THE OLYMPICS AND WOMEN:
For some the Olympic games are the ultimate in money-making opportunity. The trouble is that such opportunity is financed through the public purse. Many businesses profit, but the public pretty well invariably gets stuck with increased debt and higher taxes as a result of this profit. In a common sense way the Olympics simply "don't pay" for the host community, though they certainly pay financially for some and emotionally and politically for the politicians that scramble to get the games in their cities. Bread and circuses, minus the bread, is an extremely old game.
But it is more than the taxpayer who gets the short end of the stick from these events. Other groups suffer even more directly and in worse ways. The following is an article from No Olympics On Stolen Land, the website of a coalition opposed to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver/Whistler BC. It describes the effect of the Games on many women in that community and elsewhere (the rot of the Games spreads).
2010 Impact on Women
IMPACT ON WOMEN: TRAFFICKING & PROSTITUTION
“Hosting the [Seoul 1988] Olympic Games was part of what came to be described as the ‘3S’ policy of promoting ‘sex, sports, and [TV] screens’ to distract the public from the bloody political and economic struggles taking place… Censorship restrictions on lewd cinema were relaxed, ‘love’ motels proliferated along sight-seeing routes, and colour TV was introduced from the end of 1980.”(Fair Play for Housing Rights, p. 82)
Prostitution and the sexual exploitation of women and children during mega-event such as the Olympics have been, until recently, a largely unacknowledged phenomenon. In 2006, however, as Germany prepared to host the FIFA World Cup (soccer), concerns about the proliferation of trafficking & forced prostitution of women sparked public debate about the problem. Trafficking has expanded in Europe due to widespread poverty & corruption in eastern European countries (i.e., Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, etc.), where most victims are taken from.
On March 8, 2006, (International Women’s Day) the European Parliamentary Committee on Women’s Rights & Gender Equality issued a resolution and began a campaign against the forced trafficking of women, in particular during large sporting events. Reporting on the committee’s activities, the European Parliament’s web-site stated:
“The demand for prostitution and sexual services is said to increase dramatically during events such as the Olympic Games, other international sports events, exhibitions, and major congresses. Many of the women involved have been deceived by false promises of legitimate work in a richer country, for example as waitresses, dancers or domestic workers, and find themselves forced to work as sex slaves.”
(“MEPs call for action to combat forced prostitution,” http://www.europarl.europa.eu/)
According to Victor Malarek, author of the book The Natasha’s: Inside the New Global Sex Trade, more than 40,000 women and girls were trafficked to Athens during the 2004 Olympics. For the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, more than 20,000 are estimated to have been trafficked. During the 2000 Sydney Olympics, an estimated 10,000 women were imported.The ‘global sex trade’ is estimated to be a multi-billion dollar a year industry, facilitated largely through international organized crime networks. The UN estimates it be more than $12 billion a year, ranking only below illegal weapons and drugs as among the most profitable businesses existing today (The Natashas, p. 4). These interrelated criminal networks are closely linked to business & government elites.
In Europe, an estimated 100,000 women are victims of traffickers each year. Markets for trafficked east European women (the ‘Natashas’) include Europe, the Middle-East, the US, and Canada. As many as 800,000 women and girls are estimated to be trafficked globally each year, with up to 50 % being minors. This vast illegal market flourishes and remains largely untouched by governments & police, who tolerate it and/or are directly implicated in it.
Vancouver, Trafficking and Prostitution
Vancouver, Trafficking and Prostitution
As in other cities, prostitution in Vancouver involves mostly brothels and street workers. Brothels are located throughout the city & suburbs in massage parlours, apartments, and houses. These are the types of locations where trafficked women are most frequently forced into the sex trade. They are deceived into believing they have legitimate jobs, or that they are being smuggled (and not trafficked). Most are from Asia (inc. China, S. Korea) and eastern Europe, although some are from other parts of N. America.
Street prostitution, on the other hand, is largely limited to certain districts of a city or suburb. Although some are controlled by pimps, in Vancouver many are addicted to drugs and work in the sex trade to maintain their addiction. Street prostitution in Vancouver occurs in the downtown area and includes female, male and children’s (‘kiddie stroll’) districts. In the late 1990’s, Vancouver was described as a ‘pedophile’s paradise’, and had one of the highest rates of syphilis infection in the world. The DTES, where a large amount of street prostitution occurs, also has the highest rates of HIV infection in N. America.
In Vancouver, trafficking & prostitution have been historically associated with Chinese & Indigenous women, beginning in the mid- to late 1800s as European trade & settlement (colonization) began. Around the same time, large numbers of Chinese labourers were imported to work as manual slave-labour (inc. rail-roads). As a business, prostitution was at first centered in Vancouver’s ‘Chinatown’, where brothels were established. Owners paid off police and government officials to stay in business. In 1906, due to a newspaper article exposing this practise, Vancouver’s chief constable—Sam North—was fired for taking bribes from brothel owners.
It is unlikely this practice has changed, considering former Vancouver Police chief Jaime Graham’s close association with Vancouver-based, Hong Kong billionaire, David Ho. In Hong Kong, the Ho family are reportedly associated with the Big Circle Boys crime syndicate, exposed as having close ties to senior RCMP, BC & federal government officials, beginning in the late 1990’s.
The Big Circle Boys, and other Chinese triads, first began to be established in Canada in the 1980s. By the ‘90s, the Big Circle gang dominated the heroin trade and was firmly established in Vancouver & Toronto. According to one report,
“In addition to involvement in the heroin trade and other narcotics, the gang is extensively involved in alien smuggling, prostitution, gaming offenses, vehicle theft… Big Circle has been connected to sex slave rings based in the US that had apparent links to such activities in Toronto. Big Circle also have been linked to other groups that engaged in the trafficking of women.”
(Asian Organized Crime & Terrorist Activity in Canada, 1999-2002, p. 22)
In Vancouver, Ho was a financial contributor to the Vancouver Police Board. He was a strong supporter of Mayor Sam Sullivan, as well as a major contributor to the BC Liberal Party. Ho himself was a former member of the Police Board.
Because of Ho’s powerful influence & contributions to the Police Board, chief Graham was investigated under the Police Act in connections with donations received from Ho, including a $25,000 contribution from Ho’s (now defunct) Harmony Airways. Graham was also alleged to have used hotel rooms during a convention, paid for by Ho.
Stopped by Vancouver police in the Downtown Eastside in March 2007 while driving his Porche erratically, Ho was found with two alleged prostitutes and a bag of crack cocaine. He demanded to speak with Chief Graham, and was never charged.Although the scale of trafficking in women in Canada is difficult to determine, it must range in the thousands each year (far more than RCMP estimates of 600-800 per year). In just one case, RCMP in March 2001 infiltrated a smuggling ring in Ontario:
“Investigators estimated that this ring, which had been in operation since the early ‘90s, had moved as many as 1,200 Korean and Chinese women & immigrants who had been smuggled into the US in 2000.”
(Asian Organized Crime & Terrorist Activity in Canada, 1999-2002, p. 19)
In October 2001, police uncovered a prostitution trafficking ring that was transporting women from Malaysia to Vancouver. After their arrest, however, none of the 11 women involved would testify (fearing reprisals against themselves or families). Several months before, in February 2001, US police raided 20 brothels in San Francisco & Los Angeles, dismantling a sex slave ring run by Asian gangs. The investigation determined that Toronto was a main transit point into N. America.
Despite a long history of trafficking in Canada, it was not until the 2001 Immigration Act that it was made illegal, with fines up to $1 million and life imprisonment. And it was not until 2004 that the first trafficking charges were ever laid:
“Canada’s very first human trafficking charges were laid against a Vancouver man in 2004—Michael Ng, who ran an East Vancouver massage parlour—they were dismissed by BC Provincial Court Judge Malcolm MacLean earlier this summer after a year of testimony from two women who claimed Ng lured them to Canada from China with the promise of jobs as waitresses…”
(“Human Trafficking in Vancouver,” by Magda Ibrahim, WestEnder, Sept. 20-26, 2007)
Street prostitution is largely concentrated in downtown Vancouver, the Downtown Eastside (DTES), and an adjoining industrial area. This occurred as prostitutes were forced out of neighboring areas during the 1980s (i.e., Vancouver’s West End, and Burnaby). As a result of the rapid expansion in imported illegal drugs into the DTES during the 1990s (heroin & cocaine), and the proliferation of methamphetamine, a large number of prostitutes in the area are also drug addicted.
According to one study, over 50 % of women involved in street prostitution in Vancouver are Native, although Natives comprise only some 7 per cent of the urban population. Most of these had a history of sexual abuse as children, and over 90 % reported being physically assaulted during their time as sex trade workers. 86 % reported current or past homelessness, with housing as one of their most urgent needs. 86 % also expressed a need for treatment for drug or alcohol addictions
(see Prostitution in Vancouver: Violence and the Colonization of First Nations Women).
The high ratio of Native women involved in prostitution results from colonization and the socio-economic conditions it imposes on Indigenous peoples. This includes the impact of Residential Schools & resulting patterns of inter-generational abuse, compounded by poverty, alcoholism, racism, etc.
In addressing the issues of criminalization and homelessness, anti-Olympic organizers in Vancouver have described it as a process of social cleansing that endangers women’s lives:
“Social cleansing has a deadly impact on any targeted community, and women are at even higher risk. Women who are homeless and trying to survive are pushed into even more dangerous situations, face prospects of having to stay in abusive relationships to maintain housing and are subject to endless harassment and violence on the street and in the shelter system.”
(Why We Resist, leaflet by firstname.lastname@example.org)
Along with the socio-economic oppression suffered by Native women, conditions which force some into the sex trade, there is also a long history of racialized and sexualized violence against Indigenous women. This violence is perpetrated by non-Native and mostly white Canadians (i.e., Robert Pickton, Gilbert Paul Jordan, John Martin Crawford, all recent serial killers of Native women).
In BC, along with the 68 or more women missing/murdered from Vancouver, there are over 30 missing/murdered women from along Highway 16, between Prince Rupert and Prince George (the Highway of Tears). As in Vancouver, most of these young women are also Native.
According to the Native Women’s Association of Canada, over 500 Native women are officially listed as missing or murdered across the country, beginning in the 1970s. In major cities such as Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton, and Vancouver, these lists include dozens of Native women, many believed to have been involved in the sex trade.
Vancouver and 2010
Today, as a major port city and with close connections to Asian markets, Vancouver remains an active center for not only importing illegal drugs but also trafficked women. Overall, Toronto is probably the most active entry & transit point for trafficked women into N. America. According to University of BC law professor, Ben Perrin,
“Vancouver is considered to be a hub for Pacific human trafficking… Traffickers will view the 2010 Olympics as the biggest opportunity for them in decades. Any time you have an influx of foreign tourists and money, you’ll see a huge demand for the sex trade.”
(“Human Trafficking in Vancouver,” by Magda Ibrahim, WestEnder, Sept. 20-26, 2007)
In November 2007, a report by the Calgary-based Future Group, entitled Faster, Higher, Stronger: Preventing Human Trafficking at the 2010 Olympics, highlighted the potential dangers 2010 had for trafficking and forced prostitution. Sabrina Sullivan, managing director of the Futures Group, which works with trafficked women in Asia, Africa and S. America, stated,
“There is a real risk that traffickers will seek to profit from the 2010 Olympics… This event could create an increased demand for prostitution, and also give an easy cover story for victims to be presented as ‘visitors’ by traffickers.”
(“Pimps could profit from 2010 Olympics,” CTV News/Associated Press, Nov. 1, 2007)
Sullivan also referred to the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics:
“At the Athens Olympics, where prevention efforts were poor, researchers found a 95 % increase in the number of human trafficking victims identified by the Greek Ministry of Public Safety in 2004.”
At the same time as the Future Group’s report was released (Fall 2007), 42-year old Zhe Nai Xu (‘Pinky’) pleaded guilty to 1 count of living off the avails of prostitution. Her case involved 10 Korean women, who may have testified against Xu but were deported before they could be given a chance. Crown attorneys are reportedly seeking 18 months house arrest and the forfeiture of one of two homes, although the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison. Xu is reported to have made more than $2 million from the exploitation of trafficked women.
Also at this time, US border cops detained a Canadian citizen and eight Koreans who had crossed the border into Washington state. The Canadian, Harry Harrison of Surrey, BC, was being charged with smuggling while 3 of the Koreans were being charged with entering the US illegally. In addition,
“Police are investigating whether this case is part of the sex-slave trade between South Korea and California—through Canada—uncovered in a prostitution bust in San Francisco two years ago. More than 100 suspected prostitutes, many of them Korean women working off smuggling debts in sordid brothels, were discovered when authorities busted 10 ‘massage parlours’ in 2005.”
(“BC ‘pipeline’ smuggling South Koreans into US,” by Andy Ivens, The Province, December 6, 2007)
Considering the weak enforcement of trafficking & prostitution laws in Canada, as well as the poor record of police in investigating violence against sex trade workers & Native women, it is unlikely government, police or VANOC officials will pursue any serious effort to suppress these activities during 2010. Nevertheless, a rapidly expanding prostitution market for 2010, increased tourism, more capital investment, more criminal organizations, etc., will inevitably lead to greater trafficking, sexual exploitation, and violence against women and children throughout the region, during and after the 2010 Olympics.
Resources & More Info:
• Conquest; Sexual Violence & American Indian Genocide, by Andrea Smith, South End Press, Cambridge, MA 2005
• The Natashas; the New Global Sex Trade, by Victor Malarek, Penguin, Toronto 2003
• Asian Organized Crime & Terrorist Activity in Canada, 1999-2002, Federal Research Division, US Library of Congress, 2002
• Prostitution in Vancouver: Violence and the Colonization of First Nations Women, by Melissa Farley, Jacqueline Lynne, and Ann J. Cotton, Prostitution Research & Education, San Francisco, CA, 2005)
• http://www.sistersinspirit.ca/ (Native Women's Association of Canada web-site on Missing/Murdered Women)
• http://www.nsvrc.org/ (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, US)
• Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter: http://www.rapereliefshelter.bc.ca/