Canada: The new Prohibition

The new Prohibition

Steve Bosch/Postmedia News

The federal government announced new measures to combat organized crime like prostitution, illegal gambling and drug trafficking on Aug. 4, 2010.
Terence Corcoran, National Post · Saturday, Aug. 7, 2010

The Harper government, fresh from botching its alleged pander to the libertarian wing of the Conservative party with its voluntary census plan, appears to be having no problem steamrolling over the libertarian wing’s sensitivities on crime. In back-to-back performances this week, two Cabinet ministers invoked harsh tough-on-crime motives that show the Tories’ concern about individual rights to be a fleeting interest compared with their enthusiasm for escalating the bonkers American war on drugs, gambling and sex. Continue reading

How Clearwater helped destroy an international sex slave ring

By Jonathan Abel, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Sunday, March 15, 2009

CLEARWATER — She came from Guatemala, a woman in her early 20s smuggled into the United States for what she thought was a housekeeping job.

The journey from her small town to the Texas border took 26 days. From there she was whisked to a safe house near Houston, then brought to Tampa and moved once more to a house in Jacksonville.

There, an enforcer for the human trafficking operation told the woman her debt had jumped from $5,000 to $30,000. Continue reading

Amsterdam to close many brothels, marijuana cafes

By TOBY STERLING, Associated Press Writer Toby Sterling, Associated Press Writer Sat Dec 6, 12:11 pm ET
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – Amsterdam unveiled plans Saturday to close brothels, sex shops and marijuana cafes in its ancient city center as part of a major effort to drive organized crime out of the tourist haven.

The city is targeting businesses that “generate criminality,” including gambling parlors, and the so-called “coffee shops” where marijuana is sold openly. Also targeted are peep shows, massage parlors and souvenir shops used by drug dealers for money-laundering.
Continue reading

The oldest conundrum

Policing prostitution

The red lights are going out all over Europe—but not elsewhere

From The Economist print edition


WHEN the Netherlands legalised brothels eight years ago, the mood was upbeat. Politicians thought they were well on the way to solving one of the world’s perpetual policy dilemmas: how to stop all the bad things that are associated with the sex trade (coercion, violence, infectious diseases) while putting a proper, and realistic, limit to the role of the state.

The Dutch were hoping that links between prostitution and multiple forms of crime, from money laundering to smuggling, could finally be severed. Ultimately, they believed, the buying and selling of sexual services would become a freely undertaken transaction, in which the state would only be involved as a regulator and tax-collector. The police could then concentrate on criminals, instead of harassing people engaged in exchanges that were nobody’s business but their own.


While the Dutch experiment was beginning, another European country was trying out a different approach. From 1999 onwards, Sweden began penalising people who patronise prostitutes (through fines, jail terms of up to six months, and “naming and shaming”), while treating people who sell their bodies as victims.

All over the world—especially in rich democracies—policymakers have been watching the two places to see which philosophy works best. In reality, neither is a silver bullet; neither country has found a perfect way of shielding prostitutes from exploitation and violence, while avoiding a nanny-state. So the arguments rage on, from liberal New Zealand to San Francisco, where people will vote on November 4th on virtually decriminalising the sex trade.

In Amsterdam—where the spectacle of half-naked women pouting behind shopfront windows is a city trademark—the link between prostitution and organised crime has proved durable. Efforts to break it have been a “complete failure”, says Lodewijk Asscher, a deputy mayor who has led the city hall’s effort to buy up and transform much of the red-light district.

Fresh arguments in favour of his campaign emerged from a report published in July by Dutch police and prosecutors. It drew heavily on the case of three Turkish-German vice barons who were sentenced recently to long prison terms for running a ring of 120 prostitutes in three Dutch cities. Their operation included many of the ghastly practices that the liberal law was supposed to stamp out.

Saddled with fictitious debts, the women under the barons’ control were made to take 20 clients a day, subjected to forcible breast enlargements and tattooed with the names of their “owners”. Such exploitation is not exceptional: the policemen who patrol Amsterdam’s red-light district reckon that more than half the ladies posing in windows are there against their will.

All that helps to explain why the Swedish experience is finding imitators in several countries—including England and Wales where people will soon be liable to prosecution for “paying for sex with someone forced into prostitution…or controlled for another’s gain”. It is also becoming easier for English and Welsh police to prosecute people (either pedestrians or motorists) who solicit sex on the street. In Scotland, kerb-crawling was banned a year ago. The British moves were made after studying the Dutch and Swedish experience.

But what is really happening in Sweden? The policy of penalising clients or “johns” enjoys widespread consent. It was introduced by a centre-left administration, despite opposition from the centre-right. Now it is accepted by all Sweden’s main parties. The authorities say the number of streetwalking prostitutes fell about by 40% during the first four years of the new regime. Swedish politicians say they have made their country a bad destination for traffickers. But a sceptic might retort that by driving prostitution away from Sweden, the authorities have simply exported it, sending sex-hungry Swedes to nearby countries or else to Thailand.


It’s dark underground

Moreover, a sex-workers’ association in Sweden says the law makes life dangerous for those who ply their trade secretly. A life of dodging between apartments and exchanging furtive texts can leave women more reliant on pimps. Another argument is that fear of prosecution reduces the chances that clients will report the exploitation of under-age girls or boys.

Some drawbacks of doing things the Swedish way have been noted in more established quarters. A report by Norway’s justice ministry, in 2004, cited evidence of an “increased fear of attack” among Swedish prostitutes, who found it harder to assess their clients because transactions had to be agreed hastily or on the telephone. But for Norway, it seems, these considerations have been trumped by others, including a sense that prostitution is getting out of control after an influx from Africa, South America and eastern Europe. The Norwegian parliament is on the verge of mandating Swedish-style penalties for buying sex. In a similar spirit, Italy’s cabinet has agreed to outlaw prostitution in public and make penalties harsher.

In Europe, then, things are moving towards tighter regulation—in part because many of the continent’s richer countries feel inundated by a wave of newcomers to the trade, some of whom are trafficked. But there are other places where more liberal voices seem to be gaining the upper hand.

In the United States, trading in sex is a misdemeanour, at least, almost everywhere, with the exceptions of Rhode Island (where it can take place only indoors, but not in brothels); and, most famously and brashly, in parts of Nevada. So if residents of San Francisco vote for “Proposition K”—which would bar police from taking action against sex workers—it will be a landmark in American history.

Supporters of the change (including sex-workers’ unions) say it will transform the role of the police. Instead of pointlessly arresting prostitutes, the police can help them stay healthy and protect them from violence. Advocates of a “no” vote say that if the hands of the police are tied, they will be unable to deal even with obvious cases of abuse. Some say the Dutch experience has made nonsense of the case for liberalisation. Others say Proposition K could lead to a worse situation than the Netherlands’: a free-for-all without the Dutch level of regulation and social security.

But for liberals in search of success stories, New Zealand appears to provide more promising evidence. In 2003, that country decriminalised the sex trade with a boldness that exceeded that of the Dutch. Sex workers were allowed to ply their trade more or less freely, either at home, in brothels or on the street.

A study published by the government in May, measuring the impact of the new law, was encouraging. More than 60% of prostitutes felt they had more power to refuse clients than they did before. The report reckoned that only about 1% of women in the business were under the legal age of 18. And only 4% said they had been pressured into working by someone else.

The report also acknowledges one distinct advantage enjoyed by New Zealand. Although some illegal immigrants are engaged in the sex trade, the country’s isolation and robust legal system make it relatively free from the problem of trafficking, at least by European standards.

But there is also a big difference between the policy of New Zealand and that of other places where prostitution is legal. In the Netherlands and Nevada, the business is confined to brothels, which are usually run by businessmen rather than the sex workers themselves.

Clearly, the brothel-masters’ status as the sole legal providers of commercial sex enhances their grip on the women who work for them. In New Zealand, prostitutes can fend for themselves. As well as letting them keep all their earnings, this independence gives them freedom to reject nasty clients and unsafe practices. “They feel better protected by the law and much more able to stand up to clients and pushy brothel operators,” says Catherine Healy, head of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective.

Unsurprisingly, the New Zealand system’s critics include brothel owners, both in that country and elsewhere. Going with a girl outside a licensed establishment is like “Russian roulette”, says the website of the Chicken Ranch, a brothel that serves the Las Vegas crowd. In New Zealand, one brothel keeper fumes that the earnings of independent sex workers are “tax-free money, which is not benefiting the Inland Revenue Department”.

What about other interested parties—such as respectable Kiwis who resent kerb-crawlers? According to polls, people are sure the number of prostitutes has risen—although the government says this is not true. Auckland city council is trying to allay public concerns by restricting brothels to commercial and industrial areas. Something similar happens in Nevada, where only the smaller counties may host brothels, and they are kept away from town centres. (Such curbs have some bad effects; prostitutes say they are stranded in the desert, totally reliant on brothel owners.)

In any case, one unusual investigation concluded that from the prostitutes’ point of view, the New Zealand system was the fairest. A pair of British grandmothers from the Women’s Institute—a homely club that is more often associated with cooking tips—made a tour of brothels in the Netherlands, America and the Antipodes: their aim was to find which system was best for the women who worked in the business. Their top marks went to a discreet house in a suburb of Wellington—classed in New Zealand as a “small owner-operated brothel”—where two women offered their services from Mondays to Fridays. “Just like a regular job,” one of the grannies noted.

Trafficking in female misery

Wednesday, 01 October 2008

Crusader Hillis talks to anti-sex slavery campaigner and author Kathleen Maltzhan.

Kathleen Maltzahn wants to see an end to the trafficking of women for prostitution.

The busy City of Yarra Councillor has spent much of her working life over the past two decades, here and in the Philippines, supporting trafficked women, exposing their dealers, and lobbying for changes in government policy, law enforcement and immigration.

Her work has informed a remarkable new book, Trafficked. Paced like a true crime thriller, it deftly tackles the issues of trafficked Asian women in Australia. It describes her two long stays in the Philippines, where she witnessed first hand the cruelty and inhumane conditions that women were forced to live with as prostitutes on the streets, in poor bars and for the American military. Stories of rape, brutality and enforced incarceration in filthy cells in brothels were commonplace.

“Many of the women we worked with were approached by recruiters to go to other countries,” she says. “Then a young woman who we had worked with was trafficked while we knew her. That really brought it close to home; and proved that it was real, not just a story made up about the sex industry.”

A particularly gruelling part of the book deals with sex slavery in a precinct near the US Clark Air Force base known as The Area. Local police worked with the brothel owners to ensure that women were not allowed to leave the area, and a major raid organised by the national police failed to find any women. Owners were tipped off and the women were quickly bussed out of The Area.

“Between the two trips, and then later again, it was all those links between big concepts – globalisation, trafficking for marriage, prostitution and sex tourism – that helped to form my focus. The Filipino community was learning how to deal with bad situations, including domestic violence.

“Back in Australia, it became clear that many Filipino women – often trafficked for marriage – were suffering domestic violence and control by their Australian husbands. I had to ask, what is the mindset for Australian men to do that?”

Maltzahn’s book paints a tragic situation for many Asian women living in Australia. Subjected to stereotyping and often devalued, she says that the views of many Australian men can be simply expressed.

“One man we spoke to put it like this ‘Asian women are made for this (sex work)’. Many men see Asian women as both subservient and nymphomaniacs – as both traditional and willing to do what other women won’t do. They are a blank slate that you can project all your fantasies on. Where does this dehumanisation come from?”

The book suggests that this dehumanisation, both in marriage and prostitution, starts with idealising: Asian women are good wives, made to please you, but when disappointment sets in, the punishment begins.

Maltzahn documents several local trafficking cases – as recently as 2003 there was widespread belief that trafficking didn’t exist here. A high profile case about a Brunswick Street brothel recently upheld a conviction in the High Court against its owner for human slavery. The case is important and offers hope that more convictions will succeed. Maltzahn also documents how many of the victims of trafficking are further punished by unfair immigration practices that have often forcibly repatriated women back to dangerous situations. Stories of women disappearing or being murdered dot the manuscript with alarming regularity. Across the world, Maltzahn tells me, “It is the bottom of the trafficking train – often women – that ends up being charged and sent to jail.”

Maltzahn believes that men have a responsibility to seek consent from prostitutes in brothels before they engage in sex, and assistance by male customers remains one of the most common ways that women eventually escape sex slavery.

Meanwhile, Maltzahn is honing her political ambitions, intending to run on the Greens ticket for the City of Melbourne elections in November against Councillors John So and Gary Singer. Like Singer, Melbourne’s current Deputy Mayor, Maltzahn is also gay.

She describes her campaign ideas simply: “Melbourne could be a whole lot more than it is. It could be a smart, green city, an example for the country, and the rest of the world. Instead we have a lot of spin and circuses, and we can no longer afford that with the urgency around climate change.”

While she says beating John So’s ticket will be hard, Maltzahn is excited by the prospect: “If the Greens win it would be really exciting. Partly it would mean that we have that mandate from the community to address climate change and community equity, in a capital city that has the resources to make a difference.”

Kathleen Maltzahn’s Trafficked
UNSW Press, Briefings; 2008; 125pp; $19.95

Oldies: Japan: Running the sex trade gantlet

The Japan Times: Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2003
Voracious sex market and lax laws encourage abuse

It could be a scene from most neighborhoods in urban Japan but it happened to be mine in Hashimoto, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Weary male commuters file through the ticket barriers of the JR Yokohama Line greeted by half a dozen leggy beauties carrying fliers for a local bar called “Partner.”

Speaking in broken Japanese, the women zeroed in on salarymen who looked unsteady on their feet as a stocky man wearing shades and too much gold jewelry hovered in the background, giving orders.

Bigger versions of the flier with its promise of “Filipino Women Galore!” and its subliminal message of easy sexual opportunity can be found on billboards for bars and nightclubs all over Hashimoto and neighboring Sagamihara.

All questions to the women about their working conditions and lives in Japan were redirected to “Mr. Yamanouchi,” who, not surprisingly, refused to comment.

Many of these women come to a country where a good tip can be worth the equivalent of a week’s wages in the Philippines.

Some walk the tightrope between the flirting that is a job requirement and the prostitution that lurks on the fringes of their profession, while also avoiding obstacles that include unscrupulous employers, violence and police harassment, and somehow manage to save or send money home.

Those that don’t sometimes end up at Friendship Asia House Cosmos.

Battered and bruised

Set in a secluded part of Chiba, the facility provides refuge for about a dozen women from the Philippines, Thailand and other Asian countries who often arrive battered and bruised from whatever life in Japan has thrown at them.

The smiles, short skirts and bronzed skin on display at Hashimoto Station have been replaced here with baggy, shapeless clothes, dull complexions and wary expressions. Sari (not her real name) had arrived a few weeks previously with her two children, fathered by a Japanese man.

“I was recruited in the Philippines by a broker who said I would be working as an entertainer and would have my own apartment and short hours.

“When I got to Nagano I found myself with 10 other women in an 8-mat room, and we worked every day from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. for an allowance of 2,000 yen a week.

“The other girls said the boss was Yakuza and when he threatened me I ran away to Tokyo and then to Uwami, but always things were the same. I met a “tekiya” (stall) owner and married him. I just wanted to get away but he beat me so I came here.”

Women escaping from bad experiences into bad marriages are not uncommon, says Misao Hanazaki, who set up Friendship Asia House in 1991 to accompany her orphanage next door.

Terrible cases

“We’ve had some terrible cases,” she says. “A Filipino woman ran into problems and was locked away in a detention center for two years while her visa case was being sorted out, leaving her children to fend for themselves.”

Despite the recession, Japan still has Asia’s largest and most voracious sex market, one that has sucked in as many as 150,000 non-Japanese women, mainly from the Philippines and Thailand, according to the International Organization for Migration.

The sex industry likes foreign workers for the same reason every other industry likes them: they’re cheaper and willing to do jobs few others are, says Takashi Kadokura, an economist with Dai Ichi Life Research Institute, who recently set the size of Japan’s “entertainment trade” at a staggering 2.37 trillion yen (2001).

Filipinos, Thais and increasingly Chinese and South American women can be found doing everything from pouring drinks in karaoke and hostess bars to offering cut-price sex massages. The boundaries between many of these services intersect and the pressure to please the customer is intense.

A survey by U.N. researcher Sally Cameron found that 19 of the 20 subjects she interviewed were “forced to engage in sexual practices in their job.”

Cameron says her personal “bug bear” is Japan’s “entertainer visas,” which are stamped on about 40,000 Filipino passports a year.

“There are very few people with this kind of visa actually doing this sort of job,” she says.

“The regulations are stringent and the visa is meant for use only by professional singers and dancers, but many Filipino women are still being brought to Japan on entertainer visas in conditions that are blatantly contrary to their visa conditions.

“The government said it would crack down on illegal categories, but there are still enormous numbers of workers coming in. The entertainment industry is huge and it’s fundamental and the government is not interested in changing that or in creating the legal infrastructure to fight this.”

But the government points to the arrest and trial of former travel agent Koichi Hagiwara as evidence that it is cracking down on illegal practices in the industry.

Not taken seriously

Hagiwara, who police say earned 10 million yen a month as a broker for women like Sari, is up on charges of forcing two Colombian women to engage in prostitution.

But campaigners point to Hagiwara’s earlier conviction in 1999 for similar offenses, when he received a suspended sentence and a puny 300,000 yen fine as evidence that Japan is not taking the problem seriously.

“There’s no antitrafficking law in Japan,” says Keiko Otsu, director of Asian Women’s Shelter Help in Tokyo, which provides help for women who are forced into prostitution.

“The problem is just starting to be recognized in Japan.

“The police use the Prostitution Law and only arrest the foreign women, who they blame, not the men. Local police in particular do nothing because they do not recognize that many of these women are trapped.”

In a typical incident, a Columbian woman was coerced into Japan, told she was 5 million yen in debt and forced to work off her debts in a strip joint in Yamanashi.

She had her passport confiscated and was beaten, raped and tied up before she fled to Tokyo.

It’s not the worst case.

Mrs. Otsu says a 13-year-old foreign girl was recently found working in a brothel in Yokohama.

Hanazaki-san’s biggest worry is the children who are being born here in increasingly large numbers to foreign women of indeterminate visa status.

“Many of these women are living in fear of their visa being cut off, so they keep their children out of school.

“We’re building up a lot of problems. What will all these kids do when they grow up without abilities or qualifications?

“The government has to change the law to either accept more people or, if they’re illegal, send them home.”

James “Buffalo Jim” Barrier found dead. Will Steve Miller be next?

Death in Las Vegas

 By Judi McLeod  Monday, April 7, 2008
Steve Miller and Buffalo Jim Barrier. Through thick and thin they’ve been a team fighting mob corruption in Las Vegas for decades.

And now Barrier is dead. 

According to his closest friend, former Las Vegas City Councilman and Canada Free Press (CFP) columnist Steve Miller, “He (James `Buffalo Jim’ Barrier) was found in a room with an empty bottle of valium. 

“Barrier did not take valium or any other drugs.  At the time of his death, he was involved in the purchase of a new garage and was very happy that the deal was about to close.  He had no reason to take his own life, and was living a very healthful life.

“Barrier called me on Saturday saying he had received a call from a man who identified himself as a `Hit Man’.  He said the man talked for over a half hour about how he wanted to kill him.  Barrier talked to the man in order to try to find out his identify. 

“Barrier had also been in receipt of several anonymous letters talking about how Rick Rizzolo wanted him to “fail”.  One of the letters mentioned Barrier’s home address asking if he still resided there.

“The police told Barrier’s daughters that their father died of “natural causes”.  Barrier was 55 years old and in perfect health.”

So worried is Miller for the safety of Barrier’s children, he is informing the FBI of Barrier’s death via email.

“I believe he was kidnapped and given an overdose of drugs in retaliation for his participation in the long-running Rizzolo investigation, and that Barrier’s death must be treated as a homicide,” Miller wrote the FBI.

“Barrier had many enemies infuriated with his participation in the closure of Crazy Horse Too.”

The same could be said of Steve Miller, whose columns Inside Vegas for, chronicle the trials and tribulations of convicted racketeer Frederick John “Rick” Rizzolo and the now-defunct Crazy Horse Too strip club.

An American professional wrestler from the Las Vegas-area, Barrier owned his own wrestling school and had a local wrestling cable show Jim Wars every Friday night as well as a weekly newspaper column on auto repair.

To know him was to love him was a line that could have been written for James “Buffalo Jim” Barrier.

Admired by many of the celebrities who have frequented Las Vegas including Hulk Hogan and Mohammad Ali, Barrier had a large collection of celebrity memorabilia, from vehicles to a lock of Elvis’s hair.  Included in this collection are over 150 cars, from a Jensen Interceptor, presented to him by Wayne Newton, to the pink Cadillac Kid Rock used in proposing to Pamela Anderson.

Barrier who joined Miller in the big fight against Las Vegas corruption was well known in Vegas for standing firm for his rights as a businessman, winning a twenty-year lease with his neighbor and landlord, Frederick “Rick” Rizzolo, owner of the Crazy Horse Two gentleman’s club, located on the same property as Buffalo Jim’s repair shop.  The dispute wound its way in and out of court several times.  Mr. Rizzolo has since sold the club, has recently been released from prison and is residing in Las Vegas. Mr. Rizzolo was convicted of racketeering and tax evasion in Federal Court.” (Wikipedia).

He was a single father with four daughters.

CFP is worried that its columnist Steve Miller will be next.

Posted 04/7 at 08:53 AM