Summary of the Report of the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children
Monday, June 11, 2007 9:46 AM

The Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children has issued her report during the 5th Session of the Human Rights Council. The report establishes that there is often a link between forced marriage and trafficking. The main victims of forced marriage are women and girls. It is a hidden but extremely widespread practice, and constitutes a form of gender-based violence.

According to the Special Rapporteur, forced marriages are conducted to settle debts; to obtain residence permits; to ensure the chastity of the bride; and as a form of inheritance. Many states do not legally prosecute the practice of pressuring women into marriage, even before the age of eighteen. In documented cases young women have been trafficked to the US and Canada and then forcibly married. In Mexico, forced marriage has led to trafficking for sexual exploitation. “Mail order brides” as well as women in polygamous societies and armed conflicts are particularly vulnerable to becoming victims of trafficking.

The Special Rapporteur recommended that States set the minimum legal marriage age at 18 and adopt legislation which would label forced marriage a serious offense with specific mechanisms for prosecution and punishment.

The Rapporteur paid special visits to Bahrain, Oman and Qatar, since these countries are centers of activity for trafficking in persons for forced labor and sexual exploitation. Migrant workers make up a large portion of the populations of these countries, yet they have little or no access to the judicial system and must settle all grievances through their sponsor agencies or employers. Female domestic workers and sex workers are especially vulnerable to labor and sexual exploitation. Children are often trafficked for work in agricultural and fishing industries or for use as camel jockeys.

For Bahrain, Oman and Qatar, the Special Rapporteur recommended granting migrant workers proper access to the judicial system; better monitoring of recruitment agencies; and training the police and public officials on the issue of trafficking.

Compiled from: "Summary of the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children: ISHR's Summaries of Documents for the 5th Session of the Human Rights Council," International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), 11 June 2006.