Equality Now Campaign Against Video Travel

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November 4, 2003
Contact: Lakshmi Anantnarayan lanant@equalitynow.org

Video Travel is a sex tour company based in Honolulu, Hawaii, owned by Melvin M. Hamaguchi and operating under license from the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Video Travel sends sex tourists on its Ultimate Asian Sex Tour to Thailand every May and November. The next sex tour was scheduled to leave for Thailand on November 12, 2003. Equality Now believes Mr. Hamaguchi through Video Travel is promoting prostitution in violation of Hawaii’s Penal Code.

In August 2002, Equality Now filed a complaint with the Regulated Industries Complaints Office (RICO) of the State of Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, requesting that Mr. Hamaguchi’s travel agency license be revoked on the basis that he is an “unfit person” to hold a license or be registered as a travel agent. As far as Equality Now is aware, in the 15 months since the complaint was filed, Mr. Hamaguchi’s license or registration has not been revoked, and Video Travel is still conducting business promoting and organizing sex tours.

Equality Now is continuing its campaign against Video Travel by urging Hawaii Attorney General Mark J. Bennett to shut down the operations of Video Travel and prosecute Mr. Hamaguchi to the fullest extent of the law. Acts of prostitution that take place on Mr. Hamaguchi’s tours are explicitly highlighted in Video Travel’s promotional materials and on its website, http://www.videotravel.net. The Frequently Asked Asian Sex Tour Questions section of Video Travel’s website provides information on the “cost to have sex with a lady.” It then explains that there is a “barfine” to remove a woman from the bar where she works and an additional “tip” to the woman taken from the bar. The “tip” is given directly to the girl or woman from whom the sex is being purchased and according to the website is “expected” and “required”.

Equality Now believes Mr. Hamaguchi is promoting prostitution by: advertising the services of Ultimate Asian Sex Tour via the internet, answering inquiries from potential customers and mailing promotional materials, organizing the trip abroad for customers, and receiving payments from customers for his services, all for purposes of facilitating sex tours. In Thailand, Mr. Hamaguchi continues to advance prostitution by providing “guided tours to three major sex areas in Bangkok, including selected go-go bars and massage parlors...” Mr. Hamaguchi also assures his customers that “this isn’t the type of tour where you will be dropped off and picked up later.” He promises that, “I will personally be your guide throughout your stay in Thailand.”

This heightened campaign follows on the heels of Equality Now’s seven-year campaign against Big Apple Oriental Tours, a sex tour company based in New York. In July 2003, the New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer obtained a temporary restraining order against Big Apple Oriental Tours, which severely restricted its ability to continue its business and effectively disabled its website. Equality Now hopes that the successful campaign against Big Apple Oriental Tours will serve as a precedent to other law enforcement and relevant agencies, including those in Hawaii, to close down all sex tour operations based in the United States.

In February 2003, President George W. Bush signed a National Security Presidential Directive to advance the United States Government's fight against trafficking in persons. It characterized prostitution and related activities as "inherently harmful and dehumanizing" and stated that sex tourism contributes to the trafficking of persons. The 2003 Trafficking In Persons Report issued by the U.S. Department of State lists "discouraging sex tourism" as one of the best practices in the fight against trafficking.

Equality Now believes sex tourism contributes to the demand for trafficking in women and is a human rights violation. Melvin Hamaguchi and Video Travel’s customers must no longer be allowed to respectively promote and engage in the prostitution and sexual exploitation of women and girls.

Noviembre 4, 2003 - 12:45