CSW57: Trafficking at Major Events

This morning I attended an panel sponsored by the Women’s League of Voters and the Working Group on Girls. I’ve summarized the main speaking points below but my question, in the context of our local club in the City of Hamilton, is: what efforts have taken place to mitigate sexual exploitation in preparation of the Pan Am games in 2015? and what is the current and long-term strategy of Hamilton to eradicate human trafficking and sexual exploitation?

Ms. Lizzy H. – Girl Advocate, The Working Group on Girls, Inc
The panel ended with the perspective of a high school student who has been part of the Working Group on Girls. I start with her comment because it set the tone of the issue: she was forwarded the Huffington Post headline after Superbowl 2013 and  was shocked. All-American Football is about heros from varied socio-economic backgrounds, the under-dog rising up to success and viewers sharing a common unity. Such an iconic concept as the driving force of trafficking demonstrates how systemic and atrocious this issue truly is! I encourage you to read the article:

Mdme. Lourdes Baldiera, Ambassador, Brazil
Ms. Adriana Telles Ribeiro Second Secretary, Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations (served as translator)

Brazil will be hosting several major events this year; developed an inter-ministerial working group – justice, sports, tourism, human rights, labour and women – with the goal of elaborating policies to combat violence against women and children during these events. The country of Brazil is preparing itself to secure the protection of rights of Women and Girls by promoting exchanges with other countries who have held major sporting events to learn about successful practices to prevent sexual exploitation. The actions being implemented (both to combat and prevent) includes:
since 2012 being focussed on the services networks in 12 cities hosting the games with the goal of preventing social impacts and situations that may raise the vulnerability of women and girls and protect them from exploitation and contamination of diseases, like HIV/AIDS.

It is an inter-sectorial and inter-ministerial strategy that is systematic and a coordinated effort: NGOs, police and judiciary agencies, social development organizations, etc. The problem is being treated by establishing the punishment for the aggressors and extending the network of support for victims.

“The protagonist is the Special Secretariat of Policies for Women” who has combined with the ministries of justice, sport & labour to launch a national campaign. The goal is to better inform women so they don’t submit themselves to exploitation and recognize if the tactics of exploitation, as well as STD protection. In partnership with actors, hotels/motels and taxi drivers, they are educating these influencers to make them aware of the role they can play in preventing sexual exploitation and recognizing the situation. The government will intensify ads and media campaigns on tv, billboards and radio to raise awareness. They are promoting Dial-180 is the national hotline for service to women; 24 hour service is phone based and free, and explains resources available; also available for Brazilian women in other countries of latin america and parts of Europe. There is a national plan under the Secretariat of Policies for Women that brings actions geared towards the concern of the situation of women and girls and intends to demonstrate that the perspective of gender is in the public policies and that it is needed for a more just, equal and democratic society.

Of note: Brazil does a “name & shame” to highlight names of those convicted for these crimes and the companies they work for!

Amy Mahoney-Project Manager Program Unit, International Organization for Migration, Washington
They studied the World Cup Germany (2012) to better understand the effects of trafficking around events. Results of their study saw no discernible increase possibly due to training of law enforcement and engagement; fan base was mostly families and young men who had low income/resources used for trip and cost of living (vs men with means); also prostitution is legal in Germany. Of the actions taken, at least 5 NGOs had messages and campaigns and there were at least 3 hotlines established as well as one for victims and clients to call, counselling centres and assistance centres for cases that were documented: of the 33 reported human trafficking cases, only 5 were directly linked to the World Cup (all ages 19-21 from Eastern Europe, 4 women, 1 men). An outcome of the analysis was the need to have a more concerted effort: 1 hotline, 1 message and a sustainable method for long term awareness.

South Africa’s prevention campaign (World Cup 2010) focussed on children (sexual exploitation and begging). They key initiatives were: a fast track court was put in place to get through a case in 24 hours, a phone hotline established and a screening room for enforcement to monitor cameras located in local parks and within the stadium. In hindsight, the government needed to monitor pre-construction of roads and stadiums in the context of forced labour (men).

Tracy Thompson, Assistant Attorney General, New Jersey and Chair of Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force
The Superbowl 2013 event is being used as a spring board for marketing and raising awareness but the policies will extend beyond in timeframe; Human Trafficking has been made one of the top 2 priorities and extends to all the commercial enterprises that drive these crimes. The first priority is safety and removal of the victim, where “investigation is a bonus, prosecution is a cherry on top”.

A task force was established 8-years ago. A human trafficking unit was dedicated to prosecution (including drugs, weapons, brothels, illegal use of narcotics, laundering). The policy is if a police officer isn’t appropriately trained to investigate the case, they are mandated to refer it. The Executive Director mandated immediate protection and safety of the victim regardless of a prosecution moving forward and expeditious access to services (partnership with other community organizations), where the department will provide immediate/short term interim services until they can be placed in a shelter. Police are mandated to care for victims and explain available resources (State & Federal options); as well regular/recurring training is mandatory – all training materials are available online to reduce in person/time barriers. The department requires a uniform approach for messaging to ensure a consistent experience for all victims; documenting reported & suspected cases is mandatory across all 24 Counties.

In response to the Superbowl next year, they have already created a 24/7 hotline to take tips, give out information and share resources, and distribute dinner placemats to restaurants with translations (using recent censes to target key languages); also recognized the need to strengthen their laws and identification of gaps in services:

  • a proposed avenue for civil action for victims against their offender and don’t need to participate in the prosecution (encouraged and supported by the DA’s office but not required)
  • age of consent is 16 and to prosecute trafficking the prosecutor must show force or coercion for trafficking; looking to remove that requirement for those under age 18;
  • establishing a commission in the Departments of law and justice so future administrations cannot change them;
  • established a new liability for persons who recklessly facilitate, transport or allow trafficking happen on their property. This encompasses rentals, hotels or motels, taxi cab drivers, and truckers as being liable; and
  • acknowledging the “John-side” to irradiate demand. The speaker reference “don’t buy the lie” campaign (i.e. claim they don’t know the woman is under age or being forced); the education component about susceptibility is to reduce the appeal.

In the State of NJ, the link of trafficking to major sporting events have no specific stats because the issue has not formally been studied. They have already started to gather and monitor sites like Craig’s List for solicitations but there are national stats on transgendered children, boys and women who are being abducted and exploited. The State has assumed and accept that it is also happening regionally – the data will come and in the interim, they acknowledge the problem.

Taking lessons from Indiana and New Orleans: collaboration across agencies and community is key because the police force have limitations in their reach/scope; Luisiana was too late for in/out calls at the time of the superbowl. NJ are already booking rooms in hotels so they have a base of operations in the hotels themselves; have a regional data and information centre that will be set up closer to the event; and they have a state wide approach not just within the city.

The State holds a zero tolerance policy and the risk/penalties for assisting, patronizing a victim, transporting, etc … has to outweigh the profit and pleasure gain. Next steps are: amass volunteers from colleges and faith based communities, will hold a stakeholder summit in June, increase the anti-demand campaign towards “John’s,” and hospitals and emergency services are being educated for signs. For more information:  http://www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/humantrafficking/

Note: moderator encouraged the idea of corporations having zero tolerance as part of their code of conduct.

Ms. Laura Kirschstein- Managing Director of the Sexual Misconduct Consulting & Investigations, T&M Protection Resources

Trafficking is not on street corners. It is as easy to order a girl as it is to get a book on Amazon (pick rates, location domestic or int’l, choose photo and enter CCD #); now monitor BackPage (closed down Craig’s List erotic services) but screening for indicative words keeps changing. The change is happening on multiple fronts: domestic violence cases in NY at one point were told to walk around the block and come back but this is no longer the case; there is a similar progression with prostitution where there is a change in attitude (no longer viewed as criminals but as victims); time and effort has been put in to training law enforcement officers and teaching them about conflict resolution and questioning tactics and now police encourage referrals the specific officer feels they are if not trained adequately; have specific training for prosecutors, courts and judges as well. Ongoing is a change in attitude to patrons with penalties that are more than a slap on the wrist. Pimps, bookers, reuse of women are an incestuous world; cooperation of victims helps with intelligence gathering to lead to arrests.

Tactics that work: conduct undercover actions and responding to online solicitations well in advance to keep perpetrators off balance – more public awareness and arrests makes them uncomfortable and feeling at risk of arrest – publicizing successful cases in the media is helpful as a combat strategy; need to make the general population want to report the things they see.

I urge you to contact your city Councillor to find out what is being done to erradicate and prevent sexual exploitation and trafficking, now, during the games and ongoing.

Posted in SI News.