Effectively combatting trafficking of women and girls means understanding it as a form of gender-based violence, say participants at OSCE/ODIHR event at UN


Trafficking of women and girls is a form of gender-based violence, based on inequality, on March 15th, said participants at an event organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) on the sidelines of the 62nd meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, in New York.

The event, which focused on the need to take the experiences of survivors into account when developing responses, was co-organized with UNODC, UN Women, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and Equality Now.

“There is a clear need to dig deeper into the gender aspects of trafficking in human beings with the help of those who have experienced its brutality first hand, the survivors. Trafficking of women and girls is an expression of gender-based violence and a manifestation of abuse, power imbalances and exploitation,” said ODIHR Director Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir. “Trafficking in human beings in all cases is a crime stemming directly from inequality, including gender-based inequality.”

Trafficking survivors, survivor advocates and others working in the field of anti-trafficking and gender issues, as well as representatives of international organizations, discussed challenges, good practices and entry points to enhance states’ adherence to their international obligations, including on gender equality and on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres, as enshrined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“The same mentality that allows sexual harassment to thrive in the workplace is conducive to the societal acceptance of a heinous crime like trafficking in human beings. There are millions of women and girls who are sexually abused by their traffickers and sex buyers, yet, in the end, very few traffickers and sex buyers are prosecuted,” said Shandra Woworuntu, a trafficking survivor and founder of the Mentari Human Trafficking Survivor Empowerment Program. “Not just legislation, but also awareness, are crucial to ending this impunity. As shown by the #Metoo movement, each one of us has a role to play in ending the vicious circle of violence, which grows where there is silence.”

The event also featured a presentation of the photo project The New Abolitionists, dedicated to raising awareness about slavery and trafficking in human beings by documenting the dedication of doctors, judges, social workers, politicians, actors, and community leaders, some of whom are survivors themselves.

“The world is finally acknowledging the pandemic of sexual harassment, sexual violence and exploitation towards women and girls, and there is an undeniable link between it and sex trafficking,” said Mira Sorvino, Academy Award-winning actress, UNODC Goodwill Ambassador and one of the leaders of the #MeToo movement. “This is our moment to work harder than ever to ensure a safe and equitable world for all of us.”

“Never has it been more urgent for the international community to invest in preventing violence and sexual exploitation of women and girls around the world,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. “The United Nations Palermo Protocol addressing trafficking in persons, and especially of women and children, together with target 5.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals, offer us a clear roadmap to addressing the gender dimensions of human trafficking. To achieve equality, we must follow this roadmap with rigor and determination.”

Source: Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe