Germany is the “Bordello of Europe”

By: Kristine Alarcon

Edited by: Sharon E. Chin

German sex workers

Germany is known for its beautiful castles, delicious cheeses and sausages, and classical composers including Beethoven and Bach, but now this country is being labeled as the “Bordello of Europe.”

The decriminalization of prostitution in 2002 seems to be causing human trafficking and the sex trade industry to become more aggressive and organized in Germany. The decriminalization law was initially enacted to lower the violence in sex trade, making it less exploitative and safer as well as reducing the stigma associated with it. However, the policy has resulted with an unexpected effect. In December 2014, a petition – signed by German psychologists and victims with related traumatic experiences – is seeking to eliminate the decriminalization law in order to stop the violent and traumatic sexual acts.

Dr. Ingeborg Kraus initiated the petition to repeal the current law on prostitution. As a psychologist, she knows that rape not only deeply traumatizes a woman, but it also destroys the foundation and social structure of a community. The women can be rejected from society and even their family as they are viewed as if are dishonoring their community.Prostitution is viewed as a typical job where the women are called “sex workers” under German law. However, roughly 90% of the prostituted women in Germany are not native born. Many cannot speak the language and are not aware of their rights; many come from countries like Romania and Bulgaria, which are among the poorest in Europe. As a result, they can experience traumatic and horrific actions that can result in emotional pain. For example, a “brothel menu” can cause trauma to these women, as there are no limitations on the harm they may experience during the sexual acts. Acts on the menu can include items listed as “blood sports,” which involves cutting the woman, “sandwich,” involving one woman and two men, or other much more risky acts. Some brothels even include nudist floors where the only item of clothing prostituted women wear are a pair of stilettos or “gang-bang” floors where a customer can bring his friends.

In her work with sex trade victims, Dr. Kraus finds that violent experiences stay after prostitution, even after the women leave the industry; the psychological effects of the violent sexual acts still linger in the minds of victims. It can be even more difficult for these women because many of them entering the sex trade industry have sacrificed their lives to earn money for their families and are usually 18-19 years old. Sometimes they cannot continue living in a brothel in Germany because it is too traumatic for them. Additionally, the choice to return to their home country is often unavailable to them because society and their families reject them. Germany typically does not want to keep these individuals in residence. Other effects of these distressing experiences can include drug addictions, post-traumatic stress disorders, depression, suicidal ideation, and much more.

Dr. Kraus is working towards the end of legalized prostitution. She has managed to enact the Nordic Model, which combines free market capitalism and social benefits, and fights the demand for prostitution by recruiting leading German trauma experts. She is also talking with Danish and French psychotraumatologists to help join the cause. Dr. Kraus has even sent a letter with signatures from 100 organizations worldwide to Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, to repeal the decriminalization law. She and her colleagues have started a petition for the public.

Kristine Alarcon graduated at the University of San Francisco with a Bachelors of Science in Biology. She is working towards certification in Sterile Processing and Distribution. She is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.


Bien-Aime, Taina. “Germany Wins the Title of ‘Bordello of Europe’: Why Doesn’t Angela Merkel Care?” The Huffington Post. Retrieved on May 29, 2015.

Photo Credit: (Hockenos, Paul)

Things to Consider Before Receiving Your Next Nail Care

By: Sara Kim

Edited By: Sharon E. Chin


Research results by the Department of Toxic Substances Control for the California Environmental Protection Agency have revealed several significant health hazards caused by chemicals used in nail and beauty products. Nail salon workers have the highest risk, as they are exposed to fumes from nail polish lacquer for long periods of time; their exposure to acrylics and other strong chemicals make them notorious for their susceptibility to respiratory and skin problems. These workers commonly show asthma-like symptoms and experience pain when touching cold or hot objects. Also common ailments shared among female nail salon workers include a tendency to have miscarriages or give birth to children with physical and/or cognitive impairments. Some studies even suggest that there are carcinogens in nail products.

Unfortunately, research in the field of nail care products is vague, as not enough studies have been conducted with the accuracy needed to draw firm conclusions. Hence, it is difficult to confidently declare the exact degree to which chemicals in nail products threaten the health of salon workers. Even the federal law that regulates cosmetics safety, written in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, is outdated and based on standards appropriated 75 years ago. On top of that, efforts to review these standards have been continuously dismantled by the Personal Care Products Council lobbying the review panel. Although many workplace safety officials agree about the dire situation for nail salon workers, not much action has been taken to actually improve the work environment. In fact, because many of these workers are immigrants who are either unaware of their rights or too scared to stand up for themselves, it makes it easier for employers to engage in unfair labor practices and abuse the workers for their labor.

The question you may ask at this point is: how, then, can I receive nail care ethnically? In “How to get an ethical manicure: a guide to spotting worker exploitation,” Dara Lind lists some things to consider before walking into a nail salon. First, it is important to understand the difference between exploitation and trafficking. Exploitation occurs when the workers are unfairly treated, whether through hazardous working environments or low pay. On the other hand, labor trafficking is defined by workers who are forced into jobs without their consent and do not receive compensation for their work. When such situations are spotted, report for help accordingly, either to your state’s Department of Labor for worker exploitation or to the National Human Trafficking Hotline for trafficking. Lind also suggests straightforwardly asking store owners how they distribute their money, as the owners would gladly share the information if they are not guilty. Lind also suggests understanding that there may be language barriers before making any judgments and promoting businesses you know frequent.

Sara (Da Som) Kim is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes.

Reference: Nir, Sarah Maslin. “Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers.”  New York Times. May 8, 2015. URL: Date accessed 5/24/15.

Lind, Dara. “How to get an ethical manicure: a guide to spotting worker exploitation.”  Vox Health Care. May 8, 2015. URL: Date accessed 5/24/15.

Photo Credit: Nicole Bengiveno/ The New York Times.


Filipina Maid Shows a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

By: Sara Kim

Edited by: Sharon E. Chin

hk domestic

Xyza Cruz Bacani has been working as a maid in Hong Kong for over a decade in order to provide for her younger siblings’ education. Domestic service is not uncommon in this city, as it houses around 330,000 workers in the field. Most of these maids are foreigners coming from poorer countries, such as the Philippines or Indonesia, in hopes of earning enough money to support their families back home.

However, what makes Bacani noteworthy are her photographs, which publicize what she calls “modern slavery” in the domestic sector of Hong Kong. Bacani mentions that she was lucky enough to work under a nice boss, who even helped to enter her photographs into the Magnum Program. Through the program, Bacani was able to earn a scholarship to study at New York University. Bacani’s black and white photographs speak of the abuse experienced by foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong, who receive very little pay for terrible working conditions. Many maids in Hong Kong are expected to work up to 19 hours a day, while not receiving proper care. Many others are even beaten and/or neglected when hurt.

By publicizing the abuse through her photographs, Bacani hopes to empower other victims and bring attention to their situation. Because many victims dread the chance of deportation or becoming fired, they are hesitant to expose the exploitations they experience. Even the Chinese government’s policies, which outline the minimum wage and accommodations migrant workers should receive, are not effective, as many domestic employers do not abide by them. However, Bacani’s efforts to help the victims have been successful in stirring up awareness about the situation that has oftentimes been ignored. Bacani describes her future aims by saying that she hopes her work can “change people’s perspective on domestic workers and help end this modern slavery.”

Sara (Da Som) Kim is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes.

Reference: Batha, Emma. “Filipina maid photographs “modern slavery” in Hong Kong”.

Daily Mail. May 25, 2015. URL: Date accessed 5/27/15.

Photo Credit: Xyza Cruz Bacani


Malaysian Police Uncover 28 Suspected Human Trafficking Camps

By: Luis Gay

Edited by: Sharon E. Chin

malaysian graves

Malaysian police claim that they have discovered 28 suspected human trafficking camps located near the Northern Malaysian border, one day after authorities uncovered multiple mass graves. National police chief Gen Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters that they had discovered what they believed to be 139 graves.


Dense jungles in northern Malaysia and southern Thailand have been a popular route for smugglers to bring victims into Southeast Asia from Burma by boat. Most of those being smuggled are Rohingya Muslims who are fleeing from persecution. The current findings of jungle camps and graves have stirred regional concern about human trafficking and smuggling. This discovery follows repeated denials by Malaysian officials that such activity exists; these same officials have been previously accused multiple times by human rights groups of not doing enough to prevent illegal trade. The biggest camp discovered could have housed up to 300 people and another about 100. Enclosures were made of wooden fencing and tarpaulin. At the sites, storage boxes for bullets and white clothes traditionally used to wrap dead bodies in Muslim burial rituals were found. The evidence strongly suggests of a large-scale operation of human trafficking in the region and officials suspect that they will discover more bodies as they investigate further.

Khalid noted that some camps were fairly old, with at least one highly decomposed body made up of only skin and bone. Other camps had rice, vegetables, and cooked meals, showing signs of abandonment as early as two weeks. Khalid told reporters than an investigation is being carried out and will not condone anyone involved in these crimes, including Malaysian officials. He also explained that no action was taken earlier because the police was building up intelligence based on 37 arrests of suspects of human trafficking, which included two policemen. As of today, there have been no arrests in connection to the 139 grave sites.

This revelation brings attention to a battle that Malaysia has been involved in for quite some time: migration under the operation of criminal syndicates. The latest example occurred on May 22, 2015, where 3,500 migrants were still stranded on overloaded vessels with very little supplies as they wait to enter Malaysia. Malaysia and Indonesia have allowed those at sea to come ashore temporarily. Thailand will not allow migrant boats to land, although will treat anybody who is ill or injured.

Luis Gay is an undergraduate attending the University of San Francisco, pursuing a Biology degree and Chemistry Minor. He is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.


Yi, Lih Ben. 25May2015. “Malaysia migrant mass graves: police reveal 139 sites, some with multiple corpses”. The Guardian. [Accessed 26 May 2015]


Photo Credit:

This photo was taken by James Nachtwey and can be found in an article in TIME magazine. [Accessed 26 May 2015]

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Film Director Creates High School Curriculum For Child Sex Trafficking

By: Charmaine Santos

Edited by: Sharon E. Chin

 nest foundation

A film director named Libby Spears founded a Los Angeles based non-profit called The Nest Foundation, where students and policymakers gather together to discuss solutions aimed to end child trafficking and sexual exploitation. Spears had previously filmed a documentary about child trafficking in the Portland area, which led her to develop a curriculum for students to teach them about the scope and prevalence of the problem. The curriculum is being taught in 10th grade health classes at Madison High School and David Douglas High School as part of a pilot program. This includes student discussions with Portland police, the district attorney, county commissioners, and others regarding child sex trafficking. 

Spears tells KOIN 6 News that the best way to prevent this epidemic of child exploitation is by educating kids about the subject before it may happen to them; teens must be given the tools to recognize pimps and pimp recruitment tactics. 

While developing the curriculum, students from Madison High School were crucial to its development. Spears shared with KOIN 6 News, “It’s critical to hear from youth because those are the people we’re trying to protect. So we need to listen to be more effective at our jobs.”

Charmaine Santos is a sophomore at the University of San Francisco pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Biology as well as minors in Chemistry and Health Studies. She volunteers alongside UCSF medical students at a student-run homeless clinic in San Francisco and is also an active volunteer with Operation Access. Charmaine is also a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.


Frazier, A. (2015, May 26). “Health Class Teaches Teens Sex Trafficking Signs.” LIN Television Corporation. Retrieved May 27, 2015 from

Photo Credit: (Getty Images)