News/US: Senate Panel Hears Sex Slaves Tales

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Subject: News/US: Senate Panel Hears Sex Slaves Tales
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Wed Apr 12 2000 - 09:57:38 EDT


Senate Panel Hears Sex Slaves Tales
By Paul Shepard, Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, April 4, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) -- First, the story was told in Russian by two women who
were tricked into lives of forced sexual slavery. Then, a Mexican woman
described how her search for a better life unwittingly lead her into a life
in a brothel.

In two languages, a Senate panel crafting legislation to curb the growing
problem of sexual slavery heard from victims, through interpreters, stories
of rape, drug addictions, forced abortions, and beatings.

"I was given tight clothes to wear and told what to do," said "Maria" a
former sex slaves who wore a disguise before the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee's Near Eastern and Southern Asian affairs subcommittee Tuesday.

"There would be armed men selling tickets to customers in the trailer.
Tickets were condoms," Maria said. "Each ticket would be sold for $22 to
$25 each."

Like Maria, "Olga," a native of Siberia, said she was told she could make a
lot of money if she left home to work in another country as a maid. Olga
was led to Israel, where she was told she had been sold to a man for
$10,000 and had to "work off the debt."

Olga said she resisted at first, only to be beaten in her kidney area to
create maximum pain but minimum abuse to her appearance.

"I saw 15 to 20 customers a day and the brothel owners gave me drugs so
that I would work," Olga said. "I felt as though I was losing my mind, so
they gave me drugs they said were for headaches."

Olga said she later discovered the drug was Ecstasy, "a drug that makes you
relax and more willing to be intimate," she said. "After three weeks, I was
dependent on the pills and asked for it everyday."

Though figures are sketchy, it is believed that between 50,000 and 100,000
women and children are trafficked into the U.S., said William Yeomans of
the Justice Department Civil Rights Division.

Meanwhile, the House Judiciary committee approved by a voice vote a bill
[H.R. 3244], sponsored by Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., that would create
a new class of visas for victims of sex trafficking or slave labor.

Visas would be extended to those victims and their families who cooperate
with law enforcement and who would face persecution or extreme hardship if
repatriated.

Those admitted under the program, which would be capped at 5,000 a year,
would be able to apply for permanent residence after three years.

Yeomans called on Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., the chairman of the hearing,
to persuade lawmakers to enact legislation that would criminalize a wider
range of activities beyond the sex trade industry.

Yeomans said others cases could include women coerced into domestic
servitude, migrant labor or sweatshop work. He also called for penalties
for violations of involuntary servitude to be increased from 10 to 20 years.

"Gaps in coverage currently exist which make it impossible to prosecute
certain reprehensible forms of abuse," Yeoman said.

Staffers for both Brownback and Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., said they had
hoped to have crafted legislation by now but have run into difficulties
over the question of whether countries that encourage trafficking should be
hit with economic sanctions.

The Clinton Administration has been reluctant to employ sanctions, fearing
they would limit the ability of U.S. authorities to work with law
enforcement agencies in those countries.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The witness list, and eventually links to the statements,
for the Senate hearing are on line at:

     http://www.senate.gov/~foreign/hearings/hrg040400b.html

Melanie Orhant <<morhant@igc.org>>
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sweatshop labor, domestic service and some coercive mail
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