The Center for the Women of New York has announced some success in its campaign to deter the sex trafficking trade that thrives in Queens.
In light of recent developments in a major sex trafficking case centered in Flushing and the upcoming Global Human Trafficking Awareness Day to take place Jan. 11, the CWNY believes continued efforts to raise awareness are vital.
“We feel that people have not been aware of the extent and seriousness of the problem,” said Ann Jawin, founder and chairwoman of CWNY.
Jawin instituted an initiative last March to end the advertising in Queens community newspapers of businesses she said were clearly a front for prostitution. Almost all the borough papers, including the Queens Chronicle, have signed on to the pledge not to run those ads, she said.
The FBI, which was responsible for the break-up of a multi-state sex trafficking network that included the arrest of 10 men from Queens in November and another in late December, said that in many cases prostitution businesses front as legal operations such as massage parlors or health spas.
“But you can look at the ads and the way they portray women,” Jawin said. “If you had ads pushing drugs, cocaine, and where to find it, would we allow that?” Jawin asked.
She added that the community often has a “fatalist” attitude to prostitution as an inevitable type of business. “But they don’t want to think about the fact that these are children who do not willingly choose. They are brought into it and brutalized, put on drugs,” she said.
More than 12 million people are in forced labor or forced prostitution around the world, according to a 2010 report by the U.S. State Department. Two million of those victims are children and 80 percent of all victims are women.
As a busy transportation hub with two airports, Queens is especially susceptible to the ruin of sex trafficking, Jawin said. “A hub is going to be the place where it’s going to be first,” she added, noting that in such a large city, “things can be hidden, the people are more anonymous and neighbors can ignore it.
“We really have to have a united effort and raise consciousness among our own community. I think there’s been a kind of tolerance towards prostitution and people kind of close their eyes,” she said.
CWNY is hoping to screen a series of documentaries in Queens to change perceptions about prostitution and sex trafficking.
“The whole attitude has to be that people that use these services are contributing to murder and kidnapping and exploitation,” Jawin said. “We’re on our way. It will take a lot of energy and time.”