12.12.2008

A laughingstock

"Mom, we're a laughingstock. We die a laughingstock."
-- Allan Nerutanga, as he died in Zimbabwe's cholera outbreak, grieving that he would never rescue his parents from poverty.
Please read these thoughtful words written by my roommate on the above quote.

What do we do in the face of something so huge...and yet so manageable? How do we restore those with a marred identity and loss of dignity, bring about change and empower the sick?

12.06.2008

Artistic consciousness

I love meeting new people. It would take me too long to explain to you how the following person and I ended up crossing paths, but we did, and for that I am thankful. Mr. J. Medeiros is one cool guy. Although I would not call myself a “rap girl” (please, have you seen how WHITE I am?) I do have an appreciation for all different kinds of music, and even more than that, an appreciation for those seeking to express themselves artistically. Mr J does that in an incredible way.

I always appreciate it when I hear singers whose lyrics are not afraid to tackle the hard truths and realities in life – this is true of Mr. J. One song in particular will really strike you when you are at his concert or listening to his album. It is not new, it’s been around for a while – but I just heard it for the first time Thursday night.

“Constance” is a story about a girl in the Philippines victimized by Human Trafficking. The video of it below was created by Sam Sanchez of Stick Productions in 2006. It has spread like wildfire via YouTube and has inspired an international human rights movement called the “Constance Campaign.” Mr. J spearheaded the movement, and has partnered with non-profits like xxxchurch.com, and humantrafficking.org. In May 2007, “Constance” was featured on CBS Evening News in a expose’ on internet pornography.



Here are the lyrics...

1st verse:
An old man vacationing, he stands patiently
under a hotel sign that blinks vacancy
he's thinking maybe he's to late to make the drop off
till a truck coming his way breaks and stops short
and now he's out of sorts and you can see he's sorta nervous
walking to the passenger door to meet his ordered service
this is someones daughter working, blames his conscience
when the driver says "she's my youngest, her name is Constance"
he comments "and its only 6 dollars per visit
just dont leave any marks on her, it hurts business"
thought for a minute and he confessed "that's fair"
since it was three dollars less then his cab fair
"how old are you honey?" she says "im thirteen"
her nose was runny, its raining in the Philippines
he handed over the money in a chilling scene
the truck drives off and now he's on the hunt to kill her dreams
the sign reads no vacancy, he leads Constance to a room
he has rented for taping see,
he's about to turn six into six thousand
and all you have to do is click on your web browser
its not illegal to use raping as a cash crop
as long as it says she's 18 on your laptop
the sound of rain is her backdrop laying there
like she's waiting for somebody to say they care
while the tears of God fall down the window pain
she feels unholy like her Father doesnt know her name
Mary Magdalene and the Woman At The Well
He knows everything that happened and in His arms she fell.

hook:
repeat x2
in his arms she fell
will you stay with me

2nd verse:
He's 21 and all alone in his household
he's tempted by the quiet he feels and the mouse he holds
the silence of his spouse is cold
so he's about to help that man get his six thousand gold
one click and now she's sold
withholding his conscience scrolling through the comments
there she is looking confident a picture of Constance
in a series of video clips, "adult content"
the title blinks in bold letters like the vacancy sign
its his time to go get her
its like his mind doesnt know better
her soul is crying out "let me go" but he wont let her
he got her trapped inside his media player
held captive by his need to replay her
its a matter of he being here and she being there
that's why he doesnt feel the need to care
guilt is in the seed he bares
spilling his shares of the profit
on a 500 million dollar market
where children are regarded as product
and traded like stock tips
and raped for the sake of our pockets
his lap top sits like a window into Constance room
where he exits coz its almost noon
and he's expecting his wife home soon
with new clothes for the baby
she'd be angry if she saw his new lady
a thirteen year old Filipino named Constance
trust me girl God has not forgotten
He knew Mary Magdalene and the Woman at the Well
He knows everything that happened and in His arms she fell

hook:
repeat x2
in his arms she fell
will you stay with me

11.20.2008

He'll Probably keep going

This is a poem that was written by a Fuller student about the tragedy of the realities of human trafficking after watching the documentary “Call + Response” Please read this words below:
-------------------------------------------------

This poem was inspired by the documentary, "Call and Response." As an artist I understand that my gift is for the sake of the freedom of others. While I stand frustrated at the reality that I may not be there to PHYSICALLY free those who are oppressed, I remain thankful that I may set free the mind and spirit of the person who does. Cornel West exclaims that "justice is what love looks like in public", may this poem be but a small expression to the millions who have yet to see love in this form or in any form. May this poem serve as a small way of me saying, I see you, and I wish to love you publicly, and do you justice.

He’ll Probably keep going
By Mark Anthony Chase

She was a slave to his freedom
As he penetrated her purity
Virtually oblivous to the bleeding
And somehow her screaming
Gets lost in translation
And sounds something like, "touch me baby",
But how could he touch her she's just a baby
As tears touch testosterone
Innonence Ignites Erections
There's Something Sadistically Sinful
At this intersection
Where Powerful Meets Powerless
And More or less showers it with indifference,
The Bodies are so close but the souls remain distant-
See, if he could see
More than Flesh
More than Lips
More than under Developed Breasts,
And Could actually see the pain as it pumps beneath her chest...................
He would probably Keep Going, Knowing
That for his moment spent in the erotic
She was spiraling towards the irreconcilably chaotic
He would probably keep going, Knowing
That no language could articulate the pain that her womb felt
which literally had no room left to soften the atrocity
He would probaly keep going, knowing,
That no God, No Lord, No Ancestor Nor Ancient Spirit would approve,
of his desire to take and her inablity to choose,
He would probably keep going, Knowing,
That she would never be the same
And that HE, might forever BE, etched on the canvas of her MEMORY
as a permanent stain would he refrain ??? No he would remain
And probably keep going, Pushing and Sighing
Perfecting his domination
Losing Himself inside the vulnerablity of her childhood yes he would,
Probably Keep Going, Thrusting and Heaving
Her into a place of disbelieving
where dreams don't come true skies aren't blue and little girls don't get to dress up as princesses
but his consicience isn't as sensitive as the skin on his penis is so he keeps going,
knowing, that when it's over for him
it's just beginning for her
Begnning to hurt
The water, in her eyes, is beginning to blurr
Hatred, Despair, is beginning to stir
It's beginning again for her as he
is beginning to leave
and is replaced by another indifferent face and he.......
Probably won't stop either....
But neither will I
And rest assured one day our destinies will collide
Where inspiration and action are alive
Where the passion of the people reside
And one day he'll begin
And someone will take her side,
And He'll probably try to run,
But he'll have nowhere to hide,

And inside that little girls heart
Is a dream that just came true, a sky that still is blue,
And someone to free her and tell her........ she really is a princess

11.11.2008

Young girl stoned for being raped

I know this happens, but it does not make my heart break any less. This is one of my most disturbing stories I have read in a while.

From the Child Rights Information Network
----------------------------
Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was killed on Monday, 27 October, by a group of 50 men who stoned her to death in a stadium in the southern port of Kismayu, in front of around 1,000 spectators.

Some of the Somali journalists who had reported she was 23 have told Amnesty International that this age was based upon a judgment of her age purely from her physical appearance. But contrary to those initial news reports, the girl stoned to death in Somalia last week was 13, not 23.

She was accused of adultery in breach of Islamic law but, her father and other sources told said that she had in fact been raped by three men, and had attempted to report this rape to the al-Shabab militia who control Kismayo, and it was this act that resulted in her being accused of adultery and detained. None of the men she accused of rape were arrested.

“This was not justice, nor was it an execution. This child suffered a horrendous death at the behest of the armed opposition groups who currently control Kismayo,” said David Copeman, Amnesty International's Somalia Campaigner.

“This killing is yet another human rights abuse committed by the combatants to the conflict in Somalia, and again demonstrates the importance of international action to investigate and document such abuses, through an International Commission of Inquiry.”

Amnesty International has learned that:

• Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was reported as being 23, based upon a judgment on her physical appearance, according to one of the journalists who had reported the stoning. Her actual age was confirmed as 13 to Amnesty International by other sources, including her father.

• Her father said she had only traveled to Kismayo from Hagardeer refugee camp in north eastern Kenya three months earlier.

• She was detained by militia of the Kismayo authorities, a coalition of Al-shabab and clan militias. During this time, she was reportedly extremely distressed, with some individuals stating she had become mentally unstable.

• A truckload of stones was brought into the stadium to be used in the stoning.

• At one point during the stoning, nurses were instructed to check whether Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was still alive when buried in the ground. They removed her from the ground, declared that she was, and she was replaced in the hole where she had been buried for the stoning to continue.

• An individual calling himself Sheik Hayakalah, was quoted on Radio Shabelle saying: “The evidence came from her side and she officially confirmed her guilt, while she told us that she is happy with the punishment under Islamic law.'' In contradiction to this claim, a number of eyewitnesses said she struggled with her captors and had to be forcibly carried into the stadium.

• Inside the stadium, militia members opened fire when some of the witnesses to the killing attempted to save her life, and shot dead a boy who was a bystander. An al-Shabab spokesperson was later reported to have apologized for the death of the child, and said the militia member would be punished.


Background
This killing of Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow demonstrates the cruelty and the inherent discrimination against women of this punishment.

The reports on this killing should be understood within the climate of fear that armed insurgent groups such as al-Shabab have created within the areas they control in Somalia. Government officials, journalists and human rights defenders face death threats and killing if they are perceived to have spoken against al-Shabab, who have waged a campaign of intimidation against the Somali people through such killings.

Since the death, a number of individuals said they have fled from Kismayo out of fear of suffering a similar fate to Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow.

11.06.2008

The freedom awards

If you do not yet know about The Human Trafficking Project - you need to. I found this through them, you also need to know about this. Now is the time to acknowledge those that inspire and encourage you to do what you do to fight injustice.

Free the Slaves is pleased to announce that they are currently accepting nominations for the 2009 Freedom Awards.

The Freedom Awards celebrate the vision and courage of community-based organizations, survivors of slavery, individual leaders and young adult anti-slavery activists who are showing the way to a world without slavery. Please help by making a nomination. Please also pass along this invitation to anyone who might be able to nominate suitable organizations or individuals. Self-nominations are welcome.

Each award has its own requirements and nomination form. To get more information and the correct form, visit the awards webpages: www.thefreedomawards.net or send an email to: freedomawards@freetheslaves.net

The deadline for nominations is Monday, December 1, 2008.

The awards will be given out during the fall of 2009. Awardees will be flown to the USA for an inspirational evening that honors the vision and courage of slavery survivors, community based organizations bringing slaves to freedom, individual leaders, young adult activists and communicators spreading the word about slavery.

11.05.2008

11.04.2008

Say no to violence

This link was passed on to me by a friend.
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The link to the microsite for United Nations Development Fund for Women is HERE. Click on it and add your name to the list of those standing up against violence against women in the "just say no campaign". No one's email will be spammed; they're just in charge of collecting the addresses and unless you check the 'keep me informed' box, your emails will be deleted.

10.09.2008

Dating cafes

[7 October 2008 - CRIN Reports] - Cases of child prostitution involving dating-service cafes have been increasing sharply, prompting some local governments to take measures such as banning people under 18 from entering such establishments.

Inside the cafes, men choose women from among the female clientèle and try to secure dates with them. The system has triggered many cases of prostitution involving minors.

In a sizable number of such cases, minors who entered the cafes purely out of curiosity have been targeted.

The local governments, including the Kanagawa and Kyoto prefectural governments, revised their local ordinances to ban under 18s from entering such cafes.

One such facility near JR Yokohama Station displays a sign saying, "Coffee shop with manga library--no entrance fee for women." The floor is separated into two areas by a one-way mirror with the height of the floor in the men's area about 50 centimeters lower than that of the women's.

Male customers, some wearing business suits, gaze at young women sitting on sofas through the one-way mirror.

Female customers cannot see the men.

The cafe displays a notice saying girls aged 16 or older are welcome. The women included girls in school uniforms. Clerks tell the male customers, "If you see a girl you like, feel free to name her."

The cafe is open from 9 a.m. to midnight and about 200 people--both male and female--visit each day.

If a female customer is chosen, she chats with the man for about 10 minutes. If she agrees to a date outside the cafe, the man pays her "transportation expenses."

The man also pays the cafe an admission fee, a naming fee and a fee if he manages to arrange a date, totaling about 8,000 yen.

Women do not have to pay for anything.

According to the National Police Agency, the number of such dating-service cafes began increasing around 2006. As of the end of 2007, there were 77 such facilities in Tokyo and 14 other prefectures.

With 27, Tokyo has the highest number of such establishments, followed by 11 in Aichi Prefecture, nine in Osaka Prefecture, and seven each in Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures. The cafes tend to be concentrated in big cities.

Though 22 of the 77 cafes display signs banning under 18s, an NPA official said, "It's impossible to confirm whether the cafes are actually checking customers' ages."

Some cafes display signs saying that under 18s are welcome.

According to the NPA's data, the first cases of child prostitution and sexual abuse involving the dating-service cafes surfaced in 2007, with 26 such incidents reported.

This year, there had been 22 such cases as of the end of August, including incidents involving two middle school students. This reflects a trend in which the ages of female customers is dropping.

A 15-year-old third year middle school student said she was initially invited by a friend to visit a dating-service cafe in Yokohama. She said she was plied with alcohol outside the cafe and sexually abused.

Investigators of the Kanagawa prefectural police quoted her as saying: "I treated it all very lightly as I thought I'd be able to dine for free. I never thought I'd be taken to a hotel. I regret it now."

A senior official of the prefectural police said: "Many girls hear rumors that they'll be able to dine at a man's expense, and visit such cafes just for curiosity or in the hope of getting money. Though this is no different from brokering child prostitution, the current laws can't cover these cases."

A law for regulating entertainment businesses prohibits people under 18 from entering or working in certain businesses, such as telephone-dating establishments and cabaret clubs.

But the law cannot cover the dating-service cafes and similar cases as the females involved are not employed by the business operators.

The manager of one such cafe involved in a prostitution case said: "I just offer opportunities for people to meet. I can't be held responsible for what happens outside my cafe."

In January, the NPA instructed prefectural police headquarters across the nation to check potentially unlawful acts conducted by dating-service cafe operators. But so far, only one cafe has been investigated over child prostitution.

In that case, the Metropolitan Police Department applied a clause of an ordinance regulating dating clubs that prohibits minors from entering the premises and limits areas where such facilities can operate, against a manager and employees of a dating-service cafe in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo on suspicion that they allowed a 16-year-old high school girl, who later became involved in prostitution, to enter the cafe.

The MPD regarded the operators of the cafe as brokers in paid sexual services. However, only Tokyo has such a local ordinance.

On Sunday, the Saitama prefectural police detained the manager and employees of a dating-service cafe on suspicion of brokering prostitution services involving adult women.

In the case, the manager paid "waiting fees" to female customers. The prefectural police thus regarded they had an employer-employee relationship.

But in cases in which dating-service cafe operators do not pay or offer other benefits to women, finding ways of cracking down on them is difficult.

Kanagawa prefectural police and some other police forces investigated several such cafes on suspicion of brokering child prostitution services, but no arrests were made.

Police have had to use other techniques, such as applying the Trademark Law, to investigate the cafes.

Yukio Akatsuka, a social affairs commentator, said, "Girls are using these cafes in the same way they use manga or Internet cafes."

"Such cafes are more risky than telephone dating clubs in that the girls could be caught up in child prostitution while they think they are just having fun. The business operators are irresponsible," he added.
---------------------------------------

Traffickers are getting more and more creative. And the lines are getting "gray."

10.07.2008

Doctors without boarders

42 million people around the world have been uprooted by war. They are children, women, and men living in temporary shelters, camps, or shanty towns, struggling to survive in new and often hostile environments. Those who have sought refuge in another country are refugees, a status which entitles them to certain rights under international law.

Those who are seeking refuge within their own countries are officially called internally displaced persons (IDPs). They have fewer rights than refugees, yet make up almost two-thirds of the people around the world today who are seeking safety from armed conflict and violence.

Doctors Without Borders is bringing an exhibit to expose this harsh reality. Aid workers act as guides , asking you to imagine that you are among the millions of people seeking safety from violence or persecution around the world, from Sudan to Columbia, from Iraq to Chad, form Somalia to the Democratic Republic of Congo. They describe the challenges of delivering medical care to people affected by armed conflict. Tour takes around 45 minutes.

San Francisco: October 15 - 19
Little Marina Greek Park

Los Angeles: October 22 - 27
Griffith Park

Santa Monica: October 31 - November 2
Santa Monica Pier
San Diego: November 6 – 9
Balboa Park

Exhibit Hours:
9:00am – 5:30pm
FREE and open to the public

If you are in the area – go!

Check out the promotional video here.
And find more information about the project and exhibition here.

10.04.2008

Protection of child prostitutes

I saw this article the other day and thought I would share it. It makes me happy that government organizations are beginning to re-look at sexual oppression and slavery a bit more from the perspective of the women and children who find themselves in these situations. Reporting cases of abuse and rape as a prostitute is a scary thing to do when you know very well you might end up being put in prison yourself. Back in March I talked about decriminalizing prostitution (vs. legalizing it). I think this is a great step in the process. I believe our focus needs to be on the John's in order to fight the prostitution problems we are facing today.

Here's the story:
---------------------------
[29 September 2008] - Children in New York, US, who are forced to work in the sex trade won't be treated as criminals under a new law Governor David Paterson signed on Friday.

The measure will extend additional social services to exploited youth and require the legal system to treat them as victims, rather than criminal sex workers.

"You don't deserve to be treated like a criminal," said Shaquana, an 18-year-old who was arrested for prostitution at age 14. "Hopefully it will take that stereotype out of people's heads about girls who are being sexually exploited."

The Brooklyn resident has been out of the sex trade for two years and has lobbied to get the Safe Harbour act passed in New York. She asked that her last name be withheld because she's a victim of sexual violence, but said she believed this bill would give girls like her a chance to avoid suffering.

New York - and many other states - have sought to prosecute sexually exploited youth. State laws generally contradict the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which defines sex trafficking as a commercial sex act induced by force, fraud or coercion - or involving a minor. Child advocates want state laws to reflect federal law.

The Safe Harbour bill would allow minors to avoid criminal proceedings on their first prostitution arrest and instead be considered a "person in need of supervision." That's a legal designation that triggers intervention by professionals providing health and other services.

In any future arrests, the youths could defend themselves as victims of sex trafficking in court to avoid prosecution. The judge would have greater discretion in those cases.

The law doesn't go into effect until April 2010, to allow to prepare for the cases.

Rachel Lloyd is the founder and executive director of GEMS, a nonprofit that helps girls avoid or escape sexual exploitation.

"This will make a huge difference for the children and youth who otherwise would have gone to detention, not received special services, not be treated as victims, and (would otherwise) be stigmatized again and go back to the streets."

9.18.2008

Grad Student Selling Her Virginity

Warning: I am really on a rant in this post...

This article actually makes me mad. I will let you read it first and then give some thoughts. I have copied it here for you in its entirety or you can click on this link to read it from cbs13:

--------------------------------
A Sacramento State grad is trying to make money the old fashioned way, by auctioning off her virginity to help pay for her graduate studies. And so far, bidding is up to $250,000.

The 22-year-old who is using the pseudonym Natalie Dylan for safety reasons is going through a legal brothel in Nevada to sell her virginity. "The main purpose of this is to finance a couple things in my life," Dylan told CBS13. "I think empowerment of women is picking yourself up and doing something on your own to better yourself."

Dylan says she's already taken a polygraph test to prove her virginal status, and is also willing to undergo a medical exam.

The auction will take place at the Bunny Ranch in Carson City, Nevada with bids coming in through their website. Owner Dennis Hof tells CBS13 that eBay rejected the auction, so he'll handle the entire process.

Hof says Dylan is a bright, beautiful young woman who's going to consider a number of factors in her decision because she wants her first time to be a positive experience. "Natalie is a very smart girl. All she wants to do is get her master's degree in family and marriage counseling and be a psychologist. She's selling her virginity to accomplish that," Hof told CBS13. "She's smart enough to sell it. This is empowering her."

So far, hundreds of offers have already come in including some from male virgins. Natalie says she won't give up her virginity to the highest bidder. She's also seeking other qualities from her first lover. "I'm looking for intelligence and an overall nice person," said Dylan.

Hof also says Natalie Dylan ended up in a financial bind, because her stepfather allegedly used her college status to fraudulently apply for student loans, and then ran off with the money.

Dylan earned her bachelor's degree in women's studies from Sacramento State and plans to get her master's at the school beginning in January.

Many Sac State students say they're shocked to hear about their former classmate's plan, while others applaud her.

"She's just giving it to some random person. And I just think she should be giving it to someone special she loves," said one student on campus.

While another felt that selling her virginity for grad school "is a noble reason to get money."

As for Natalie, after claiming to hold on to her virginity for 22 years (although the Bunny Ranch website claims she is 21-years-old), she says she has a commodity not many people have to sell.

"When I was younger, I wanted 100% romance, possibly even wait for marriage. But as I grew up, reality kinda hit. And I think its a capitalistic society and I want to capitalize on this," explained Dylan.
---------------------------------

There are so many things I take issue with in this article. Perhaps it is becuase I work with women who have been trapped into doing this and now ONE woman comes along and claims that this is something she is choosing to do and it is an EMPOWERMENT of women "picking yourself up and doing something on your own to better yourself" - wow. My heart just breaks for this young woman. That she would have such a lack of options with her finances she has convinced herself this is a good idea - and even noble. She is now completely changing the center of her identity - it is wrapped up in her body, what she can sexually do for another individual, how she can fulfill another persons physical and sexual desires, and how much money she can gain from fulfilling those desires. Her identity is found in her appearance and how attractive she can keep herself.

And how about the reporters great phrasing of how this is making money "the old fashioned way" - yes, indeed, I long for the days of when our grandmothers had it so much easier than we did. They could just take sexy pictures of themselves with a digital camera that didn't exist and put them up all over the internet that no one used so people could bid online. What? Yes, that is much better than my desk job, I see exactly what you mean Ms. Gianulias.

"She's also seeking other qualities from her first lover" - can you really call this person, whoever it ends up being, a LOVER? I have seen one too many women fall into this slippery slope, and I fear for her if she has this mentality.

It just angers me that this young woman has a degree in woman studies and wants to work in marriage and family therapy (of which many of my friends are working in) and she has such disrespect and neglect for a woman's physical, emotional and spiritual wholeness. Does she actually think this is just about getting her through grad school and will have no effect or repercussions on her?

I applaud ebay for refusing to allow Ms. Dylan to hold this auction on their website. THANK YOU ebay.

8.27.2008

Children in Armed Conflict

Sorry, it has been a while - not because nothing is going on (believe me) just because I've been busy (lazy), I apologize.

I've tried to keep you semi-updated on the political situation in Nepal. The King got the boot - then Nepal had an election and the Maoists won the majority seats in the Constituent Assembly (I don't know how...well, I do, but...you know), then Nepal elected a president and the Maoists got mad and quit...you kind of see how this is going.

The Maoists were officially formed in 1994 - they find it their duty to fight the "people's war" in Nepal. It has been a long and bloody process. Lots of manipulation and force. But they believe that they are doing good and building a better and stronger Nepal for the future.

All of that leads me to this sad means to an end:

[NEW YORK, 25 August 2008] – Ms. Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary- General for Children and Armed Conflict calls upon the Nepali Authorities and Maoist army to immediately free all children previously associated with the Maoist forces.

In 2007, the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and UNICEF identified 2,973 Maoist Army members under 18 years of age on 25 May 2006, in the ranks of the Maoist forces. “Today they are still in the Maoist cantonments and they must be released immediately. UNMIN child protection advisers, UNICEF and its partners should have access to these children to make sure that they receive their rights to recovery and reintegration,” MS. Coomaraswamy said.

The Special Representative reiterated that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement called for the immediate release of all children associated with Maoist forces once they entered the cantonments. No progress has been achieved to date in securing their formal discharge, although many have been released informally.

“The successful elections signal that the people of Nepal are entering a hopeful phase for peace and prosperity. However the promise of peace has not come to fruition for these children, whose lives have been adversely affected by the conflict”, said Ms. Coomaraswamy. She argued that a key element of such a peace is to ensure that children formerly associated with armed forces or groups share the peace dividends and receive suitable support for their reintegration into society.

The Secretary-General’s report on the situation of children and armed conflict in Nepal highlighted the plight of these children and thousands more informally released after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The Security Council Working Group on children and armed conflict will issue its conclusions and recommendations shortly.

-------------------------------------
I had a friend over in Nepal that had to go into hiding for a bit because he was being forced by Maoists leaders to join the People's War. It's sad that throughout this time they have also grabbed children and taught them how to manipulate and use a gun to get their way by fear and intimidation.

7.23.2008

The Tension of Worldview

I am taking a course right now called "Poverty and Development" at Fuller with Bryant Myers. Brilliant brilliant man. Seriously. It is a wonderful class. But in all of its wonderfulness - it is pissing me off. I don't quite know if I can bite off what he is throwing at me - grasp what he is saying - and walk the tight rope wire of tension he is setting up.
Worldview is something we constantly have to deal with in whatever type of work we do. We first have to deal with whatever type of worldview we come into different situations with, understanding we have been raised and conditioned in certain ways - I think what I think because of the "glasses" I have been given to wear. How much of that is Biblical and how much of it is just the existential influences battling for attention?
Secondly, we deal with the worldview of others we come in contact with. This can range all over the board. In the Eastern world people are far more spiritual then we in the West tend to be. Much of life happenings tend to be spirit related - my child got sick because the spirits were angry, or my family sinned, etc. Whereas we believe it is caused by germs, bacteria, the fact that you were exposed to toxic pollution or picking through garbage. Or in other countries women are not valued as highly as men and using more physical means to force them into submission is not seen as cruel and wrong - it is a matter of cultural worldview.
When entering into these different situations where do you draw the line of changing a cultural worldview or simply speaking the language you are entering into? If a child is sick from picking through trash but a mother won't let him take medication because she believes it is spirit related and the medication will anger the gods how do you then convince the mother?
I tend to lean on the side of honoring culture and worldview - why bring our "better" Western ideas into this beautifully functioning culture thinking we can create systems and fix everything? Why not enter into their own mindset, speak their language, and see if what we have can fit in to their already growing history and story.
But then I see faults with this. I would believe this when it comes to getting a child his or her medication - simply tell a mother the medication has special power to chase away evil spirits - speak a language she will understand. But when it comes to a woman being beaten or abused I am not so comfortable with taking my time, following the traditional worldview and patiently living within the current system - I WANT CHANGE, this is wrong!
So how do you walk this tension? How do you decide when culture wins and when you need to push harder? Is it lying and dishonest if you try and speak a different cultural language you don't necessarily buy into?
And where does God fit into all of this? Our perception of him doesn't always translate easily to these different cultures. We have to create a new language...more on this later.

7.13.2008

Wandering

Sometimes I don't feel like I'm the person I should be.

Sometimes my mistakes scream so much louder than the rest of my life.

Sometimes I stop for a moment of rest, but come to realize that to continue the journey in any direction is too difficult.

Sometimes it would be easier to go through life without thinking.

When these words come from my mouth, you may feel like telling me everything is fine, you may want to point out the path I should take

Well, thanks, but I'm lost,

Wandering with me is all you need to do.

--J.Marrs

7.06.2008

Empower Them

“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” – Mark 10.14
Children have rights and as such they have the need to be empowered so that they can express and demonstrate those rights.

Empower [em-pou-er] –verb (used with object):
1. To give power or authority to; authorize, esp. by legal or official means.
2. To enable or permit.

One of the greatest needs we see in children today is their need for empowerment. While it is great to have foreign workers go into a place and do their best to work with the natives to changes lives and get children out of bad situations; unless the children are making these choices for themselves many times they will slip right back into those same patterns of life. It does not matter who the child is or what kind of situation they come from; many of these “at risk” situations do seem to have their perks for the children when they are in the midst of it. For child prostitution they are able to make more money with their lack of skill and education than they ever could otherwise. They can fulfill the pressure that is put upon them by their families to provide. Street children find security in their street buddies; they enjoy the freedom that they have found and safety from the abuse many of them experience at home. Tobias Hecht in talking about the street children of Brazil speaks of “the addictive power of street life itself” which is an important concept to keep in mind when advocating for children no matter what context they are in. Often times the risk situations they find themselves in are difficult to pull out of. They begin to think this is the best that exists for them and they get comfortable because it is familiar to them. Going in and simply telling them what to do, whether it is more beneficial for them or not, without giving them a choice is not the answer.

One of the major problems organizations face is a society that doesn’t believe these children can change; a society that has taken away what little self-esteem they once had. We must seek to give this back to them, to put the power of choice and freedom back into the hands of these boys and girls. They are worth something, they can make a change in their lives; they just need to make the decision to do it. Once that decision is made, organizations can be there for them to walk alongside them in the healing and restoration process.

In the Bible there are more than five hundred references to children, about half of which are literal. Jesus keeps children at the forefront of his mind – knowing that they are weak and vulnerable. In Deuteronomy 1.39 it says, “And as for your little ones, who you thought would become booty, your children, who today do not yet know right from wrong, they shall enter there; to them I will give it, and they shall take possession of it.” God keeps children on his mind being sure that he takes care of their needs even when those around them, who should be taking care of them, don’t. He empowers them with what they need in order to survive and thrive. God also put children in an exalted place among other adults when using them as examples. In Matthew 18.2-4 it says, “He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” The child was empowered and told they had the key to salvation and success in the kingdom of Heaven.

“Children are in need of knowledge. Ignorant of good and evil, among other things, they need to learn” but there is a correct way of going about this. Too often children are talked about or around rather than talked to. Or all too often, even if they are talked to it is in a manipulative way. Dr. Bryant Myers told listeners at a Missiology Lecture at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA, that $20 billion each year is spent on advertisements targeted toward children. This adds up to around 40,000 commercials annually. It is guessed that around $500 million annually of family spending is decided on the basis of children’s influence. They can and do have a good sense about where they have been and where they would like to be or go. It is very life-giving and empowering of a child to consult them and listen to their ideas for rehabilitation. But we must also be a wise and guiding model for them.

This topic becomes especially important when dealing with advocacy for children in difficult situations. There are times when speaking for children and attempting to relieve them of their pain we end up doing more harm when we do not consult them first on what is in their best interest. Hecht reminds us “first you must work on the child, reconstruct the universe that the child lost, you can’t forget that the child has the right to be a child.” Panther-Brick in Abandoned Children lets us know that children “find their own strategies both to provide support and to elicit it from others” Children themselves are the best resource and insight we have into their needs so need to take time to listen to them and the implement what we learn.

Glenn Miles and Josephine-Joy Wright speak of advocacy in their book Celebrating Children. According to them the important things to remember are “learning from other groups that have experience in this area” so you are not shooting in the dark and repeating mistakes that were made before. Another important aspect of advocacy is “being involved in community, national and regional activities to lobby government, police and others for better child protection laws, procedures, and so on.” If you do not get the government on your side it will be a long and hard road ahead. They also say you want to focus time and attention on training persons who will be involved in the advocacy and be intentional about networking with others. And throughout all advocacy work Miles and Wright say it is important to keep a child’s confidentiality in mind.

“Jesus placed special importance on receiving with kindness and hospitality the least important members of society: children.” This seems to be the sense underlying Mark 9.33-37. “Jesus is encountered and helped when the child, who is the least of humans, is encountered and helped.” Jesus uses the example of children saying, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me,” implying that a choice needs to be made. Children are capable, and empowered, to make this decision welcoming God and bringing about the kingdom. The mission of God is in need of children and they are vital to the message and success of Christ and his kingdom.

In order to best utilize children in the mission of God you need to start from a relational foundation. Unless there is a relationship of trust, care, and listening as the foundation of advocacy minimal fruit will ever be seen. These children need a trusted individual in their lives to listen to them, to let them know God weeps with them hating what has been done to them, and to assure them justice will be done on their behalf; if not by government officials then by the Lord.

7.01.2008

Call + Response

I went and saw a pretty unique and sweet film last night with some people from my church. About five years ago, musician Justin Dillion stumbled upon the tragic reality of the modern day slave trade. He knew he had to do something. Using his unique gift of music he was able to bring together many gifted voices, passionate about brining an end to slavery. Thus began the project of a film of the “Concert to End Slavery.”

The film has voices such as Cornel West, Madeleine Albright, Daryl Hannah, Julia Ormond, Ashley Judd, Nicholas Kristof, and many other prominent political and cultural figures offer first hand account of this 21st century trade. Performances from Grammy-winning and critically acclaimed artists including Moby, Natasha Bedingfield, Cold War Kids, Matisyahu, Imogen Heap, Talib Kweli, Five For Fighting, Switchfoot, members of Nickel Creek and Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, and Rocco Deluca move this had to swallow and chilling information into an inspirational charge to take up the cause and stop it.

“Music is part of the movement against human slavery. Dr. Cornel West connects the music of the American slave fields to the popular music we listen to today, and offers this connection as a rallying cry for the modern abolitionist movement currently brewing.”

Below is the trailer for the movie. Check it out and then go here to look around the website and see how you can get involved and be sure to catch a screening when it hits theaters in major cities Fall 2008.


video

6.17.2008

Tiny Stars

Tiny Stars is one of the most amazing organizations I think I have every heard of. Jake Collins is such a dreamer and visionary – it has been fun to see what God has done through his dreams and hard work. If you have not heard of this organization before, let me tell you a bit more.
Tiny Stars is a non-government agency dedicated to exposing and stopping commercial sexual exploitation of children by working with federal law enforcement to capture American child predators.
As many of you know, our law enforcement is a busy group of people. Just ask my good friends the Haub’s or my friend Kimberly who live in South Central L.A – they can tell you that even the problems and issues there don’t receive enough attention – the law enforcement is stretched so thin. So trying to get a group of people dedicated solely to following, gathering evidence, and prosecuting child predators both here and overseas is seen as a somewhat ridiculous request. That is where Tiny Stars comes in.
Through Tiny Stars you can financially support the work of a secret agent that will do the footwork of gathering evidence on child predators, which will then be turned over to the FBI for prosecution under the Protection Act of 2003.
I can’t say enough about this organization. There are several options for giving. You can “adopt” an agent as a group or even as an individual. By doing this you will receive updates monthly on the work your agent is doing and the progress that is being made as well as a report once the case is turned over to the FBI. You can also just give individual donations to help support the work agents on the field are doing.
For more information about Tiny Stars go here.

6.03.2008

The Day My God Died

Art has a way of expressing things in ways words never could. Andrew Levine Productions presents a riveting depiction of women and children trapped in sexual exploitation. They interview some girls in the Bombay brothels about the day they were abducted, the day their God died. Below is the trailer. I encourage you to find the full length film and watch it, as hard as it is to face this reality.

video

For more about the film or the issue check out the website here.

5.29.2008

Who to Trust

Sometimes it is hard to know who to trust, who can be relied upon. Unfortunately those who seek to take advantage of those who are most vulnerable tend to use any means to do so. It is becoming more and more difficult for women and children around the world to trust those offering them aid in confidence. It is essential to be sure that humanitarian and peacekeeping institutions properly screen those interested in working/serving with them. And, as always, there is the difficulty of overcoming the silence of those who are abused. How do you encourage those who are extremely fearful to report the crimes committed against them?
The following news report was put out by CNN on Tuesday, May 27th, 2008, and deals with some of these issues:
----------------------------

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Humanitarian aid workers and United Nation peacekeepers are sexually abusing small children in several war-ravaged and food-poor countries, a leading European charity has said.

Children as young as 6 have been forced to have sex with aid workers and peacekeepers in return for food and money, Save the Children UK said in a report released Tuesday.

After interviewing hundreds of children, the charity said it found instances of rape, child prostitution, pornography, indecent sexual assault and trafficking of children for sex.

"It is hard to imagine a more grotesque abuse of authority or flagrant violation of children's rights," said Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children UK.

In the report, "No One To Turn To" a 15-year-old girl from Haiti told researchers: "My friends and I were walking by the National Palace one evening when we encountered a couple of humanitarian men. The men called us over and showed us their penises. They offered us 100 Haitian gourdes ($2.80) and some chocolate if we would suck them. I said, 'No,' but some of the girls did it and got the money."

Save the Children says that almost as shocking as the abuse itself is the "chronic under-reporting" of the abuses. It believes that thousands more children around the world could be suffering in silence.

According to the charity, children told researchers they were too frightened to report the abuse, fearful that the abuser would come back to hurt them and that they would stop receiving aid from agencies, or even be punished by their family or community.

"People don't report it because they are worried that the agency will stop working here, and we need them," a teenage boy in southern Sudan told Save the Children.

The charity's research was centered on Ivory Coast, southern Sudan and Haiti, but Save the Children said the perpetrators of sexual abuse of children could be found in every type of humanitarian organization at all levels.

Save the Children is calling for a global watchdog to tackle the problem and said it was working with the U.N. to establish local mechanisms that will allow victims to easily report abuse.

In 2003, U.N. Nepalese troops were accused of sexual abuse while serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Six soldiers were jailed.

A year later, two U.N. peacekeepers were repatriated after being accused of abuse in Burundi, and U.N. troops were accused of rape and sexual abuse in Sudan.

Last year, the U.N. launched an investigation into sexual abuse claims in Ivory Coast.

The vast majority of aid workers were not involved in any form of abuse or exploitation but in "life-saving essential humanitarian work," Save the Children's Whitbread said.

But humanitarian and peacekeeping agencies working in emergency situations "must own up to the fact that they are vulnerable to this problem and tackle it head on," she said.

The aid agency said it had fired three workers for breaching its codes and called on others to do the same. The three men were dismissed in the past year for having had sex with girls aged 17, which the charity said is not illegal but is cause for loss of employment.

"Oxfam takes a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct by its aid workers. All our staff across the world are held accountable by a robust code of conduct," said Jane Cocking, Oxfam charity's humanitarian director.

"We support Save the Children's calls for a global watchdog. We will do all we can to stamp out this intolerable abuse."

5.23.2008

Simple Living

Pete Rollins brings to our attention the following image created by Nadia Pleasner as part of her Simple Living campaign, a campaign designed to raise awareness of the Genocide in Darfur. The image is currently under attack by the design house Louis Vuitton.
























Thanks to JR Rozko and Nicholas Fiedler for pointing it out to me.

5.21.2008

When the money hits the hand

The checks are starting to roll in now. Have you gotten yours? I got mine. And as I held it in my hand I started to forget about all of these global and local issues going on. The recent cyclone in Burma or the earthquake in China seems so far away – and what could my measly $300 really do anyway? There are so many THINGS I want, things I think I need. And the debt I am in is a constant weight I feel on my shoulders - but then I look at my check again and think to myself "$300, really? How will that take care of much debt, I should really just buy something with that. I can always pay off the debt later.”

But then I call myself back to my call and my call in the Kingdom. Are there some people that really actually NEED this stimulus check? Yes. And they should keep it. But there are others of us that can afford to give it all away, to think of the other and make a significant difference, and we should give it away.

Remember the example from earlier – even if everyone only gave 2/3 of their check to something like sustainable water projects [there are MANY things you can give to], no one on the planet would ever be thirsty or die of water-born diseases... which kill about 6,000 people a day.

Maybe there are some who think we should be using the money as GW asked us to, so we actually stimulate the economy, great! Then how about buying some groceries for a neighbor that can’t afford them? What about that church community member that can’t afford a washer and dryer or can’t pay rent this month? How about that classmate that can’t afford a computer? What about that single mother who needs help buying cloths for her children? There are so many ways you can use the money not for yourself but for the good of another.

We need to have a bigger focus, a Kingdom (counter-cultural) focus. Do we really understand the meaning of sacrifice?

Check out some global ideas at http://howwillyouspendyourcheck.com or at the facebook group.

5.12.2008

Making a Difference













I saw this bumper sticker on a car the other day – and I didn’t really know what to think of it. I just didn’t know what my initial reaction should be. Part of me wanted to say “um…no. There is so much more you have to do in order to make a difference. You can’t just throw money at a problem or an issues and think that’s going to make it better.” But then as I walked a bit further down the street and thought about it some more I think I was a bit too quick to judge. Sometimes that’s where someone is – the place they are in life – where they can make a difference.
I remember when I was traveling overseas quite often – about every summer or every other – and I was raising support to do this. There were quite a few times when I struggled asking the same people for money over and over again, I felt like I was becoming a burden to them. I will never forget when one of my supporters gave me some of the most encouraging words that will always stick with me:
“Julia, you are at a place in your life when you can just up and go and do these amazing things. We are not in a place where that is as feasible for us. My job and family requirements keep me from doing that. But your asking me for support allows me to join in the work that God is doing even though I can’t go over there and do it myself. If you don’t ask me – you deprive me from being able to be apart of the work that God is doing.”
Wow. What a cool view. People can always say no – but they can always say yes. Sure…they might feel guilt and no one likes to feel that – but I tend to think that guilt is someone’s own issues and maybe guilt isn’t a bad place to start, but it should never end there.
But then as I thought MORE about it I wasn’t satisfied settling there. Sure, giving a donation does make a difference – it does play into the work that God is doing – but we need to be willing to go further then that. We need to be willing to take that next step and get involved, get our hands dirty and become an activist in Kingdom work. God won’t call us all to go to Nepal or walk the streets of LA at three o’clock in the morning, but he does call us all to do something – and quite often it requires a bit more then writing a check. It might start there, but I have a feeling it won’t stop there. So, if finances are a resource that you have of which you can freely give – DO! But keep your eyes and hearts open for the next step God calls you to take to make a difference.

5.08.2008

Agressive Advertisement Campaign in UK

Tracy Clark-Flory of Salon.com came out with a recent article on a rather aggressive advertising campaign that has just started in the UK when it comes to the trafficking of women and children and the use of brothels. Read the article below and then some of my thoughts:
-------------------------------

In Britain's latest attempt at fighting sex trafficking, it's simply calling johns rapists. Men visiting the loo at their local pub may soon start to notice posters showing an open door -- along what seems a wall smeared with blood or other bodily fluids -- leading to an illegal sex den. (Note that prostitution isn't illegal in Britain, but brothels are.) The advertisement reads: "Walk in a punter. Walk out a rapist." Then, in smaller text, the ad throws out a dare to any man who comes across a sex worker he suspects was trafficked: "If you're man enough, call Crimestoppers."

Not all johns are rapists, of course; and, I'm uncomfortable calling anyone who sleeps with a trafficked girl a rapist, even though she is being forced to have sex against her will. Certainly, johns who know they are having sex with a trafficked girl are rapists, and it could be argued that there are many more cases of involuntary rape caused by willful blindness -- but I don't think all men who unwittingly sleep with trafficked girls are guilty of rape.

The ad is clearly aiming to draw a line between willful and forced prostitution, but it's a matter of perspective whether the ad is applying the rapist label to all clients of trafficked prostitutes. If it is, it raises a host of questions. For instance: If a man has sex with a drug-addicted sex worker, or a prostitute who has an abusive pimp, is he a rapist?

All that being said, I salute the advertisement for pushing any man considering sex-for-pay to consider that he very well could end up unwittingly having sex with a trafficked woman.
-------------------------------

I disagree wholeheartedly with Tracy in her statement: “Not all johns are rapists, of course; and, I'm uncomfortable calling anyone who sleeps with a trafficked girl a rapist, even though she is being forced to have sex against her will.” I am wondering what exactly a rapist would be then. What makes this scenario different? Is it because the johns are paying? Because the girls have been purchased? It seems to be we are grabbing at some pretty thin straws here. Why are we trying so hard to protect the rights of these johns that are abusing every imaginable right these women and children are supposed to have?

And why does she mean by willful blindness? Sure…some of them are CHOOSING to be there? Right? Yes, yes…let’s argue that. Although research will show that more johns then you could imagine do actually believe that the women and children they have sexual encounters with are actually “getting off” or having an enjoyable experience when with them. This is simply not true. This might be the willful blindness Tracy speaks of.

I applaud the UK for this aggressive ad campaign and hope it will scare a few people, make them think a little more before walking into a punter and perhaps save a few lives.

Here is the ad:

5.05.2008

When Parents Meet Our Passions

As I continue to research and study sexual exploitation - God continues to expand my heart in ways I didn't know possible. He continues to open up doors and ways for me to get involved. Whether it be contacts and new friends in Nepal or the After Hours Ministry here in L.A., it has been so life-giving. Sometimes in Seminary you can feel like such a waste of space - too much learning and not enough applying and doing. My heart just explodes with overwhelming love for those caught up in the sex industry. Sometimes it is hard to put into words the incredible passion God has given me. And sometimes it is hard to find enough action to put into practice the incredible passion God has given me. But daily I surrender and trust that He is leading me.
A couple weeks ago I got inked. That's right. With a message that I think is quite powerful and really portrays what I am all about. The entire reason I exist and am on this planet.

































My mom is not a huge fan of tattoos. But she is a huge fan of me. This is my second tattoo and I knew that telling her about it was not going to be easy. I was right...she was not that happy. I told her a bit about it and then sent her the above photo. This was her response:

"Makes me proud of your passion Julia. You are really in this all the way aren't you? Tears are running down my cheeks as I think of you and your future. Fear of what your future might hold as well as excitement of what changes you may make in lives through your work. My heart is full of graditude to God for a child like you. Go and make a difference Julia, tattoo and all, you have my blessing."

I can't even begin to express what a gift that email was from my mom. She gets it. She might be a different generation - and she might do it differently - but she is entering into my heart and my passions and she gets it. I would not be the person I am today, I would not have a heart for the things that break the heart of God, if it were not for my parents. They are the ones who (for better or worse) gave me the chance to see the world beyond myself and experience a God who doesn't always fit so nicely inside the four walls of our Midwestern mindset. And I'll never be the same.

And they'll be beside me the whole way...
I love you mom.

4.30.2008

Lost

Oh how my emotions and thoughts are tangled within me

Everyday brings another turn in the road I didn't expect

I find even myself hard to understand and read let alone others

Nothing is simple

Enjoy the journey I tell myself

But I find myself frightened when I can't see 2ft. in front of me

I know a lot ABOUT you

But I want to KNOW you

I want to simply dwell in your presence

Pursue me, capture me, save me

Take hold of my wandering heart

It longs for freedom

...but I'm lost.

4.21.2008

The Sold Project

I have some phenomenal friends doing some radical things. I would like to every so often tell you about some of these awesome projects.

Get SOLD here.















The SOLD project is a grassroots movement dedicated to exposing the truth behind child prostitution through multi-media and the collaborative response of individuals striving to make a change. Be sure to check out their website to learn more about them, what you can do both to become more informed and to join in the cause.

4.17.2008

Legalizing Prostitution in Las Vegas

To continue our discussion from a previous post (a bit) about Legalization vs. Decriminalization I wanted to share this article with you. Especially since I often times focus on the sexual issues happening overseas and this issue is happening right here in the USA. In my previous article I argued for the decriminalization of prostitution - I still stand by this. This article, I hope, will help you understand that a bit more.

-------------------------------------------
Legalising prostitution in Las Vegas


Nevada is the only state in the US that allows legal prostitution, but in its largest city, Las Vegas, prostitution is illegal. When the mayor suggested changing the law, it sparked a huge debate.

Mayor Oscar Goodman grabs the headlines whatever he says or does - and he relishes it. He is proud of Las Vegas' image as "Sin City" and happily calls it "an adult playground".

He boasts about his love of gin, cigars and pretty women and calls himself "the happiest mayor in the universe".

Before he became mayor, he was the top criminal lawyer to the Las Vegas mafia.

But when he suggested legalising prostitution and creating a red-light district and a string of "magnificent brothels" in downtown Vegas, the mayor got his most dramatic headlines yet.

He had opened up a debate on a taboo subject: Las Vegas' illegal prostitution.

Everybody knows it goes on, many businesses profit from it, but in-keeping with the city's slogan "What happens here, stays here", it is rarely discussed.

"It's disingenuous when people say they don't want to legalise it," says Mr Goodman. "Right now it's uncontrolled and unregulated. There's no check and balance as far as the women's health is concerned and legal brothels could be an important revenue-raising device for the city," says Mr Goodman.

"When you speak about it intellectually, not morally, it makes sense," he says. "If we had a referendum or ballot on legal brothels, it would probably pass."

Not without a fight, though. The vested interests in this city are legion.

Spectrum of workers

It is estimated that there are as many as 10,000 prostitutes operating illegally in Las Vegas, in an industry that may be worth as much as $6 billion a year.

Over 150 pages in the Las Vegas phone book advertise "escorts" and "massage", and leaflets promising to deliver "hot babes direct to your room in 20 minutes" are handed out to tourists openly on Las Vegas Boulevard, usually called "The Strip".

"Lucy" [name has been changed to protect her identity] is a top-end "companion" selling her time with men at $4000 a night. She explains how the sex trade functions in Las Vegas.

"There are women who get propositioned in the casinos, bars and hotels," she says.

"There are women who do 'extras' out of strip clubs and who 'give pleasure' in massage parlours. Women who do what we term 'outcall' - going to specific apartments to spend erotic time with gentlemen.

"There are women who work by print ads or on-line. And every casino host has a bevy of girls to call at a moment's notice to satisfy their high-rollers."

At the other end of the spectrum - in the seedier parts of downtown Las Vegas, among the cheap motels and ganglands - there are women who sell their bodies to pay for their drugs. They might charge as little as $20.

Robert Clymer, a former FBI agent in the city working in organised crime, says human trafficking adds to the industry.

"The number one problem, according to the FBI, is Asian prostitution," he says. "That means Asian organised crime and human trafficking into the US, straight into Las Vegas. And it's all fuelled by money."

Strange vacuum

With 600,000 people, Las Vegas is the largest city in Nevada.

Its illegal sex trade operates in a strange vacuum because in most of the rest of the state prostitution has been legalised.

In fact, Nevada is the only state in the US to allow legal brothels, which stems from a 1970 state law allowing Nevada's individual counties to licence their brothels. But this only applies to counties with populations under 400,000, which excludes Las Vegas and Reno.

The question today is - is what is good for Nevada, good for Las Vegas?

There are nearly 30 state-sanctioned brothels in Nevada.

With names like "Mustang Ranch" and "Moonlite Bunny Ranch", their owners say they contribute to the local economies and provide safe, clean sex.

Brothels are so much part of the Nevada culture that Home Box Office (HBO) even films a reality TV show inside the Bunny Ranch called "Cathouse".

George Flint is the chief lobbyist of the Nevada Brothel Association.

"Legal brothels could work anywhere," he says. "They could be huge in Las Vegas. It would be great for the women and for our industry which is today fragile because it remains a teeny business in a big state."

'Sexual slavery'

But some religious groups, academics and campaigners say that all prostitution is wrong and legalising it does not stop sex trafficking or the abuse of women.

"I see it as sexual slavery," says Candice Trummell, director of the Nevada Coalition Against Sex Trafficking. "I think it's morally and ethically wrong for governments to say it's OK to sell humans in that way. The government should not pimp the girls."

When asked if she was calling the government a pimp, Ms Trummell answered: "Yes, absolutely".

Kate Hausbeck, a sociology professor at the University of Las Vegas, has spent nearly 10 years researching both the legal and illegal sex trade in Nevada.

She concludes that the best model for Nevada - and any country in the world - is the decriminalisation of prostitution.

"Empower the women who do the work. Give them labour protection and the rights given other workers. Because it's a job and a choice for many women," she says.

But, when asked about Mr Goodman's idea of legal brothels for Las Vegas, she says she doesn't think prostitution will ever be legal here.

"There's too much money to be made from the illegal sex trade. The casinos and convention industry fear it would be a step too far," she says.

4.14.2008

The Google Police

I came across a really interesting news story today - I thought I would share it with you all. Good for Google. I am glad that something so brilliant can be put to good use. I hope that as this program continues to develop it can really help both in tracking child sex-predators as well as providing us with useful data about those putting this information out on the internet and how to go about better protecting it.

------------------------------------
Google tackles child pornography

By Maggie Shiels
BBC News, San Francisco

File photo of a Google search page
The technology is a by-product of anti-piracy software

Google engineers have adapted a software programme to help track child sex predators and search for patterns in images of abuse on the web.

Google created the technology for the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

It was originally developed to block copyrighted videos on the company's YouTube division.

The programme uses pattern recognition to enable analysts to sort and identify files containing child sex abuse.

Google says its aim in teaming up with the centre's Technology Coalition Against Child Pornography is to develop solutions that would make it harder for people to use the web to exploit children or traffic in child pornography.

"You always hope that your work will eventually be used to do some good in the world, and this was an amazing chance to make that hope real," said Google research scientist Shumeet Baluja.

Overwhelming task

Mr Baluja, who was also the technical leader of the project, said that as more and more predators use the web to ensnare children, "analysts were getting overwhelmed by all of the data they had to sift through".

Since 2002 the NCMEC has pored over 13 million child sex abuse images and videos in an effort to help police identify and rescue children from harm.

In the last year they have looked at five million pictures.

Google says the new tools will enable the centre's analysts to search their systems more quickly and easily as they try to sort and identify files that contain images of child sex abuse victims.

"The programme uses pattern recognition and will work even if the pattern has been modified," explained technology analyst Larry Magid.

"So if police can identify a pattern such as a calendar on the wall or a t-shirt logo, they have a much better chance of finding the exploited child and catching the suspect."

Hi-tech solutions

The technology is an outgrowth of the anti-piracy software Google developed to helps its YouTube division ferret out videos of suspected of being posted without the agreement of copyright holders.

"Criminals are using cutting edge technology to commit their crimes of child sexual exploitation, and in fighting to solve those crimes and keep children safe, we must do the same," said NCMEC President and CEO Ernie Allen.

Google engineers and scientists were able to work on the project on what the company calls "20% time", which allows all employees to dedicate that amount of time to projects they initiate.

Some of those projects benefit stockholders or end users, but in this case the benefit could be to thousands of children.

4.12.2008

Changing Times for Nepal

The government of Nepal is in a very transitional time at the moment. As I keep my eyes on the news and the changing events I can't help but watch in awe as I see how much this country has changed in the past 7 years since I started traveling there: and how much they will continue to change with the current elections and new form of government. I am rather shocked with the way the polls are leaning at the moment - the next few days will tell a lot...

Nepal's Maoists lead poll count

Maoist supporters celebrating in Kathmandu (12.04.08)
Maoist supporters with their faces painted red celebrated

Nepal's Maoist party has taken the lead in results declared so far, after Thursday's elections.

The Maoists have won 14 out of 24 seats declared, and their leader has taken a seat in the capital, Kathmandu.

The party is also ahead in many other seats, for which partial results are coming through as the count proceeds.

The polls, for an assembly to re-write the constitution, are the first to test the Maoists at the ballot box after their 10-year guerrilla campaign.

The BBC's Charles Haviland says Maoist supporters in Kathmandu have started victory processions in some of the main streets, with red vermillion powder smeared on their faces and red hammer-and-sickle flags in their hands.

'Peace mandate'

Although it is too soon to say the Maoists have won the election, there is a sense that the former guerrillas are doing better than most observers had expected, our correspondent says.

Nepal's two traditionally largest parties have gained only four seats each.

The Maoists' leader, Prachanda, called a press conference, where he called the results a "victory" and said he saw them as the people's mandate to consolidate peace.

"All eyes are upon us," he said.

The new constitution is expected to lead to the abolition of Nepal's monarchy, and the partial counts suggest small royalist parties have done badly in the polls.

One of the Maoist leaders who won in the capital, Pampha Bhusal, has said she will work hard to ensure the inclusion of women in all organs of the state, something our correspondent says would be a novelty in the Himalayan country.

Election posters on Kathmandu street
The elections were Nepal's first since 1999
Former US President Jimmy Carter, who is an election observer, has said Washington must deal with the Maoists.

He told the BBC: "It's been somewhat embarrassing to me and frustrating to see the United States refuse among all the other nations in the world, including the United Nations, to deal with the Maoists, when they did make major steps away from combat and away from subversion into an attempt at least to play an equal role in a political society."

Election deaths

Mr Carter also talked about the significance of the elections:

"It's the end, I hope, of armed conflict, of revolutionary war in fact", he said.

Nepal held its first polls since 1999 following the Maoists' decision to quit their armed struggle in 2006.

Former Maoist soldiers cast their votes at a polling station
Voting passed off relatively peacefully

Results for all the 240 constituencies are expected over the next 10 days. Officials say that polling has been postponed in 10 constituencies.

Many Nepalis and international observers have been surprised that Thursday's nationwide elections, just two years after the end of the Maoist insurgency, took place considerably more peacefully than past votes of the 1990s.

There were four election-related deaths in the troubled south-eastern region.

The Election Commission said there was a turnout of 60%, with polling cancelled due to malpractice in just 33 polling stations out of 21,000.

King Gyanendra seized absolute power in 2005 but was forced to give up his authoritarian rule the following year after weeks of pro-democracy protests.

He has since lost all his powers and his command of the army.

4.11.2008

Hindu to Christian

I am editing a friend's Masters Thesis for him. He is from Nepal but has come to the states for a couple of years to work on his ThM. The title is "An Analysis of the Idea of the Atonement in Hinduism in the Light of Christianity." It is actually quite fascinating. I came across this one section in his paper that I thought was especially probing...

"Does it really make much of a difference when a Nepali Hindu becomes a Christian? Both believe in doing good works, even in loving one’s neighbors; it’s just a question of motive. Hindus accumulate merit from their good deeds to counterbalance their bad deeds. Christians says that a life full of good deeds cannot outweigh even a single sin. We must first seek forgiveness from God relying on his mercy shown to us through his son, Jesus Christ. Then, once forgiven, he enables us to do good out of thankfulness and love for him who died for us."

To someone looking in from the outside - what's the difference? Why is the change necessary?

4.08.2008

How Will You Spend Your Check?

Hi Friends,

I got an email from a good friend of mine and wanted to share it with you. He came up with a plan to change the world. [no, seriously, he really did] This idea could really make a difference in the lives of people who need it most. Read his email below and at least check out the link and see what you think. Feel free to engage in the conversation or shoot me an email at WanderingellimaC@gmail.com. And please...pass it on.

-----------------------------

So, most of you know that you'll be getting a pretty large check from the government this spring for the purpose of "economic stimulus".

History and human nature shows that most of us will just spend this check on more "stuff" - which, of course, is why the government is sending us all a check in the first place.

But here's another idea. What if we all used our checks - or at least part of our checks - to
"stimulate" the lives of people who need "economic stimulus" a lot more than we do? What if we all decided to invest in something bigger than ourselves?

Here's an example. The United Nations estimates that we could provide the entire planet with safe, clean, accessible drinking water for about $100 billion. The proposed economic stimulus package is more than $168 billion. So - in theory - if everyone invested 2/3 of their check in sustainable water projects, no one on the planet would ever be thirsty or die of water-born diseases... which kill about 6,000 people a day.

So a few friends and I have been working on a web site and blog that explores this idea of investing your economic stimulus check - or at least part of your check - in something that REALLY makes a difference. We're raising questions like, "How will you spend your check?" and "What are you passionate about?"

Take a moment to check out the site, join the conversation, leave comments on the blog for others to read and think about, and start to explore how you will spend your check...

Thanks everyone. Pass it on...
Peace.
Dave Scott

3.22.2008

Travel

I am sitting at LAX airport right now – thinking about the movie “Trade” and Nepal and girls I have met and books I have read. Thinking about the current state of the sex market and how things are shifting. The traffickers are always just one step ahead. They are entrepreneurs at their best. They have a great product and know how to market it in many different arenas.
As I boarded the Flyaway bus to get to LAX there was a young girl that didn’t speak any English that got on with me. A man who didn’t look a whole lot older dropped her off. I hope he was her brother, or boyfriend, or trusted best friend – but I can’t be sure. And even if he was, I can’t be comforted. She held one small bag and a paper with ?directions? on them. I don’t know what was on the paper but she was sent somewhere alone and it looked like she was told she would be taken care of when she got there. I can’t help but wonder how much goes on right under our noses. Maybe that was just her brother and she was just going to visit some family or do something else fun – but how can I be sure?
There are signs you can look for, sure. But it is difficult when your time is so limited. And it is frustrating beyond all get out when you cannot communicate with a girl that you have suspicions about because of language barriers. Although I obviously would not have asked her straight out if she was being trafficked or sexually exploited – there are other questions you can ask around that issue that will get you the answers you are looking for. The clues and the pieces to the puzzle – that they might not even know they are giving you.
And so I sit her at LAX looking at all the young boys and girls traveling alone – or with a quite older companion. And I wonder. What can be done? When is suspicion good? When is it offensive or over the top? And why have we come to a place in a world where we have to suspect a father traveling with his adolescent daughter…