Interview with Aaron Cohen, author of "Slave Hunter"

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Interview with Aaron Cohen, author of "Slave Hunter"

Postby sam » Wed Dec 15, 2010 11:50 am

Interview with Aaron Cohen, Co-Author of Slave Hunter: One Man’s Global Quest to Free Victims of Human Trafficking
by Ivana Kvesic

Read the whole thing at
http://www.perspectivesonglobalissues.c ... ron-cohen/

Aaron Cohen is the co-author of Slave Hunter: One Man’s Global Quest to Free Victims of Human Trafficking. Aaron recently spoke to PGI about his experiences and perspectives on human trafficking.

In your experience, which countries have been more successful than others in combating trafficking and why?

That is a really good question. In my view when you look at the Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Norway, you can even include South Korea in there, and at some of the latest model legislation that has been developed, what they’ve done is tried to attack demand in their legislation. The way they attack demand is by criminalizing it. I think that the most successful legislations are those that criminalize demand.

If you look at the United States for example, we were the pioneers; we lead the charge in getting the first legislations out there, such as the Trafficking in Victim Protection Act (TVPA) – it is a historical piece of legislation, á la the Emancipation Proclamation; it is something that will go down in the history books as a very important law.

Unfortunately, we have not gone so far in our country as Sweden did, as Norway did. What they did differently was they looked at the demand and they said let’s move to criminalize the demand more and move to decriminalize the victims. Now a debate has arisen because what they did in Sweden made prostitution illegal there. This is really important for combating human trafficking. Where prostitution is legal, human trafficking flourishes and children are exploited. What they did in Sweden was to decriminalize the actual prostituted women. So a woman is brought into the station if she is prostituting, and she’s questioned to try to develop information for the case. Then the John is arrested and put into jail, the trafficker is arrested and put into jail, and the pedophile is arrested and put into jail, but the victims are decriminalized and put into shelters and given services. The detractors of this law, the people who say Sweden has gone too far, say that well you have handcuffed law enforcement so there are no cases in Sweden. Their organized crime works underground there because the women have no leverage with them. They don’t testify so the trafficking is underground.

If you speak with member of parliament Anthony Stein or if you speak to high ranking officials at the Department of Justice they’ll say, “Look, Sweden did a great job in decriminalizing victims, but they went too far because you need to give the prosecutor the leverage with the prostituted women so that she’ll[sic] testify.” I am on the fence about this issue. I think in all cases you want to have everything on the table; you want to have all of your options open to you.

If you look at Amsterdam, which has legalized prostitution and who obviously does not criminalize the demand, you see the worst statistics for AIDS, for abuse against women, for drugs, of organized crime growth; the murder rates have increased statistically since the establishment of these loose new-age style laws. But if you compare Amsterdam to Sweden, you’ll see a reduction in Sweden of organized crime, in the murder rate, in exploitation of women, in exploitation of children. So clearly, criminalizing the demand and decriminalizing the victim is the best way to go. To answer the question, I look at the Scandinavian countries and I see that their legislations are more effective than other legislations around the world.

Have you had any experience exploring the demand side of the sex trafficking issue? Do you ever interact with the men that are exploiting sex trafficking victims? Are they aware of the exploitation trafficking victims are enduring?

Of course I understand the demand probably better than most people because I am in these brothels and I am with these men. Feminists use an expression called “male privilege” and male privilege I think is a very important expression because it demonstrates something that’s wrong with our society. I saw Kim Kardashian recently talking about something being “real pimp” and I saw Demi Moore sort of correct her usage of the term “pimp” publicly. I thought. “Wow, how great Demi Moore is to do that.” because what’s wrong in our society is that we’ve normalized the exploitation of women. When we make it very Hollywood and very popular for young people to think it’s glamorous to be a pimp, all of the sudden were moving in the wrong direction. The idea of exploiting women is not cool; it just is not. Women are the protectors of children.

Our society is moving that way; you see it when you’re with men and they are out together in a group. I saw this in Haiti: you’re with a group of soldiers, riding on the town; it’s hard work and then all the men are at the bar at the very end of the day. There are some women around all of the sudden; the men begin to work in the pack mentality, and it’s the pack mentality that feeds this demand. What we need are strong male role models.

What we need is men out there doing this. We need Ashton Kutcher, Ricky Martin, Sean Penn, George Clooney, men who are respected among men need to be out in society saying, “Hey guys, exploiting women and treating women in a debased way, in an unequal way – gender biased and gender inequality - is not good for society.” When you make it cool, sexy, and glamorous, it sends the wrong message to men so that they become confused and think that it’s ok to be that ‘John’. So I think the answer in terms of how men react to each other in that environment is they don’t really understand how they are creating the demand through their own culture. What needs to be addressed here is “man culture”, and for lack of a better term “male privilege”.

In your opinion, are governments in developed countries adequately dealing with this issue? If not, what more could or should be done?

Well you know Ivana, I don’t think governments in developed countries are adequately dealing with issue and I don’t think governments in developing countries are adequately dealing with this problem, either. Human trafficking is the fastest growing illegal business. When you look at the statistics of pornography and prostitution you have to come to the conclusion that human trafficking is related to prostitution. Most prostituted women enter exploitation at age eleven or twelve. When a woman enters at age nine, ten, or eleven, she’s forced into it and that’s all she knows in her life. One cannot conclude that this is the life she has chosen.

But somehow in our society we are perpetuating this myth that this is the case. I think it’s time we move away from the understanding that we are adequately dealing with this problem, because we are not. We need to redefine prostitution in our minds as a form of female exploitation, because women don’t choose to become prostitutes.
"Your orgasm can no longer dictate my oppression"

Trisha Baptie
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