Lawmakers in the U.S. Work to End Underground Sex Trafficking

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Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 1:06 p.m. DST, 22 May 2014

"For Sale" Photo by: Spring Tripp-Reilly

WASHINGTON, D.C.  -  The FBI estimates that 293,000 American youth are at risk of being trafficked in the underground sex trade. Lawmakers in the House are proposing a bill package aimed at shutting down the nation’s multimillion dollar sex trafficking industry, up for vote on Tuesday.

The measures include exploitation close to home as well as resolutions condemning the kidnapping in Nigeria of 200 schoolgirls by Boko Haram, an armed terrorist group that has threatened to sell the girls into forced marriages.

Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Missouri sponsored a bill that would make it a federal crime for advertisers to display child and adult trafficking victims on their websites.  Another bill urges states to enact laws that treat minors who have been sold for sex as victims rather than criminals when they are arrested.

The legislation includes a formal condemnation of the Nigerian schoolgirl kidnapping on 14 April, a requirement for states to identify and address sex trafficking of children in foster care, and a request of the State Department to give “advance notice of intended travel” for sex offenders convicted of child abuse.

Additionally it would impose additional financial penalties on sex traffickers and increase restitution to victims.  It offers employment assistance through Jobs Corps to the victims, and provides more resources to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. It would require convicted sex traffickers to report to authorities every three months and appear on the National Sex Offender Registry for life.

Cindy McCain, co-chair of Arizona governor’s Task Force on Human Trafficking, and wife of Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said, "This is beginning to reach critical mass in the U.S. and people are paying attention to it.” McCain, along with Senators Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, met with Mexican government officials to discuss ways to end sex trafficking across the border.

“We can’t lead worldwide unless we clean up our own house first,” McCain told CNN. Human trafficking is the third-largest international crime behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking according to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Of the estimated $32 billion profits from human trafficking, it is estimated that $15.5 billion comes from industrialized nations.

In Portland, a pimp and his coworker approached Katie Rhoades, a 19-year-old homeless, drug-addicted stripper. Offering a better life as their recording studio production assistant, they lured in the teen. 72 hours after Rhoades moved from Portland to San Francisco she was held captive by the pair and forced to have sex for money. She was held hostage with other women in a building surrounded by a 6-foot fence topped with barbed wire and cameras, and guarded by pit bulls and an alarm system. When she finally escaped, she enrolled in a drug rehabilitation program, got clean, and earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work.

Rhoades now runs a victim advocacy group and helps to train hotel staff on recognizing sex trafficking. "We need stronger laws penalizing folks who facilitate the sex trade," Rhoades said. "If a hotel manager consciously turns a blind eye to allow this to occur in his hotel then he needs to be penalized."

There needs to be more resources for victims once they’re rescued, according to Dedee Lhamon. She is the executive director of The Covering House, a St. Louis shelter for children rescued from the sex trade. Children in her shelter are usually from suburbs or small towns, where they are conned into the sex trade under the guise of things such as a study-abroad program or “girls who are going to school or church and being rented out by a parent or someone who needs to get their drug supply.”

29 people in Minneapolis have been indicted in a significant sex trafficking case where the victims (some under the age of 14) were repeatedly victimized over several years and transported several places.

"As a parent, I can sympathize and only imagine how horrible it is as a parent to have a child that has been subjected to this horrific crime," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, said at a news conference on Tuesday.

This coming Wednesday, National Missing Children’s Day, the Department of Justice will honor seven people who helped to rescue missing or abused children. Holly Smith, author of “Walking Prey,” a book written about her experiences when she was sex trafficked at 14, will speak at the event.

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCELswick

Indonesian Women Suffer Higher Rates of Caining as Punishment

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Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 23:06 p.m. DST, 20 May 2014

Taliban beating woman in public Photo by: RAWAEAST ACEH, Indonesia - A 25-year-old widow claims she was raped by eight men after they allegedly found her with a married man in her home in Lhokbani, a village in East Aceh district. The man, 40, and woman were beaten and doused with sewage before they were turned over to Islamic police in the Aceh province.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation, consisting of 240 million people. More than 90% of Indonesians describe themselves as Muslims though most practice a moderate form of Islam. Indonesia has a policy of secularism but Aceh, a principally Muslim province on the northern tip of Sumatra, practices a version of Sharia Islamic law.

The right to use Islamic law was granted to Aceh in a bid to end a long-running separatist insurgency and give the province more autonomy. Special police enforce this law and regular police forces enforce criminal law for cases such as rape.

Ibrahim Latif, head of Sharia law in the district, said his office recommends the widow and the man be caned nine times for violating religious law. Latif believes the two violated Sharia law simply by being in the same room together, though Latif claims that the widow and the man admitted to having had sex earlier. He is married with five children.

Police have arrested three of the eight men and are searching for the others. Latif said the eight could be caned for the rape but, “it will be too lenient if they just received the same punishment of nine strokes.” Caning was introduced as punishment with the enactment of the province’s Special Autonomy Law of 2001 for crimes such as alcohol consumption, adultery, being alone with someone of the opposite sex who is not a spouse or relative, and eating, drinking, or selling food during the sunlight hours of Ramadan, a month of fasting.

Many of Aceh’s Sharia laws are thought to target women, such as an incident this spring when police pulled women over and forced them to sit sideways on motorbikes, legs dangling near the rear wheel. The police and members of the public conduct raids to ensure women adhere to the local dress codes, and in 2012, 62 women in Bireuen district were detained for wearing tight clothing.

Lt. Col Hariadi, East Aceh police chief said the men arrested are being questioned on charges of rape. One of the accused, a 13-year-old boy, will be charged as an adult but prosecuted in a closed-door trial. The criminal charge of rape carries a maximum incarceration of 15 years. Officials have said that the sexual assault will not be taken into consideration in determining the punishment of the religious crime she was committing.

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCElswick

Carrie Mae Weems | Photographer

Carrie Mae Weems | Photographer

"This invisibility—this erasure out of the complex history of our life and time—is the greatest source of my longing. As you know, I’m a woman who yearns, who longs for. This is the key to me and to the work, and something which is rarely discussed in reviews or essays, which I also find remarkably disappointing. That there are so few images of African-American women circulating in popular culture or in fine art is disturbing; the pathology behind it is dangerous. I mean, we got a sistah in the White House, and yet mediated culture excludes us, denies us, erases us. But in the face of refusal, I insist on making work that includes us as part of the greater whole. Black experience is not really the main point; rather, complex, dimensional, human experience and social inclusion—even in the shit, muck, and mire—is the real point." -- Carrie Mae Weems

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The End of 'The View'? Elisabeth Hasselbeck Fired

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Patrice Ellerbe, Staff WriterLast Modified: 22:25 p.m. DST, 10 March 2013

Elizabeth Hasselbeck, Host of 'The View' ABC Daytime Television Show, Photo by Mary Rose Ongo

United States - Us Weekly has reported that Elisabeth Hasselbeck of ABC Daytime Television show “The View,” is being fired. According to a source who wishes to be unidentified, after the show’s market researchers realized her views towards politics did not agree with the show’s audience, they gave Hasselbeck the boot, following co-host, Joy Behar.

With Hasselbeck appearing on the show for almost ten years, it came as a shock to viewers and critics when numerous media outlets reported Hasselbeck’s dismissal.

According to the Huffington Post, following the Us Weekly report, TV Newser also reported a similar story, citing two sources who confirmed Hasselbeck was leaving.

However, a spokesperson also confirmed with Alex Weprin, a TV Newser contributor, that Hasselbeck has a “long-term” contract. When the contract was signed has not been stated.

Following Hasselbeck's departure, “The View” will be without two of its longest-running hosts. The cast has remained the same since 2007 when Rosie O’Donnell and Star Jones were replaced by Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd.

Audience members professed that they often looked forward to the manner in which Hasselbeck expressed her very conservative views; as well as the spirited exchange which followed by Goldberg and Behar. The bipartisan nature of the show was a key factor to its success according to viewers who were sick of being fed bland, non-confrontational or controversial fare during this time slot.

The Huffington Post reported, “Hasselbeck’s exit would also leave the show without one of its main sources of conflict.

The choice to remove this conflict by firing Hasselbeck, has the effect of reducing the producers' ability to differentiate the show from the plethora of programming that deals with “women’s issues.”

The net effect is that the producers have stereotyped women viewers as only interested in hearing about fluffy issues such as “how to win and keep your man,” or celebrity tales of sin and redemption, or in being spoon fed the latest must have fashions which, given the demographics of the audience, are typically designed for women half their age and size.

It remains to be seen if they will reconsider their decision, or if this show has peaked and will quickly descend into mediocrity.

Follow Patrice Ellerbe on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Staff Writer: @PatriceEllerbe
 

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