“Equality Now” urges UNODC forum to address sex trafficking

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Equality Now, an international human rights organization, Thursday called on governments to make specific commitments to end sex trafficking. The organization said it was concerned that the issue of sex trafficking had been marginalized at the forum to Fight Human Trafficking now holding in Vienna, Austria.

Equality Now urged governments to make the most constructive use of the three-da y forum that opened Wednesday under the aegis of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). “Reportedly costing over US$ 4 million, the Vienna forum cannot be just another world conference that will end in extensive rhetoric, draining much needed resou r ces in the struggle to end human trafficking,” the human rights group said.

Anti-trafficking grassroots organizations from around the world have expressed support for a joint appeal by Equality Now, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women International (CATW) and the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) for action by governments to stop sex trafficking.

Equality Now said “The forum must in the first instance acknowledge the well-est ablished link between sex trafficking and the commercial sex trade, including th e demand for prostitution that promotes sex trafficking. “The Forum must also examine prostitution in the context of poverty and the vuln erability of the most marginalized women and girls highly susceptible to be traf f icked into the commercial sex industry.

“Any policy that aims to curtail sex trafficking of women must address the explo itation of prostitution on the one hand and poverty and sex discrimination on the other.” According to Equality Now, the marginalisation of the issue of sex trafficking at the forum left a vacuum in addressing its fundamental causes and laying out com prehensive strategies to end it.

“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,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, Executive Director of Equality Now. “Governments must make clear commitments and exercise political will to end the scourge of sex trafficking,” she emphasized, adding: “Anything less would be a g rave injustice to the trafficked women who have suffered so much and who are look i ng to the committee of nations for rehabilitation and justice.”

Grassroots groups have led the fight against trafficking in women globally and are believed to be 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.

In many countries, these organizations also assist in the rehabilitation of survivors and address the underlying socio-economic causes that lead to sex trafficking. “Their know-how and experience are indispensable to the drafting of effective and feasible solutions. And yet their voices are severely underrepresented at the Vienna forum,” noted Equality Now.

The organization has urged UNODC and member States to expand their support for the critical work of effective grassroots groups, which would help end human trafficking worldwide.

Equality Now works to protect and promote the civil, political, economic and social rights of girls and women. Its Women’s Action Network comprises 30,000 group s and individual members in over 160 countries.

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