response to a proposal to create sex industry tolerance zones, launched
by some Vancouver city council members with the alleged support of the
mayor, the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter organized a press
conference and Public Forum on Ending Prostitution to speak out against
the proposal on October 10, 2003.
Speakers at the Forum were Lee Lakeman, Director of Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter; Cherry Kingsley, Executive Director of the International Centre to Combat Exploitation of Children and a survivor of prostitution; Terri Brown, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada; Lorina Serafico of the Committee for Filipino Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights; and Janice Raymond, Co-Executive Director of CATW. 400 persons attended the forum, and most of the participants who spoke after the presentations in the lengthy participants’ session that followed voiced their opposition to tolerance zones and other legalized sex industry venues. Many participants stated that such zones would only promote prostitution industries and encourage traffickers to see Vancouver as a magnet for the sex trade. Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter will continue to monitor and oppose the creation of these zones.
A Webcast of the Public Forum on Ending Prostitution, hosted by the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, can be found in Real Video, Real Audio and Windows Media Player formats at http://www.workingtv.com/ mainp11.html
CATW gave also gave keynote addresses at conferences on trafficking at Gonzaga Law School in Spokane Washington; the National Liberty Museum in Philadephia, Pennsylvania; and in Madrid, Spain.
Through CATW’s Global Campaign for a Sex Trafficking Free Internet, CATW led the protest in front of Craigslist’s corporate headquarters in San Francisco, California that resulted in Craigslist shutting down the “Adult Services” section of their website that was facilitating sex trafficking in the US and internationally. Since Craigslist removed their “Adult Services” sections, Backpage.com, owned by Village Voice Media Holdings, LLC, a US based corporation, has become the traffickers website of choice. CATW continues to work to create a sex trafficking free internet through our campaign to hold Backpage.com owned by Village Voice Media Holdings LLC, accountable for the untold number of human beings whose rank exploitation continues to be carried out through prostitution ads hosted on this platform.
CATW launched the Abolitionist Network (AN) which is made up of individuals and organizations throughout North America. It is designed to give a strengthened collective voice to the abolitionist approach to commercial sexual exploitation. The AN will take action by working together to develop and conduct trainings of government officials, service providers and communities. The AN will advocate for local, state and federal policies and legislation that criminalizes buyers based on abolitionist principles. The AN will also work to transform media coverage and public opinion to more accurately reflect the realities of human trafficking. Currently there are a total of 15 member organizations and individuals.
CATW contributed to a significant victory in Rhode Island, resulting in a major setback for pimps and the sex industry in Rhode Island. For the past 30 years, “indoor” prostitution has been allowed to operate legally in that state. In October 2009, the Rhode Island legislature passed bills that ended this practice, effective immediately. Not only is “indoor” prostitution no longer legal, but their anti-trafficking law is stronger. Women under 18 can no longer be exploited as strip club dancers, and there is now an expungement clause in the prostitution law.
On November 4, 2008 CATW provided financial and political support toward the defeat of Proposition K in San Francisco. Prop K sought to change the enforcement of laws related to prostitution by directing the San Francisco Police Department and the District Attorney to refuse to enforce the State of California’s prostitution laws. These sections include laws against traffickers and laws against those involved in exploiting women and children. Non-enforcement of these laws would have in effect put out a welcome mat to traffickers and pimps, and served to put communities in the San Francisco area at greater risk. Proposition K was ultimately defeated on November 4, 2008.
CATW was a co-leader of the successful campaign to secure the Safe Harbor for Exploited Youth Act. CATW initiated a Pen Campaign where we organized supportive organizations to mail in large numbers of pens to Governor Paterson of New York to urge him to sign the bill. CATW organized a coalition of members including key figures such as US Ambassador Mark Lagon, to send thousands of pens to the Governor urging him to sign. Ultimately the governor’s mansion was overwhelmed with pens, many inscribed with the names of survivors. Significantly, this bill is the first in the nation to recognize prostituted youth as sex trafficking victims giving them the same protections extended to foreign-born children under the federal law as well as requiring local districts to provide crisis intervention services and community based programming for exploited youth.
After an intensive three-year advocacy campaign, CATW joined Equality Now and five other feminist organizations fighting violence against women and girls (GEMS, NOW-NYC, In Motion, My Sister's Place, and Sanctuary for Families) in leading a successful effort to pass strong anti-trafficking legislation in New York State. Addressing both supply and demand in the sex industry, the new law is widely considered the strongest anti-trafficking measure in the country. This law went into effect November 1, 2007.
CATW organized the first A Conversation Among Men About Sex Trafficking at the New York University Wasserman Center in New York City in 2009. The program combined art and activism to commemorate the UN International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. This program brought together principled male leaders in the field of human trafficking to explore the leadership men must provide in confronting the demand for commercial sex that leads to sex trafficking. The panel featured Aaron Cohen, activist and author of Slave Hunter, Peter Buffett, composer and co-chair of the NoVo Foundation, Michael Cory Davis, actor and activist and Jonathan Walton, poet activist.
On December 3, 2005, the United States became an official party to the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, also known as the Palermo Protocol. This is a significant event as the United States has ratified few UN Conventions and Protocols. Ambassador John Miller and his staff at the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons are to be congratulated on the work they did in advancing this crucial international legislation in the House and Senate.
The Trafficking in Persons Protocol accompanies the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. It is an important international instrument to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation and supplements the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. CATW worked hard during the drafting of the Palermo Protocol especially to develop a universally agreed-upon definition of trafficking. This definition stands today as the accepted international consensus on the meaning of trafficking. Since its establishment, the Palermo definition has been adopted verbatim into the domestic positive law of several states, and it continues to frame governmental and NGO anti-trafficking initiatives at the local, national, and international levels.