His Excellency Mr. Baudelaire Ndong Ella
President of the Human Rights Council, Eighth Cycle (2014)
29 May 2014
The undersigned organisations and activists urge you to ensure that the recruitment of a new Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children (Special Rapporteur), in addition to meeting the criteria of: expertise; experience in the field of the mandate; independence; impartiality; personal integrity; and objectivity, leads to the appointment of a mandate-holder who will be attentive to the full breadth of human rights violations associated with trafficking in persons.
The usefulness of the mandate requires that the Special Rapporteur understands to apply the human rights framework and draws on a verifiable evidence base, rather than take an ideological approach to the issue of human trafficking. This mandate speaks for a group of people that are often highly marginalised as a result of multiple levels of oppression and have little opportunity to advocate for themselves. It is critical that the Special Rapporteur is able to do this without bias.
Too often this work is riven with disagreement over the issue of prostitution / sex work. However, the adoption of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Supress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especial Women and Children (Trafficking Protocol) in 2000, supplementing the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, created a definition of human trafficking that aimed to fit the violation: not limited to the sex industry/prostitution, it covers exploitation in any industry where force or fraud are used in recruitment. In the years since the adoption of the Trafficking Protocol, research by anti-trafficking activists has demonstrated that a narrow interpretation of the issue, focused on the sex sector, too often does not help individuals who have been trafficked and does harm to the human rights of other workers, including migrant workers. It is vital that the Special Rapporteur is able to address human trafficking wherever it occurs and respect individuals’ agency and choices about their work, migration, and lives.
It is important both for the credibility of the special procedures and for the people that this mandate is intended to represent, that the new mandate holder must have at least the following qualities:
- Extensive understanding of and commitment to the breadth of the UN Trafficking Protocol and international human rights law
- Strong knowledge of and commitment to the Office of the High Commissioner’s Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking
- A record of high calibre, impartial and objective evidence-based research
- A record of transparency and willingness to work with all parts of civil society, not only those organisations that share a similar position on prostitution or any other issue
- A commitment to providing a strong voice for trafficked persons and those at risk of trafficking, based whenever possible on evidence gathered directly from these affected groups
- High personal integrity
We look forward to working with the appointed candidate.
Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW)
The International La Strada Association, a European anti-trafficking network with 8 members in Europe
FairWork, the Netherlands
Ban Ying, Germany
Supporting Women’s Alternatives Network (SWAN Vancouver Society), Canada
Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, USA
Centro de Orientacion e Investigacion Integral (COIN), Dominican Republic
Capital Humano y Social Alternativo, Perú
LEFÖ - Information, Education and Support for Migrant Women, Austria
Brigada Callejera de Apoyo a la Mujer "Elisa Martínez", Mexico
Associacao de Defesa da Mulher, da Infancia e da Juventude (ASBRAD), Brazil
Meena Saraswathi Seshu, General Secretary, SANGRAM, India
Esther Shannon, FIRST CO-founder, Canada
Victoria Nwogu, Nigeria
Liyana Pavon, Dominican Republic
The 20th anniversary of GAATW will be an occasion to take stock of our work and define the priorities for the alliance in consultation with members and friends. Together with members we will showcase and analyze current programmes and plan next steps. We will also look at emerging issues, try to define challenges and opportunities and plan our steps for engagement.
SAVE THE DATE:
GAATW International Members Congress (IMC)
23-26 September - Bangkok, Thailand
Around this time every year we notice a spike in press coverage, especially in US media, about a projected rise in trafficking for sex in whichever US state is hosting the Super Bowl. It is an idea that is used to frame prostitution abolitionist and/or anti-migrant sentiments in a more humanitarian form. This moral panic starts over a year in advance of the event: the first story we noticed for the 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey was published back in August 2012.
GAATW’s 2011 report, What’s the Cost of a Rumour? A guide to sorting out the myths and the facts about sporting events and trafficking, critically analysed this manufactured media hype about the role of international sporting events in creating a “demand” for trafficked women and children. Although this always generates a lot of media attention, action by anti-prostitution groups and law enforcement, and funding for anti-trafficking activities by state actors and NGOs, there is no evidence to support the claim. Subsequent research on more recent sporting events has confirmed this finding, for example here, here and here.
One of the recommendations from our research was to challenge misleading and harmful campaigns. This year that is happening, with a number of articles appearing across blogs, independent and mainstream media challenging the myth of major sporting events sparking a rise in trafficking into the sex sector.
Here’s a selection of the articles we’ve spotted (in date order). We’re glad that many of the writers have found our research useful. They raise a range of concerns about the trafficking hype generated in advance of Super Bowl XLVIII, including the bad policy decisions that flow from it - what GAATW has termed ‘collateral damage’ (examined in detail in our 2007 report, see also an article by Melissa Gira Grant on this in the context of last year’s Super Bowl moral panic here) - and the over-simplification of trafficking in persons as a one-off event instead of addressing it as a complex issue involving factors such as migration and labour rights:
- The real criminals are the cops: Superbowl hype questioned, Best Practices Policy Project (BPPP), BPPP, 28 January
- The Sex Trafficking Super Bowl Myth, Susan Elizabeth Shepard, Sports on Earth, 29 January
- The Super Bowl trafficking myth: Every game brings warnings of a boom in forced prostitution -- but there's no evidence, Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon, 30 January
- FactChecker: Super Bowl Sex Trafficking and Other Myths, Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition, 30 January
- Just in Time for February, the Myth of Sex Trafficking and the Super Bowl Returns, Anna Merlan, The Village Voice, 30 January
- The Super Bowl and Sex Trafficking, Kate Mogulescu, The New York Times, 31 January
- Debunking The Urban Legend of Super Bowl Sex Trafficking, Daily Kos, 01 February
- Do Sex Traffickers Really Target the Super Bowl?, Mother Jones, 01 February
- The Myths Surrounding Sex Work and the Super Bowl, Women with a Vision, 02 February
- Breaking the Super Bowl-Sex Trafficking Link, Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC, 02 February
- The Reality of Trafficking at the Super Bowl, Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC, 02 February
There are several major sporting events this year in addition to this Sunday’s events in New Jersey: the winter Olympics start soon (7-23 February, Sochi, Russia), then we’ve got the World Cup (12 June to 13 July, Rio, Brazil) and the Commonwealth Games (23 July to 3 August, Glasgow, UK). We hope that we will see a more informed approach to human and labour rights abuses in the lead up to and at these events instead of a reliance on myths, and that anti-trafficking efforts will be based on evidence, not sensationalism and ideology.
GAATW-IS, 1 February 2014
(updated 3 February 2014)