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|What follows is
testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near
Eastern and South Asian Affairs March 7 by the U.S. coordinator for ECPAT.
She was testifying at a hearing along with six other persons on the topic
of trafficking in persons. The text has been edited slightly. The U.S.
Congress is considering a bill that would allow prosecution in the United
States of U.S. citizens who sexually exploit children overseas.
By Carol Smolenski
My name is Carol Smolenski. I am the coordinator of ECPAT-USA. ECPAT-USA is the U.S. branch of ECPAT-International based in Bangkok.
ECPAT stands for End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes. I’m here to tell you something about the problem of child sex tourism, how it intersects with the larger crime of trafficking in persons and what can be done to stop it.
It is the demand side of the trafficking problem that stills needs to be addressed. ECPAT got its start in Asia in 1991 when some churches and children’s rights activists heard the results of a study about the sale and trafficking of children within Asia.
What they learned was shocking and yet virtually unrecognized by the
rest of the world: that uncounted numbers of children were being forced
into the sex industry in Asia, partly to meet the demand of foreign sex
tourists from all over the world. Initially focused on Thailand, Taiwan,
Sri Lanka and the Philippines, now ECPAT is a global organization focusing
on the commercial sexual exploitation of children in all its forms, not
just in Asia, but around the world, including in the United States.
We define children as people under 18 years old, using the definition of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is generally accepted that there are at least two million sexually exploited children in the world, including both boys and girls. One reason among the many that people travel abroad is to experience something of the local cultures, to experience the exotic, to live, if ever so briefly, outside the confines of their every day life.
On vacation you can imagine yourself in a life unlike life at home, an idea the legitimate tourism industry promotes in its advertisements. Some of the people who have these fantasies are called sex tourists. They are people who go on vacation in order to have repeated sexual contact with the local population. In the same way that some people go on skiing holidays, or go on vacation to experience the local culture through visits to museums or theaters, sex tourists travel to have sex. They go to a place where they are unknown and can behave in a way that friends and neighbors back home would find unacceptable.
Child sex tourists seek out sex with children. Child sex tourists are not just pedophiles, though pedophiles do abuse a lot of children. Research on pedophiles calls them adults with a diagnosable disorder that prevents them from being able to experience and enjoy sexual intimacy with other adults. Their sexual interest is exclusively focused on young children.
Pedophiles share information among themselves about where to find vulnerable children around the world. The first sex tourist prosecuted in the United States for traveling abroad (to Honduras in his case) to sexually exploit children had information on his computer about how to find children in Nepal as well as other countries.
But there are other sex tourists who are not pedophiles. These are people, I should say men, because men are by far the majority of child sex abusers, these are men who wish to experiment by having children as sexual partners when they are in a situation where they believe this is acceptable behavior, for example, in a foreign country, with a racial group different from their own.
Or, they have sex with children because they simply do not care whether their sex partner is 12, 18 or 25 as long as that partner meets certain physical requirements that the man considers attractive. We call them situational child sex abusers. Since so many societies and cultures consider an attractive woman to be one who is slender, fit, youthful and young looking, it is very likely that a man will seek out a young girl for a sex partner.
Child sex tourists sexually abuse children because they are prostitute-users (and/or strip and sex-show customers, and/or consumers of pornography) in a world which, on the one hand places sexual value on youth, and on the other forces large numbers of children (either through direct coercion or economic necessity) into working in the sex industry.
Many prostitutes enter the sex market before their 18th birthdays, often well before they turn 18, so anyone having sex with a prostituted person may well be a child sex abuser, whether he acknowledges it or not. Sex tourists have a vast array of sex tours to choose from.
A few years ago, Business Week magazine turned up 25 sex tour companies in the United States. The internet is filled with advertisements for sex tours to a variety of destinations. Last week I typed the words sex tours into the Google.com search engine. I got a list of 14,600 entries. Not every one of those was a site for a sex tour company. Many were pornography sites. Some were analyses of sex tourism by academics or organizations like mine.
But a review of sex tour sites and sites where men share information about sex tourism shows that people are trafficked to sex tour destinations to meet the demand, that mass marketing to moderate income sex tourists is part of the appeal, and that men are often indiscriminate about the age of the prostitutes they seek out, although youthfulness and willingness to do whatever they are asked to do seem to be some of the most attractive attributes a prostituted person can offer.
Here are excerpts from some of the sites I looked at:
• Costa Rica Sex Sizzles. Cost Rica sex is the magnet that pulls men to this tropical land where prostitutes and prostitution are legal at age 18. Sensuous senoritas and escorts from Colombia, Cuba and other Latin lands come here too. Why go all the way to Thailand on Asian tours when Latin America is so close and so hot?
• On Best of Asia.com there are tours advertised but also a number of pornography links including some entitled Barely Legal Asian, Hot Young Teens.
This is one of the characteristics of sex tour sites. They might put a disclaimer on the site stating that they do not provide child sex tours or provide girls
|under 18, but sex tourists know,
and are given to believe on the websites, that young girls are available
when they get to the destination.
• On Dexterhorn.com where trips to Asia and Germany are advertised it reads "we know all the places to go to have sex with women, 24 hours a day....Beer bars overflowing with young girls begging you to take them back to your hotel. . ."
• The infamous online company Love Tours advertises every girl in every club is available. Every girl in every club is affordable.
Men who travel with sex tours say they believe that it is culturally acceptable and legal to have sex with children in other countries. Here is a quote from one particularly abhorrent sex tourist on vacation in the Caribbean:
"Sex is a natural thing here. Everyone’s at it. Fathers do it with their daughters. Brothers do it with their sisters. They don’t care. They’ll do it with everyone. They don’t care who it is or how old they are. They’re like animals. That’s the only way I can explain it to you. They’re like dogs or cats or roosters. By the time a girl is 10 years old, she’s had more experience than, well, an American woman or an Irish woman won’t never have that much experience in her whole life. Girls learn it’s the way to keep a man happy."
Another man, interviewed sitting in a bar with two girls, 12 and 13 years old by his side, said "American girls, in America and places like that you see, they’re not so free about sex and their bodies. They let you do things here an American girl’d never dream of doing. I can’t even say to you what they let you do."
These cases are quoted in Julia O'Connell Davidson and Jacqueline Sanchez Taylor, 1996, "Child Prostitution and Sex Tourism: The Dominican Republic."
The advertised sex tours feed into these stereotypes by advertising the passivity and youth of the children or women who the men will meet on these tours.
The sex tour is the nexus between the supply of childrens bodies and the demand by men, again, it is mostly men, with enough disposable income and equipped with the rationale that it is culturally acceptable and even legal to exploit the vulnerable children they come across in poor countries.
They even convince themselves that they are helping the children because they give them money. Any country with a growing tourism industry confronts the growth of the demand for prostituted children in that country. For example, as Cambodia looks to tourism for economic development, the potential danger of sex tourism looms for poor children and women who will come in contact with well-off foreign tourists for the first time.
Here is an excerpt from a website used by sex tourists to share information about Phnom Penh:
"Price of girls: short time $3-$5; all-nite $15-20. I got two girls for $7 once. Don’t pay in advance, and don’t be bashful about sending her back if she doesn’t do as advertised. Be sure to tip the chick privately for good service. The poor (literally) little girls some of them do try, they get a few cents only from papasan and own little more than a dress or two."
At least in Cambodia’s case, officials are aware of the problem and would like to mitigate it. In Autumn 2000 Cambodia’s Tourism Ministry announced plans to start a campaign against child sex tourism by posting signs in hotels, guest houses and nightclubs warning against sex with children. As sex tour destinations are opened up and advertised, for a variety of income groups, the increase in demand increases the need to traffick more bodies to the brothel areas in the sex tour destinations.
Of course it is not just sex tours that lead to increased trafficking.
For example, we know from our colleagues around the world about increasing
numbers of people being trafficked from Eastern Europe and Latin America
to meet the demand from U.S. military personnel in the brothel areas near
the U.S. military bases in South Korea. And the presence of military personnel
from any country in any country is associated with a growth of prostitution
But we also know that women and children are trafficked into the sex tour destinations of Bangkok and Costa Rica. The sex tour focuses the demand in certain areas facilitating the transaction by concentrating the business in one place.
ECPAT-USA and our partners around the world call on you to take a number of steps to stop the demand for trafficking victims.
• Deterrence: Advertise the laws against child sex tourism. This can be done in a number of ways. The European travel industry has been very involved in fighting child sex tourism. Unfortunately, the U.S. industry has declined to become involved. For example, nine European airlines show or have shown inflight videos advertising the laws against child sex tourism as a deterrent to the situational child sex abuser. Every single U.S. airline, even though requested by the federal Department of Transportation, the president of Air France and ECPAT-USA, has refused to get involved.
• Law enforcement: Make it easier to prosecute American sex tourists by training law enforcement in other countries about gathering evidence for use in U.S. courts, or policies to encourage other countries to prosecute and incarcerate American sex tourists. Put more resources toward making cases against American sex tourists and change the U.S. extraterritoriality law to make it easier to prosecute American sex tourists.
• Regulation: Require sex tour companies to keep records of the people going on sex tours such as name, address, Social Security number and passport number and similar information about the names of the children or women to whom they are introduced in the foreign country.
As we speak, children are being forced into the sex business, and American men are eagerly joining the ranks of those who seek out their bodies. The U.S. must stop the contribution that American men make to this abhorrent practice. The U.S. trafficking bill successfully focuses on the supply side. This is a market in children bodies. It is time to stop the demand.
The author may be contacted here: Carol Smolenski, coordinator, ECPAT-USA (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes), 351 E. 74th St., New York, NY 10021 Phone: 212-717-2530. Fax: 212-717-2549. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Internet: www.ecpatusa.org
|Murder of archbishop
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
CALI, Colombia — Despite 38 years of war in Colombia, Saturdays' murder of a Catholic archbishop was the first time a high-ranking church leader has been assassinated.
The killing has shaken Colombians and many people fear the country is sliding into a very dark period of unbridled violence. The victim, Archbishop Isaias Duarte, was a high-profile religious leader, known for his sharp criticism of both the violence and corruption in Colombia. He had worked in some of the most blood-soaked regions of the country, denouncing the brutality of both left-wing rebels and right-wing paramilitary groups.
When left-wing guerrillas kidnapped an entire church congregation three years ago, Archbishop Duarte helped negotiate the release of many of the hostages.
"Msgr. Duarte was like a father to us," explained one woman, whose family was among the hostages. He gave us the strength we needed to survive it, now, she said, "we feel like orphans."
It is still unclear who is behind the murder. Two young men walked up to the 63-year-old archbishop just as he left a church where he had given a wedding mass Saturday night in Cali, the third-largest city in Colombia.
The assassins shot him three times and escaped on a motorcycle. Almost immediately. the police identified left-wing rebels as the probable culprits, although drug traffickers may also be involved. The archbishop recently spoke out about the problem of drug profits being used to finance the election campaigns of several members of Congress.
Colombia's president Andres Pastrana has offered a $500,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the assassins. And here, the mayor has declared three days of mourning. The assassination has frightened many Colombians, particularly because the Catholic church has, up until now, been the one refuge in Colombia from the violence.
Presidential candidate Lucho Garzon says the assassination signifies that Colombia is entering a dark tunnel, that has no exit.
Many Colombians share his fear. Top Colombian officials say drug traffickers could be behind the slaying of Roman Catholic Archbishop Isaias Duarte, who was gunned down Saturday in Cali.
On Sunday, thousands of mourners lined the streets of Cali to enter a church to view the archbishop's body and pay their respects to the slain leader.
On Sunday, Pope John Paul condemned the slaying. Appearing at his window overlooking Saint Peter's Square in Rome, the pope said the archbishop paid "the highest price" for his energetic defense of human life and firm opposition to violence.
The 38-year civil war in Colombia has intensified since peace talks collapsed last month between the government and the country's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC.
Colombia is the world's largest producer of cocaine. Authorities accuse the FARC and paramilitary groups of drug trafficking. In the 1980s and 1990s, the now-defunct Medellin cartel killed hundreds of people in Colombia in a bid to control the drug industry.
Troops kill 17 rebels
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
BOGOTA, Colombia — Army troops in Colombia have killed at least 17 leftist rebels in a former rebel safe haven in the southern part of the country.
The fiercest fighting Saturday took place around the village of Vista Hermosa inside the former demilitarized zone that had been set aside by the government for the rebels during three years of futile peace talks.
The Colombian army did not report any casualties. Police say they also destroyed seven tons of cocaine and two drug processing laboratories in the former safe haven.
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
CARACAS, Venezuela — The government plans to fire a number of executives from the state-owned oil monopoly Petroleos de Venezuela, following their public protests against the appointment of new directors.
Managers, administrators and technicians at the oil company have been protesting against the new board of directors, claiming their appointment serves the interests of the political elite rather than the general population. The workers have threatened to go on a strike that could disrupt Venezuela's production of oil — the country's primary export commodity.
But the government called the protests unjustified and said their perpetrators should be ready to assume responsibility for their actions.
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
QUITO, Ecuador — The government was forced to suspend the proposed privatization of some state-owned electricity companies, after opponents threatened the country's political stability.
Ecuadorian President Gustavo Noboa said he will suspend the privatization of 10 electricity-distribution companies in the Andean and Amazonian regions. But, he plans to go forward with the sale of seven electricity companies in the coastal region.
The government's decision comes in response to strong opposition by the companies' employees, local governors, and Ecuadorian indian groups. Opponents threatened to disrupt the privatization with power-cuts and protests at the capital.
President Noboa warned the privatization postponement will have serious consequences for the future viability of the electricity industry and Ecuador's economy as a whole. Opposition groups are now threatening to force the suspension of the remaining planned privatizations.
Hurricane teams go
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is sending a team of hurricane experts to several Caribbean nations to help build public preparedness in the storm-prone region. The scientists leave the United States today for a five-day, five-city tour.
"Public understanding of the hurricane threat, and what to do about it, are critical to reducing the tragic loss of life and property" said Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center. "Preparation through education is less costly than learning through tragedy."
The team will be stopping in Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, all places that have suffered terrible disasters from hurricanes.
Nine hurricanes whirled through the region in 2001. The most serious were Hurricane Iris, which caused more than $66 million in damages, and Hurricane Michelle which took 17 lives.
|Big confab starting
in Monterrey, Mexico
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
MONTERREY, Mexico - Heads of state and officials from around the world are gathering here today for a U.N. conference on eradicating poverty.
Participants of the International Conference on Financing for Development are expected to discuss debt relief, promoting economic growth and strengthening programs to help poor nations.
President Bush is scheduled to join the conference on Friday. Other participants of the five-day event are U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and officials from the World Trade Organization, World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
The delegates are set to debate a draft statement called the Monterrey Consensus, which pledges nations to help stamp out poverty.
The document urges developed countries to spend seven-tenths of one percent of their gross national product to help poor nations. The United Nations says the document also addresses mobilizing domestic and international resources, and using international trade for development.
The World Bank has proposed that wealthy nations double foreign aid
spending to $100 billion a year in order to cut extreme poverty in half
Lawyers for Haitians
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
MIAMI, Fla. — Immigration lawyers here have sued the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service alleging it is pursuing racist policies concerning the plight of Haitian refugees. They say Haitian asylum-seekers are being automatically detained after they arrive on U.S. shores.
The practice allegedly became policy after a boat carrying more than 180 Haitians arrived off the shores of Florida in December. Immigration lawyers say that prior to this incident most refugees were released after less than one week in detention. They also allege different rules apply to asylum-seekers from other countries.
The suit was filed by the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center late Friday. They are calling for more than 200 detained Haitian asylum-seekers to be released and their cases heard. INS officials deny their agency discriminates against Haitians or any other nationality.
Hundreds of Haitians seek to leave their impoverished homeland for the United States on often overcrowded vessels every year. If they are picked up at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard, they are generally sent home.
AIDS tests for jobs
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — AIDS activists in El Salvador are challenging a provision in a new law designed to protect the rights of people suffering from HIV-AIDS. The provision that is causing controversy allows employers to test workers for HIV. Advocates say the provision will open the door to discrimination in the workplace. The International Labor Organization says it knows of no other country with such a law.
Painted in large black letters on the green wall of Donald's barber shop, in one of San Salvador's largest shopping malls, is a sign informing customers that all the barbers here are screened regularly for HIV. Shop manager Carlos Quiej says the management has had the policy in place for years. He says it is for the customers' safety.
Quiej says clients have a right to safety, and that they want to come to a safe place, where they will not be infected with anything. He says some people say they come to the shop because of this policy.
AIDS activists fear that the practice of screening employees for HIV will become more widespread, since the adoption late last year of an AIDS law. A provision in the law permits employers to screen current and prospective employees for HIV. Activists maintain this article will contribute to workplace discrimination against the estimated 20,000 Salvadorans thought to be infected with the virus.
Alexia Alvarado is a lawyer for a group of social organizations attempting to challenge the controversial article. Ms. Alvarado says, while testing happened in the past, it was a debatable practice, but now it is protected by law. She says that it will be difficult for those with HIV to find a job in an already difficult labor market.
The law specifies that employers cannot fire someone because they are HIV positive, but Ms. Alvarado does not believe that this provision offers sufficient protection to those infected with HIV. She adds that employers will simply use other excuses to fire people with HIV.
The International Labor Organization's Code of Practice on HIV-AIDS and the workplace says testing should not be required as a condition of employment. While workplace testing does occur in other parts of the world, the ILO says it knows of no other country where it is sanctioned by law.
Proponents of the provision say it is intended to improve workplace safety. Representative Norman Quijano is a member of the legislature's health committee, which wrote the controversial article. He says he was elected to defend the rights of all Salvadorans, not just those who are HIV positive. He says that the law will not promote firing those with HIV.
Experts say the risk of becoming infected with HIV in the workplace is minimal. Alex Gutierrez is HIV-positive and unemployed. He says he is thinking of trying to go to the United States. He says he had thought he might find work before, but that since the law was passed, he has little hope.
Activists have already filed suit in the country's supreme court, alleging
the testing provision constitutes a violation of privacy. More suits are
planned, alleging discrimination. Activists are also negotiating with legislators
for the provision to be repealed.
Bush and Chretein
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Bush and Prime Minister Jean Chretien of Canada made a joint appearance before reporters Thursday for a photo opportunity in front of the White House, offering their assessment of bilateral efforts on trade, border security, and counterterrorism.
Bush thanked Canadians for their "steadfast support" in the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism and praised U.S.-Canadian border-security initiatives. "I believe our border cooperation is going to be a model not only for our hemisphere, but also for the world," he said.
In addition, the president highlighted the strong economic and commercial ties between the two neighbors. He emphasized that negotiators from both countries are working to achieve a trade agreement on softwood lumber, and pointed to Canada's role as "a significant supplier of energy to the United States."
For his part, Chretien agreed that "the relations between America and Canada could not be better," adding: "I think that the defense of our values and against terrorism are extremely important for Canadians."
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