13 February 2008—International human rights organization Equality Now is calling on governments to make the most constructive use of the Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking (13-15 February, 2008) organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Reportedly costing over $4 million, the Vienna Forum cannot be just another world conference that will end in extensive rhetoric, draining much needed resources in the struggle to end human trafficking. Equality Now is not alone in its call for concrete action by governments and by UNODC. A joint statement issued by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women International (CATW), Equality Now and the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), urging governments to set forth specific commitments to end sex trafficking, has been signed by anti-trafficking grassroots organizations from around the world.
Grassroots groups have led the fight against trafficking in women globally and are the true experts about the realities on the ground. Despite being severely under-resourced, these groups spearhead efforts to strengthen laws that protect victims of trafficking, punish perpetrators and address the demand for sex trafficking. These organizations also assist in survivors’ rehabilitation and address the underlying socio-economic causes that lead to sex trafficking. Their know-how and experience is indispensable to the drafting of effective and feasible solutions. And yet their voices are severely underrepresented at the Vienna Forum. Equality Now urges UNODC and member states to expand their support for the critical work of effective grassroots groups, which will undoubtedly help end human trafficking worldwide.
Equality Now is also concerned that the issue of sex trafficking has been marginalized at the Vienna Forum, leaving a vacuum in addressing its fundamental causes and laying out comprehensive strategies to end it. The Forum must in the first instance acknowledge the well-established link between sex trafficking and the commercial sex trade, including the demand for prostitution that promotes sex trafficking. The Forum must also examine prostitution in the context of poverty and the vulnerability of the most marginalized women and girls highly susceptible to be trafficked into the commercial sex industry. Any policy that aims to curtail sex trafficking of women must address the exploitation of prostitution on the one hand and poverty and sex discrimination on the other.
Equality Now Executive Director, Taina Bien-Aimé emphasizes, “Despite millions of dollars spent to organize the Vienna Forum, no clear agenda to address sex trafficking and the demand for prostitution worldwide is on the agenda. Governments must make clear commitments and exercise political will to end the scourge of sex trafficking. Anything less would be a grave injustice to the trafficked women who have suffered so much and who are looking to the community of nations for rehabilitation and justice.”
Equality Now is an international human rights organization that works to protect and promote the civil, political, economic and social rights of girls and women. Equality Now’s Women’s Action Network comprises 30,000 groups and individual members in over 160 countries. For more information please visit www.equalitynow.org.
Published in: Trafficked Women Deserve More Than Just Talk: Equality Now Urges Governments to Make Concrete Plans at Vienna Forum. UNODC Must Address Sex Trafficking as Well as Labor Trafficking and Incorporate the Voices of Trafficking Survivors and Grassroots Groups, Press Release, Equality Now, 13 February 2008.