KASAMA Vol. 14 No. 4 / October-November-December 2000 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

Judge says women were willing victims

Trafficking in women is the fastest growing international 'business' according to the United Nations. Some 4 million illegal women immigrants are grossing around $6 billion for their traders, globally. There are an estimated 300 'contract girls' in Australia at any one time. Trafficking women into Australia for the sex trade is organised by men who are part of a worldwide network and allegedly have inside links with immigration and government officials all over the world. Despite the many years that Australians have been engaged in the trade of women for sex, there have been conspicuously few cases where individuals have been charged for sex trafficking and even fewer cases with a conviction outcome. Exposure only means the deportation of the women; returning home, shamed and still poor. KATHLEEN MALTZAHN reports from the Melbourne County Court that tried the case of GARY GLAZNER. On December 1 this year, GLAZNER was 'punished' by JUDGE WILLIAM WHITE with a suspended sentence and a relatively small fine for his part in this vicious trade.

Until 1997, Gary Glazner ran two Melbourne pubs that specialised in topless waitresses and strip shows. In that year, having seen that women's bodies make money, he branched out. By the end of 1998, Glazner was one of the biggest traffickers in women in Melbourne. Rumour has it that he was so successful in this venture that he was planning to go it alone. Where previously an alleged Sydney-based trafficker had organized women for Glazner, now he allegedly planned to set up independently. But his plan backfired, and in 1999 he was under police investigation. One explanation for this was that the Sydney trafficker had heard of Glazner's plans to cut him out, and tipped off the police.

Before he was charged, Glazner brought in at least 20 Thai women, with possibly 40 in total. The women were recruited in Thailand, escorted to Australia, and met in Sydney by Glazner. Once here, they were under contract, performing 500 half hour 'jobs' for absolutely no pay. It could take the women up to three months to finish this quota, working long hours six days a week, and even after this they remained under contract to Glazner for 12 months from when they entered Australia.

Glazner controlled the women's movements - they lived at premises provided by him, he kept their passports, they had to get his permission - often denied - to go out. Once they were ensconced in the brothels he ran, they couldn't leave without his okay, even if they were sick or there were no customers. They spoke little English, had no access to support services, and knew that Glazner "owned them". They were "his girls".

During this period, Australia had no laws against trafficking, and so when police finally were able to lay charges, it was not for trafficking as such, but for false imprisonment and offences related to violations of the Victorian Prostitution Control Act. At the committal hearing, the false imprisonment charges were lost, and so Glazner went to trial charged with five counts of being an unlicensed service provider, and two counts of living partly off the earnings of prostitution.

That the false imprisonment charges were not sustained says volumes about the ability - or willingness - of the legal process to recognise violence against women. Evidence that the women feared Gary Glazner, that their passports were withheld and their movements restricted, was not sufficient. The committal hearing seemingly needed proof of violence or threats of violence - it was unable to recognise that women trafficked from Thailand did not need to be constantly threatened, or even physically abused. They knew they were not free and were not safe. They understood their status - they were illegal Asian prostitutes in Australia. The terms used to differentiate between those women under contract in the brothels and those not, said it all. The Thai women Glazner brought in were "the contract girls". The rest were called "freedom girls".

It does not take great insight to realise that women being trafficked into prostitution may well have already experienced significant violence. A recent study by Human Rights Watch of Thai women trafficked into Japan shows the poverty and violence that trafficked women experience both before and after trafficking, and shows the deception used to recruit women *. While the women in Glazner's case were not shown to have been deceived, there was no discussion of what they were told about their contracts. What was clear from the committal hearing was that the women were afraid, and even feared they would be killed. This was not enough to prove false imprisonment.

This blindness to the women's situation continued during the trial. While the prosecution was successfully able to argue that Glazner's trafficking activities should be part of the evidence, there was no scope in the trial to examine the conditions from which the women were trafficked. There was no discussion of why women would "consent" to doing three months prostitution for no money. There was no discussion of what their other options might be - or if indeed they had any. It was simply accepted that for some reason Thai women "willingly" enter into such situations.

The one time that this was challenged was by an Australian woman who owned the brothel that Glazner forced his way in to. This woman had herself been in the sex industry for many years, and understood how hard a life the women had. At the end of three days of intense questioning, as the defence tried to insist that Glazner was a decent man making a decent living, she was brought to angry tears. "They worked their guts out for him", she said, and suddenly the sheer awfulness of doing day after day after day of prostitution for months for the profit of another person was clear.

It was the court's blindness that finally informed the sentence imposed on Glazner. The jury itself decided incredibly quickly that he was guilty. It took less than two hours to decide on seven counts, a notably quick decision that suggests little doubt in the jury members' minds that Glazner was absolutely guilty. But the judge's sentence was at odds with this. While the offences carried maximum sentences of four and five years, the County Court's Judge William White gave him eighteen months, fully suspended. And while Glazner grossed at least $1 million from the women, the court fined him $33,000, to be paid over a year. The police and prosecution were stunned.

While Judge White clearly said in his decision on sentencing, that Glazner exploited the women, he also asserted that Glazner had acted "decently" towards the women, and repeatedly stressed that the women had "willingly" entered into the contract. I sat through the court case, and heard NO evidence that Glazner acted decently towards the women. The only suggestion of this was from Glazner's police interview, where almost all the information he gave was established to be lies. Other witnesses said that Glazner was abusive, and that he "just lies all the time, just lies".

The judge however cited as decency the fact that Glazner was willing to let one woman buy out her contract and get married. Clearly, in the judge's mind, the contract was legitimate, and Glazner would have been within his rights to stop a woman firstly terminating the contact, and secondly getting married. There can be nothing in Australian law that says a contract forcing women to do prostitution for nothing should be honoured, and in fact the Victorian Prostitution Control Act expressly states that it seeks to combat such exploitation. But the judge seems to have accepted the lie that Thai women are somehow intrinsically different from Australian women, that for them a contract such as this was acceptable. Therefore, allowing a woman to pay $20,000 so she could marry, was decent.

This insensitivity - or more accurately, this racist misogyny - was shown most revealingly towards the end of the trial when the police tendered documents seized from Glazner's hotels. Among the papers were 'complementary passes' offering men free half-hour services with the "lady of your choice". The 'ladies of the men's choice' were the trafficked Thai women - women held in sexual servitude, women stripped of their human rights. The judge's response? A little joke - "there are eight gentlemen of the jury, do we have eight freebies for them?" That 'joke' paved the way for his sentence two weeks later.

Ironically, this judgement came just weeks after the UN decision on a definition of trafficking in women for prostitution found that consent is largely irrelevant, and that women who are deemed to have agreed to exploitative contracts are no less exploited than those who are coerced at every stage.

Even more ironic is the fact that even if this case had been heard under our new sexual slavery and servitude laws, the results may well have been the same. Because our laws were framed with consent as a leading element, Glazner could have argued that the women lost their rights when they 'consented' to the contract. Clearly, Australia's response to trafficking is out of step with the rest of the world. Equally clearly, this problem is not going to go away. We need to do something before the problem becomes too big to address.

At present, the prosecution are exploring the possibilities of appealing the sentence. But much damage has already been done. The police hierarchy will be reticent to again devote resources to policing trafficking - it is not worth their while if they can't get results. Traffickers will have heard loud and clear that the courts don't take this crime too seriously. And the women who have been trafficked know that if they are brave enough to try to challenge the men that exploit them, they will get little support.

*Notes: Owed Justice: Thai Women Trafficked into Debt Bondage in Japan, Human Rights Watch, September 2000, downloaded from

The Author: Kathleen Maltzahn is convenor of Project Respect, a non-government human rights group.
Mail Address: PO Box 1323, Collingwood Vic. 3066 Australia
Office Address: First floor, 124 Napier Street, Fitzroy Vic. 3065 Australia
Phone: 61 3 9416 3401
Fax: 61 3 9417 0833

Data from Dept. of Immigration & Multicultural Affairs: In 1998-1999, the 241 people (including 6 men) deported in prostitution-related cases came from Thailand (130), China (39), Malaysia (35), Indonesia (13) South Korea (10), the Philippines (3), Colombia (2), Singapore (2), Vietnam (2) with 5 more from undisclosed countries.