Governor.  Today, the Attorney General and the State Police both came out against Senator Jabour’s bill.  (See the Projo Article) Here is an excerpt from the article:

“Rhode Island State Police cannot support civil sanctions for such reprehensible acts,” State Police Superintendent Col. Brendan P. Doherty wrote in a letter Friday to Rep. Donald J. Lally Jr., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, where the bill awaits a hearing. “By reducing the seriousness of the enforcement of these acts,” Col. Doherty continued, “we will actually be placing the women this bill intends to protect in a dangerous environment where they will be further targeted for exploitation.”….

…In addition, Healy said, allowing for a penalty for a first offense is treating prostitutes as though they were getting a “speeding ticket.”

The house now has a reason to not vote on the Senate bill, and the Senate has their reason not to vote on the House bill.  I have been watching the House session for the last 6 hours, and the House is fighting within itself.  You should have seen the fight on the floor over a bill to allow for a New York Yankee’s charity license plate.  If the house is fighting each other over such small things like license plates, I don’t think they have the time to hash out the differences they have with the Senate over something as important sending women to prison.  The clock is ticking away, we will see what happens.