According to the New York Times, NFL cheerleaders were required to pose nude and act as escorts for male sponsors.
Photo: Patrick Smith, Getty Images
In a calendar shoot in 2013, cheerleaders had been required to pose topless or only in body paint while a group of male sponsors and FedExField suite holders watched.
At the completion of the calendar photoshoot, nine of the women were told they had been “chosen” by men to be their escorts to a nightclub and to get ready. Some of the women reportedly began to cry.
While they were not instructed to have sex with the sponsors, some women said they felt they were being “pimped out”.
“They weren’t putting a gun to our heads, but it was mandatory for us to go. We weren’t asked, we were told. Other girls were devastated because we knew exactly what she was doing.”
“It’s just not right to send cheerleaders out with strange men when some of the girls clearly don’t want to go.
“But unfortunately, I feel like it won’t change until something terrible happens, like a girl is assaulted in some way, or raped. I think teams will start paying attention to this only when it’s too late.”
This disturbing culture of sexism and discrimination with the NFL includes a “hot or not” game on the Washington NFL team’s website, where players can rate and evaluate the women’s physical appearance. Cheerleaders barely earn minimum wage, and are not permitted to socialise with team players:
Cheerleaders are told not to dine in the same restaurant as players, or speak to them in any detail. If a Saints cheerleader enters a restaurant and a player is already there, she must leave. If a cheerleader is in a restaurant and a player arrives afterward, she must leave. There are nearly 2,000 players in the N.F.L., and many of them use pseudonyms on social media. Cheerleaders must find a way to block each one, while players have no limits on who can follow them.
A screengrab of the Redskins website, with the “hot or not” game.
See also: Washington Redskins Cheerleaders Describe Topless Photo Shoot and Uneasy Night Out- New York Times
Campaigners and survivors of sex trafficking celebrated last week after amendments to US federal law would hold websites facilitating sex trafficking accountable. In response to the legislation, various major websites including Craigslist and Reddit have implemented major changes- and now, federal law enforcement authorities are in the process of seizing Backpage.com and its affiliated websites.
The websites are being seized as part of an enforcement action by the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service, according to a notice that appeared Friday afternoon on Backpage.com.
The notice didn’t characterize or provide any details on the nature of the enforcement action.
It said that authorities planned to release information about the enforcement action later Friday.
Backpage.com lets users create posts to sell items, seek roommates, participate in forums, list upcoming events or advertise job openings.
But Backpage.com also has listings for adult escorts and other sexual services, and authorities say that advertising related to those services has been extremely lucrative.
Campaigners and survivors of sex trafficking are celebrating what has been dubbed “the most important anti-trafficking legislation in a generation”.
According to the National Centre on Sexual Exploitation, despite investigations by the U.S. Congress, websites that facilitate sex trafficking have not been held to account. New amendments to the “outdated” law, the Communications Decency Act (CDA) would allow victims of sexual exploitation to pursue legal actions against these websites and aid prosecutors in bringing charges against them.
A still image from the 2017 documentary I am Jane Doe.
As reported in the Washington Post:
The legislation arose as Congress learned that its current anti-trafficking laws could not be applied to websites like Backpage, which host thousands of ads daily for female and male prostitutes, some of which are children being trafficked by adults. Backpage has successfully cited the Communications Decency Act, which protects websites from liability for material posted by third parties, to evade both criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits.
Congress launched an investigation into Backpage which showed that its operators helped customers modify their ads to delete references to teenage prostitutes, yet still allowed the ads to run. The Washington Post then reported that Backpage used a company in the Philippines to solicit both prostitutes and johns from other websites, and created new ads for the prostitutes.
In response to the amendments, various major sites have implemented significant changes:
Cityvibe shut down completely, the Erotic Review, the “Yelp of the sex trade” where men rate their experiences with trafficking victims, shut down advertisement boards in the United States, NightShift shut down to review policies, VerifyHim shut down its “newsreel,” Craigslist personals section was shut down, Reddit’s prostitution-related “subreddits” were marked private and the site instituted new policies banning the sale of sex acts and drugs, Google reportedly deleted its publicly shared commercial sex-related advertising, WordPress.com reportedly removed its commercial sex-related advertising sites, Paypal reportedly disabled advertised accounts for commercial sex-related payment, Rubmaps, Erotic Monkey, and USA Sex Guide had extended maintenance periods over the weekend, suggesting upcoming changes due to the new law, Microsoft is issuing new Terms of Service effective May 1st covering all of its platforms, including Skype and Xbox, to urge users not to use the services to share pornography or criminal activity. Read more.
This is a massive victory for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation.
Watch the trailer for 2017 documentary I am Jane Doe
Backpage’s Sex Ads Are Gone. Child Trafficking? Hardly. New York Times
Last week, in a ground-breaking win, the UK High Court ruled that forcing sex trade survivors to reveal past convictions was unlawful.
The ruling was handed down after a claim brought by three sex trade survivors who argued that the legislative scheme requiring them to disclose their convictions for prostitution discriminates against women and is contrary to the UK’s legal obligations regarding the trafficking of women.
All three of the claimants had been forced into the sex industry as teenagers, and as a result had multiple criminal convictions of soliciting and loitering. Claimant Fiona Broadfoot, who waived anonymity, recalled:
“I met a pimp aged 15 and two weeks later I was thrown into the violent and abusive world of prostitution. Rape became an occupational hazard but I was arrested, charged and criminalised for loitering for the purposes of being a common prostitute. After more than twenty years out of prostitution, I am still having to explain my criminal record to any prospective employer. It feels like explaining my history of abuse.”
Another survivor reflected on how the criminal convictions had impacted her life:
“It doesn’t matter what it is – trying to help out at my kids’ school or the local brownies’ coffee morning, trying to be a governor or a councillor, applying to education or training or employment – even volunteering in so many fields – with children, with the elderly, in care, with vulnerable people, with youth work, with social work – all need a DBS and then you get treated like some sort of pariah or sex offender! But it’s not fair – I never chose that life and I fought hard to get out of it but I’m always being pulled back to it as though that’s who I am but it’s not who I am.”
While the women forced into prostitution had spent their lives enduring the consequences of being sexually exploited, including the indignity of having to explain their convictions, the men involved were never arrested, Broadfoot pointed out.
“When I was arrested, the police referred to my pimp by his first name. Well, why didn’t they arrest him?” she said.
“Not one of those men who bought and used and abused me – even the ones who knew fine well I was a child when first put on the streets – has ever had to face the consequences of his actions.”
Karen Ingala Smith, the CEO of women’s charity nia, said,
“We feel strongly that these women should never have been convicted in the first place. Prostitution is symptomatic of women’s continued inequality and discrimination and a form of violence against women. These women were exploited and coerced and yet it is their lives, not those of their buyers and pimps, that were blighted with convictions. They should not have had to take up this fight, but they did and it is to the benefit of all those exploited in prostitution”.
Online classifieds website Backpage have this week shut down their adult advertising section of their site after being accused of facilitating child trafficking.
As reported by the Washington Post "The decision came shortly after a Senate panel released a report alleging Backpage concealed criminal activity by removing words from ads that would have exposed child sex trafficking and prostitution."
Backpage.com’s CEO, Carl Ferrer, has been arrested booked on felony pimping charges.Read more
Considering the abundance of platforms that are available for campaigning against the exploitation of women and children, it stands to reason that the mission of one campaign may not always correspond with another. Particularly in the age of social media, conflicting messages between campaigns are often overshadowed by the resounding chorus of advocates and protestors who, on a surface level, are united in saying ‘no’ against the exploitation of women and children.Read more
On 2 December 2015, the Joint Committee on Law Enforcement initiated an inquiry into human trafficking.
This inquiry lapsed at the end of the 44th Parliament.
On 12 October the committee re-initiated this inquiry in the 45th Parliament.
All correspondence and evidence previously received for this inquiry has been made available to the new committee. This means that submissions already provided to the committee about this issue do not need to be re-submitted.
The committee intends to refer to the evidence received during the 44th Parliament, in addition to any new evidence received.Read more
Earlier this month, ABC’s Lateline dedicated a segment to exploring Sweden’s solution to prostitution and trafficking. The ‘Nordic model’ criminalises the demand for commercial sexual exploitation, decriminalizes those exploited, and provides exit programs for individuals in prostitution who want to leave the industry.Read more
Over 300 human rights groups across 40 nations calling on Associated Press not to use the term 'sex worker'
"Collective Shout joined human rights organisations and survivors of the global sex trade in calling on Associated Press 'to refrain from using terms like “sex work” and “sex worker” because they legitimise prostitution as a form of “work” and conceal the violent and exploitive nature of the commercial sex trade.'
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MORE THAN 300 HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS AND ANTI-TRAFFICKING ADVOCATES FROM 40 NATIONS URGE ASSOCIATED PRESS TO AVOID TERMINOLOGY THAT LEGITIMIZES PROSTITUTION AS A FORM OF WORK
Gloria Steinem, philanthropists Peter and Jennifer Buffett, the Women’s Media Center and survivors of the sex trade among those who oppose the terms “sex work” and “sex worker”
New York, November 5, 2014 – More than 300 human rights organizations, frontline service providers and advocates such as Sanctuary for Families and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, and survivors of the sex trade, are urging the Associated Press (AP) to refrain from using terms like “sex work” and “sex worker” because they legitimize prostitution as a form of “work” and conceal the violent and exploitive nature of the commercial sex trade.
In an open letter to the editor of the AP Stylebook, more than 300 people, including feminist author Gloria Steinem, philanthropists Peter and Jennifer Buffett, the Women’s Media Center, and human rights activists from 40 nations including Australia, Brazil, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Norway, The Philippines, South Africa, Sweden, the United States and Venezuela, asked the AP to adopt alternative vocabulary that reflects the life realities of individuals bought and sold in prostitution.
Studies and testimony of survivors demonstrate that the sex industry is predicated on dehumanization, degradation, and gender violence that cause life-long physical and psychological harm. Between 65 and 96 percent of people in prostitution have been sexually assaulted as children; 60 to 75 percent have been raped by pimps and sex purchasers; and between 70 and 95 percent have been physically assaulted in prostitution.
Vednita Carter, the Founder of the survivor-led organization Breaking Free, added “The term ‘sex work’ was coined by supporters of the sex industry to normalize prostitution and mask the injuries it inflicts on those exploited in it. Prostitution is not ‘sex’ and it is not ‘work.’ It is a harmful practice steeped in gender and economic inequalities that leaves a devastating impact on those of us who were or are ‘in the life.’”
The letter explains that “[t]he chasm between the meaning of the word ‘work’ and the experiences of the average prostituted or trafficked person is too vast to be ignored. The term ‘sex worker’ wrongly suggests that the person in prostitution is the primary actor in the multi-billion dollar sex trade.”
“The term ‘sex worker’ renders invisible and unaccountable the traffickers, pimps, brothel and strip club owners, and the buyers of sex who prey on vulnerable individuals with histories of poverty, homelessness and sexual abuse,” says Autumn Burris, Founder/Director of Survivors for Solutions. “We must look at prostitution as a human rights violation.”
The letter also recommends against the use of the word “prostitute” and suggests alternative language including “person in prostitution,” “prostituted person” or “commercially sexually exploited person.” Instead of “sex work,” the advocates propose “sex industry,” “sex trade,” or “prostitution.” The letter also states that “teen prostitute,” “teen prostitution” and “child sex worker” have no place in responsible journalism and must be replaced by “sex trafficked child.”
The letter was written in response to an invitation from the AP to submit comments for its Stylebook 2015 edition and to an online campaign calling on the AP to adopt the term “sex worker.”
You can find the open letter here.