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.
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
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:
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 Asia Pacific Civil Society Forum on Beijing+20 will take place in Bangkok, Thailand from 14 to 16 November 2014. There will be a Media Working Group in charge of distributing and disseminating information about the goings-on, discussions, and statement outcomes during the duration of this event.
We have put together a news item announcing the Forum (see below), it would be great if you can post this on your website and help promote Asia-Pacific CSO involvement in the Beijing+20 review.
To get the updates straight in your inbox subscribe to e-newsletter at www.bit.ly/apcsob20subscribe.
For those who would like to keep abreast of what's happening through social media check out the Social Media Toolkit which provides information on how CSOs can monitor and update themselves about relevant news and information about the CSO Forum.
The CSO Forum has its own Facebook - facebook.com/apcsob20 and Twitter - twitter.com/apcsob20. Follow these accounts for on the scene updates. And don't forget to like, share and use the event hashtag #APwomen to spread the word and get involved in the online discussion as we look towards the Asia Pacific Review of Beijing+20.
We are counting down the days to Friday 14 November when we welcome more than 400 activists to Bangkok for the Asia Pacific Civil Society Forum on Beijing +20! Over three days we will discuss the progress made and the implementation gaps and strategise for accountability on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA) across the region. GAATW is part of the civil society steering committee responsible for delivering this exciting programme.
Two decades after its adoption, the BPfA by consensus remains the most comprehensive and progressive global policy framework for the advancement of women's human rights and gender equality.
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.
You can follow all the news and outcomes from the Civil Society Forum (14–16 November) on Facebook and Twitter. #Beijing20 is the hashtag to use for this event. Please share the news and help promote our call for increased government accountability to ensure gender equality and the protection of human rights for all women.
Following the Civil Society Forum, GAATW-IS will bring our messages to the Asian and Pacific Conference on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment, convened by UN ESCAP (Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) from 17-20 November. This is the intergovernmental regional preparatory event for the Asia-Pacific region, leading up to the international review at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York next year.
Last week, GAATW’s International Advocacy Officer and representatives from several GAATW member organisations participated in the seventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the Protocols Thereto.
GAATW has been following the discussions on a possible review mechanism to the UNTOC and its Protocols since 2008 when states at the fourth session of the COP acknowledged that it was difficult to measure progress made in their implementation of these treaties without an effective monitoring mechanism. We view it as a necessary and overdue step towards accountability for anti-trafficking initiatives. However, at the sixth session of the COP in 2012, States were unable to agree terms for such a process. On 8 October 2014, GAATW delivered a statement to the plenary emphasising the importance of a review mechanism civil society participation in that process.
Following two years without formal negotiations, this year’s COP saw a resolution looking to renew the work towards a review mechanism with a view to bringing it to the next session of the COP for adoption (in 2016). The resolution focused on extending the mandates of the working groups of the COP and mandating them to move forward on discussions on a review mechanism.
For most of the week we heard that States were locked in stalemate over the issue of civil society participation in the working groups and this remained in question after the session was due to have finished on Friday evening. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were requested to leave the room, and, at the time of writing, we have not seen the final text of the resolution that States were finally able to adopt late on Friday night. However we have learned from our contacts that there is a basis for NGO involvement in a prospective review mechanism included in the adopted resolution. This is a positive outcome though it is troubling that it is deemed by some States to be such a contentious issue.
By the time states return to the COP, at the eighth session in 2016, both the UNTOC and the Trafficking Protocol will have passed their 15-year anniversaries. It means that it will be nearly 16 years from their adoption that we get another chance to see if states can agree to do what the UNTOC mandated them to do in 2000 – to “agree upon mechanisms for […]: Reviewing periodically the implementation of this Convention” (Article 32.3(d)). Any process adopted needs to live up to the guiding principles identified for the review mechanism two years ago of being “transparent, efficient, non-intrusive, inclusive and impartial”. Anything less than this will not provide accountability in anti-trafficking work and will fail people who are trafficked.
GAATW members from La Strada International (Netherlands), LEFÖ-IBF (Austria), Ban Ying Coordination and Counselling Center Against Trafficking in Persons (Germany), Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW, Cambodia); CHS-Peru, and Pravasi Nepali Coordination Committee (PNCC, Nepal) attended the session in Vienna, Austria, and spoke at side events addressing the links between corruption and organised crime , and on trafficking in persons.