Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women

Human Rights
at home, abroad and on the way...


Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women

Human Rights
at home, abroad and on the way...

GAATW at the 59th Commission on the Status of Women: Advocating for the labour rights of migrant women

2015 is a critical year for advocacy on women's human rights. We are marking the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA), and later in the year we expect to see the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, replacing the Millennium Development Goals.

The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) will attend the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) starting this week at the United Nations in New York. The CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. This year, UN Member States, UN entities and civil society organisations from around the world will gather at the CSW as part of the review of the BPfA.

Two decades after its adoption by consensus, the BPfA remains the most comprehensive and progressive global policy framework for the advancement of women's human rights and gender equality. GAATW was involved 20 years ago and we are involved now – we were at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and we were an active member of the Civil Society Steering Committee that organised for the Asia-Pacific Regional Review of the BPfA last year.

However, the BPfA predates the adoption of the international law on trafficking in persons and is therefore of limited use in addressing human trafficking. GAATW understands trafficking as a multifaceted issue and the BPfA remains invaluable in our advocacy on women's human rights, migrants' rights, and labour rights. The draft SDGs are not yet up to the task of delivering a truly transformative development agenda for the next 15 years.

Our area of concern is how migration and the rights of women migrant workers have been side-lined in the review so far – and how they are addressed in the draft SDGs. To this end, GAATW, together with some of our Member Organisations and partners will be running an event at the CSW looking at the critical labour rights issues that migrant women are facing and what the SDGs need to address to realise these rights.

The labour rights of migrant women: From Beijing to Post-2015

The last 20 years have seen a growing disparity between the promise of Beijing for women migrants and their realities, something that we have seen very clearly in some of the Beijing+20 regional review meetings. Now with the Post-2015 Agenda, we see the UN Secretary-General's synthesis report adopt a negative framing of migration as a pressure on society causing 'serious strain' (para.157), but one reason for this is that States are not ensuring coherence between their migration policies and labour market needs, for example many domestic workers around the world are at risk of exploitation and excluded from the protection of national labour laws. This session at the CSW will draw on experiences in the Asia-Pacific Region of the challenges that migrant women encounter, their efforts to realise their human and labour rights, and the missed opportunity of the Asia-Pacific Beijing+20 Review that made no reference to migrants' rights and deleted reference to domestic workers, one of the largest drivers of women's labour migration.

12:30-2 pm, Monday 9 March, in V Hall at the Armenian Convention Center


  • Suzanne Hoff, International Coordinator, La Strada International, the Netherlands
  • Sandra Massiah, Sub-Regional Secretary for the Caribbean at Public Services International
  • Kate Sheill, International Advocacy Coordinator, Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women

Sponsored by:

  • Global Fund for Women
  • Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW)
  • Women's Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC)
  • International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
  • The Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)
  • Women and Global Migration Working Group (WGMWG)

GAATW will be cosponsoring the following events:

Women's Labour Migration, Flawed Development Strategies, and the Way Forward, organised by the Women and Global Migration Working Group, and others. 1030-1200, Thursday 12 March, CCUN 2nd floor.

What's Sex Got to Do with It? Linkages Between Advocacy Around Sex Workers' Rights and Respect for Various Gender Identities, organised by the Urgent Action Fund, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and others. 1630-1800, Friday 13 March, CCUN 10th floor.

Current Challenges in Combating Human Trafficking 20 Years After the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Organised by NY Anti-Trafficking Network, and others. 1230-1400, Saturday 14 March, CCUN 8th Floor Boss Room. Please RSVP to register. More information here.

Keep up-to-date with CSW news via GAATW's Twitter and Facebook




Call for Papers: 'Prosecuting Human Trafficking', Anti-Trafficking Review

Guest Editor: Anne T Gallagher

Deadline for Submission: 15 July 2015

The Anti-Trafficking Review calls for papers for a themed issue entitled 'Prosecuting Human Trafficking.'
International law requires States to prosecute trafficking in persons effectively and fairly. Along with prevention and protection, prosecution widely is seen as one of the main pillars of an effective national response to trafficking. For example, in the annual Trafficking in Persons report, the US Government considers: 'whether the government vigorously investigates, prosecutes, and punishes trafficking' to be a key indicator in assessing and ranking countries.
But worldwide, the number of prosecutions for trafficking remains stubbornly low – especially when compared to the generally accepted size of the problem. Very few traffickers are ever brought to justice and the criminal justice system rarely operates to benefit those who have been trafficked.

Government officials, criminal justice practitioners and others working in the anti-trafficking field assert that ending the current high levels of impunity enjoyed by traffickers, and securing justice for those who have been trafficked, requires vigorous prosecution of trafficking crimes. However some have pointed out that pressures to prosecute, particularly when placed on underdeveloped criminal justice systems, have led to poor quality prosecutions that target lower level offenders; unfair and unsafe prosecutions that do not respect basic criminal justice standards; and disproportionate and politically motivated targeting of certain sectors including the sex industry.

The emphasis on prosecutions has also been identified as contributing to violations of the rights of persons who have been trafficked – for example through laws and policies that compel cooperation with criminal justice agencies or make assistance conditional on such cooperation. More generally, concerns have been expressed that the focus on prosecutions has been at the expense of attention to victims' rights including their right to protection, support and remedies.

This issue will seek to address the hard questions, and authors may be interested in addressing the following:

  • Are prosecutions really an appropriate measure of an effective anti-trafficking response? What other indicators might be more appropriate?
  • Why are there so few prosecutions, and even fewer convictions, for trafficking? What are the features of this crime that complicate prosecutions? Can anything be done about this?
  • How does the prioritisation of prosecutions (for example, over protection and prevention) frame our understanding of what trafficking actually is; why it happens; and what the solutions could or should be? What is the effect of this framing?
  • What are the consequences of anti-trafficking's emphasis on prosecutions in contexts of increased border security, criminalisation of migration, and imprisonment more generally?
  • How can we ensure trafficked persons are not prosecuted for status offenses?
  • What does (or should) a 'good' prosecution for trafficking actually look like?
  • What kinds of cases are actually being prosecuted as 'trafficking'? What does this tell us about how the concept of trafficking is being understood and applied?
  • Can prosecutions ever deliver a genuinely positive result for trafficked persons? What needs to change for this to happen
  • What do trafficked persons think (including in relation to their experiences in and outside the criminal justice system) about what works and what does not?

The Debate Section of this issue will invite authors to defend or reject the following proposition: 'Prosecuting trafficking deflects attention from much more important responses and is anyway a waste of time and money'.

The Review promotes a human rights based approach to anti-trafficking, exploring anti-trafficking in a broader context including gender analyses and intersections with labour and migrant rights. Academics, practitioners, trafficked persons and advocates are invited to submit articles. Contributions from those living and working in developing countries are particularly welcome. The journal is a freely available, open access publication with a readership in over 100 countries. The Anti-Trafficking Review is abstracted/indexed/ tracked in: ProQuest, Ebsco Host, Ulrich's, Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, Directory of Open Access Journals, WorldCat, Google Scholar and CrossRef.

Deadline for submission: 15 July 2015.
Word count for Full Article submissions: 4,000 - 6,000 words, including footnotes, author bio and abstract.
Word count for Debate submissions: 800 – 1000 words, including footnotes and author bio.
Special Issue to be published in Spring 2016.

We advise those interested in submitting to follow the Review's style guide and submission procedures, available at Manuscripts should be submitted in line with the issue's theme. Email the editorial team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any queries.

Thematic Issue Guest Editor: Anne T Gallagher
Editor: Rebecca Napier-Moore


Governments must protect the rights of South-Asian domestic workers migrating to the Middle East, says GAATW on International Migrants Day.

On International Migrants Day, Jebli Shrestha, GAATW's Programme Officer - Research, speaks out against the restrictive migration polices of countries of origin in South Asia and calls on governments to protect domestic workers' rights. 

Migration for work has numerous benefits. Migrants fill labour force gaps in destination countries; countries of origin earn foreign currency; while workers gain personal development together with economic agency. However, migration policies of both destination and countries of origin, especially for domestic workers, are not centred on the rights of migrant workers. Instead they provide inadequate rights protection and deny further development opportunities for workers.

It is estimated that 40% of migrant workers in Gulf countries are women from South Asia, the majority are domestic workers, attracted by the free visa provision of destination countries. Despite this, governments in these countries shy away from providing conditions for decent work and a dignified life by failing to recognise domestic work as formal labour or provide protection for workers. This invisibility of domestic workers in the legal framework is reflected in the attitudinal issues faced by the workers within the household of their employers.

Similarly, countries of origin that benefit from remittances sent by migrant domestic workers also lack adequate measures that protect the rights of migrant workers. Many South Asian governments have imposed restrictive policies that have made migration for work for women riskier. Nepal's ban on women under the age of 30 migrating for domestic work is an example.

Governments defend their policies as "protecting" women from abuses they face at destinations. However, the move to curtail women's freedom has been seen as a reflection of cultural practices in the region where women's sexual purity is linked to the family's honour and, in a larger context, that of the nation's.

Such policies ignore root causes of women's migration for domestic work. Long-standing discrimination and inequality play an important role – the majority of these workers are rural women with lower levels of education and limited economic options. Many also decide to migrate to escape unhappy or unwanted relationships and violence, to access opportunities for development and sometimes for just an opportunity to see the world beyond. Many women view abuses and exploitation at destination merely as an extension of experiences at home.

Nepal's example shows that restrictions on migration have not discouraged women from travelling to Gulf countries to work as domestic workers – indicating the ineffectiveness of such policies in "protecting" women. If anything, restrictions have made their journeys more dangerous and their migration experiences worse.

For example, barriers and restrictions form the basis of business models of unscrupulous agents that aid women to move for work. Even when agents act with good intentions, women travelling in contravention of government restrictions may find themselves in situations of risk during the journey or at destination, and may lack state protection should they need it.

Regulated open channels for migration and enhanced measures for protection of rights of migrant domestic workers at destinations ensures safer migration. An important step both for countries of origin and destination would be to ratify and implement obligations specified in the International Labour Organisation's Domestic Workers Convention 189.

The economic and political influences of countries of destination allow them to shop around in the Asian region for the lowest cost workers, and disregard the rights of domestic workers to a living wage and other labour rights. Ensuring migrant workers' wage protection and fair remuneration is critical. This would only be possible if countries of origin refrain from undercutting each other by providing workers at lower wages.

Development of domestic workers also requires countries of origin to invest substantially in the workers – at the very least in quality skills and language training – so they can adapt to and perform their tasks. However, understanding of rights – as a woman, as a worker, as a migrant worker – is equally imperative. Women must be able to recognise when their rights are violated and to take action against it. It is the responsibility of both countries of origin and destination to guarantee a safe environment to migrant domestic workers through policies and laws that uphold their rights as workers and ensure effective implementation.


Holding back progress: The barriers to ending trafficking in persons

On Human Rights Day, a global alliance of migrant rights and anti-trafficking organisations names the top three human rights setbacks over the last twenty years

Lack of national laws and implementation of existing laws; the conflation of sex work and trafficking; and growing right-wing and anti-migrant movements have posed the biggest challenges to the realisation of human rights for migrant and trafficked women over the last two decades, says the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) on Human Rights Day.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working on anti-trafficking, women's rights and migrant rights around the world named the most pressing obstacles to the fulfillment of migrants' rights – helping to identify the main factors involved in human trafficking and exploitation of migrant workers. The survey took place at GAATW's International Members' Congress, which brought together representatives from GAATW's Member Organisations, as well as partners and allies, in September 2014 to review progress in anti-trafficking and migrant rights work and plan future goals.

Lack of laws addressing trafficking or the failure of governments to implement anti-trafficking laws were identified as major setbacks in recent decades. Even where laws are in place, many NGOs said there was too much emphasis on the criminal element of anti-trafficking, rather than focusing on the protection of human rights. For example, one participant said that in Malaysia there is a "lack of implementation of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. The legislation is very crime centred, absolutely no human rights framework." The participant felt that there was "no political will" in the country to protect migrants' rights. GAATW believes that any government policy on trafficking must centre the human rights of all workers, including migrant workers and those working in informal sectors, such as domestic work.

Many NGOs stated that the rising prominence of right-wing political parties and movements, particularly in Europe, is a major challenge to human rights work. Racism, xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiments promoted by right-wing bodies are leading to "stigmatisation of women who are on the move", putting migrant women at increased risk of violence, and increasing the criminalisation of migrants. Outside of Europe, one participant said that "a right-wing government in India... is pulling back all the gains of the last two decades." GAATW is particularly concerned about persistent negative framing of migration in the official discourse, which feeds these discriminatory views and ignores that migration results from state policies and state's labour market needs.

Governments criminalising sex work in the name of combating trafficking was also a top concern for NGOs. One representative from Mexico pointed out that criminalisation of sex work had increased over the years, while many others criticised the conflation of trafficking and sex work in government anti-trafficking policies and NGO advocacy work. Trafficking is not the same as sex work. Trafficking occurs across labour sectors: while some persons are trafficked into the sex sector, not all (or even most) sex workers are trafficked. GAATW has documented the harm done to sex workers, migrants and to people who have been trafficked by anti-trafficking laws, policies, programmes and initiatives that conflate these differing issues. (For more information, read GAATW's publications Collateral Damage, What's the Cost of a Rumour? and Moving Beyond 'Supply and Demand' Catchphrases: Assessing the uses and limitations of demand-based approaches in Anti-Trafficking.)

Other setbacks identified included gender and income inequality and a lack of funding for anti-trafficking work.

Despite these setbacks, participants recognised some gains for trafficked women over the last 20 years through the increased engagement of many anti-trafficking actors with the human rights framework and more recognition of the intersections between trafficking and migrant and labour rights.

About us

The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) is a non-profit organisation that works to protect and uphold the human rights of migrating and trafficked women around the world. Representing a global network of 124 non-governmental organizations, we focus on the issues of migration, labour rights and human trafficking, with a special emphasis on women. Our activities involve research, communications, training and advocacy in order to hold governments accountable, increase access to justice for migrating and trafficked women and further the global debate on the issues.

For media enquiries, contact Jasmin Qureshi, Communications Officer, for more information:
Tel: +66 (0) 94056 7281
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Twitter: @GAATW_IS
Facebook: Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women



Asia-Pacific governments must address gaps in global policy framework on gender equality and women’s human rights, say 400 women activists from across the region

More than 400 women activists from the Asia-Pacific region call on governments to meet their obligations to uphold women's human rights this week, ahead of an intergovernmental meeting on gender equality convened by UN ESCAP in Bangkok, Thailand.

The collective statement comes from the Asia Pacific Civil Society Forum on Beijing+20, which from 14-16 November brought together feminist women activists to discuss and put together recommendations for the 20-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA). The BPfA is a global policy framework for the advancement of women's human rights and gender equality, and is currently undergoing review by States in the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the framework next year.

Over the past few days, representatives from Asia-Pacific civil society organisations have been looking into whether reported progress by States has been sufficient, and what States should be doing to tackle the remaining challenges in the 12 critical areas of concern identified in the BPfA. The outcome document from the forum makes recommendations to the governments that will meet this week in Bangkok for the Asian and Pacific Conference on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment: Beijing+20 Review.

GAATW-IS is currently taking part in the 20-year review of the BPfA, a process known as the Beijing+20 Review. Alongside other NGOs in the Asia-Pacific region, we are advocating for women's human rights and gender equality, with a focus on government accountability. GAATW-IS is on the steering committee responsible for delivering the Civil Society Forum.

Find statements from the intergovernmental meeting in the Statements section of the website. There you can find:

Opening ceremony statement from civil society from Eni Lestari

Outcome statement from the Asia Pacific Civil Society Forum on Beijing+20

Civil Society Statement on Agenda Item 5: Review of forward-looking policies to address challenges in achieving gender equality and women's empowerment, and opportunities for accelerating the implementation of the BPfA in the post-2015 era

The Civil Society Steering Committee statement on the Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Advancing Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment