Thursday, March 14, 2013

Panel on Trafficking of Women and Girls

With the help of thousands of men and women around the world, we have seen progress in limiting trafficking women and girls. Yet to move the progression towards elimination and not just limitation there are some things missing, some things not being addressed. The panel on trafficking held on Consultation Day provided insight from four experts who all brought different knowledges and backgrounds to the issue of trafficking. Dr. Helga Konrad, who has been working for more than 20 years on the issue of human trafficking at local, national, regional, and international levels, started off the conversation talking about where the legislation that has been put into place fails. She claims that legislation is “dealing with the consequences, not the causes” of trafficking, which is why it is not diminishing. Dr. Konrad believes we are focusing on anti-migration, instead of anti-discrimination; we need to address the equality issues. We need to focus on labor exploitation and forced marriages. “We have learned to manage it, but we are not actively combating it,” she explained. She proposed an unaddressed root cause of trafficking is the lack of political will. It cannot be passive; these victims need leadership to push the issue at all levels. What does leadership look like? Action! pushing initiatives and reviewing policies, and adjusting them accordingly. This segment ushered in human rights expert Dr. Lilian Hofmeister very well.

“Women’s rights = human’s rights,” Dr. Hofmeister proclaimed in the opening. Similar to Dr. Konrad, Dr. Hofmeister professed that equality is a serious cause. People need to meet as equals, and there must be cooperation for us to make progress. Much to my interest, she discussed the “missing history” of women’s accomplishments worldwide. I took a step back and realized all the of the women who are doing tremendous work for equality and the elimination of violence against women and children who we will never read about in a history book. But their stories are so incredibly important and real! Dr. Hofmeister then talked about the psychology behind violence. Violence is triggered by aggression, pain, social exclusion, or any type of denial of personal honor and inclusion. There is biological research that proves this, and if we want to see change in the area of trafficking, we must address these inherent causes first.

Dr. Barbara Spinelli, a feminist activist, lawyer, and CEDAW expert then took the podium. She directed the audiences’ attention towards the cultural practices that need to change. The mortality rates for women who have been forced into prostitution are remarkably high. 60-70% of women working in prostitution were forced into it through trafficking. Trafficking kills. Dr. Spinelli addressed the difficulty of these women proving they are victims because their perpetrators either escape or involved in work where no one would believe, or punish them, for such an act. She says that we need to start with access to education for women and girls. Then we need to create employment opportunities for them outside the realm of sex. Addressing these cultural practices will jumpstart the progression to eliminate violence against women.

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