New Framework to Address Trafficking

A new framework to understand and address trafficking is still under constant debate after the adoption of the Palermo Protocol. It is being sketched out in discussions, demands, and demonstrations by sex-workers lobbying governments to interpret the Protocol to protect the rights of trafficking victims, and by the CATW lobby to diminish the necessity for women to turn to prostitution.

According to CATW, the solution lies in decriminalizing the women in prostitution and criminalizing the men who buy women and children and anyone who promotes sexual exploitation. They ask for State policies and practices to provide better education and employment opportunities that enhance women's worth and status and give them more options.

According to the Human Rights Caucus, although the new protocol contains a strong law enforcement provision and a first-ever international definition of “trafficking in persons,” the protocol does not require governments to provide shelter or services to victims of trafficking, or to cease arresting, imprisoning, and summarily deporting victims of trafficking.

According to a Human Rights Caucus press release, “This serious gap in the protocol is partly due to government reluctance to make any commitments to provide services and protection to undocumented migrants even if they are victims of a horrific crime."

Various sex-workers’ rights activists dismiss the “free and force” distinction and argue that the harms of prostitution are caused largely by moral attitudes and their domestic legal consequences. Jo Doezema of NSWP outlines a framework that would reject both the neo-abolitionist position, which denies women the ability to consent to prostitution, and a neo-regulationist perspective that condemns “forced” prostitution, but offers nothing in the way of rights for the “voluntary” prostitutes. She believes that it is sex-workers themselves who need to author this new framework to remove the repressive legacy of trafficking and incorporate elements of labor rights and women’s rights in the sex industry, which should go beyond the theory of oppressed women and oppressive men.

The framework laid out by the UN Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery in its Draft Program of Action, filed under the Commission on Human Rights, highlights the key principles of self-determination; human rights; social justice; prevention through awareness and action; and women-centered agendas. Despite the divergences in opinion regarding the best strategy to ensure the respect of trafficked person’s human rights, the World March of Women states that there is a consensus with respect to certain measures that states should implement in the short term to improve conditions for prostitutes and victims of trafficking. This includes housing, financial and legal aid; guaranteeing the right to social services and housing in the receiving country; protection during criminal proceedings against traffickers, decriminalization of prostitutes and trafficked persons, and ensuring their right to organize. The solution should lie within the human rights and humanitarian framework and strategies should focus on trafficking and the criminal nature of those involved in this conduct, rather than on the victims of trafficking, whose human rights should be assured.

Content by Mini Singh
Research Analyst, FSE

Content in Arabic by Raja El Habti
Research Assistant, FSE