Monthly Archives: July 2008

Surely Slavery is a thing of the past? No? ABC Australia reports.

Do you think we have sexual slavery in NZ? Apparently our brothels are very nice according two nice Women Institute ladies from the UK who did a tour of them recently see “NZ brothels get thumbs up from UK Grannies”

ABC News

Australia: Modern Face of Slavery
By Kathleen Maltzahn

July 28, 2008

We should not look for shackles, but rather at the impact of the slave traders, at their power to reduce a person to a commodity. (Getty Images: Sean Garnsworthy, file photo)


“You must be mindful to have your Negroes shaved and made Clean to look well at every Island you touch at and to strike a good Impression on the Buyers…” – Humphrey Morice, Member of Parliament, Governor of the Bank of England, slave trader, England, 1730s

“I’ve paid $45,000; why can’t they look decent.” – Trevor “Papa” McIvor, brothel owner, Australia, 2000s

From the safety of distance, historical crimes look obvious. We would have been one of the ones who fought against that, we tell ourselves, it is so obvious that was wrong.

Things get murkier once they get closer.

In the 1990s, trafficking in women and children, particularly for prostitution, emerged as crime of concern in many parts of the world. In 2001, the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called it “one of the most egregious human rights violations of our time”. Report after report talked about this “modern form of slavery”.

Few countries escaped being either a source, transit or destination country.

Australia seemed to be an exception.

While in 1999 the Commonwealth had brought in laws outlawing sexual slavery and put the crime at a million dollar a week industry in Australia, by 2003 then justice minister Senator Chris Ellison was confident the problem had been solved. “Slavery chains,” he told the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee, “where people are traded in, as goods and chattels might be,” did not exist in Australia.

Doing outreach to brothels in the late 1990s and 2000s, however, I wasn’t so sure. I was seeing women who looked very much to me like they were being treated as “goods and chattels” and at least one court case reinforced what I thought. In 1999, Melbourne man Gary Glazner was charged with breaches of the Victorian Prostitution Control Act for crimes relating to trafficking. The investigating police officer believed Glazner had bought up to 100 Thai women, enslaved and then prostituted them. The case echoed an earlier Sydney case, where the AFP had uncovered a trafficking ring.

Both uncovered the practice of bringing “contract girls” to Australia – women forced to pay of “debts” from $30,000 to $50,000 through prostitution. Neither the debts nor contracts were real, but both were enforced through threats and violence, including rape. Women frequently had to do up to 500 “jobs”, unable to refuse drunk, demeaning or dangerous customers, and told by traffickers that if they went for help they would simply be deported.

In 2003, after researching trafficking, including through interviews with “contract girls”, my organisation, Project Respect, began a successful campaign to change federal government policy on trafficking. After years of deporting trafficked women and ignoring the traffickers, in October that year the government brought in a $20 million counter-trafficking package, committed to strengthening the laws against trafficking, and gave trafficked women visas to stay in Australia while they recovered.

In the same year, the AFP charged a Melbourne brothel owner with sexual slavery, the first significant prosecution under the 1999 sexual slavery laws. Five years on, that case has gone all the way to the High Court. When the full bench of the court hands down its decision in a few weeks, it will redefine slavery in Australia.

There are two possible positions the court could take. It could say, as people now charged with trafficking contend, that being a Thai prostitute on “contract” is not slavery. It’s an argument made by people such as Byron Bay criminal lawyer Bruce Peters, who is currently representing Trevor McIvor against trafficking charges.

“These girls were not exploited,” Mr Peters is reported to have said (Sydney Morning Herald, July 6, 2008). “No one argues that they came here illegally but they were brought here voluntarily so everyone could make money. They were not my client’s chattel slaves. They had mobile phones. They were free to come and go as they pleased.”

The alternate view is that being on “contract”, being forced to pay off imaginary debts of up to $50,000 through unwanted prostitution, is indeed a modern form of slavery. We should not look for shackles – the enslavement tool of the transatlantic slave trade – but rather at the impact of the slave traders, at their power to reduce a person to a commodity.

We often think of slavery in terms of ill-treatment, and imagine that violence is unrelenting. But slavery does not necessarily mean constant abuse. Eighteenth century slave trader Humphrey Morice had firm views on the treatment of slaves – he thought they should be treated well. “Take care your Negroes have their Victualls in proper Season and at regular times and that their food be well boyled and prepared,” he told his captain in 1721, “and do not Sufferr any of your Shipp’s Company to abuse them”.

It is important, then, to look at the limits of such treatment. Here’s Morice again:

The slaves are to be served water three times a day, Tobacco once a week and Pipes when they want…Be mindful to iron your strong rugged men Slaves, but favour the young striplings or those who begin to be sick: and let them in general be washt at convenient times: in an Evening divert them with musick letting them dance.

It doesn’t matter if women have mobile phones, it doesn’t matter if they are taken on outings, it doesn’t matter if they have food and drink. If a person’s agency is taken away, if their identity is stolen, if they cannot remove themselves from violence, and if they can be bought and sold at whim, they are slaves. This is the reality of many women on “contract” in Australia.

Whether or not we can see this present day form of slavery, and not just look for its past manifestation, is a test of our capacity to recognise a crime against humanity.

At the end of the day, however, it is perhaps not our views that are most important.

The final word should go to the women who say they have been trafficked, and in the McIvor case, the women’s statements are very clear. “I don’t know why they treated me that way,” one woman has said in her victim impact statement, “as if I was not a human being.”

Kathleen Maltzahn is the author of Trafficked, the first book-length account of the trafficking of women and girls for prostitution in Australia, published this month by UNSW Press. She was founding director of Project Respect, which spearheaded the successful campaign to change government responses sexual slavery in Australia.

France rejects Muslim woman over radical practice of Islam

From The Guardian

Angelique Chrisafis in Paris

Saturday July 12, 2008

A woman in a burqa

A woman wearing a burqa. France has denied citizenship to a Moroccan woman who wears a burqa on the grounds of ‘insufficient assimilation’. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

France has denied citizenship to a Moroccan woman who wears a burqa on the grounds that her “radical” practice of Islam is incompatible with basic French values such as equality of the sexes.

The case yesterday reopened the debate about Islam in France, and how the secular republic reconciles itself with the freedom of religion guaranteed by the French constitution.

The woman, known as Faiza M, is 32, married to a French national and lives east of Paris. She has lived in France since 2000, speaks good French and has three children born in France. Social services reports said she lived in “total submission” to her husband. Her application for French nationality was rejected in 2005 on the grounds of “insufficient assimilation” into France. She appealed, invoking the French constitutional right to religious freedom and saying that she had never sought to challenge the fundamental values of France. But last month the Council of State, France’s highest administrative body, upheld the ruling.

“She has adopted a radical practice of her religion, incompatible with essential values of the French community, particularly the principle of equality of the sexes,” it said.

“Is the burqa incompatible with French citizenship?” asked Le Monde, which broke the story. The paper said it was the first time the level of a person’s personal religious practice had been used to rule on their capacity be to assimilated into France.

The legal expert who reported to the Council of State said the woman’s interviews with social services revealed that “she lives almost as a recluse, isolated from French society”.

The report said: “She has no idea about the secular state or the right to vote. She lives in total submission to her male relatives. She seems to find this normal and the idea of challenging it has never crossed her mind.”

The woman had said she was not veiled when she lived in Morocco and had worn the burqa since arriving in France at the request of her husband. She said she wore it more from habit than conviction.

Daniele Lochak, a law professor not involved in the case, said it was bizarre to consider that excessive submission to men was a reason not to grant citizenship. “If you follow that to its logical conclusion, it means that women whose partners beat them are also not worthy of being French,” he told Le Monde.

Jean-Pierre Dubois, head of France’s Human Rights League, said he was “vigilant” and was seeking more information.

France is home to nearly 5 million Muslims, roughly half of whom are French citizens. Criteria taken into account for granting French citizenship includes “assimilation”, which normally focuses on how well the candidate speaks French. In the past nationality was denied to Muslims who were known to have links with extremists or who had publicly advocated radicalism, but that was not the case of Faiza M.

The ruling comes weeks after a controversy prompted by a court annulment of the marriage of two Muslims because the husband said the wife was not a virgin as she had claimed to be.

France’s ban on headscarves and other religious symbols in state schools in 2004 sparked a heated debate over freedom and equality within the secular republic. The French government adheres to the theory that all French citizens are equal before the republic, and religion or ethnic background are matters for the private sphere. In practice, rights groups say, society is plagued by discrimination.

The president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has stressed the importance of “integration” into French life. Part of his heightened controls on immigrants is a new law to make foreigners who want to join their families sit an exam on French language and values before leaving their countries.

Tony Veitch's statement in full

Tony Veitch’s statement in full, From the NZ Herald

5:00AM Thursday July 10, 2008

This week there have been reports of an incident between my former partner and me two and a half years ago. I deeply regret what happened and have done so since it occurred.

On the night in question I agreed to let Kristin come over to my house. Following dinner we had a major disagreement and we argued for a long time. In the end my frustration took over. I broke, and lashed out in anger – something I will regret until the end of my days.

Some of what’s been said by the media is untrue, but again, no excuses.

It’s the thing I will most regret in my life. I have lived with that on my conscience ever since and I will always do so. I make no excuse for what I did, except to say at the time my relationship with Kristin had just ended. I was working seven days a week and two stressful jobs and was emotionally and physically exhausted. I was taking medication for the exhaustion. I was at the lowest ebb of my life and I needed help, but again, it was inexcusable. In the long period after the event took place we remained in contact with each other.he reason I have not spoken until now is that Kristin and I made an agreement about confidentiality because we did not want this to play out in the public.

That agreement included payment to Kristin for loss of income and distress I caused her. I had no wish to breach that confidentiality, but because of the growing controversy and the positions I hold and the standards of behaviour those positions demand, I feel it important to offer some words of explanation and I have no desire to put Kristin through any further distress.

Following the incident I undertook weekly counselling for a year, counselling which enabled me to form the relationship I now have with my wife, Zoe. Indeed, I told Zoe what had happened shortly after we started seeing each other. She has been completely supportive and I am grateful beyond words for that support and for her love.

Once again I know what I did was wrong and it will never happen again.

I apologise to Kristin. I apologise to TVNZ and the Radio Network for the embarrassment this has caused them and I sincerely apologise to the New Zealand public. Thank you.