Magazine article Insight on the News

Brothel Tours Send Wrong Message; A State Department Antiprostitution Program Includes Visits to a Bordello, Undermining President Bush's Policy for Preventing Exploitation of Women and Girls

Magazine article Insight on the News

Brothel Tours Send Wrong Message; A State Department Antiprostitution Program Includes Visits to a Bordello, Undermining President Bush's Policy for Preventing Exploitation of Women and Girls

Article excerpt

Byline: Nicole Riner, INSIGHT

Nevada businessman Dennis Hof is owner and proprietor of Hof's Moonlight Bunny Ranch, one of four legalized brothels in Northern Nevada. It has attracted famous clients such as former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, a distinction boasted of on a welcoming sign. But it has a further distinction: It recently hosted a site visit for foreign dignitaries, arranged by the U.S. State Department, as guests of American taxpayers.

Indeed the ranch has received national recognition as a not-to-be-missed stop for men seeking sexual companionship and for curious tourists anxious to take home a tale with which to amuse or shock friends. For those unable or unwilling to visit the ranch, a virtual tour is available online where Air Force Amy, Sunset Thomas and other ranch hands attempt to intrigue and lure customers. The tour guides you down a dusty road and beyond a gate sign that suggests, "When you see the gate for the Moonlight, you know that you'll be coming soon."

In addition to displaying the Moonlight's wares, the Website offers directions to the ranch and elusive glimpses of key features. It advertises services to travelers such as the ranch's round-trip limousine fare from Reno, which is about one-third of the taxi rate, not to mention that the limo is more discreet. While the curious can learn something about the ranch online, only an actual visit provides tourists with an opportunity to sit at the bar, meet the women and speak to the man himself.

Open prostitution is hardly news in Nevada, since the world's oldest profession was legalized there in 1986. However, the recent tour by 10 very important people government officials, leaders of nongovernment organizations (NGOs), justice officials and academics from six East Asian countries participating in an International Visitor Program (IVP) tour arranged by the U.S. State Department has raised eyebrows.

While attending a government-funded program on "Trafficking in Women and Children," these international visitors traveled halfway around the world to tour various cities in the United States and listen to experts on trafficking and management of prostitution, presumably learning methods to combat this global problem. They came to learn, but they already were well-educated on the subject as it is a vice of critical concern in their home countries.

A State Department spokesman says that the Bush administration does not advocate legalized prostitution as a preventative measure for illegal trafficking in commercial sex workers. So how did these foreign leaders visit a brothel on an official tour? According to a reporter from the Nevada Appeal, a Nevada state archivist and a representative for the Moonlight Bunny Ranch led the delegation of foreign visitors in a discussion of prostitution and then just naturally extended an invitation to tour the ranch and see it all in motion. Though the State Department insists that the tour of the brothel was not part of the scheduled program and that it did not condone the visit, engaging in tours of the brothel has been part of IVP standard practice, according to Hof and participants in the programs since 1999.

"It wasn't the first time by any means," Hof reveals to Insight when asked about the frequency with which such international visitors have toured his brothel. According to Hof, they spend a couple of hours touring the facility and participating in a question-and-answer session. Donna Rice Hughes says she was surprised when speaking to a State Department IVP group as an expert on sex trafficking that the group already had participated in a tour of a prostitution ranch, and reports that a female foreign visitor had observed of the prostitutes: "They are in the same condition as women in my country. It is no different."

According to Hughes, the visitors had been assured before stopping at a Carson City, Nev., brothel that they would be able freely to engage in conversation with the prostitutes. …

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