HONOLULU — At the Hawai‘i State Capitol, the Hawai‘i House of Representatives held a press conference on Monday to discuss the effect a proposed Department of Hawaiian Home Lands casino resort will have on Native Hawaiians, and issues linked to sex trafficking and other violence against women.
Hawai‘i State Commission on the Status of Women’s Executive Director Khara Jabola-Carolis expressed why she is against the casino proposal.
“Casino culture and gambling problems fuel violence against women,” Jabola-Carolus said. “The community deserves better options than gambling tourism, which will likely increase sex trafficking, domestic violence and sex abuse, especially against Native Hawaiian women.”
Jabola-Carolus wrote a report called “Gambling With Women’s Safety: A Feminist Assessment of Proposed Resort-Casino.”
“The Commission is cognizant that the ongoing debate over gambling to provide revenue for Native Hawaiians has generated public controversy,” Jabola-Carolus said in her report. “The real controversy, however, lies in the role of racism in creating cash-strapped Native Hawaiian organizations.”
Jabola-Carolus said the idea that DHHL has to raise money, absent adequate support of the State Legislature, is rooted in a framing of DHHL that ignores (the) historical responsibility of the State of Hawai’i to provide adequate funding for DHHL as an agency.
“For decades, the suggestion that DHHL’s inadequate funding is the result of poor management by Native Hawaiians is more rooted in racist stereotyping,” Jabola-Corolus said.
According to Jabola-Carolus, stereotypically, the only state agencies that are required to raise funds to fulfill their own missions fall along lines of gender and race stereotyping.
“DHHL should not be forced to generate funding from its own land and from Native Hawaiian beneficiaries, especially not at risk to women’s safety,” Jabola-Carolus said. “The Commission is committed to ensuring that Native Hawaiians are adequately supported by state and federal government.
Jabola-Carolus also pointed out that sex trafficking is a huge problem here in Hawai’i and sex trades rely on a steady supply of vulnerable people to exploit.
The proposed casino resort would be located on O‘ahu, in Kapolei on Hawaiian Home Lands where it’s the largest Native Hawaiian community in the state and according to Jabola-Carolus, it’s one of the most economically challenged communities in Hawai‘i.
In an Arizona State University study in 2019, Hawai‘i specific research exposed connections between illegal gambling and sex trafficking. Twenty-two sex trafficking victims were interviewed by Arizona State University and through their interviews, illegal game rooms were discovered in Hawai‘i.
Another issue that women in Hawai‘i are facing today, that might make them more vulnerable to sex trafficking, is the hardships they continue to face during the pandemic.
“Increased economic vulnerability due to the COVID-19 crisis puts women and transgender people at heightened risk of commercial sexual exploitation,” Jabola-Carolus said.
Jabola-Carolus said according to the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, 55% of women have experienced the majority of job losses in Hawai’i during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Kaua‘i County Councilmember Kipukai Kuali‘i, a Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA) Anahola homesteader and agricultural waitlist beneficiary is strongly opposed.
“DHHL doesn’t need more funding to reduce the wait-list, they need better management of the funds they already have,” Kuali‘i said. “Due to poor management, DHHL has lost millions of dollars in federal funding. Additionally, I would say that DHHL should not be entering into any land agreements with non-beneficiaries or non-beneficiary organizations.”
According to Kuali‘i, Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole always intended the Hawaiian trust lands to be used by beneficiaries for homes, farms, ranches, and businesses, as well as for community uses like schools and hospitals, not to generate revenue.
“They (DHHL) should be focused on eliminating the wait-list and honoring the HHCA,” Kuali‘i said.
Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business, and community reporter can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.