His Excellency Mr. Baudelaire Ndong Ella

President of the Human Rights Council, Eighth Cycle (2014) 

29 May 2014

Your Excellency,

The undersigned organisations and activists urge you to ensure that the recruitment of a new Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children (Special Rapporteur), in addition to meeting the criteria of: expertise; experience in the field of the mandate; independence; impartiality; personal integrity; and objectivity, leads to the appointment of a mandate-holder who will be attentive to the full breadth of human rights violations associated with trafficking in persons.

The usefulness of the mandate requires that the Special Rapporteur understands to apply the human rights framework and draws on a verifiable evidence base, rather than take an ideological approach to the issue of human trafficking. This mandate speaks for a group of people that are often highly marginalised as a result of multiple levels of oppression and have little opportunity to advocate for themselves. It is critical that the Special Rapporteur is able to do this without bias.

Too often this work is riven with disagreement over the issue of prostitution / sex work. However, the adoption of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Supress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especial Women and Children (Trafficking Protocol) in 2000, supplementing the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, created a definition of human trafficking that aimed to fit the violation: not limited to the sex industry/prostitution, it covers exploitation in any industry where force or fraud are used in recruitment. In the years since the adoption of the Trafficking Protocol, research by anti-trafficking activists has demonstrated that a narrow interpretation of the issue, focused on the sex sector, too often does not help individuals who have been trafficked and does harm to the human rights of other workers, including migrant workers. It is vital that the Special Rapporteur is able to address human trafficking wherever it occurs and respect individuals’ agency and choices about their work, migration, and lives.

It is important both for the credibility of the special procedures and for the people that this mandate is intended to represent, that the new mandate holder must have at least the following qualities:

  • Extensive understanding of and commitment to the breadth of the UN Trafficking Protocol and international human rights law
  • Strong knowledge of and commitment to the Office of the High Commissioner’s Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking
  • A record of high calibre, impartial and objective evidence-based research
  • A record of transparency and willingness to work with all parts of civil society, not only those organisations that share a similar position on prostitution or any other issue
  • A commitment to providing a strong voice for trafficked persons and those at risk of trafficking, based whenever possible on evidence gathered directly from these affected groups
  • High personal integrity

We look forward to working with the appointed candidate.

Yours sincerely,

Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW)

The International La Strada Association, a European anti-trafficking network with 8 members in Europe

FairWork, the Netherlands

Ban Ying, Germany

Supporting Women’s Alternatives Network (SWAN Vancouver Society), Canada

Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, USA

Centro de Orientacion e Investigacion Integral (COIN), Dominican Republic

Capital Humano y Social Alternativo, Perú

LEFÖ - Information, Education and Support for Migrant Women, Austria

Brigada Callejera de Apoyo a la Mujer "Elisa Martínez", Mexico

Associacao de Defesa da Mulher, da Infancia e da Juventude (ASBRAD), Brazil

Meena Saraswathi Seshu, General Secretary, SANGRAM, India

Esther Shannon, FIRST CO-founder, Canada

Victoria Nwogu, Nigeria

Liyana Pavon, Dominican Republic


GAATW2014 logo_thumbnailThe 20th anniversary of GAATW will be an occasion to take stock of our work and define the priorities for the alliance in consultation with members and friends. Together with members we will showcase and analyze current programmes and plan next steps. We will also look at emerging issues, try to define challenges and opportunities and plan our steps for engagement.




GAATW International Members Congress (IMC)
23-26 September - Bangkok, Thailand

Around this time every year we notice a spike in press coverage, especially in US media, about a projected rise in trafficking for sex in whichever US state is hosting the Super Bowl. It is an idea that is used to frame prostitution abolitionist and/or anti-migrant sentiments in a more humanitarian form. This moral panic starts over a year in advance of the event: the first story we noticed for the 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey was published back in August 2012.

GAATW’s 2011 report, What’s the Cost of a Rumour? A guide to sorting out the myths and the facts about sporting events and trafficking, critically analysed this manufactured media hype about the role of international sporting events in creating a “demand” for trafficked women and children. Although this always generates a lot of media attention, action by anti-prostitution groups and law enforcement, and funding for anti-trafficking activities by state actors and NGOs, there is no evidence to support the claim. Subsequent research on more recent sporting events has confirmed this finding, for example here, here and here.

One of the recommendations from our research was to challenge misleading and harmful campaigns. This year that is happening, with a number of articles appearing across blogs, independent and mainstream media challenging the myth of major sporting events sparking a rise in trafficking into the sex sector.

Here’s a selection of the articles we’ve spotted (in date order). We’re glad that many of the writers have found our research useful. They raise a range of concerns about the trafficking hype generated in advance of Super Bowl XLVIII, including the bad policy decisions that flow from it - what GAATW has termed ‘collateral damage’ (examined in detail in our 2007 report, see also an article by Melissa Gira Grant on this in the context of last year’s Super Bowl moral panic here) - and the over-simplification of trafficking in persons as a one-off event instead of addressing it as a complex issue involving factors such as migration and labour rights:

  • The real criminals are the cops: Superbowl hype questioned, Best Practices Policy Project (BPPP), BPPP, 28 January
  • The Sex Trafficking Super Bowl Myth, Susan Elizabeth Shepard, Sports on Earth, 29 January
  • The Super Bowl trafficking myth: Every game brings warnings of a boom in forced prostitution -- but there's no evidence, Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon, 30 January
  • FactChecker: Super Bowl Sex Trafficking and Other Myths, Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition, 30 January
  • Just in Time for February, the Myth of Sex Trafficking and the Super Bowl Returns, Anna Merlan, The Village Voice, 30 January
  • The Super Bowl and Sex Trafficking, Kate Mogulescu, The New York Times, 31 January
  • Debunking The Urban Legend of Super Bowl Sex Trafficking, Daily Kos, 01 February
  • Do Sex Traffickers Really Target the Super Bowl?, Mother Jones, 01 February
  • The Myths Surrounding Sex Work and the Super Bowl, Women with a Vision, 02 February
  • Breaking the Super Bowl-Sex Trafficking Link, Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC, 02 February
  • The Reality of Trafficking at the Super Bowl, Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC, 02 February

There are several major sporting events this year in addition to this Sunday’s events in New Jersey: the winter Olympics start soon (7-23 February, Sochi, Russia), then we’ve got the World Cup (12 June to 13 July, Rio, Brazil) and the Commonwealth Games (23 July to 3 August, Glasgow, UK). We hope that we will see a more informed approach to human and labour rights abuses in the lead up to and at these events instead of a reliance on myths, and that anti-trafficking efforts will be based on evidence, not sensationalism and ideology.

GAATW-IS, 1 February 2014

(updated 3 February 2014)

Roundtable 2: Measures to ensure respect for and protection of the human rights of all migrants, with particular reference to women and children, as well as to prevent and combat the smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons and to ensure orderly, regular and safe migration.

3 October 2013

Your excellencies, distinguished chairpersons,

The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women welcomes the opportunity of this roundtable and we thank you for giving us time to make this intervention.

We are an alliance of over 100 independent NGOs. We locate human trafficking in the context of migration and migrant worker rights, recognising that the majority of trafficked persons are migrant workers in informal, unorganised and unprotected labour sectors.

The story of humankind is a story of migrations. Our ability and drive to migrate and adapt are amongst the factors that made us human. Now more than ever, it is central to how we live: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called the 21st Century the “age of mobility”.[1]

Human rights are central to safe migration. We call on States and this HLD to reaffirm the rights-based framework as the primary framework for intergovernmental discourse and action on migration, including by ensuring that all actors and forums in this area take human rights as the basis of their work.

And we urge States here to ensure that human rights remain at the heart of this roundtable. We are troubled that the HLD is framing what should be a panel on human rights in such a why as to focus instead on restrictions on and control of migration. For example, if we are discussing and identifying a list of rights-enhancing measures – why is combatting smuggling listed here?

By sheer necessity, many migrants pay a broker to reach their destination. There are circumstances where many migrants absolutely rely on smuggling to flee harmful situations such as armed conflicts. Driving smuggling further underground just increases the danger for migrants – including the risk of trafficking. Thus the framing of this roundtable regarding preventing and combatting smuggling is the wrong objective and will cause harm to migrants.

We remind States that the UN Smuggling Protocol creates the offence of smuggling but does not require States to criminalise people who are smuggled.[2] Many State responses to smuggling go far beyond the intention of the protocol, including by criminalising people who are smuggled – and other irregular migrants.

Often the laws and policies against irregular migration, including those against people smuggling, are implemented in the name of addressing trafficking in persons. But the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women is increasingly concerned with immigration measures that criminalise migrants and also badly affect people who have been trafficked.[3] Many people in trafficking situations also classify, in government terms, as having been ‘smuggled’. Authorities do not always screen migrants to assess whether they might have been trafficked, but detain them as criminals, as ‘smuggled’ or as irregular migrants, deporting them before they have a chance to seek or receive the rights to which they are entitled. Conflating smuggling and trafficking leads to the over-policing of migrants and the under-policing and non-identification of people who have been trafficked. Furthermore, it prioritises a law enforcement rather than human rights approach. In doing so, the focus of the anti-trafficking efforts moves from the individual who has been trafficked and towards the security of the State. Similarly, there is a shifting of responsibility from the State to non-State actors.

The HLD and this roundtable offer an excellent opportunity to call on States to de-link smuggling and trafficking in order better to protect the rights of all migrants, and we urge States to ensure this clarity in the resolution from this session. We hope that an outcome of this roundtable will be a commitment to keep the focus on – as the first part of the title of the roundtable sets out – “Measures to ensure respect for and protection of the human rights of all migrants”.

Thank you.

[2] Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, Supplementing the UN Convention Against Transnational Crime

[3] Smuggling And. Trafficking. Rights And Intersections. GAATW Working Paper Series 2011, http://www.gaatw.org/publications/Working_Papers_Smuggling/WPonSmuggling_31Mar2012.pdf

Civil Society statement by APMM, APWLD, ARROW, CARAM-Asia, GAATW, MFA, MMN and Seven Sisters* on the Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the General Assembly High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development 2013

May 31, 2013

About 60 representatives from a diverse group of CSOs, NGOs and Trade Unions came together to prepare for this preparatory meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, in preparation for the General Assembly UN High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development  scheduled to take place  at the UN General Assembly in New York in October, 2013.

We were looking forward to 3 days of informed and informative discussion and debate with member States on the issues facing migrants in the Asia-Pacific region, that would eventually form our input for the upcoming High-Level Dialogue, we are not happy with the final outcome.

Though this Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the General Assembly High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development 2013 was able to obtain a negotiated outcome, we are disappointed that the text adopted by consensus by member States failed to sufficiently locate migrants and migrants’ rights at the centre of the migration agenda.

Time and again, in the name of national sovereignty, States placed restrictions on the rights they were prepared to extend to migrants. This is a movement away from previously agreed by consensus positions and a clear breach of international human rights standards.

We will, however, continue to engage in this process and forward our recommendations to the Informal interactive hearings for the High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development United Nations, New York on 15 July 2013. 

Please see the Civil Society Joint statement and the Outcome Document from the Asia-Pacific Regional Civil Society Consultation held in Bangkok from 29-31 May 2013 .

For comment, please contact:

Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development

[Pranom Somwong ,+668-31887600,+601-92371300 ]

Migrant Forum in Asia

[William Gois , (+63-2) 928-2740 / 433-3508]

Background note:

The full title of the meeting was the “Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the General Assembly High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development 2013”. It was held in Bangkok from 29 to 31 May 2013.

This statement is issued jointly by Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), Coalition of Asia-Pacific Regional Networks on HIV/AIDS (7 Sisters), Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility (CARAM Asia), Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), Mekong Migration Network (MMN), and Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA).