Embargoed until 03:00 GMT, Wednesday 15 April 2015

15th Anniversary of the UN Trafficking Protocol

The UN Trafficking Protocol is praised as landmark international legislation against human trafficking, however 15 years after its adoption trafficked persons have seen little benefit and in some countries national laws cause more harm than good – says the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) on the launch of the Anti-Trafficking Review, issue 4.

The new issue of the Anti-Trafficking Review looks at the impact of the Trafficking Protocol (in full: Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children) and questions whether the 15th anniversary is a time to celebrate progress in anti-trafficking or address the problems it has caused.

'The Trafficking Protocol may represent an important moment in global anti-trafficking work, however 15 years of legislation and programming have not done enough to protect the human rights of trafficked people,' says Bandana Pattanaik, GAATW International Coordinator, 'Rather, governments have sought to protect their borders and criminalise sex work in the name of ending trafficking and to the detriment of migrant workers and people who have been trafficked.'

GAATW participated in the negotiations on the Trafficking Protocol 15 years ago, and succeeded in advocating for a definition of trafficking which included all types of work or services and all genders – rather than the previous definition which focused on trafficking in women alone and only on prostitution. The Trafficking Protocol also created a framework for addressing trafficking in persons where previously none existed.

Several of the articles in the journal highlight successes and problems with country-specific case studies. Anti-trafficking efforts have often focused too much on migration which has distracted states from the crucial aim of ending forced labour and slavery-like exploitation, as an article by independent expert Marjan Wijers argues. Kathryn Baer, of the Trafficking Research Project, outlines how in Singapore anti-trafficking measures have resulted in increased and problematic criminal convictions of migrant workers, but have failed to address human rights abuses such as exploitative labour practices. Prabha Kotiswaran (Senior Lecturer, King's College London, UK) argues in an article on India that by equating sex work with trafficking the government has used the Protocol to target and harm sex workers.

Other case studies from China, Brazil, Norway and Eritrea show how the 'one-size-fits-all' nature of the Protocol and governments' lack of consideration for the social and economic difficulties faced by migrants also lead to ineffective laws and implementation of the Protocol at national level. Laura K Hackney (Program Associate, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, USA), for example uses the case of bride trafficking across the Sino-Burmese border to illustrate how in many cases the distinction between consensual marriage and human trafficking is not clear.

On a global level, over 15 years there have been low conviction rates of traffickers and gaps between law-making and law enforcement. Kristiina Kangaspunta, a prominent expert on trafficking with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), describes the contrast between high rates of legislation against trafficking (only 166 out of 173 countries surveyed by her office have anti-trafficking legislation) and the low rate of convictions (41% of countries with such legislation recorded less than ten convictions in the two-year period between 2010 and 2012).

'While there have been problems with the way that anti-trafficking has been implemented in the last 15 years, there is room in the next 15 for progress,' says Pattanaik, 'A way forward is to ensure that commitment to protect the rights of trafficked persons and all migrant workers is an integral part of all upcoming international commitments, such as the Sustainable Development Goals.'

Unfortunately, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) only mention trafficking in relation to women and to children. While all genders are recognised in the Trafficking Protocol, the SDGs are taking a big step backward in not recognising men who are trafficked, undermining efforts to end trafficking in persons.

Notes to editors:

• Interviews are available with:

  • Rebecca Napier-Moore, Editor, Anti-Trafficking Review
  • Jacqueline Bhabha, Guest Editor, Anti-Trafficking Review
  • Bandana Pattanaik, International Coordinator, GAATW

• The journal includes case studies from Brazil, China/Burma, Eritrea, India, Norway, Singapore, UK, If you are interested in interviewing any of the authors of these particular case studies please let us know.

• To arrange interviews or for an embargoed copy of the journal, please contact:
Rebecca Napier-Moore, Editor, Anti-Trafficking Review, Bangkok, Thailand
Tel: +66 (0) 88893 6068 / Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

• The journal will be available at www.antitraffickingreview.org  on Wednesday 15 April 2015.

• GAATW is holding a launch event for the Anti-Trafficking Review at the United Nations Crime Congress in Doha, Qatar, on 15 April 2015.

• GAATW launched its peer-reviewed journal, the Anti-Trafficking Review, in 2012 to promote quality and critical research into trafficking, and 'anti-trafficking'. The open-access journal explores the issue of trafficking in a broader context including gender analyses and intersections with women's rights, labour rights and migrant rights. It offers a space for dialogue, debate, critique and discussion of best practice for academics and practitioners seeking to communicate new ideas and findings.

• 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 more than 120 non-governmental organisations, we focus on the issues of migration, labour and human trafficking, with a special emphasis on women. Our activities involve research, communications 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.

• In 2016, GAATW will publish an issue of the Anti-Trafficking Review looking at challenges of prosecutions for human trafficking in 2016 – please see the call for papers here http://bit.ly/1JFn0gZ.



Next week GAATW will be at the 13th UN Crime Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. We will be co-organising some events as well as speaking on a couple of other panels. Come and say hello if you're there!

Best Practices at International Borders: Addressing smuggling, irregular migration and human trafficking

3-4:30 pm, Tuesday 14 April, Auditorium 1 (GAATW and OHCHR event)

By sheer necessity, many migrants pay a broker to reach their destination, and the widespread implementation of restrictive immigration measures prohibits many migrants from moving independently and through regular channels. At the same time, on the ground the lines between categories of migrants including irregular migrants, migrants in a smuggling situation, and trafficked persons, can be a lot less clear. 

We will explore smuggling as a legal concept, distinct from irregular migration and human trafficking. These are different issues, but are often conflated in law and in practice. This wrongly suggests that irregular migration is a criminal offence, overlooking the rights and needs of people who have been trafficked, and justifying criminalisation and stigmatisation of migrants and all people who assist with the migration process.

The speakers at this session will explore strategies we can use to promote best practices, including drawing on the new 'UN Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders'.


  • Anne T Gallagher, Independent legal scholar and co-author, The International Law of Migrant Smuggling 
  • Carolina Hernández, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • Marika McAdam, Independent legal scholar
  • Rebecca Napier-Moore, Editor, Anti-Trafficking Review, Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women

15 Years of the UN Trafficking Protocol: Anti-Trafficking Review, issue 4 launch

1-2:30 pm, Wednesday 15 April, Barzan Room (GAATW and UNODC event)

2015 marks the 15th anniversary of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Is this a time to celebrate progress or has the Protocol caused more problems than it has solved? The Protocol created frameworks which have impacted people's lives: differentiating smuggling from trafficking; marking out women and children, rather than men, as priority stakeholders; defining trafficking broadly; placing organ sale within the mainstream of anti-trafficking work; and emphasising the concept of 'abuse of power' in the identification of trafficking. What do the effects of these aspects of the Protocol look like on the ground, after 15 years of building anti-trafficking into government, NGO and INGO programming?

How do those who negotiated the Protocol view it now? How has the Protocol's definition of trafficking been received and what aspects of the definition continue to be problematic or controversial? Furthermore, what work needs to be done to make the Protocol more useful (to people who are trafficked) in the decades ahead? Some have questioned the new international legal framework around trafficking established by the Protocol due to its placement under a crime control convention and the implicit prioritisation of prosecutions over human rights and victim protection. Many have worked hard to prioritise human rights in anti-trafficking laws as well as in anti-trafficking practice.

This session will also see the launch of the fourth issue of the Anti-Trafficking Review, an academic journal published by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women that promotes a human rights-based approach to anti-trafficking. It aims to explore the issue in its broader context including gender analyses and intersections with labour and migrant rights.


  • Rebecca Napier-Moore, Editor, Anti-Trafficking Review, Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women Kristiina Kangaspunta, Chief, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons Unit, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
  • Anne T Gallagher, Independent legal scholar and author, The International Law of Human Trafficking
  • Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, University of Nigeria and former Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children

Calling Time on Counterproductive Criminalisation: Exploring alternatives to the criminalisation of sex work and HIV transmission

3-4:30 pm, Wednesday 15 April, Room 102 (Amnesty International and Open Society Foundations event

Increasing evidence indicates that decriminalising sex work and HIV transmission can offer societal benefits in terms of reducing transmission of HIV, improving relationships between affected populations and the police, and protecting human rights. These measures can promote access to health services and directly reduce the risk of HIV transmission. They can also help protect the human rights of marginalised groups and prevent discrimination, police abuse and violence; key risk factors for HIV transmission. This session will provide scientifically-rooted evidence, which is engaging and relevant for law-enforcement bodies, as to the health, public safety and human rights benefits of the decriminalisation of sex work and HIV transmission.


  • Julia Lukomnik, Program Officer, Sexual Health and Rights Programme (SHARP) Open Society Foundations
  • Catherine Murphy, Advocate/Advisor, Amnesty International, Law and Policy Programme
  • Professor Nick Crofts, Director, Centre for Law Enforcement and Public Health; Senior Expert, Public Health and Law Enforcement, International Development Law Organization
  • Kate Sheill, International Advocacy Officer, Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women
  • Dolphine Anubi, Paralegal Officer and Health Activist, Keeping Alive Societies Hope


NEW YORK—UN Member States today adopted a Political Declaration on the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women after several months of closed-door negotiations, in which women's groups were largely excluded.

Nearly 1,000 women's rights and feminist organizations worldwide have issued a statement decrying the lack of transparency in this process. Historically, the Commission on the Status of Women has adopted declarations or "agreed conclusions" after a two-week session that includes robust civil society participation.

In fact, engagement of civil society and women's groups was critical in securing a bold and progressive declaration in 1995 to promote gender equality and the human rights of women and girls.

The groups say that the Political Declaration adopted today does not go far enough in committing to the transformative agenda that is needed to achieve gender equality.

At this moment in history, women and girls face extraordinary and unprecedented challenges, including rising fundamentalisms, violent extremism, increased number of displaced persons, climate change, and increasing inequalities within and between countries, among others. The evidence is clear: women and girls suffer the disproportionate impact of these challenges and without real commitment and resources to address them, gender equality and the full realization of the human rights of women and girls is a pipe dream.

Bold leadership by governments is needed now more than ever.

Moving forward, governments must ensure that efforts to realize gender equality, empowerment, and the human rights of all women and girls is critical to sustainable development. None of the three pillars of sustainable development – economic, social or environmental – can be achieved without the full participation of women and girls and without all of their human rights being fulfilled.

The full statement of women's rights organizations in response to the draft Political Declaration is available in English, French, and Spanish at: http://iwhc.org/resource/womens-statement-20th-anniversary-fourth-world-conference-women/

Read more about GAATW's activities at the CSW.


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




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 www.antitraffickingreview.org. 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