Trafficking Victims Speak at UN Panel Discussion
Tuesday, November 10, 2009 1:15 PM

09 November 09


As part of its victim-centered approach to trafficking, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights invited several trafficking victims to speak at a panel discussion attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 22 October 2009. Prior trafficking hearings have included testimony from law enforcement officials and professional activists, but the 22 October meeting marked the first time that trafficking victims testified about their own experiences.

Most of the victims chosen for the hearing represented experiences that do not conform to traditional definitions of trafficking victims. Several panelists stated that they struggled to obtain help in their situations because public officials mistakenly believed they voluntarily entered into the situation. They included a British teenager who dropped out of school to care for an alcoholic mother and became involved in drugs and prostitution, a Ugandan girl kidnapped from boarding school and held prisoner by Ugandan rebels for eight years, and a Nepali boy who answered an ad for work abroad and was sent to an Iraqi war zone. A Venezuelan woman explained that she moved to New York intending to be a nanny but was instead forced to work in a brothel. She testified that police raided the brothel on multiple occasions, but failed to recognize her as a victim and instead demanded sex from her or arrested her.

The panel was moderated by former BBC reporter Ruchira Gupta, who emphasized the importance of public officials recognizing trafficked individuals as victims based on her experiences working with women sold into sex slavery in India.

Compiled from: Theresa Braine, “Trafficking Victims at UN Highlight Need for Recognition,” Women’s eNews (2 November 2009).