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New Zine: Against Japanese “Comfort Women” Denialism in the U.S.

Date: November 9, 2014

“Against Japanese ‘Comfort Women’ Denialism in the U.S.” was written in response to the recent rise of Japanese right-wing nationalist activities among some of the Japanese residents in Southern California (not Japanese Americans, but Japanese people from Japan), especially their campaign against resolutions, memorials, and other recognitions of Japanese “comfort women” during the WWII by U.S. cities.

This zine analyzes the “talking points” of Japanese right-wing nationalists, and applies the same nuanced approach to the issue of “comfort women” that the author (a co-founder of Japan-U.S. Feminist Network for Decolonization) has advocated for in the contemporary anti-trafficking movement for many years, pointing out precisely what responsibilities Japanese government bears.

The zine is available for purchase online, or at the upcoming workshop “Confronting Japanese Right-Wing Nationalism in Southern California this Friday, November 14th at UCLA.

Faces of CW Denialism

Upcoming Workshop on Fighting Japanese Right-Wing Nationalists in Los Angeles

Date: October 29, 2014

Confronting Japanese Right-Wing Organizing in Southern California: A FeND Workshop

WHERE: UCLA Bunche Hall, room 10383
WHEN: Friday, November 14th @ 6-8pm

Emi Koyama, a co-founder of Japan-U.S. Feminist Network for Decolonization (FeND), presents a workshop/seminar on confronting Japanese right-wing nationalist mobilization in Southern California and beyond. This workshop is especially designed for members of Japanese- and other Asian American communities, but is open to all.

Mostly unnoticed by English language media, right-wing nationalist/historical revisionist organizing among some Japanese expats and “shin issei” (new migrants) in Southern California is growing. They have stormed city council chambers of municipalities that have considered resolutions supporting former “comfort women,” the women forced into sexual servitude for the Japanese military during the WWII, and have filed multiple lawsuits against the City of Glendale, which has enacted a memorial dedicated to them. They are closely connected to right-wing nationalist groups and politicians in Japan, and starting to dominate what Japanese people hear about Japanese Americans and Japanese people in the United States.

Japan-U.S. Feminist Network for Decolonization (FeND) was formed in response to this emerging Japanese right-wing organizing in the U.S. by scholars and activists who have been monitoring Japanese right-wing activities for years. FeND works with Japanese and other Asian Americans and allies to confront Japanese nationalists in the U.S. and to oppose Japanese and U.S. militarisms and (settler) colonialisms in Asia and the Pacific.

This workshop provides information about who these right-wing nationalists are, what they believe, and how they are connected to Japanese right-wing groups and even government. It also addresses what we can learn from how Japanese progressives have resisted them in Japan and articulates how best we can confront Japanese right-wing nationalist organizing in the U.S.

For more information about FeND, please see:

If you have any questions, please contact or message us on facebook.

(RSVP isn’t required, but it would help us know how many people are planning to come if those of you who plan to attend send us a note or “join” on facebook.)

Gangs and sex trafficking: How the movement against “modern day slavery” targets descendants of slavery as its primary perpetrators

Date: July 16, 2012

Popular discourse surrounding human trafficking in the U.S. have gone through several transformations since the dawn of this century. For example in 2000, with the passage of Trafficking Victims Protection Act in the United States. and the adoption of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons by the United Nations (as a supplement to its Convention against Transnational Organized Crime), “human trafficking” began to be understood primarily as a transnational criminal enterprise comparable to illegal trafficking of weapons and drugs. This perspective is a distinct departure from the more traditional approach which dealt with human trafficking in relation to poverty, migration, labor, and development.

The next transformation took place around 2008-2009, when American media and politicians began focusing (sometimes exclusively) on domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) or commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC–although I believe it should be called CSEY with the word “youth”), instead of the more traditional emphasis on foreign victims who are trafficked transnationally. The frequency of media coverage of DMST/CSEY exploded, as did the number of “anti-trafficking” groups (which mostly focus on DMST/CSEY) in the U.S., and the sensationalistic rhetoric of “modern day slavery” and “sex slaves” became commonplace.

There is yet another rhetorical and substantiative transformation of the U.S. anti-trafficking discourse taking place today, even though few people outside of the law enforcement and anti-trafficking groups that partner with them are taking notice. The shift I am pointing out is the recent move by the U.S. government agencies to re-classify DMST/CSEY as a primarily “gang” issue and take actions accordingly.

This is a trend I’ve been sensing for a while, but it was not until I heard directly from a staffer at the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Oregon that it had moved the issue of DMST/CSEY to the purview of its “gang unit” (as opposed to the civil rights division, which handles transnational labor trafficking) that I began to realize that there is something to the vague suspicion I had been feeling. Further research has confirmed that there is a deliberate shift in rhetoric and strategy U.S. government agencies and its allied anti-trafficking groups employ in their campaigns against DMST/CSEY.

Media reports about DMST/CSEY involving street gangs precede official government declarations by two to three years. They first began appearing in the U.S. context in 2008, when teenage gang members were arrested for “sexual assault, engaging in organized criminal activity, prostitution, and kidnapping and trafficking of a person” in Fort Worth (Dallas Morning News, 01/16/2008). There were several other reports in Missouri, Washington State, Minnesota, and elsewhere in the next couple of years as well (New York Times, 07/23/2008; Seattle Times, 03/26/2009; Star Tribune, 09/23/2010; and others). A report by the San Diego Anti-Trafficking Task Force claimed that “street gangs are partly to blame for an increase in teenage prostitution,” describing it as the “second largest source of income for San Diego gangs” after drug dealing (KPBS, 11/09/2010).

(Note that this discussion is limited to media reports in the United States. News stories linking “gangs” to sex trafficking have been common in Europe since at least mid-2000s, but the “gangs” they are referring to are very different from what U.S. media are calling “gangs.” In the European context, “gangs” are frequently members of Russian mafia and other “grown up” criminal organizations with clandestine ties to members of the political and business establishment class, unlike U.S. street gangs that are made up primarily of young men of color.)

Former Republican presidential candidate and Texas governor Rick Perry was one of the first political leaders to call attention to the link between gangs and DMST/CSEY. According to Houston Chronicle (08/20/2010), Perry proposed “stiffer penalties” for human trafficking–25 years to life–on the premise that penalties were “directed at gang members who run the prostitution rings.”

The shift in the law enforcement’s approach to DMST/CSEY is evident in the changes from the FBI’s 2009 National Gang Threat Assessment to its 2011 revision.

In the 2009 edition of the report, there is not even a single mention of sex trafficking or DMST/CSEY except for statements that report the fact that some gangs operate “prostitution rings” or (voluntary) smuggling of “illegal aliens.” On the other hand, the 2011 edition contains a specific section about “Gangs and Alien Smuggling, Human Trafficking, and Prostitution” which describes human trafficking and forced prostitution as major sources of revenue for gangs:

Human trafficking is another source of revenue for some gangs. Victims–typically women and children–are often forced, coerced, or led with fraudulent pretense into prostitution and forced labor. […] Prostitution is also a major source of income for many gangs. Gang members often operate as pimps, luring or forcing at-risk, young females into prostitution and controlling them through violence and psychological abuse.

Three weeks after the release of the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, NPR’s “All Things Considered” aired a story titled, aptly, “Gangs enter new territory with sex trafficking” (11/14/2011), which seemed to have served as a template for many other news reports about the “new” development. NPR reported:

[A] new FBI threat assessment says MS-13 and other street gangs have been moving into some different territory: human trafficking. The bureau says gang members are leading women and children into forced prostitution. […] “You have a gang that’s taking advantage of people that are in a desperate situation, usually runaways or someone that’s looking for help from the gang,” [Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigator John] Torres says.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder echoed the message in his April 2012 speech about human trafficking at Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas:

As incomprehensible as it seems, trafficking in girls is an increasingly prevalent part of gang activity. These crimes are seen as “low risk and high reward.” […] Today, these transactions can be executed quickly, conveniently, and anonymously over the Internet–and many of them involve young children. […] Because we know these heinous crimes can arise in any criminal context–and because it is not uncommon for traffickers to be involved in a variety of other criminal enterprises, […] we are taking steps to ensure that investigators and prosecutors who work on organized crime, gang, and financial crime cases are fully trained to identify human crimes–and human trafficking victims.

Contrast this to Holder’s earlier public statements, such as the November 2009 written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee or the May 2010 speech at the National Conference on Human Trafficking, both of which strongly condemn sex trafficking and emphasizes how the Department of Justice is vigorously fighting it, but do not make any link between sex trafficking and street gangs.

Anti-trafficking groups and activists have picked up on the trend as well. For example, anti-prostitution scholar and activist Laura Lederer published an article titled “Sold for Sex: The Link Between Street Gangs and Human Trafficking” on the exact same day the FBI released its revised National Gang Threat Assessment. Lederer wrote:

The facts from hundreds of criminal cases show a clear link between dangerous street gangs and the scourge of human trafficking. […] With state and national crackdowns on drug trafficking, gangs have turned to sex trafficking for financial gain.

She further argues that strict enforcement of anti-trafficking laws could be “another prosecution weapon against the dangerous street gangs that endanger our communities and our nation. […] The vigorous prosecution of human trafficking can help bring down street gangs that also engage in murder, robbery, and drug trafficking.”

Anti-trafficking groups have frequently argued that there are two main types of pimps: “boyfriend/finesse pimps” and “gorilla pimps”: The former refers to pimps who use romantic gesture and psychological manipulation to control their victims, while the latter describes those who use physical violence and intimidation to force the victim to engage in prostitution. Below is an example of this classification, taken from a 2011 presentation by Polaris Project, a national anti-trafficking organization.

Finesse Pimp vs. Gorilla Pimp

Below, you will see a newer version of the same classification system, taken from a May 2012 presentation by YouthCare, a Seattle-based homeless youth advocacy organization (which, like Portland’s Janus Youth, seems to have bought into the police-centered approach to DMST/CSEY). Instead of two, the slide depicts three distinct categories of pimps: “boyfriend pimp,” “gorilla pimp,” and the all-new “gang pimp.”

Finesse Pimp vs. Gorilla Pimp vs. Gang Pimp

What is ignored in all of these discussions of the (racially coded) evils of “gangs” is that many young men of color (and others) become gang members and engage in its criminal activities for many of the same reasons many young women of color (and others) are lured into the sex trade: poverty, failure of social and child welfare systems and public education, lack of viable economic opportunities, psychological and historic trauma. After all, what is the moral difference between a young woman who is told to go out and sell sex, and a young man who is told to go out and sell drugs? And yet, the mainstream anti-trafficking discourse would have us believe that the young woman is an innocent victim but the young man is an evil criminal.

Anti-trafficking discourse has always carried racist and xenophobic overtones, but the recent shift in the rhetorics and strategies of U.S. government agencies is escalating it to the level indistinguishable form the racist, classist War on Drugs and its vilification of youth of color, immigrants, street youth, among others. That we have a movement that claims to be outraged by the horrors of “modern day slavery” which then targets the descendants of those who have survived slavery and colonization as its primary perpetrators while remaining completely oblivious to the legacies and consequences of these historical trauma is nothing short of perversity, a moral and logical failure.

If we are to believe, which I do not necessarily object to by the way, that gangs play some role in DMST/CSEY, our approach to solving the problem cannot and should not rest on the “vigorous prosecution” alone. We need strategies to offer more attractive alternatives to gang life that are compatible with human rights and dignity for all involved, those that empower marginalized communities to take care of their constituents and deal with problems they have in their own initiative and leadership.

Danielson’s “Homecoming Queers” details 2000 panel by Raging Exotics: Women of Color Caucus at PSU Women’s Studies Department

Date: June 10, 2012

Recently I came across Marivel T. Danielson’s book, “Homecoming Queers: Desire and Difference in Chicana Latina Cultural Production.” The book draws heavily on the work of Gloria Anzaldúa, who is not just one of my favorite authors, but the single most important influence in my own development as a feminist theorist and writer, so it was naturally very interesting to me.

But what I found most curious about the book was that it refers to the student organization I co-founded while attending Portland State University, Raging Exotics: Women of Color Caucus at PSU Women’s Studies Department. In fact, Danielson concludes the book with a story about a panel Raging Exotics presented at a women’s studies conference at University of Arizona, which was nightmarish. It’s re-traumatizing just to read her description of the incident, but I’m glad that someone put into record what happened, because we were too stressed to write about it ourselves.

Below is an excerpt from “Homecoming Queers” that describes what happened. In the book, she discusses the incident further using concepts she introduces elsewhere, so please take a look at the book if you are interested. (By the way, I believe that the French woman mentioned toward the end was Monique Wittig. Can someone confirm?)

Excerpted from “Homecoming Queers: Desire and Difference in Chicana Latina Cultural Production” by Marivel T. Danielson, p. 184-190

One group of students engaged in such a critical, political, and creative revolution of hegemonic academia emerged from the Women’s Studies Department at Portland State University under the self-proclaimed title “Raging Exotics: Women of Color Caucus.” In the fall of 2000 at the University of Arizona, founding members of Raging Exotics alongside Women’s Studies students from the Tucson campus offered a workshop at this conference proudly entitled “The Future of Women’s Studies Conference.” The panel detailed the student organization’s history, goals, and personal experiences and traumas lived by women of color students within Women’s Studies academic departments as well as the field in general. Although the group offered copies of their work in print, the most vibrant form of theorizing occurred as the panel and audience performed the lived experience of collaboration and confrontation in this “live” venue.


Over the course of their panel, “Raging Exotics” members Monica Steen, Lamya Chidiac, and Emi Koyama, joined by two local University of Arizona Women’s Studies students, would present their own experiences, each reading a prepared statement” about the unique forms of racism and ignorance with which she grapples on a daily basis as a student in the Portland State University’s Women’s Studies Department. In addition to their panel presentations, the students offered copies of their independently published zine. In this publication, the “Raging Exotics” established their goals as well as demands of audiences and readers alike: “The issues we are talking about are still very traumatic for us, so we may get emotional in the course of the presentation. Do not freak out or use our emotions as an excuse to devalue our words. And if you are white, take responsibility for your discomfort upon hearing our very difficult stories. We are not talking about skinheads or KKK; we are talking about perfectly well-intentioned feminists who end up hurting us due to their ignorance and prejudice” (Raging Exotics Zine).

However, before they could begin their presentation, the validity of their experiences and theories would be performed as a profoundly troublesome introduction. That afternoon I entered the tiny, almost empty classroom with an Anglo female friend who insisted on sitting silently in the back row. When I suggested we move closer to the front of the room, she shook her head and pointed to a sign written in large letters on a blackboard at the side of the room: “This is a space for Women of Color to speak and express ourselves. If you are not a Woman of Color please keep your comments brief. If you do not respect this request we will tell you to stop. This workshop is not about you.”

I sat and watched as women entered, filling the room, reading the sign, and reacting with varying degrees of melodrama, outrage, indignation, fear, righteousness, humor, and fierce accord. One older woman appeared disturbed and seemed to scoff at the sign’s request. She strolled calmly into the classroom, claiming a seat in the front row directly across from the panelists, as if initiating a duel. Before the speakers began, the woman rose from her seat and walked to the center of the table where they had placed a stack of their self-created zines. She first read a sign indicating that the publication was free to women of color and five dollars for allies. In a loftily sarcastic voice, the women challenged, “What if you’re 1/16 Cherokee. Does that count?” Clearly upset, one of the panelists managed to state firmly, “I find your statement offensive. I think you should leave.” The woman offered that she was just joking and, if given the benefit of the doubt, could have been lightly directing an anti-essentialist nudge at the workshop organizers’ establishing statement. When she was met with only stunned silence, she turned to face the now nearly full and shocked audience and implored, “Do you think I should leave?” No doubt expecting a warm and supportive match to her own indignation at the situation, she received, instead, only our own awkward silence and stares. Another panelist quietly argued that perhaps she should be allowed to stay, but the stand-off would not so easily be diffused. Finally, incredulous, the woman turned, gathered her things, and exited the room as the rest of us watched speechless. Perhaps none of us had ever observed a scene where an older Anglo professor, with clear institutional knowledge and authority, had been shut down by a young woman of color student. Perhaps we had never seen or experienced a space in which insensitive quips, derogatory joking, and carelessly tossed racist statements were neither tolerated, nor reciprocated. Perhaps we had only dreamed of such spaces where women of color took precedence even in the company of other dominant groups. And we sat speechless now, not realizing these spaces could actually exist, that we would ever be fortunate enough to locate them, to situate our- selves, our bodies, voices, and experiences within such a site.

In this pivotal moment, graduate students, young and largely queer women of color, assembled a space of their own along the lines of similarity as well as shared difference from larger dominant spheres. They defined this sitio with specific boundaries to indicate whose participation was relevant and permissible. The attention to voice, la lengua, was also imperative, as they were clear in their desire to allow the words and experiences of women of color to not only emerge but also to dominate or at least saturate the discursive focus of the workshop. In addition to invoking such voices, the members of “Raging Exotics” attempted to remove any dominant voices deemed distractionary, demeaning, or dismissive. Even seemingly supportive gestures were deconstructed into their most basic dominant parts, as when one white French woman began to cry as she expressed how upset she was that someone would think her oppressive when all she intended to do was help. After continuing to speak between tearful gasps for roughly a five-minute uninterrupted stretch, one panelist responded dryly that this workshop “was not about her [the French woman].” Whether intentional or not, the woman’s emotions shifted the panel’s intended focus from the unique experiences and needs of women of color in academia to the guilt and indignation of Caucasian female scholars. Rather than rush to the side of this woman, the students simply recognized the attempt to shift attention and refocused on their own critical agenda. The attempt, of course, was to cease what Gloria Anzaldúa calls reactive communication, where a struggle takes the form of action/reaction where all critical thought is focused on combating the ideas of others, rather than offering up new and original ideas of one’s own. For the “Raging Exotics,” the goal was to act and speak, rather than respond to the issues and inquiries of another. Yet Pérez deems such a sitio strategic, since even the original thoughts and speech presented in the room that afternoon were responses to actions and words of the now silenced Anglo women. Painful exclusions, bitter dismissals, and tokenized treatment marked most of the experiences shared that day. Though the imposed Anglo silence rule removed these women’s discourse from the hour or so of discussion-following the conflict and indignant ejection of one woman–the sitio was provisional, not permanent or lasting in its ability to silence or remove the structures of power present among feminist scholars.


Constructing “domestic minor sex trafficking” as a “gang-related” issue: what I learned at a forum on “the other kind” of human trafficking

Date: May 18, 2012

On April 26th, I attended Portland Human Rights Commission’s public forum on human trafficking. Unlike many other “trafficking” events I’ve attended over the past several years, this one was specifically designed to address what the Commission called “transnational” human trafficking for labor exploitation. Speakers were mostly made up of law enforcement officers and immigration advocates, but the forum also featured a testimony from a Mexican man who had been trafficked at a small labor camp in Oregon. The only person on the panel I recognized was Detective Keith Bickford from Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, who heads Oregon Human Trafficking Task Force.

Detective Bickford explained that there were two parts to the Oregon Human Trafficking Task Force. One of the areas is the domestic minor sex trafficking, which he thinks is doing pretty good in terms of public awareness and funding. The other part is those involving “foreign born” victims of labor trafficking, according to Bickford. The community often want to hear about domestic minor sex trafficking only, Bickford said, but the trafficking of “foreign born” labor trafficking must be addressed also.

Even as he stresses the importance of addressing all forms of human trafficking, I can’t help but think how his (and Oregon’s) formulation of human trafficking as domestic minor sex trafficking and transnational adult labor trafficking leave out many forms of human trafficking that actually take place in Oregon, such as domestic adult sex trafficking, sex trafficking of “foreign born” people, domestic labor trafficking, labor trafficking with sexual exploitation component, and labor trafficking of minors.

Bickford adds that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is doing a great job assisting foreign born victims of human trafficking, even though the actual victims of trafficking and exploitation often feel fearful of immigration officers. He explains: trafficking victims fear police and ICE because governments and law enforcement officers in their home countries are often corrupt and abusive, so they associate government agents with that impression, even though such fears are unwarranted in the U.S. Yeah right, that’s why American youth who engage in sex trade totally feel comfortable and safe with the police. Not.

Throughout the forum, I notice that panelists are using phrases “trafficking of foreign born victims” and “transnational trafficking” interchangeably, but that is not accurate. Those who entered into the U.S. consensually (either legally or illegally) and then were trafficked domestically tend to have less rights and protections than those who had been trafficked from the beginning. Because trafficking often involves deception, it is often difficult to tell the difference between the two.

Immigration advocates know how difficult it is to secure protections for victims of labor trafficking and exploitation unless there is a strong indication or evidence of inculpability, as explained by immigration attorney Stephen Manning from Immigrant Law Group PC. “The distinction between (consensual) migrant smuggling and human trafficking is clear legally, but it is very subtle in reality.”

An audience member asked Bickford about the magnitude of transnational human trafficking in Oregon. He responded that he was unaware of any figure, though Oregon’s farm labor camps are known among immigrants from South and Central America as a destination.

Next, Manning introduced one of his former clients, a Mexican man who has been abused and exploited in an Oregon labor camp. He spoke about circumstances that led to his arrival in Oregon, his experiences at the labor camp, and how a Christian pastor who visited him eventually made his captors afraid of being exposed and abandon him. I elect not to publish any further details of his story, but he quickly left the room after giving his testimony.

Another immigration attorney, Anna Ciesielski from Immigration Counseling Services spoke next. She works with Bickford on cases involving human trafficking, and discussed difficulty having her clients trust him. The law enforcement wants to arrest traffickers, she explained, but they can’t do so without cooperation from victims, she said. She also spoke about how Catholic Charities’ loss of a major federal grant for assisting immigrant victims of human trafficking has left a gaping hole of services for the victims.

Ciesielski’s office has worked with about ten immigrant victims of human trafficking so far this year, she said. Because resources are limited, they are able to take only the “strongest cases” that are likely to lead to a special trafficking victim visa.

Senior assistant attorney general Diane Schwartz Sykes came up next. Prior to joining the Oregon Department of Justice to lead its Civil Rights Unit, she has worked for Oregon Law Center and Legal Aid Services of Oregon, specializing in immigration and civil rights cases, during which she has visited many labor camps throughout the State. For every registered labor camps she visited, she observed a couple of small ones that aren’t registered (in Oregon, labor camps must be registered if they hire more than a certain number of workers).

Chris Killmer from Catholic Charities explained how funding cut had forced the organization to abandon some of its services for victims of trafficking, but it keeps receiving referrals from other organizations. In the two years that the organization was funded to provide services, Catholic Charities worked with about 60 victims, 65% of which came from Latin America. Portland is also a point of entry for Asian immigrants and trafficking victims. Real numbers are difficult to uncover because this is a hidden population.

Asked about outreach to labor camps, Sykes stated how it became more difficult for her to reach out since becoming a government officer. Government agencies such as BOLI (Bureau of Labor and Industries which handles discrimination cases), OSHA (occupational safety and health), Human Rights Task Force, and ICE have interest in finding out what goes on at labor camps, but are not welcomed. Religious communities and legal advocates have easier time accessing laborers.

Sykes also mentioned that many laborers speak indigenous languages, rather than English or Spanish, which makes it even more difficult to outreach. Their children, if any, may speak English through Head Start program and such, but are also vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

At that point, an audience member who is a representative from the U.S. Attorney’s Office was invited to make a statement, which she was completely unprepared for. She admitted that she had no experiences in advocating for, investigating, or litigating human trafficking cases, though her boss (U.S. Attorney S. Amanda Marshall) considers the issue “a high priority.” Everything she said came from trainings she received for her job, not from any actual experiences addressing human trafficking.

But it is then she slipped the information that confirmed what many activists knew was the case but most government experts were smart enough to conceal: that the U.S. Attorney’s Office views domestic minor sex trafficking as “primarily gang-related,” and has moved the issue to its “gang unit”; transnational human trafficking on the other hand was moved to the civil rights unit.

The admission that the U.S. Attorney’s Office views domestic minor sex trafficking as a “gang-related” problem is significant. While right-wing anti-trafficking groups such as Shared Hope International has always insinuated racial overtones to the issue (e.g. urban Black men kidnapping suburban white schoolgirls), government officials tended to be more careful in how they communicate the issue. With the admission, however, it should now be a public knowledge that human trafficking is becoming yet another way for young men of color to be criminalized and imprisoned, while leaving behind many economic and social circumstances that lead many youth to engage in the sex trade.

The rep from the U.S. Attorney’s Office continuously praises her boss to the point I get embarrassed for her. An audience member comments how the “turf war” between State and federal officers are often obstacles, to which she responds “it depends on the individual–call my boss if you have any issues.”

Someone in the audience commented that victims of human trafficking like the man who gave his testimony should be supported so that they can become leaders and educators in the battle against human trafficking, rather than simply having their stories used. Bickford and Sykes respond, but they don’t seem to get it: Bickford says how he appreciates victims because he learns a lot from talking with them, and Sykes talks about how victims can make good outreach workers because they speak indigenous languages being spoken by other laborers. They don’t get it.

Frustrated, Jeri Williams–a Portland city employee with background in environmental and labor activism who identifies herself as a survivor of sex trafficking–speaks out: when Human Trafficking Task Force and others ask survivors of trafficking to “tell their stories” without payment, they are continuing the exploitation rather than fighting it–especially when celebrity speakers are paid thousands of dollars to be keynote speakers for anti-trafficking conferences (Williams didn’t name the conference, but I believe she is referring to the 2011 Northwest Coalition Against Trafficking conference which paid actress Daryl Hannah to keynote). I disagree with Williams on many things (after all she supports “end demand” campaigns that I think are ineffective and harmful for women), but I totally respect her for speaking out on this and supported her unsuccessful bid for the City Council this year.

Williams further spoke about how New Options for Women which provides drug treatment and other services to adult women who have prostitution records is facing budget elimination and stresses how we must salvage it. Another audience member who works for Multnomah County spoke out against Secure Communities initiative which prevents immigrant communities from cooperating with the law enforcement because of the fear that such contacts would lead to immigration detention and deportation of their family and community members. In response, Bickford stated that he was just a lowly detective in the law enforcement but he has been educating himself about the issues, carefully avoiding any statement that can be perceived as too political.

Overall, the forum was informative in terms of the government’s perspective of human trafficking in Oregon: that they seem to only recognize two variations of human trafficking (domestic minor sex trafficking on one hand, and transnational adult labor trafficking in the other), and that domestic minor sex trafficking is now being treated as a “gang-related” issue. It was also interesting to observe that, other than Jeri Williams, none of the people who are involved in the movement against sex trafficking were in the audience (in fact, there was a leader of an anti-prostitution group in the audience at the beginning, but she left after finding out that the forum focused on transnational labor trafficking), further demonstrating how we perceive a clear division between the two officially recognized categories of human trafficking–which, to borrow Manning’s phrase, may be more subtle in reality.

My Tikkun article about Uganda and the U.S.-based LGBT activism, plus my Uganda flier

Date: May 10, 2011

Uganda’s pending passage of the anti-homosexuality law is in the news these days, so I thought I’d post a link to the article I wrote for Tikkun magazine about how U.S. LGBT activists and allies are engaging in the whole controversy and what they could be doing instead.

The Uganda Controversy: Solidarity vs. Imperialism in LGBT Organizing
by Emi Koyama
Tikkun magazine, July/August 2010

Also, below is the text of the flier I handed out at the Beaverton, Oregon rally against the anti-homosexuality bill which I talk about in the article above.

North-South Disparities Kill More Gay Ugandans Than Anti-Gay Legislation Ever Could.

Many of us rightfully feel angry and scared about the proposed legislation in Uganda that would prescribe punishments up to death for the “crime” of homosexuality. But when activists and politicians begin calling for economic sanction against the country of Uganda, we must consider its consequence on Ugandan people, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender Ugandans.

Uganda’s economy (like our own) is dependant on foreign trade, and an economic sanction could result in more gay Ugandan casualties than the proposed legislation could ever match: is it truly worth the cost? Who decides? Who put the U.S. in the position to impose its values on others by military or economic force?

And if there were such an outpouring of support for gay Ugandans, where were they when much of the country was (and still is) struggling in poverty, partly caused by the enormous international debt? Where were they when gay Ugandans needed medical treatment and educational opportunities? Or the right to migrate to the (relative) safety in the United States?

In short: are we truly concerned about the rights and lives of our brothers and sisters in Uganda, or are we simply playing our part of the imperialist U.S. foreign policy? If we are, consider the following:

  • Support elimination or deep reduction of unpayable international debt.
  • Support continuation of international aid and economic exchange.
  • Support the expansion of fair trade.
  • Confront American conservative groups that spread hate here and abroad.
  • Strengthen international human rights standards by holding the U.S. government accountable to them (death penalty, overreliance on prisons, etc.)
  • Promote respectful engagement and dialogues with countries whose policies we find objectionable.
  • Expand cultural exchanges (including Southridge High School’s sister school program).

This message is not endorsed by the organisers of today’s rally. We are a small group of activists, students and scholars and we speak only for ourselves. We welcome your responses and opinions at emi AT eminism DOT org

Support Engagement, Not Sanction.