New York State Takes Unprecedented Criminal Action Against Sex Tourism Industry

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Seven-Year Campaign by Equality Now Leads to Criminal Indictment of Big Apple Oriental Tour Operators

March 22, 2004
Contact: Lakshmi Anantnarayan

New York, March 22, 2004--Equality Now welcomes the first criminal indictment of US-based sex tour company owner/operators. After a year-long investigation, on February 27, 2004, the New York State Attorney General secured a criminal indictment of Norman Barabash and his partner Douglas Allen, the owner/operators of Big Apple Oriental Tours, for violating a state law prohibiting the promotion of prostitution.

In 1996, Equality Now launched a Women's Action campaign calling for the prosecution of Big Apple Oriental Tours, a company in New York operating sex tours to the Philippines and Thailand. Big Apple Oriental Tours advertised a twelve-day trip to the Philippines for $2,495, which included transportation, airfare, hotel room and the ability to select a “companion” upon arrival at Angeles City. The company operated its business from the homes of Norman Barabash of Bellerose, NY, and Douglas Allen of Poughkeepsie, NY.

Equality Now’s campaign initially urged the Queens District Attorney to take action against Big Apple Oriental Tours. Despite ample evidence showing that the company was promoting prostitution contrary to NY Penal Law Section 230.25, as well as protests by members of Equality Now’s Women’s Action Network from around the world, it was only after Equality Now brought the issue to the attention of New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in 2002, with support from Gloria Steinem, US Representative Carolyn Maloney and the New York Women's Agenda, a coalition of which Equality Now is a member, that a thorough official investigation was launched. Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's office examined the case and obtained a temporary restraining order against Big Apple Oriental Tours in July 2003, which severely restricted the company from organizing or advertising any future tours and effectively disabled their website.

Big Apple Oriental Tours is not the only operator of sex tours in the US; Equality Now is aware of several other US-based sex tour companies still offering such tours to countries such as Thailand and the Philippines. This criminal indictment by the New York State Attorney General, prompted by Equality Now’s campaign, sends a strong message to other sex tour operators that promoting prostitution can and will be considered a serious criminal offense.

Welcoming the indictment, Equality Now’s Executive Director Taina Bien-Aimé said, “Sex tourism contributes to the demand for trafficking of women and is a human rights violation. Holding the owners of Big Apple Oriental Tours criminally accountable, the first case of its kind in the country, will bring us closer to recognizing the illegal activities of sex tour companies and addressing the severe impact they have in promoting violence and discrimination against women around the world.”

Equality Now is an international human rights organization that works to protect and promote the civil, political, economic and social rights of girls and women. Issues of concern to Equality Now include rape, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, denial of reproductive rights, sex trafficking and other forms of violence and discrimination against women. Equality Now’s Women’s Action Network comprises 25,000 groups and individual members in over 160 countries. For more information please refer to Women's Action 12.2.

Mars 22, 2004 - 12:45