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From: Melanie Orhant (
Date: Tue Jun 06 2000 - 19:25:34 EDT

By David Watts.
AMERICA yesterday declared war on the multi-billion dollar slave trade of
women and children for the sex industry and called for global action to
tackle the problem.
Speaking at an international conference on "modern-day slavery" in Manila,
Madeleine Albright, the American Secretary of State, called for an end to
the "increasing and devastating" problem of trafficking in women and
children. "Trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises
in the world," she said in an address via satellite link-up.
The US estimates that the underworld trades one million women and children
a year in what is now a multibillion-dollar industry. It has developed so
fast that after drugs and guns the traffic in human beings is the third
largest source of profits for organised crime.
The Manila conference, which is jointly organised by the United States and
the Philippines, is searching for ways to end the trade by drawing up a
Pacific regional plan of action to protect victims and prosecute and punish
traffickers. Twenty regional countries and interested groups are involved.
Filipinas are traded into Japanese brothels by Japanese yakuza groups and
in Australia, where several states have legal brothels, Chinese middle-men
trade in thousands of girls who are brought in on three-month terms of
indentured sexual slavery.
Close to a quarter of a million women and children in South-East Asia are
bought and sold in this way each year for between $6,000 ( #3,800) and
$10,000 each. The states of the former Soviet Union account for 150,000
200,000 more, according to Anita Botti, principal deputy director of the
United States Inter-agency Council on Women. She believes the going rate
for European women is $15,000-$30,000. Up to 50,000 of them enter the
United States every year, while the global turnover of the industry is
estimated at $6 billion a year.
Ralph Boyce, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and
Pacific Affairs, said the sex slave trade was attractive because it
required little capital investment while the risks of prosecution and
punishment were fairly low.
Calling on the conference to lay out a concrete plan "to educate the
public, assist the victims, protect the vulnerable, and apprehend and
prosecute the perpetrators" Ms Albright said: "We can end trafficking in
human beings. What a gift to the future that would be."
The United States has been critical of Australia for not doing enough to
end the trade, despite new anti-slavery laws introduced last August and the
ability of the authorities to prosecute Australians for offences committed
in other countries. New South Wales police estimate that there are
thousands of illegal Chinese and Thai women in the country. They are sold
to brothel owners and have to work off the "debt" by having sex with up to
800 men. The women are usually accompanied by "protectors" and escorted
from "safe houses" to the brothels to work and then back again. They see
little or nothing of life outside the sex trade.
The women's passports are seized as soon as they arrive and they have to
pay for their travel costs with two shifts a day of a total of 18 hours.
Many of the victims come in with forged papers or student visas. Others
come into the trade voluntarily, but one 13-year-old discovered a few years
ago had been sold by her Thai father to pay off a gambling debt.
In a recent development, backpacker magazines now feature advertisements
luring budget travellers to Sydney's sex industry with offers of earnings
of up to $2,000 a week, often portrayed as waitressing work or other jobs
in the service industry.
Times Newspapers Ltd, 2000.

THE TIMES 30/03/2000 P16

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