TIME Crime

Bikini Coffee Shop Owner Hit With Prostitution Charges

Baristas at "Java Juggs" were allegedly serving up more than just cappuccinos

For the past few years, some coffee shops in Washington state have been taking the idea of customer service a little too far.

A former owner of a Seattle-area “bikini coffee shop” was charged with money laundering and promoting prostitution Thursday, after her baristas allegedly served up sex acts to customers as well as hot drinks, CBS News reports.

Documents claim the “bikini baristas” charged $14 to flash their genitals or breasts at customers, and more for sexual acts.

Prosecutors in Shnohomish County allege that Carmela Panico collected more than $2 million in three years through her illegal business offerings. Panico, a former erotic dancer, managed to skip out on paying her full taxes by operating largely in cash — officials found more than $250,000 during a home raid in 2013.

She may have also had some help from the inside: authorities allege that Darrell O’Neill, a sheriff’s sergeant, gave Panico and her employees the heads-up about police investigations in return for sexual favors.

The coffee stand, Java Juggs, was one of seven locations police busted for charges related to prostitution and lewd contact. According to court documents, Panico would dock employees’ pay if the women weren’t wearing high heels or adequate makeup.

An attorney for Panico said the 52-year-old, feeling a little burned by the coffee business, has left the industry for good.

[CBS News]

TIME Crime

1,400 Children Exploited in U.K. Child Sex Ring, According to New Report

Abuse was allegedly ignored by police and other officials

Over 1,400 children in a town in Northern England may have endured sexual abuse that was systematically ignored by police and other authorities from 1997-2013, according to a report released Tuesday.

The independent report, commissioned by the Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council and compiled by Professor Alexis Jay, found that children as young as 11 were being raped and brutalized in Rotherham since 1997, and had been routinely trafficked to other Northern England towns for sex. The report concluded that at least 1,400 children had been sexually abused during the 16 year time frame, but that this was likely a “conservative estimate of the true scale of the problem.”

The stories relayed in the report suggest that police and other municipal authorities failed to take action against the problem for years, allowing perpetrators to continue to exploit children. One girl who was preparing to testify against her perpetrator received a text message saying that he had her younger sister, and “the choice of what happened next was up to her.” In two cases reviewed by Professor Jay and her team, fathers had tracked down their daughters and tried to rescue them, but were themselves arrested when police arrived on the scene. In some instances, police arrested the victims for drunkenness or disorderly conduct, but let the perpetrators go free. Schools complained that children as young as 11 were being picked up in fancy cars and being taken to meet unknown males, and secondary school heads reported girls being taken away on their lunch breaks to give oral sex before heading back to class.

The report also concluded that until 2007, there was evidence that police believed children as young as 11 were having “consensual” sex with their rapists. While the South Yorkshire Police Department had excellent procedures on the books, officers on the ground through the 1990s failed to implement these practices, and seemed to have very little understanding of the nature of child sexual exploitation.

Council leader Roger Stone, who has served since 2003, said he would step down immediately. “I believe it is only right that as leader I take responsibility for the historic failings described so clearly,” he said, according to the BBC.

MONEY The Economy

Sex Keeps Getting Cheaper Around the Globe

Exterior of the Love Ranch at night
Brad DeCecco

The going rate for sex with a prostitute has plummeted in recent years, according to analysis from the Economist.

In 2006, the price for one hour of sex with a female prostitute averaged $340 around the globe. Today, the average rate is down to $260.

The Economist came up with this data after reviewing the online profiles and listings of 190,000 female sex workers in a total of 84 cities in 12 countries. There are several reasons cited for why the price of prostitution has fallen steadily in recent years, including the migration of poor sex workers into wealthier countries, which has pushed prices down. There’s also some indication that the increased availability of legal prostitution in countries such as Germany has put downward pressure on rates for paid sex.

Overall, the explanation for the decline in the price of sex boils to the same two factors that have affected so many other industries over the last decade or so: The responsibility (or blame, if you will) can be traced back to the Great Recession, and the rise of the Internet’s facilitation of virtually every aspect of life. “The fall in prices can be attributed in part to the 2007-8 financial crisis,” the Economist reported. “The increase in people selling sex online—where it is easier to be anonymous—has probably boosted local supply.”

Increased supply means increased competition, and lower prices in order to win customers’ business. This turn of events should put a smile on the face of folks like comedian Jim Norton, who wrote a stunning pro-paid-sex essay titled “In Defense of Johns” last week for TIME.com.

Naturally, sex workers are upset about the decline in asking prices for prostitution. An analysis by the Economist on all the different ways the Internet has impacted the oldest profession indicates that the shift online hasn’t been all bad for prostitutes, however. By being able to advertise and sell sex online, prostitutes don’t have to rely as much on brothels, pimps, or other intermediaries, so less of a sex worker’s money is going to a middleman. Selling sex on the web is certainly not safe, but it’s considered safer than streetwalking, partly because prostitutes can do rudimentary background checks on clients and share information about violent or abusive customers.

Generally speaking, however, it’s hard to come away after reading the Economist’s investigation and not be depressed. Here’s a group of workers who suffered mightily during the recession years and are still feeling its lingering effects. It’s more difficult to make a living in this trade than it has been in the past, what with clients who have less cash to spend and who have more, lower-priced options to choose from thanks to the Internet and other technology.

That description could be used to sum up the recent plight of many retail employees, travel agents, factory workers, or, heck, journalists. Instead, in this instance, it describes the situation facing women who feel forced to sell sex for money.

MORE: Dear Johns: Actually, You Should Be Ashamed to Buy Sex

TIME Opinion

Dear Johns: Actually, You Should Be Ashamed to Buy Sex

The Anti-Social Network Comedy Performances
Comedian Jim Norton performs during The Anti-Social Network comedy show at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas on July 3, 2011 Ethan Miller—Getty Images

Jim Norton isn't entitled to sex, but women are entitled to human dignity

After a nationwide crackdown on men who buy sex in the 8th National Day of Johns Arrests earlier this week, comedian Jim Norton wrote an essay asserting his right to pay prostitutes for sex, called “In Defense of Johns.”

Don’t get me wrong, Norton is a funny guy. And I’m all for comedians pushing our social limits in stand-up, because that’s what comedy is all about. But why can’t a famous comic like him find someone who wants to have sex with him for his good looks and sparkling personality?

Norton’s essay wasn’t a joke — it was an actual argument defending the right to pay for sex. “But really, perhaps the most shameful thing I can admit is this: I’m not really ashamed,” he wrote. “And neither should any of these other (unmarried) johns who have been arrested.”

Actually, Jim, you should be ashamed to pay for sex. And so should all the other men who purchase women and girls, many of whom have been trafficked, enslaved and repeatedly raped. No amount of rationalization can get around the basic principle of market economics: if people like you didn’t buy girls, they wouldn’t be sold, and if they couldn’t be sold, they wouldn’t be trafficked and abused.

(Of course, there are also women who buy sex, and plenty of men and boys who are trafficking victims, but let’s focus on the male-client/female-sex-worker argument that Norton is going with.)

There was one part of Norton’s essay that I did find funny. It was the part where he said all the girls he buys are oh-so lucky to be with him. “I suppose you could say I am the consummate john,” he wrote. “I’m loyal, I’m dedicated and I will always come back.” He’s different from all those other nasty, mean clients, because he’s a really nice guy! “I never pick them up to be abusive,” he said. “I always feel extraordinarily loving and close to them.” Hahahahahaha, Jim Norton. Good one!

Did you ever consider, Jim, whether these girls felt “extraordinarily loving and close” to you? I’m guessing their feelings were a bit more complicated. They might have slept with you only because they would get beaten if they didn’t make a certain amount of money that night. And if you thought they enjoyed it, they were probably faking, because that’s exactly what you pay them to do. Sure, some woman do choose this line of work, and sex-workers unions argue that prostitution can be a freely made choice, but that’s not the case for the vast majority: U.S. State Department estimates that 80% of the 600,000 to 800,000 people trafficked across international borders every year are trafficked for sex.

And while we don’t know what the prostitutes thought of Norton, we do know what some sex workers say about their clients. One former prostitute named Kira put it this way: “You guys think we really liked having sex with you, but we would lie to you just to get your money … I hated you when I was out there,” she told men who had been busted for buying sex, according to PBS.

Men like Norton think that their entitlement to sex trumps a woman’s entitlement to dignity and safety. Many of the women they buy are among the most vulnerable human beings on the planet, no matter how wide they smile when a john rolls down his window or plunks down his credit card. According to a report cited by the U.S. State Department, 89% of people who work in prostitution worldwide want to escape. At least 65% of people who work in prostitution were sexually abused as children, and over 60% are raped on the job, according to a 2004 study by Melissa Farley, an activist and psychologist who studies the effect of prostitution on women. And according to Polaris, a Washington, D.C.–based antitrafficking group, over 40% of people trafficked for sex are under 18. Norton says he’s spent the “equivalent of a Harvard Law School education” on sex, which is precisely what keeps trafficking victims in the sex trade.

Norton claims that legalizing prostitution would help solve these problems, but what he really means is that it would be easier for him to buy sex without his pesky conscience getting in the way of his peskier penis. Because even though there are valid arguments for the legalization of prostitution, I’m finding it hard to believe that Norton really has the best interests of sex workers in mind.

Because despite the theories, there’s very little evidence that legalizing prostitution makes life better for sex workers. Even though prostitution is legal in Nevada, over 80% of the sex workers Farley interviewed told her they wanted to escape sex work. And five years after prostitution was legalized in Germany 2002, the Family Ministry found “no solid proof to date” that the legalization had reduced crime and abuse, and had “not brought about any measurable actual improvement in the social coverage of prostitutes,” according to the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. Proponents say that legal prostitution can be regulated to ensure the safety of the sex workers, but German snack bars have more regulations than brothels do.

The Netherlands has also been held up as an example of what happens when prostitution is legalized, but the results are mixed. The mayor of Amsterdam said in 2003 that legalizing prostitution had failed to keep sex workers safe, since “it appeared impossible to create a safe and controllable zone for women that was not open to abuse by organized crime.”

Most arguments for legalization presume that tons of women would choose sex work if it were safe and legal, but that’s convenient wishful thinking for johns who want to let themselves off the hook. “In the real world, Julia Roberts’ character from Pretty Woman does not exist,” said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who organizes the National Day of Johns Arrests and advocates for harsher punishment for sex buyers. “Every time a john purchases sex, he is catalyzing a violent and oppressive industry.”

“The autonomous prostitute we envisioned when the prostitution law was enacted in 2001, who negotiates on equal terms with her client and can support herself with her income, is the exception,” German politician Thekla Walker said at a political convention. Instead, the law allows sex workers “merely the freedom to allow themselves to be exploited,” according to Der Spiegel.

Some argue that making prostitution legal could make sex workers safer, because they could call the police if a client was getting violent. But criminalizing the johns would do the same thing: prostitutes would know they won’t face jail time for calling for help, and the violent jerk would be cuffed.

That’s why targeting the johns is the best way to keep vulnerable women safe. Since Sweden introduced a measure in 1999 to target clients instead of sex workers, the population of prostitutes has been reduced by two-thirds, from 2,500 in 1998 to just 1,000 in 2013. France recently did the same, imposing fines for men who pay for sex. And even New York City prosecutors are increasingly focused on targeting buyers and pimps instead of sex workers. Because women and children will be sold as long as there are men to buy them, and when the demand for paid sex outstrips the supply of willing prostitutes, traffickers are ready to step in.

Prostitutes have been shamed and marginalized for thousands of years, but men who buy sex are considered so normal that they’re given the most ordinary name of all: john, a name shared by no less than five U.S. Presidents. Imagine the name whore was as common as john, and you’ll see how ridiculous this is — think about “Whore Quincy Adams” as our sixth President. Let’s hope we see the day when the men who choose to buy sex are shamed as much as the women who are often forced sell it. They’re the ones that should be ashamed of themselves.

TIME politics

In Defense of Johns

Jim Norton Christopher Lovenguth

I'm not ashamed to pay for sex—and other men shouldn't be either

As a man who has spent an embarrassing amount of money on prostitutes and various other sexual encounters, I was excited when I heard about a “National Day of Johns,” because I thought I was being honored.

I envisioned myself being carted down New York City’s Fifth Avenue on the back of a flatbed truck, waving to cheering fans as confetti rained down on me and my disappointed parents hid behind a mailbox. A silly (yet understandable) mistake on my part, as the National Day of Johns was a celebration of the arrests of hundreds of men in a series of sex stings in 15 states. The fact that I’ve never been arrested in one of these stings should convince even the most ardent of atheists that miracles are indeed possible.

I suppose you could say I am the consummate john. I’m loyal, I’m dedicated, and I will always come back — even as it seems as though efforts to shame johns are on a national upswing throughout the country.

I cannot even fathom a guess as to how much money — let alone time — I’ve spent on paid sex in the past 25 years. Although I can tell you that when Charlie Sheen confessed he’d spent $50,000 in one year, I nodded my head and saw it as an achievable goal. Because I’ve never actually tallied the dollar amount of my sex addiction, my therapist tells me I should — her logic being that a concrete cost would make it more definitive and its consequences more tangible.

But really, perhaps the most shameful thing I can admit is this: I’m not really ashamed. And neither should any of these other (unmarried) johns who have been arrested.

If these men are anything like me, they might simply feel more comfortable with prostitutes. I never pick them up to be abusive. I always feel extraordinarily loving and close to them. When I first began soliciting sex for money, it never occurred to me that some of them are possibly forced into prostitution or have abusive pimps. I must have known it deep down on an intellectual level but hadn’t witnessed anything to confirm it.

Until I did.

The only experience I’ve had where an element of violence was present was driving on 48th Street in New York and talking to a girl through my passenger window. (A big part of my addiction is the ritualistic aspect, and for some reason I only liked to pick up prostitutes who talked to me through the passenger window.) As we were speaking, a van full of girls stopped, and a guy I assume was her pimp bounced her across the hood of my car and threw her in the van.

This is why I’m a firm believer that prostitution should be legalized and pimps should be thrown down an elevator shaft.

Law-enforcement stings designed to shame men who pay for sex are nothing more than the state blowing its own morality horn. Being a comedian who is single allows me a luxury most johns don’t have, which is the freedom to discuss the topic openly. And not from a case-study point of view but from the honest point of view of someone who has spent the equivalent of a Harvard Law School education on purchasing sex.

By keeping prostitution illegal because we find it morally objectionable, we allow (or, more accurately, you allow) sex workers to constantly be put into dangerous situations. Studies have shown that rapes and STDs dropped drastically from 2003 to 2009 in Rhode Island after the state accidentally legalized it. The American Journal of Epidemiology showed that the homicide rate for prostitutes is 50 times that for those in the next most dangerous job for a woman, working in a liquor store. You don’t need a master’s in sociology to understand it would be much safer for sex workers if they were permitted to work in places that provided adequate security. Legalizing prostitution would also alleviate the fear a sex worker may have about reporting a john’s abusive behavior because of the risk of arrest.

The illegal aspect of prostitution has never deterred me, nor would legalizing it cause me to engage in it more.

The decision people make to have sex for a living would undoubtedly confuse and repulse a large part of the population. But in a free society, people must be allowed to make choices for themselves that are incomprehensible to others. By keeping prostitution illegal and demonizing all of its parties, we (you) are empowering pimps and human traffickers and anyone else who wants to victimize sex workers because they feel helpless under the law.

Give sex workers rights. Give johns a break.

Norton is a comedian, New York Times best-selling author and host of The Jim Norton Show on Vice.com

TIME politics

What the Swedish Model Gets Wrong About Prostitution

TO GO WITH AFP STORY 'Norway-prostitutio
A prostitute working on the street in central Oslo. AFP—AFP/Getty Images

Making the purchase of sex a crime strips women of agency and autonomy. It should be decriminalized altogether.

Prostitution is known as the “world’s oldest profession,” and whether it should be criminalized – or not – is one of the oldest debates among social reformers. Today, a growing consensus around the world claims the sex trade perpetuates male violence against women, and so customers should be held as criminals. On the contrary, it’s decriminalizing prostitution that could make women—in and outside the sex industry—safer.

This modern debate has roots in Victorian England, which branded prostitutes as wicked, depraved and a public nuisance. Yet a shift in social thought throughout the era introduced the prostitute as a victim, often lured or forced into sexual slavery by immoral men.

Today, we’re seeing a global shift in prostitution attitudes that looks startlingly like the one in Victorian England. Many areas have adopted or are considering what’s known as the “Swedish” or “Nordic Model,” which criminalizes the buying, rather than the selling, of sexual services (because, as the logic goes, purchasing sex is a form of male violence against women, thus only customers should be held accountable). In this nouveau-Victorian view, “sexual slavery” has become “sex trafficking,” and it’s common to see media referring to brothel owners, pimps, and madams as “sex traffickers” even when those working for them do so willingly.

The Swedish model (also adopted by Iceland and Norway and under consideration in France, Canada and the UK) may seem like a step in the right direction—a progressive step, a feminist step. But it’s not. Conceptually, the system strips women of agency and autonomy. Under the Swedish model, men “are defined as morally superior to the woman,” notes author and former sex worker Maggie McNeill in an essay for the Cato Institute. “He is criminally culpable for his decisions, but she is not.” Adult women are legally unable to give consent, “just as an adolescent girl is in the crime of statutory rape.”

From a practical standpoint, criminalizing clients is just the flip side of the same old coin. It still focuses law enforcement efforts and siphons tax dollars toward fighting the sex trade. It still means arresting, fining and jailing people over consensual sex. If we really want to try something new—and something that has a real chance at decreasing violence against women—we should decriminalize prostitution altogether.

How would this work, exactly? “Decriminalizing” may sound like a less radical step than “legalization,” but it’s actually quite the opposite. Decriminalization means the removal of all statutory penalties for prostitution and things related to its facilitation, such as advertising. It does not mean there are no municipal codes about how a sex-work business can be run or that general codes about public behavior do not apply, explains Mistress Matisse, a dominatrix, writer and prominent sex-worker rights advocate. Legalization, on the other hand, is a stricter regime, wherein the state doesn’t prosecute prostitution per se but takes a heavy-handed approach to its regulation. “This is how it works in Nevada, for example, where legal brothels exist, but one may not just be an independent sex worker,” says Matisse. Under both schemes, forcing someone into prostitution (aka sex trafficking) and being involved in the sale or purchase of sex from a minor would obviously remain a crime.

But other crimes supposedly associated with the sex trade could be reduced if prostitution were decriminalized. Research has shown incidences of rape to decrease with the availability of prostitution. One recent study of data from Rhode Island—where a loophole allowed legal indoor prostitution in 2003-2009—found the state’s rape rate declined significantly over this period, especially in urban areas. (The gonorrhea rate also went down.) “Decriminalization could have potentially large social benefits for the population at large–not just sex market participants,” wrote economists Scott Cunningham and Manisha Shah in a working paper about their research.

In New Zealand, street prostitution, escort services, pimping and brothels were decriminalized in 2003, and so far sex workers and the New Zealand government have raved about the arrangement. A government review in 2008 found the overall number of sex workers had not gone up since prostitution became legal, nor had instances of illegal sex-trafficking. The most significant change was sex workers enjoying safer and better working conditions. Researchers also found high levels of condom use and a very low rate of HIV among New Zealand sex workers.

The bottom line on decriminalization is that it is a means of harm reduction.

Keeping prostitution illegal is done in the name of women, yet it only perpetuates violence against them while expanding the reach of the carceral state. Decriminalization would end the punitive system wherein sex workers—a disproportionately female, minority and transgender group—are being separated from their families, thrown in jail, and saddled with court costs and criminal records over blow-jobs. It would also allow them to take more measures of precaution (like organizing in brothels) and give them access to the legal protections available other workers (like being able to go to the police when they’ve been wronged). Yet for Swedish Model advocates, only the total eradication of the sex trade will “save” women from the violence and exploitation associated with it.

Certainly some in the sex trade – like minors, for example – are exploited, abused and forced into prostitution, while others aren’t literally trafficked but feel trapped in the industry by economic necessity. These are the people who should receive attention, and resources, from social reformers. And there would be a lot more resources to devote if we left consenting adults to exchange money for sex in peace.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown is a staff editor for Reason.com. She blogs often at Reason’s Hit & Run and enjoys covering food issues, gender, Gen Y, reproductive rights, intellectual property, sex work and things people are talking about on Twitter. This piece originally appeared at The Weekly Wonk.

TIME Crime

FBI Recovers 168 Children From Sex-Trafficking Rings Across the U.S.

FBI Director James Comey participates in a news conference on child sex trafficking, at FBI headquarters, June 23, 2014 in Washington, D.C.
FBI Director James Comey participates in a news conference on child sex trafficking, at FBI headquarters, June 23, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

The weeklong operation took place in more than 100 cities

The FBI has rescued 168 children and arrested 281 pimps in a weeklong child-prostitution sting operation carried out across the U.S., in partnership with local law-enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Operation Cross Country VIII took place in 106 cities across 54 FBI divisions, the bureau announced Monday. The various cross-country operations have to date rescued around 3,600 children and led to 1,450 convictions, more than a dozen of which have come with life sentences in prison. The FBI operation has also recovered more than $3.1 million in assets.

“Operation Cross Country reveals that children are being targeted and sold for sex in America every day,” said John Ryan, the CEO and president of NCMEC, in a statement.

Initial targets have typically included casinos, truck stops and websites advertising escort and dating services, as identified by local law enforcement. The FBI uses the information gathered from these busts to expand their search and to partner with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices to serve those running child-prostitution rings with federal charges.

“Child sex traffickers create a living nightmare for their adolescent victims,” Leslie Caldwell, assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, said in a statement. “They use fear and force and treat children as commodities of sex to be sold again and again. This operation puts traffickers behind bars and rescues kids from their nightmare so they can start reclaiming their childhood.”

TIME apps

20 Million Chinese WeChat Accounts Closed for Links to Prostitution

Images Of Tencent Holdings Ltd. As Company Plans Share Split After Earnings Miss Estimate On WeChat Expenses
The download page for Tencent Holdings Ltd.'s WeChat application Bloomberg—Getty Images

In response to pressure from Beijing

The Chinese company behind the popular messaging app WeChat said Tuesday that it had shut down 20 million accounts for being linked to prostitution.

Tencent Holdings Ltd. dubbed the massive shutdowns “Thunder Strike” in a blog post. WeChat is a three-and-a-half-year-old micro-messaging site with an active-user base that just surpassed 396 million people—meaning Tencent shut down 5% of active accounts. The purging of accounts came in response to a May government crackdown specifically against the platform. Many use the app as a news source in a heavily censored web environment, but the government said it also being used for harmful practices ranging from fraud to terrorism to prostitution. Authorities had promised to “hold service providers responsible if they do not fulfill their duty,” according to Chinese state media outlet Xinhua.

WeChat said last week that it would clean up its accounts from to “protect the user experience.”

TIME sex trafficking

Inside the Scarily Lucrative Business Model of Human Trafficking

Igor Bilic—Flickr Vision

New report estimates almost $100 billion annual profits in sex trafficking alone.

Though many people believe slavery to be a thing from the distant past or award-winning movies, new figures out from the International Labor Organization (ILO) suggest that human trafficking—essentially, coercing people to work under unjust, often inhumane, circumstances—is a growth business.

Estimates of just how much the human trafficking business is worth have grown massively since the last ILO report on forced labor almost a decade ago. Back in 2005, the business was estimated at about $44 billion annually. Now, it’s more like $150 billion. This likely reflects a growing awareness of the numbers of people who have been caught up in some sort of bonded labor, rather than actual growth in the business.

Annual-profits-of-forced-labour-per-victim-and-sector

ILO’s study suggests that what often pushes people into bonded labor is not a constant level of grinding poverty, but a sudden financial setback. Poor households are much less able to deal with an unexpected misfortune—a lost job, a medical emergency, a hike in the rent or the prices of goods and services.

This setback, which sometimes makes it hard for at-risk populations to even afford food, pushes individuals into borrowing, which sets them up for usurious interest on credit, or pushes them into accepting any work at all to feed their families.

Contrary to a widespread misconception, only a small portion of the trade comprises sex trafficking, though most of trafficking money does come from the sex trade.

“Globally, two-thirds of the profits from forced labour were generated by commercial sexual exploitation,” says the report, “amounting to an estimated $99 billion [U.S. dollars] per year.” There’s also a lot of profit from bonded labor among those who gather food, in either agriculture or fishing industries. Laborers are worth approximately $9 billion a year in profits.

The homefront isn’t a safe haven either. The ILO estimates that “private households that employ domestic workers under conditions of forced labour save about $8 billion [U.S. dollars] annually by not paying or underpaying their workers.”

Since we’re talking about a very informal and mostly illegal trade, numbers are extremely hard to come by. These are not the kind of businesses that create annual reports. The ILO uses a slightly different formula for working out how much each sector is gaining from forced labor. For the agriculture industry, it estimated the difference between the value added by the worker and the wages paid to the workers in that sector, using 2012 Global Database information.

(Under modern parameters, people can be paid while engaged in forced labor. For example, domestic workers are considered to be in forced labor if they’re paid 40% or less of what they should be paid.)

Annual-profits-of-forced-labour

More than half the money from forced labor is made in the Asia Pacific region, says the ILO. India and China have lots of bonded workers, some of who they export to other parts of the world. Much of this trafficking, although not all, is for the sex industry. Some anti-slavery advocates are highly critical of tourists who pay for prostitutes in foreign countries.

“We have a culture that normalizes the sex industry so that it is seen as a benign, ‘victimless’ crime,” says Carol Smolenski of ECPAT-USA, an organization that fights child prostitution. “Even though the life histories of so many of women show them turning to this industry out of desperation, a lack of options or through violence and intimidation by pimps and traffickers.”

But while the big money comes from the Asia Pacific region, more profit is made from each bonded laborer who ends up in wealthier nations.

In developed countries and the EU, coerced workers can be worth almost $35,000 a year to their exploiters. In the Middle East, it’s more like $15,000. Most of this money is made on the back of undereducated or unskilled workers in industries and sectors where demand for labor fluctuates. Apart from the sex industry, agriculture and domestic work, these workers toil in construction, manufacturing and mining.

Annual-profits-of-forced-labour-pervictim-and-region

In general, the likeliest victims of forced labor are poor, unskilled workers who get stuck in a bad situation in a place where the rule of law is a little iffy. But not always. Sometimes highly skilled individuals can be caught up too, particularly if they’re on foreign soil.

In this week’s Time magazine, Shandra Woworuntu, who worked in finance in Indonesia, tells the story of how she was snapped up from the airport and traded from brothel to brothel in a sex trafficking ring in 2001 for several months and finally escaped by jumping from a second story window. What lawless part of the world did this horrific event take place in? Brooklyn, New York.

TIME cities

New York Cops To Stop Seizing Condoms in Prostitution Cases

"A policy that actually inhibits people from safe sex is a mistake and is dangerous," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. The police commissioner said that the force would change its policy due to serious public health concerns

New York City police will no longer seize condoms as evidence when making prostitution arrests, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday, in a victory for advocates who worried the policy was discouraging protected sex among prostitutes.

“A policy that actually inhibits people from safe sex is a mistake and is dangerous,” de Blasio said during a press conference. “And there’s a number of ways that you go about putting together evidence. And I have absolute faith in [Police] Commissioner [Bill] Bratton and his team, and they felt that this was not the right way to go, that the previous policy was not the right way to go and that they could be effective in gathering evidence without it.”

Bratton said in a statement that the police department changed its policy because of public health concerns. “The NYPD heard from community health advocates and took a serious look at making changes to our current policy as it relates to our broader public safety mission,” he said.

Advocates see the policy as a big step forward in ensuring the safety of sex workers, who previously had to hide their condoms or avoid them altogether for fear of police discovery. Activists applauded the decision. “This policy opens the door for individuals in prostitution to stop risking their health for fear of carrying condoms,” Sonia Ossorio, President National Organization for Women, said in a statement. “It’s every individual’s right to be able to protect their health and this policy shift under the new NYPD leadership goes a long way in furthering sound public health policy.”

The new condom policy comes just months after New York state announced a new approach to prostitution enforcement, which focuses more on prosecuting pimps and helping sex workers escape trafficking.

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