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 20


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

Super Bowl? Or Super Hyperbole?

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)

UN High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development

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,

CSO Statement

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).


Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the General Assembly High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development 2013

Bangkok, 29-31 May 2013

Agenda Item 4

We wish to thank the Member States and Secretariat of ESCAP, IOM, and members of the Asia-Pacific RCM Thematic Working Group on International Migration, including Human Trafficking, for giving civil society an opportunity to share our thoughts today. Thank you,Mr. Chair.

This statement is made on behalf of civil society organisations, trade unions and migrant workers, and its recommendations are reflective of the themes elaborated in the civil society 7-point, 5-year Agenda endorsed by the Civil Society Steering Committee for the UNHLD.

We welcome the opportunity to address this meeting, and hope to continue to be able to actively partner with you on critical issues of global migration governance and concrete action in the work towards and at the UN High Level Dialogue on International Migration & Development in New York in October. We appreciate the presence and willingness of the States that are here to engage in this process.

Considering that migrant workers support themselves, their families and communities; that countries of origin, transit and destination receive significant social and economic benefits from migrant workers; it is unacceptable that the international governance of migration rests outside the protection of the human rights framework.

Governments should actively prioritize ending all forms of discrimination against migrants, regardless of legal status or factors including nationality, gender, age, sexual orientation or gender identity, health and pregnancy status, or occupation.

The UN High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development and the post-2015 development agenda must focus on promoting decent work, including a living wage, for migrant and local workers alike. This is the only way to create shared prosperity, reduce inequalities, and dampen xenophobia. The decent work agenda must underpin all migration policies and programmes. Governments should respect the rights and the effective practice of freedom of association, which should also include worker organising and collective bargaining.

Governments must recognize that women are rights bearers and active agents in claiming their rights and contribute to just and fair development. It is imperative that an intersectional perspective on gender that establishes protections that recognize and take into account the numerous, specific risks that migrant women face and provide redress, including compensation be developed.

Governments of origin, transit and destination countries should recognize, respect and affirm migrants’ right to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, irrespective of migrant status. This should include health services for sexually transmitted infections, HIV, reproductive cancers, contraception, maternal health and safe abortion services. Governments must lift any discriminatory policies based on health status, including HIV status, pregnancy, and communicable diseases.

Governments should also prioritize occupational safety and health of migrants, and ensure safe working conditions and regular inspections of work places, including the elimination of industrial accidents and usage of hazardous or toxic materials.

We propose the establishment and strengthening of migrant-friendly, gender-sensitive and rights-based policies and mechanisms at origin, transit and destination countriesand in the international governance of migration, to ensure the following:

  • Protection of migrant workers’labour rights, including the rights to equal pay and safe and healthy working conditions, to form and organise trade unions and migrant workers’ associations, to ensure portability of social protection, to guarantee access to health services and removal of policies that discriminate on the basis of health status, and to provide paths to citizenship for migrant workers and their families;
  • Identification or creation, and implementation, of effective standards and mechanisms to regulate the migrant labour recruitment industry to prioritise the human rights of migrants;
  • Migrants become stranded in many different ways—with emergency situations being one among many scenarios that can render migrants stranded. Governments must not see the label of stranded migrants as outside the existing human rights legal frameworks, but as complementary to the human rights framework including the Refugee Convention (1951), the International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (1990), and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (1961)
  • Governments should recognize the gender aspects of migration and address their impacts, and affirm women’s autonomy and protect and fulfill their rights throughout the migration process, ensuring independent migration status that provides the right to work and ensures access to redress. Governments must prevent and address sexual harassment, violence and sexual abuse in and outside of the workplace and to promote equitable access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • Governments should acknowledge children and youth as rights holders, and develop policies for them in the context of migration. This should involve investing in communities in sending areas, lowering the economic and social cost of migration, and ensuring that migrant children and youth, irrespective of their migration status, enjoy the legal protection and rights as per the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international standards.
  • Establish processes to facilitate the participation of migrants, people affected by migration, civil society and trade unions, in the development of laws, policies, programmes and initiatives on migration and migrants’ rights;
  • Promote the exchange of good practice and enactment and implementation of national legislation to comply with the full range of provisions in international conventions that apply to migrants, migrant workers and their families, and refugees;
  • Reaffirm that a human rights-based framework should be the primary framework for intergovernmental governance of migration and institutionalise the participation of civil society in these governance mechanisms;
  • Integrate migration into the post-2015 development agenda in such a way as to address the financial and social contributions of migrants to development, and that protects and promotes migrants’ rights and ensures improved policy planning and coherence to make migration a genuine choice and not a necessity.

Thank you,Mr. Chair.

* This statement is endorsed by the following organisation


ACHIEVE, Philippines

AMAL - Pakistan

Arunodhaya Migrant Initiative (India)

ASEAN Services Employees Trade Union Council (ASETUC)

Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)

Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (APA)

Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN)

Asia-Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)

Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB)

Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW)

Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI)

CARAM Cambodia

Coalition of Asia-Pacific Regional Networks on HIV/AIDS (7 Sisters)

Community Development Services (CDS), Sri Lanka

Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility (CARAM Asia)

Development Action for Women Network (DAWN), Philippines

Education International (EI)

Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW)

Global Migration Policy Associates (GMPA)

IMA Research Foundation, Bangladesh

Institute for Migration and Development, Philippines

International Trade Union Confederation – Asia Pacific

International Transport Federation (ITF)

Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA), Pakistan

MAP Foundation

Mekong Migration Network (MMN)

Migrant Forum in Asia

Migrants Rights International

NIDS – Nepal

Peace Trust, India

Public Services International (PSI)

Raks Thai Foundation

St. John’s Cathedral HIV Education Centre, Hong Kong

Tenaganita, Malaysia

Union Migrant Indonesia (UNIMIG)

Union Network International (UNI)

Workers Hub for Change


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