Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Outrage over Oxfam investigations into paedophiles, sexual misconduct …

*Pic: Philippe Sosson, Flickr

Yesterday’s news about NGO Oxfam’s 2011 internal investigation into allegations against some staff over sexual abuse, harassment and illegal use of prostitutes revealed a totally abhorrent culture within some elements of the world-renowned aid organisation.

Several staff members who worked with Oxfam in Chad and Haiti between 2006 and 2010 have been dismissed or have resigned. Oxfam’s Program Director at the time and Deputy Chief Executive, Penny Lawrence, has resigned stating that she takes full responsibility for what happened under her watch.

Video: Oxfam’s chief executive officer apologised over the scandal (ABC News); http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-13/oxfam-haiti-scandal-the-tip-of-the-iceberg/9425918
Photo: A neighbourhood in Port au Prince, Haiti, after a magnitude-7 earthquake in 2010 (Wikimedia Commons: United Nations Development Programme).

ABC 7.30 covered the Oxfam story, including paedophilia allegations.

While Britain begins organising investigations into the deepening Oxfam sex scandal, an Australian former UN employee has warned paedophiles are infiltrating charities to take advantage of the disadvantaged in developing countries.


This is not the only incidence of international aid agencies or the UN being caught out in sexual misconduct, sex trafficking or illegal activities.

UK-based investigative journalist Julie Bindel this week wrote in The Independent –

Just when I thought my opinion of pro-prostitution lobbyists could not get any lower, I see a tweet by one about the Oxfam scandal: “Buying sex from professionals is not sexual misconduct and women in Haiti may well have been glad to get the sex work. I hate prissy Establishment fiddle-faddle implying ‘development’ workers are ethical puritans or saints.”

There you have it. The idea that the women involved in prostitution in Haiti are somehow benefiting from being bought and sold by the very men that are supposed to be helping them cope with their hellish existence.

Let us consider what this person is defending. Oxfam’s country director in Haiti, Roland van Hauwermeiren, admitted using prostituted females at premises paid for with charitable funds. Children may well have been among those abused by van Hauwermeiren and other aid workers. This happened after the earthquake in 2010, which killed 220,000 people, injured 300,000 and left 1.5 million homeless.

There are also allegations that some male senior officials at the charity were using prostituted women and girls in Chad in 2006. Many men working in developing countries consider using women in this way as a “perk of the job”. We know that many sex markets in countries such as the Philippines exist because of the presence of the military and so-called “peacekeepers”.

These men are enabling terrible human rights violations. They are literally propping up a system that causes misery and heartache for women and children. There have been numerous cases of child sexual abuse and human trafficking inside Haiti’s orphanages following the earthquake, and some young women have spoken about the desperation and poverty that led them to street prostitution.

Wherever there is conflict, natural disasters and dire poverty, women and children will be abused into prostitution. Traffickers target countries such as Haiti, knowing that there will be rich pickings, because women and girls will be additionally vulnerable.

I have witnessed scandals like this before. In 1999, during my first trip to Kosovo, shortly after the end of the war, I was told by my driver that a number of brothels were being built close to the area inhabited by a number of charities and UN organisations, because so many of the men stationed there were prolific prostitute users. I saw a number of men going in and out of these establishments, despite the fact that many of them were there to advise local law enforcers on anti-trafficking strategies.

I also recall the scandal that broke when Kathryn Bolkovac, a monitor with United Nations International Police Task Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina, sued her employers for unfair dismissal when she lost her job in 1999 after she reported that officers were paying for sex, raping underage girls and participating in sex trafficking. I was in the Balkans when the story first emerged, and spoke to a number of UN officials about it. Many of the men I spoke to either justified officials paying for sex, suggesting that they were away from home for a long time and “needed” sex, or accused Bolkovac of lying.

David Lamb, a former Philadelphia police officer who served as a UN human rights investigator in Bosnia until 2009, investigated allegations that six Romanian, Fijian and Pakistani officers stationed in the town of Bijeljina were trafficking women into prostitution.

Lamb found plenty of evidence to justify a full-scale criminal investigation, and faced physical threats and blocking by his superiors, including a senior Ukrainian police officer who ordered an end to the investigation.

The sex trade is built on colonialism and racism, as well as misogyny. Whether it is the overrepresentation of African American girls and women in prostitution in the US, or the targeting of indigenous and native women and girls in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, it is clear that rich, powerful, white men consider it their “right” to use such women and girls as commodities.

Oxfam is supposed to put vulnerable women and children at the centre of its efforts, and yet some of the organisation’s most senior male officials appear to have done the opposite. It is nothing short of a disgrace that prostitution apologists somehow create a defence of these vile sexual predators by suggesting that the women and girls lured into the sex trade are somehow making a “choice”, and are “professionals” doing a “job”. These women and girls are being abused and exploited by men who are paid huge salaries to make their lives less horrendous.

One of the myths about the sex trade is that the men who rent the inside of women’s bodies for their one-sided sexual pleasure are somehow doing a favour to their victims because money changes hands. As my close friend and colleague, the formidable writer and sex trade survivor, Rachel Moran, has said in response to white liberals who claim paying for sex is defensible because it provides an income to poor women: “Wouldn’t you say, if a person cannot afford to feed themselves, the appropriate thing to put in their mouth is food, not your c*ck?”


Meanwhile Amnesty International continues to receive complaints from women’s human rights advocates and organisations about their ill-considered, flawed policy on the sex trade amidst growing dissent within their membership and the general public.


It is worthwhile reflecting that in the lead up to the state election both Labor and the Greens will push to make Tasmania into a pimp state, furthering the reach of the global sex trade and all its harms to children and women. The Liberals will continue to let sleeping dogs lie on the sex trade issue and this is regrettable given the surge in development likely to continue in Tasmania into the future.

Under a Labor Government backed by the Greens we need to consider whether the cityscape of Hobart will look like the picture above? Is this the future we want for our disadvantaged young girls and women? Better for the community to spot the fruit fly on Labor policy on decriminalisation now than later. Now is the time to focus on Stop Demand policies and how these policies provide for real choices and justice for girls and women into the future. If Labor and the Greens want to have any credibility they will abandon the empty rhetoric of prostitution being a woman’s choice.

*Isla MacGregor is a researcher and representative for the Nordic Model Australia Coalition and member of the Coalition Against Trafficking and Women. Isla works in the global abolitionist movement against the sex trade and commodification of children and women. Laws that tackle the demand side of the sex trade are gradually being implemented throughout Europe and are increasingly being understood as best human rights practise.

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  1. Isla MacGregor

    February 27, 2018 at 8:38 pm

    #11 … No Christopher .. not liberating at all. How right you are!

  2. Christopher Eastman-Nagle

    February 27, 2018 at 4:31 pm

    It seems to me that ‘the sexual revolution’ that started to sprout in the 1950s, but which particularly gained traction after the advent of the pill and abortion on demand in the mid-late sixties, only cared to look at the upside of getting rid of all that nasty old fashioned and authoritarian repression.

    And the reason for that was (and continues to be) that the main underlying macro agenda that crossed both the social humanitarian and economic management agencies was the roll out of deregulation in favour of private interests and individuals at the expense of the commons; i.e., the roll out of indulgence capitalism as an economic focus and cultural imperative.

    Liberty and rights were systematically stripped of their moral and social agency which effectively turned them into consumer disinhibition and entitlement freebies which have become as much a creatures of sales and marketing as anything else.

    Liberty was effectively colonised by agencies whose main agenda was the control of populations and the reduction of their capacity for responsible disciplined autonomous behavior in order to increase their responsiveness to consumer prompts.

    And the problem with it is that any fantasy can be quickly ramped up into a ‘buy’ response because any ideological/moral obstacles to that have now been removed. And that has applied as brutally to aboriginal communities as corporate boardrooms as to charity sector ones.

    All the angst now pouring out of the ‘Me To’ movement really underlies just how defective our social apparatus has become and how far ‘liberation’ has progressed as an engine room for desecuring gender, sexual exploitation and sexual servitude; i.e., not very liberating at all.

  3. Lynne Newington

    February 25, 2018 at 6:28 pm

    #5 … In recent years we have seen the lifting of the veil on men who exploit others for their sexual gratification – from church priests, hollywood heavyweights, millionaires, judges, military and now aid personnel.

    None are exempt but certainly more insidious when done in the name of the love of God.

    The Rev. Sergio Librizzi, who was also the director of the Catholic charity Caritas in the Sicilian city of Trapani, was arrested at his parish on Tuesday (June 24) as he was preparing for Mass and was charged with soliciting sexual favors from desperate refugees …

  4. Leonard Colquhoun

    February 25, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    Initial response to Comment 7: and it “makes me laugh” when I read a case which opens with “these organisations are just … ”

    Most matters (as in 99% of them) which make it to TT are too complex for them to be “just” anything, with all their failings caused by “just” one factor, and so on.

    Sometimes such an ‘absolute’ word (ie one which allows for no exceptions or nuance) is ‘just’ a bit of rhetoric which would be ‘read’ as such when heard, but which needs modifying words like ‘almost’, or ‘some’ or ‘most’ to get the same effect in print.

    “Just” can be, like, just a case loser.

    Anyway, many of the Comments’ general points do apply, as does much of the good works done by such orgs, including Oxfam. Sifting needed.

    [Article from the director of pubic policy at the Australia Council for International Development in the cyber pipeline.]

  5. Tony Stone

    February 25, 2018 at 9:59 am

    Makes me laugh that anyone could believe these supposed humanitarian organisations are different to any other rip-off organisation and just as corrupt.

    These organisations are just vehicles for profit growth for the corporate sector, to dump their waste and rubbish goods for profit onto poor and destitute humans.

    They make no difference to the outcomes people face, and the majority of donations goes into the pockets of everyone but those on need.

    To do anything you first have to remove the causes, and that can never be done whilst the god cult has any influence on the planet.

    Sadly it is the bandwagon PC do gooders who are the problem. Only about 10% of donations get to people, the rest is pocketed by the organisations for promotion, advertising and the wages of the over-educated elites who infest these religiously driven rip offs to boost their egos and instead of helping, only exasperate the problems.

  6. Joanna Pinkiewicz

    February 23, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    In recent years we have seen the lifting of the veil on men who exploit others for their sexual gratification; from church priests, hollywood heavyweights, millionaires, judges, military and now aid personnel.

    I’m glad that this is being uncovered as abuses of various NGOs abroad haven’t had enough scrutiny.

    The larger context is of course the patriarchal culture and its continual justification of sexual exploitation of women. White men, men whith money and positions, desire access to women’s bodies, particularly young women’s bodies, those who would normally not have sex if the men didn’t offer money.

    We must remember that prostitution is a patriarchy serving practice based on power imbalance. It is not about free choice and certainly not about just, ethical and equal relationships.

    Shame Oxfam! Shame Amnesty International, for supporting the sex trade.

  7. That Woman

    February 22, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    Thank you, Isla.

    As someone who contributed to Oxfam’s so called gender equity policy in the past, I feel very disappointed about the behaviour of some men and also disappointed with Oxfam.

    Oxfam has instigated some great work for women’s empowerment which is why people had confidence in Oxfam. The organisation therefore needs to be very rigorous in its ethics and policy and how it implements projects and screens its employees and volunteers.

    When I went to India, as part of Oxfam’s second gender study tour to promote women’s empowerment projects, the group visited the equivalent of Oxfam’s partner in India that was headed by dynamic women feminists – with no connections to Adani! OXFAM Australia (CAA as it was then called) previously provided development consultants and training by Australian OXFAM workers, but only to empower the host NGO to take on the role.

    Oxfam/CAA India evolved to the stage where it did not employ overseas development consultants in short, medium or long term disaster recovery work, and were really switched on regarding not exploiting vulnerable women and girls.

    The work included prevention of child “marriage” (child sexual assault is the term) empowerment of widows and strengthening women-led organisations as well as getting women led sustainable business/livelihoods up and running.

    Any local men working on a ” development” project had to complete a gender equity course, including role harmonisation, so that men provided support to women leaders and most importantly to the women and children within that community.

    At the time Oxfam Australia- then known as Community Aid Abroad – challenged itself as it had claimed to support “the poorest” as they realised that they were not reaching or representing their constituents in a helpful way.

    I do have some confidence that Oxfam will be more rigorous, or at least have hope that they will have rigorous screening of those they employ, including their policies and practices. The Australian Oxfam group’s current action “What She Makes” is a great example of when Oxfam gets it right with the current work to highlight the plight of women garment makers in south and south-east Asia.

    Isla also refers to Amnesty International. I feel the same about Amnesty’s policy on the sex industry. Appalling. Amnesty has clearly lost its way and been subverted by powerful interests who have hijacked concepts of women’s empowerment and free choice in the interests of those who exploit women and children.

    Amnesty shows contempt for the poor and marginalised women in its use of language when they circulated their odious excuse of a policy to members during a sham consultation process. Such sexism included phrases that compared prostitution as being the same as selling fruit by the roadside.

    Amnesty presents an image as a woman-friendly cool organisation and competes for “NEW !!!!” women members ( in much the same way as the sex industry advertises its “NEW!!!!!!!!” victims) whilst brushing aside the concerns of any women members who question the policy on the sex industry.

    Amnesty betrays women’s interests and the interests of children. We must ask in whose interests is their policy as it clearly is not in the interests of refugee women, poorer women and children, and it ignores the plight of those who are trafficked. The policy also undermines the work of countless women’s groups who fight for gender justice and for cultural change.

    It is great to see the continuing outrage by women NGO’s including women who still retain hope that Amnesty may find its way again and ditch its awful policy.

    Both Oxfam and Amnesty compete for funds and donors. The charity sector is now big business, and its leaders romp on the international policy stage along with powerful interests. Both exploit the concept of gender empowerment to attract donors, prestige and members.

    Unfortunately gender exploitation and exploitation of women and children is big business on a par with weapons trafficking. It can distort local and national economies and is very unfair for its victims who do need a voice.

    Although there are many people who are enslaved within the agricultural and fishing industries – for example within south and south-east Asia – the exploitation and trafficking of women and children is currently the top dollar earner for those who exploit.

    This is all the more reason why an organisation such as Amnesty International that prides itself on its image of “defending human rights” must question and change its policy on the sex industry and start to promote end demand legislation.

  8. Simon Warriner

    February 21, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    As unhappy as this particular matter is, there are far bigger scandals the mainstream media is quite happy to ignore.


    Why, one wonders.

  9. Andrea

    February 21, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    How appalling. Perhaps this will shed some more light on the cruelty of other such organisations’ policies on the sex-trade. The cynicism is cruel enough, let alone the behaviour of these men and Oxfam’s refusal to truly come out against it.

  10. Leonard Colquhoun

    February 21, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    Let ‘SPQR Times’ poster M Tullius Cicero (at time of typing) have first Comment: “Corruptio optimi pessimi”.

    (But would it apply to moralistic grandstanders and virtue-signallers?)

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