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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 4, 2005

Human Trafficking, Sex Trade Topic Of Law School Discussion

Human trafficking and sex slavery continues to be a major international problem, according to three university members who spoke at a panel discussion at the University of Iowa College of Law Thursday afternoon.

On the panel were Mark Sidel, a UI law professor; Claire Cardwell, an adviser in the UI Office of International Students and Scholars; and Meredith Good, a UI graduate student in nursing and interdisciplinary studies, and a graduate assistant in the UI Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies.

Good said that one reason human trafficking continues is because it's lucrative, pointing to U.N. estimates that the global sex trade generates between $7 billion and $12 billion annually. As a humanitarian volunteer in Moscow, she has worked with Russian women who have been trafficked for the sex industry and said it's a growing problem there. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, corruption, inadequate legal protections, a poor economy and social apathy have lead to a significant increase in the number of Russian women lured out of the country for the sex industry. It now affects as many as 500,000 Russian women a year, she said.

The MiraMed Institute/Angel Coalition, the non-governmental organization Good interned with in Moscow, works to combat the industry and help women who are trafficked and returned she said. Among its initiatives are trafficking prevention, lobbying governments for stronger laws against human trafficking, and training and education.

While working as a humanitarian volunteer in Kosovo, Cardwell found it was the United Nations police officers and peacekeeping troops sent to Kosovo after the 1999 NATO war against Serbia that were involved in cases of human trafficking there. After the war, the number of brothels and sex clubs in Kosovo increased from 18 to 75 to cater to the international military contingent.

"I met two women from Bulgaria who were promised jobs as waitresses in Italy but were sent to Kosovo, instead," she said. She also pointed to research by Amnesty International that showed similar situations with women from Moldova and Ukraine who were promised waitress or factory jobs who were sent to Kosovo as sex workers. Unfortunately, because of UN rules, punishing police officers or peacekeepers who frequent the clubs or are involved in cases of human trafficking is difficult if not impossible.

Sidel discussed his role in a Department of Justice prosecution of a Korean factory owner who used trafficked Vietnamese and Chinese labor at a factory he owned on the U.S. Pacific territory of Samoa. The owner, Kil Soo Lee, refused to let the workers leave the island and forced them to work in a corrugated steel factory with no air conditioning. Some of the workers were beaten by factory guards. Lee was convicted of many charges -- including human trafficking -- in 2003 and awaits sentencing in a federal court in Honolulu.

The discussion is sponsored by the Iowa Coalition for Human Rights and co-sponsored by the Organization for Women Law Students and Staff and the Asian American Law Student Association.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu.