U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report is a failure

The United States government is forcing  people to lie about being sex trafficking victims  because they can’t find enough real victims!

(John Kerry, Obama, Hillary Clinton and the USA government are forcing people to lie about being victims – if they don’t lie they are put in jail or deported using the TIPS report) 

(June 20, 2014) Today we will hear about Thailand’s Tier in America’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. Never forget the TIP report is also a programme. America makes demands under TIP and countries, including Thailand, ignore their own sovereignty, and comply. TIP demands that countries change laws, speed up justice (a conflicting thought), and set aside special treatment for one class of victims that the US can never find enough of. Every TIP report whines about the need to find more victims and prosecute more traffickers and then throw away the key. But the Somaly Mam expose in the Bangkok Post on June 1 and around the world has shown us that this issue has suffered extreme exaggeration by those who need funding and by media who benefit from sensational stories. Read a few blogs about trafficking and you too will quickly learn that “facts” about trafficking often defy common sense. 

Every resident of Thailand, Thai and foreigner , should read TIP reports and see what they are really about. On page 4 of the 2013 TIP report the United States offers Taiwan as an example for other countries to follow. TIP tells us Taiwan has detention centres at its borders to hold new arrivals until they can be investigated as possible trafficking victims. Detainees are offered long-term immigration status (a kind of bribe) and release from detention in exchange for agreeing to claim to be victims and turn on people who helped them get a job in Taiwan. I am shocked, even scared, that my country (USA) encourages this.  

-John Kane

Bangkok Post


This week the USA’s Trafficking in persons (TIP) report came out with Secretary of State John Kerry releasing it.

There is only one problem with it. – It is based on lies, exaggeration, myths and emotional made up stories.

Is anyone talking about the huge influence Somaly Mam, Nicholas Kristof and Chong Kim may have had on US foreign policy with Sex Trafficking? Every year the TIP report demands countries find victims and traffickers but what if the constant demand to find more and more is based on this media distortion and they really aren’t there to find. American citizens and Congress are all deceived over what may be a faux-issue. Articles I read say this woman is not the only one who has exaggerated, but is the one seen with President Obama and Hillary Clinton when she was Sec State. With John Kerry, Michelle Obama, and with The Queen of Spain. For me this is the real issue. The TIP program is no more than Modern Day Imperialism. What has happened to that old concept of national sovereignty?

Somaly Mam and Chong Kim were caught lying about Sex Trafficking

Somaly Mam, the celebrated Cambodian anti-sex-trafficking activist who, according to a recentNewsweek expose, fabricated her entire life story and those of the alleged victims she advocated for. The revelations have disillusioned many of Mam’s loyal supporters and left the press looking gullible. Just as importantly, they’ve highlighted the public’s seemingly insatiable desire for heroic narratives—and the willingness of many in the media to trick the public and provide them even if they are fake.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s TIP report:


State Department Trafficking in Persons Report: A need for more evidence and U.S. accountability, by Ann Jordan


On June 28, the State Department released its annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report). While the TIP Report contains many important observations, reflections and recommendations, it falls short on at least the following three counts.

1. It fails to meet the standard set by President Obama for evidence-based policy making.

2. It offers insufficient discussion of the critical issue of ‘root causes’ or ‘factors making people vulnerable to trafficking’.

3. It fails to acknowledge U.S. accountability for the trafficking of workers by U.S. government contractors and, instead, lays much of the blame at the doorsteps of governments in developing countries.

These three shortcomings raise serious concerns about the approach being promoted by the State Department in this TIP Report and in its diplomatic efforts and funding decisions.

Failure to engage in evidence-based policy making.

The myth of the so-called Swedish model: The TIP Report states that “[s]ome [people] work to combat root causes – to end the demand for commercial sexual exploitation” (p. 15) without any discussion or evidence.  The TIP Report does not name the “root cause” being addressed but it seems to assume that ‘demand’ for paid sex is THE cause for women selling sex (instead of, say, poverty or lack of other options?). Nonetheless, it promotes the myth – or at least the unproven strategy – that arresting clients will stop prostitution and also stop trafficking into prostitution.  Despite numerous claims from supporters of the so-called Swedish model (in which clients are prosecuted and sex workers are not), there is no objective, methodologically sound, replicable research demonstrating that the Swedish law is responsible for any changes in the incidence of prostitution or trafficking in Sweden.  In fact, the Swedish government reports admit quite frankly that important data is missing and that the government cannot draw clear conclusions or cause-effect relationships:

  • The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare concluded that “[w]e cannot give any unambiguous answer to [the question of whether prostitution has increased or decreased].  At most, we can discern that street prostitution is slowly returning, after swiftly disappearing in the wake of the law” (p. 33). The Board concluded that “[n]o causal connections can be proven between legislation and changes in prostitution” (p. 46).
  • 2010 report also admits that “it is difficult to determine whether changes in prostitution are a result of the ban or of other measures or circumstances.  It is also difficult to know with any certainty how prostitution and trafficking might have changed if there had been no ban [on the purchase of sex]” (Swedish Institute 2010, p. 35).

It is particularly problematic that the State Department has adopted a legal strategy without first engaging in ANY serious discussion or analysis of the consequences of the approach.  The TIP Report does not present any evidence linking the criminalization of clients directly to a change in the behavior of adults who sell sex.  It does not even identify the root causes of prostitution or attempt to link those root causes to the ‘end demand’ approach. The State Department should ask and objectively answer the question of how arresting clients would impact adults who are selling sex in countries with different economic and social structures and economies.  Would it cause all sex workers to stop selling sex (which is the goal of the Swedish model) and lead sex workers to find another way to make a living? Perhaps they would go to law school or open a business or sell food on the street?  Or, perhaps they would be forced to live on the street without any income.

What alternatives are there for the millions of adults selling sex around the world?  If they have very few or no alternatives, will they continue in sex work but be forced to work more clandestinely to protect their clients from arrest?  Would the law simply turn out to be another opportunity for the police to shake down street-based sex workers and their clients?  The TIP Report fails to ask or answer any of these questions.

It also fails to consider whether governments offer sufficient support to help people transition to other livelihoods. Would India have enough resources to help millions of women survive without selling sex? Even the U.S. has never made a serious commitment to provide the millions of dollars needed to support programs to assist sex workers in the U.S. who want to transition to other work and to prevent runaway youth from turning to prostitution to survive.

Since the State Department has not engaged in any serious critical enquiry along the above lines (at least not publicly) and, more importantly, has not produced any evidence in support of its belief in the ‘end demand’ approach, it should cease from promoting this ‘one size fits all’ myth.

Unproven ‘prevention’ practice. The TIP Report also argues that “[p]ublic awareness of human trafficking – including awareness of warning signs and required responses – is critical and must be ongoing.” (p. 18).  However, I am not aware of any research demonstrating that public awareness campaigns (including those funded by the U.S.) are effective in preventing people from deciding to migrate for work.  While campaigns might have a temporary role in raising awareness and causing people to think twice about migrating, this only lasts for the duration of the (typically brief) campaign. Since people are usually trafficked by someone they know, they ignore ‘warning signs’ and if they need to migrate for work, they may be willing to take risks despite warning signs. This is not to say that some campaigns might not actually work briefly.  There simply is no evidence on which ones work and which ones waste money. Why, then, is the State Department still promoting these campaigns?  The U.S. should not be promoting or funding campaigns until there is real evidence of the impact (or lack of impact).

It should be apparent by now that I strongly support more critical thinking and independent evidence so that we can develop a body of research around the question of what works and what does not work. I had hoped that the President Obama’s call for more evidence on the actual impact of U.S.-funded programs would work its way into the State Department’s Trafficking Office but, to date, I have been disappointed.  True, the Trafficking Office is calling for more impact evaluations of its grant-funded programs, which is excellent news.  But this is not enough.  It needs to ensure that its own statements, recommendations, and observations in speeches, reports and other materials are based on objective, replicable evidence and, if none is available, to say so.

Ideas are the seed from which good projects develop but evidence is better.  As Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed:  “everyone is entitle to his (or her) own opinion but not his (or her) own set of facts.”  Right now, the State Department is disseminating too many opinions; it needs more facts.

Lack of sufficient focus on root causes or the factors making people vulnerable to trafficking

The TIP Report makes important contributions to the discussion of the plight of workers in the global supply chain as well as workers hired by government subcontractors.  However, the TIP Report continues to omit any meaningful discussion about the conditions in countries of origin and destination that render people vulnerable to forced labor.  For example, the TIP Report does not mention the impact of restrictive labor migration policies on migrant workers, the need for research to identify and develop targeted assistance to vulnerable populations or how the failure of many governments to protect basic rights fuels outmigration.

The TIP Report does make one interesting proposal about how to solve the problem of excessive debt owed by migrant workers to labor brokers for overseas jobs. It argues that governments in countries of origin “could provide small-scale loans to cover travel costs and protect workers’ rights while they are abroad” (p. 24).  However, since the majority of migrants are unable to obtain visas to work abroad legally, is the State Department seriously asking governments to assist citizens with financial support to migrate to the U.S., even without proper documents?  This would be a useful alternative to borrowing from a potential trafficker but it still ignores the basic question of how to prevent the vulnerability of undocumented migrant workers en route and in their U.S. destination.

Silence on issue of U.S. accountability for the plight of contract workers

The TIP Report faults governments in the developing world that “encourage labor migration as a means of fueling foreign exchange remittances, yet they do not adequately control private recruiters who exploit migrants and make them vulnerable to trafficking” (p. 18).  However, the U.S. government should not be so quick to lay the blame at the door of governments in the developing world as long as the U.S. does not have a good record itself on the recruitment of its own foreign laborers.  The New Yorker Magazine recently published a damning report of an investigation into the recruitment of foreign workers into Iraq and Afghanistan by U.S. subcontractors.  Reporter Sarah Stillman’s article “The Invisible Army: For foreign workers on U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, war can be hell” reveals a total lack of accountability on the part of the U.S. government for the conditions under which contractors recruit, hire and treat foreign workers working for the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan:

  • Workers are told they are going to work in one country and not told until arrival that they are going to Iraq or Afghanistan (Note:  this is not a new technique as Cam Simpson reported in a series of articlesin the Chicago Times in 2005 on the plight of Nepalese workers recruited by contractors to work in Jordan but ending up in Iraq).
  • Promised salaries are not paid – “they were to earn as little as two hundred and seventy-five dollars a month…a fraction of what they’d been promised.”  And, instead of the $1538 a month promised, workers earned $350.
  • Accommodation is “soiled mattresses with twenty-five other migrants.”
  • Contracts require 12 hour working days, 7 days a week.
  • A subcontractor accused of human trafficking violations continues to receive U.S. contracts.

The report continues with extensive documentation of abuses, lack of oversight and ongoing contracts to dodgy contractors. This outsourcing of labor continues and yet the government takes little responsibility for what happens with the workers who support U.S. service members in these two militarized zones:  “A spokesman for U.S. Central Command [in Iraq] acknowledged that it “does not play a formal role in the monitoring of living conditions on U.S. bases,” although each base has a military chain of command responsible for “working with the entities involved to insure minimum standards are met.”

Obviously, the State Department’s accusations against some other governments certainly has merit, but it is not made with ‘clean hands.’  The U.S. government (and other governments of countries of destination) is also liable for the same failures because it does not ensure the workers who are hired to work for the U.S. government by subcontractors are treated fairly and equitably according to U.S. labor standards.

Just as manufacturers who sell products produced through a chain of contractors are now being called upon to be responsible for the situation of workers along the chain, the U.S. government must also ensure that the workers who are hired by subcontractors to work for Americans are provided with the same rights and protections as other workers in the U.S. The trafficking of migrant workers by government contractors will not end until governments in countries of origin and destination coordinate their efforts and, most importantly, until governments, such as the U.S., that use contractors to hire workers for government-related jobs, monitor and control the activities of the contractors, establish safe mechanisms to report on worker abuse and punish violations through criminal prosecutions and contract terminations.

Thus, the U.S. government should follow its own recommendations to other governments:

  • “require that government contractors and subcontractors ensure that employees are not hired or recruited through fraudulent means or the use of excessive fees. Such policies would increase transparency and make it more difficult for unscrupulous labor brokers to use debt bondage as a means of providing cheap labor for government contracts. This is particularly important for third-country nationals, who are often imported for large construction projects and who are more susceptible to exploitation due to distance and isolation, language barriers, and dependence on the employer for visas or work permits, among other factors” (p. 19).

Hopefully, next year’s TIP Report will present more evidence-based information and models for prevention as well as information about the concrete steps the U.S. has taken to ensure that the government is protecting the rights of migrant workers hired by U.S. subcontractors and punishing the criminals responsible for the abuse, exploitation and forced labor of those workers.

US State Department Fails to Produce Evidence for its ‘Fact Sheet’

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In September, 15 academics and advocates wrote to the State Department’s Trafficking Office to request reliable evidence in support of statements made in the document: “Prevention: Fighting Sex Trafficking by Curbing Demand for Prostitution.”  The Trafficking Office recently responded but, to our disappointment, it was unable to present even one piece of reliable research in support of the claims in the ‘fact sheet’ (their term, now ours).  On the contrary, the response seems to indicate that the Office stands by its position and believes that an opinion or an idea about how to solve a problem carries the same weight as facts backed up by evidence.  Its response states that the ‘fact sheet’ is “just one in a wide range of similar fact sheets” and that its “Office does not state that a single technique to fight trafficking should be used to the exclusion of others.”  This indicates that the Trafficking Office believes its opinions on the causes of trafficking are ‘facts’ and that these opinions are a sound basis to “fight trafficking.”  With all due respect to the Office, claims to ‘facts’ and ‘techniques to fight trafficking’ should be backed up by solid evidence that is produced by careful research and validated methods.  Effective responses to trafficking require more than guesses and ideologically-rooted suppositions about what works and what doesn’t.

Until the Trafficking Office is able to produce solid research in support of the claims made in this ‘fact sheet’, it should remove the document from its website and not replace it unless and until it has such evidence. In absence of such a step, it would seem that the Obama Administration’s promise to bring rigorous evidence to programs and policies does not apply to the Trafficking Office.  Read the Trafficking Office response and the original letter to the Trafficking Office.

Ann Jordan is the Director of the Program on Human Trafficking and Forced Labor at the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, American University Washington College of Law.

Here are some research links:






Anti-Trafficking Enforcement in U.S. is an Abysmal Failure : Ms Magazine Blog

It’s been over a decade since the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) was passed into law, and a new report from the Bureau of Justice Statisticsreveals that astonishingly little has been done since.

The TVPA defines a human trafficking victim as

A person induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion [and] any person under age 18 who performs a commercial sex act.

According to the report [PDF], federal task forces funded by the TVPA opened only 2,515 investigations of suspected incidents of human trafficking between January 2008 and June 2010, leading to 144 arrests so far.

So how does this relate to numbers of people actually trafficked in the U.S.? That’s a surprisingly tough question. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to get firm statistics on modern-day slavery due to vast underreporting, the covert nature of the crime and the tendency to criminalize, rather than recognize, victims of sex slavery (even when they are children). Part of the problem is the misnomer “trafficking,” which inaccurately suggests that victims have to come from other countries. In fact, the term traffickingapplies to any coerced sex or labor, including all prostituted children.

Moreover, as anti-trafficking organization the Polaris Project points out, clear numbers for the U.S. are particularly lacking. The Department of Justice estimates that 17,500 people are trafficked from other countries, but has no firm estimates on those trafficked within U.S. borders.

I suspect that U.S. citizens and policy-makers have a hard time imagining that modern-day slavery is prevalent in our country, and an even harder time understanding that the vast majority of trafficking victims here are U.S. citizens. The State Department estimates that of the world’s 27 million trafficking victims, about 100,000 live in the U.S. In contrast, the Polaris Project estimates that there are 100,000 cases of child sex trafficking alone in the U.S. each year.

Even if we use the State Department’s 100,000 figure, this means investigations were opened on only 2.5 percent of human trafficking cases. Even assuming that one case represents multiple victims, it is clear that federal efforts to address human trafficking in the U.S. are simply not effective.

However, our anemic efforts to combat trafficking in the U.S. do not stop us from pointing the finger at other countries. The State Department’s just-released 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report, which evaluates worldwide efforts to fight modern-day slavery, began including the U.S. only last year. And that was thanks to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said:

One of the innovations when I became Secretary was we were going to also analyze and rank ourselves, because I don’t think it’s fair for us to rank others if we don’t look hard at who we are and what we’re doing.

So where does the U.S. rank?

The State Department uses a three-tier system. Tier 1 countries are in full compliance with the TVPA, Tier 2 countries are making “significant efforts” to comply and Tier 3 countries are making no efforts whatsoever. The U.S. is predictably ranked as Tier 1, which begs the question: How accurate is this rating system if a 2.5 percent prosecution rate gets us to the top?

The State Department’s ranking system misleads the public by focusing on purported efforts instead of actual outcomes. It has also been criticized for ranking Chinahigher than deserved, and for lumping countries togetherwith dissimilar records. The U.S. could standardize its rankings and avoid the latter criticism if it published national trafficking-prosecution rates–but that would expose the fallacy of U.S. superiority in efforts to combat trafficking.

State Department representative Luis CdeBaca defended the annual rankings, saying [PDF] such reports “can mean telling friends truths they may not want to hear.” I hope the State Department doesn’t mind some friendly truth-telling: Federal efforts to address human trafficking in the U.S. are an abysmal failure.

Photo from Flickr user Women’s eNews under Creative Commons 2.0

BOTTOM: Map of human trafficking


Evidence-based trafficking policy?: Sociologist gives State Department an “F”

by Kari Lerum5 days ago at 08:39 pm

When the Obama administration took office on Jan. 1, 2009, many scientists and scholars were hopeful that empirical evidence would play a greater role in defining a range of domestic and international policies, ranging from justifications for war, to global warming, to sex education, to policies about human trafficking. The hope was that the administration would turn away from making decisions that were rooted in ideological agendas and make decisions that were informed more directly by reliable empirical data. To some extent, this has been the case. [E.G.: see the State Department’s (remarkable) response to evidence of human rights violations against people in the sex trade].

However, when it comes to directly criticizing the State Department about its international policies — even using solid empirical data —  it is probably inevitable that the State Department machine will kick into defense mode. And this is what is happening now in response to Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, a professor of sociology at the University of Southern California, for her book Illicit Flirtations: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo which is based on her ethnographic research with bar hostesses in Tokyo. The State Department argues that women who are similar to those Parreñas included in her study need to be “rescued.” Parreñas’ research suggests otherwise, and adds to the mounting evidence which indicates that calls for “rescuing” adult women are simplistic, not based in reliable evidence, and are ultimately harmful to the women who allegedly “need” to be “rescued.”

Parreñas’ more complicated and empirically-grounded analysis puts a wet blanket on widespread popular discourse about “sex trafficking” — a “victim/rescue” narrative that many critical feminist, human rights, and labor scholars critique as a colonialist, patronizing, (ironically) sexualizing fantasy of White Knights swooping in to rescue helpless women. Parreñas’ work also provides yet another push to the State Department — and other all parties interested in alleviating human trafficking — to ground their approaches in rigorous data collection, as well as analysis that addresses labor and migrant rights in the context of global economic inequalities.

See below for Nina Ayoub’s story which briefly summarizes Parreñas’ findings and the State Department’s response:

Scholar’s Views Rile State Department

November 10, 2011, 9:00 pm

By Nina Ayoub

The author of a new scholarly book from Stanford University Press has become the target of criticism from an unusual source: the U.S. Department of State.

In recent weeks, Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, a professor of sociology at the University of Southern California, has received media attention for Illicit Flirtations: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo, a book about Filipina women working as bar hostesses in the Japanese capital. Bloomberg News ran excerpts of her work. She was called the “literary lovechild of Barbara Ehrenreich and Naomi Wolf” by Zócalo Public Square, which said the book will “inspire indignation for reasons you didn’t expect.” Parreñas also was interviewed onThe World, a program of Public Radio International. Following that broadcast, the State Department asked—essentially—for equal time.

The issue? Parreñas was highly critical of the ways in which State Department policies on international sex trafficking characterize the women who are the focus of her book, minimizing, she says, their individual agency as migrant laborers, and seeking to “rescue” them and regulate their lives in ways that Parreñas argues may leave them worse off.

On November 4, Alison Kiehl Friedman, deputy director of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons was interviewed on The World to “clarify U.S. policy on sex trafficking.” She told the host that “we agree with Dr. Parreñas that there is exploitation inherent in what is going on, and we agree that not all the people there are trafficking victims. And we agree that there needs to be more done to get unscrupulous labor recruiters out of the system and better protect migration flows. Where we disagree is that somebody can go in, have a personal experience for a couple of months, and categorically say these people weren’t sex-trafficking victims, and somehow calling some of them sex-trafficking victims is worse than ignoring their exploitation and trying to address it.”

In an e-mail interview, The Chronicle asked Parreñas for her response. Is she surprised at the public attention her research is getting from the State Department?

“As a scholar who is committed to ‘public sociology,’ that is, sociology that aims to transcend the academy and reach a wider audience, I couldn’t be anything but pleased that policy implementers have given attention to my work,” she writes. “Unfortunately, they seemed to have also misinterpreted the work.”

Parreñas adds: “I do wish that the U.S. State Department gave greater attention to the evidence-based research on human trafficking by scholars such as myself, and others including the anthropologist Denise Brennan, the legal scholar Dina Haynes, and the anthropologist Tiantian Zheng.” The department does not, she charges. Instead, they “insist on making unsubstantiated claims on human trafficking.”

What the sociologist is chiefly calling “unsubstantiated” is the Trafficking in Persons Report, which the State Department describes as its “principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments” on the subject. She is critical of the State Department, she says, for not fully accounting for its methods, as well as for its informants and sources. “The TIP Report would get an F if it were a  social-science-research project.”

Parreñas says she is fairly sure that her critics at the agency have not yet read her book. “Otherwise, they would not be able to dismiss my methodology as ‘having a personal experience for a couple of months.’” she writes. As a qualitative sociologist, she used a varied set of methods, including “in-depth interviews with hostesses, brokers, club owners; participant-observation both as a customer (in nine clubs) and as a hostess (in one club primarily); archival research; and interviews with government representatives in both Japan and the Philippines. I spent not just ‘a couple of months’ but a total of 11 non-continuous months in Tokyo to conduct my project.”

Unlike Friedman and the TIP Report, she says, “all the claims that I have made about the situation of hostesses—a group they say are ‘forced into prostitution’—are based on evidence, i.e., concrete interviews with migrant Filipina hostesses who I made sure represented a diverse group.” The women included “those who are college educated and those who are high-school dropouts; some work in high-end bars and others in low-end bars; some undress in the club where they work and others never sit next to a customer at a club when at work.”

Speaking on the radio of the Filipina hostesses, Friedman, the State Department official, used an analogy she said her boss was fond of. “I think that focusing on how they got there and whether there was any initial consent to travel is really beside the point,” she told The World. “It’s almost like criminalizing driving to the bank robbery, but not the bank robbery itself.”

In her e-mail to The Chronicle, Parreñas counters: “As I explicitly described in the interview, the work of hostesses is not prostitution. Instead, the work is to flirt professionally with customers.”

Friedman, notes Parreñas, “said we should not focus on how one gets to commit a robbery, but to focus on the robbery. This statement just goes to show that she chooses not to consider the circumstances of people’s lives and the particular needs that arise out of those circumstances.

In the case of hostesses, she says, “these women are often from the poorest of the poor in the Philippines. We cannot understand why they do hostess work unless we consider the structural contexts that have shaped their lives.” Those who prefer they not become hostesses, she says, should work on easing the structural inequalities that limited their choices and made hostess work the best of bad options.

“But let us say I agree with Friedman’s boss,” she adds. “Let us look at the act of bank robbery. Let us disregard how they got there. In this case, we would look at the act of hostess work. We would actually see that the work is not prostitution but professional flirtation. Professional flirting could be performed in a variety of ways—via showing acts of care such as spoon feeding sensually, dancing on stage (clothed or unclothed), singing, verbal teasing. I would ask Friedman—what is wrong with professional flirting? What is so different between professional flirting and working as a waitress in Hooters?”

“Yes, I would say let us look at the act of ‘bank robbery’ or the act of ‘hostess work.’ If we were going to do it accurately, we would actually rely on evidence to know the specifics of that ‘bank robbery.’ We would perhaps realize that the robber walked away with three pieces of mint candy from the bank and not wads of cash. If one looks at the TIP Report,one sees that the U.S. Department of State provides no evidence related to working conditions. So it is questionable if they know anything about the ‘bank robber.’”

Commenting on Friedman’s statement that “compelled service is frequently misidentified as consent,” Parreñas says that the official is “cloaking the problem of human trafficking. She is looking at the surface and not the structure.” Most migrant workers, she says, are not free laborers. They are often guest workers whose legal residency binds them to a sponsoring employer. This leaves them in a highly unequal relationship of dependency. This, she writes, would apply to farm workers in North Carolina, non-immigrant-visa domestic workers in Washington, D.C.; likewise, domestic workers in Singapore, or the kafala system in the United Arab Emirates, or au pairs in Denmark, or migrant teachers in Baltimore.

“Eminent scholars such as Carole Vance and Ann Jordan have expressed their puzzlement over the obsession of the U.S. State Department on sex workers as well as their conflation of sex trafficking and prostitution,” says Parreñas. She says that the department’s “over-obsession with finding ‘prostitutes’ who are ‘sex trafficked’” has led them to misidentify migrant Filipina hostesses. “Hostess work is not a euphemism for prostitution,” says Parreñas. Yet, she claims, the U.S. Department of State, “without evidence,” misidentifies the hostesses as not just prostitutes but women “forced into prostitution.”

This misidentification is a “setback,” she argues, “because it has eliminated the jobs of tens of thousands of women, many of whom are now living in poverty in the Philippines.” This shift, the book indicates, occurred when Japan changed its visa policies on “Filipina entertainers” in a way that conformed with U.S. preferences. The scholar also cites the research of her Ph.D. student Maria Hwang at Brown University, where Parreñas taught before going to the University of Southern California. Hwang has found a sizeable number of Filipina hostesses displaced from Tokyo working as migrant sex workers in Hong Kong. Hwang’s research, says Parreñas, shows us that “falsely rescuing them from prostitution has actually forced them into prostitution.”

Her student’s finding “tells us that it is very important that the U.S. Department of State only provide evidence-based research in their reports. Not having evidence-based research could backfire on them in more ways than one.”

Parreñas will continue her research on migrant labor. She says she is preparing a second edition of her 2001 book, Servants of Globalization: Women, Migration and Domestic Work (Stanford), which compared Filipina migrant domestic workers in Rome and Los Angeles. She is conducting new research in both cities to update their situations. She also has a new project that will compare the experiences of domestic workers whose legal residency in a country binds them to a citizen sponsor employer, meaning “that they cannot quit their job unless they are willing to be deported.” She will compare domestic workers in that situation in Denmark, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

Original story posted here: http://chronicle.com/blogs/pageview/scholars-views-rile-state department/29694?sid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en


See also human rights law professor Ann Jordan’s prolific scholarship on this issue, including her article here:  http://www.fpif.org/articles/sex_trafficking_the_abolitionist_fallacy

Other related Sexuality & Society stories:



The government and the United States are not reading from the same page when it comes to human trafficking. Every year in which the United States grades Guyana’s anti-human trafficking efforts, there is a diplomatic row over the grade mark.
This year is no different, and the subject minister has made it clear that while there has been an improvement in Guyana’s ranking, the report is nonsensical. We have heard that before.
The government must know by now that these ratings and rankings are really tools by which the United States seeks to control internal policies of governments. So we have a human trafficking index which if it reaches a certain threshold can invite sanctions against the defaulting nation. There is also a transparency index which measures the openness of the economy. If the government were tomorrow to decide to ban all public contracts, thereby removing the risk of corruption, it would still be accused of lacking transparency.
Some governments, of course, simply ignore these reports produced by agencies of the United States. Venezuela, for example, does not care two hoots about what the United States has to say about human trafficking in their country. If the United States wants to impose sanctions on Venezuela, that country knows that it can withstand these measures and retaliate with it own sanctions.
Guyana does not have the same liberty. Some of our leaders are concerned that instead of just trade sanctions, Guyana may be subject to visa sanctions and this will affect them. So that when the first Human Trafficking Report came out, Guyana was afraid of US sanctions and so rushed to pass human trafficking legislation.
It seems, however, that Guyana and the US are not on the same page when it comes to human trafficking, or rather, Guyana is not aware of some of the things that constitute human trafficking.
Instead of therefore asking the US to produce the evidence of incidents of human trafficking, the Guyana authorities should recognize the broad range of activities which can be considered as human trafficking.
If someone brings an interior resident to work in the city and that person complains about exploitation, that can be taken to be human trafficking.
At present, there are number of females working in bars in Guyana, and often these women are subject to harassment. Some men try to put their hands up these girls’ skirts. This is not only sexual abuse, but human trafficking.
There are women from the city who provide sexual services in the mining districts. Some of them may pretend that they are businesswomen, but never quite reveal the true nature of their business. This too can be human trafficking.
Guyanese women who are taken to Suriname to work and end up having to sell their bodies just to survive are considered as human trafficking victims. Even if you go voluntarily, once you are providing sexual services you may end up being considered as a victim of human trafficking.
The Guyanese authorities have to therefore understand what the United States considers as human trafficking and decide what action they will take.
In some instances, they have to drop the pretence that persons are not being prostituted in Guyana. It is public knowledge that there are private clubs in Guyana in which Brazilian women strip naked, dance around a pole and provide sexual services. This is public knowledge and some of these places are frequented by some prominent businessmen, unknown to their marriage partners.
It also rumoured that there are orgies at private residences and joints, also said to involve foreign women who are paid for their services. These things are also part of human trafficking as defined by the United States, and therefore if the Guyanese authorities are serious about improving human trafficking, they would ensure that laws are passed outlawing some of the lewd things that are taking place at these private clubs, many of which are open to the public and therefore not fully private at all.
The activities of some of these private clubs are degrading to our women, and it is strange that none of the women’s activists or groups have called for these joints to be shut down.
But just the mention of casinos and there is an uproar from sections of the society who seem to give the impression that they do not know about the pole dancing and striptease and prostitution that is happening.
Wake up Guyana! Take action against human trafficking before the United States shuts this country down!

Article Link: http://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2011/07/10/why-are-we-asking-for-evidence-of-human-trafficking/

Cambodian Marriage Law, Foreign Men Over The Age Of 50, Banned From Marrying Cambodian Women

The fight against human trafficking is supposed to be about protecting the basic human rights of those who are perceived to be victims. Unfortunately the result of over zealous and fear mongering politicians, media and independent agencies are often counter productive. In March of 2011, the government of Cambodia introduced a racist and discriminatory policy outlawing marriages with Cambodian women and foreign men over the age of 50.

When asked to comment on the newly introduced law, Cambodian government officials stated that “We are preventing fake marriages and human trafficking”. So in an effort to protect basic human rights, they use a tactic of racial and age discrimination. In addition to the age limit, there is also a monthly income requirement of 2500USD for foreign men under the age of 50. There is no mention of what happens in the case of a 50 year old foreigner wanting to marry a 45 year old Cambodian bride, presumably this would be illegal under Cambodian law.

If you’re a Cambodian woman, you have, effectively been denied the right to freely choose a spouse as enshrined in international human rights law. Head of the Licadho human rights group comments “This is discrimination against women because they will not be allowed to marry men who are over 50 … while Cambodian men can marry any foreign woman they choose,”

It is illogical to think that this policy will have any affect on human trafficking, those who are involved in the sex trade likely have no intention of marrying anyone. The fact that anyone supports these kind of policies is appalling! Human rights advocates that are involved in the fight against human trafficking should appose these kind of policies that take away a woman’s right to choose her partner.

Article Link: http://travelinasia.hubpages.com/hub/Cambodia-Human-Trafficking

3 Responses to U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report is a failure

  1. Pingback: Cartagena Colombia Prostitution Secret Service incident | The Myth of Sex Trafficking and Sex Slavery, Research, Lies, Facts, Fact Sheet, Truth about Human Trafficking statistics and Prostitution

  2. I wish they had included the following data, that was put together by Norma Jean Alomodvar. She has taken the data right off the Dept of Justice and FBI websites and she even gives instructions that explains how to go to those websites and verify the data yourself. She has countered almost every myth the prostitution abolitionists can come up with.

    This is a long document and a few things it covers is

    1) a list of several hundred US law enforcment officers that have been convicted of sexually assaulting children.

    2) It shows the average age of entry is nto 13 or 14, as it is really 17 to 25

    3) average age of arrest for those arrested for prostitution related offenses is 25 to 65

    4) out of all the prostitution and disorderly conduct arrests in 30 years in the US, less than 2% involved minors.

    5) The explanation of “guestamations” is priceless

    There is also data on rapes, conviction rates for those rapes, and so much more. This document is a must read for any researcher, academic, activist’s and policy makers.


  3. Pingback: US foreign policy with Sex Trafficking is based on lies, exaggeration | The Myth of Sex Trafficking and Sex Slavery, Research, Lies, Facts, Fact Sheet, Truth about Human Trafficking statistics and Prostitution

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