A 'human rights' perspective
The human rights debates
The first documented international conference on the issue of trafficking in women was held in Paris in 1895, and the anti-slavery movement goes back well into the century before. The League of Nations and the International Labour Organization worked on the issue in the 1920s and 1930s, but the first relevant United Nations Convention is usually cited as the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. However, despite the fact that the human rights paradigm has the longest history when analysing the phenomenon, it is not without its fundamental divisions.
The best documented division is that within the issue of the trafficking of women. Feminist 'abolitionist' NGOs place trafficking high on their political agenda because they view trafficking as part of an increasing global exploitation of women. Other NGOs representing migrant workers or sex workers will have more general concerns about working conditions but will defend their right to work . even as prostitutes. This is best summarized by Anderson and Connell Davidson (2002) : 'The debate between the "abolitionist" and the "sex workers rights" lobbies is often heated and bitter, with each side accusing the other of using the issue of trafficking as a vehicle to pursue their own particular political ends with regard to prostitution.'
Another fundamental division within the human rights approach is balancing the right to leave your country of origin (to migrate or claim asylum elsewhere) and the obligation of governments to protect individuals from abuse or exploitation at the hands of smugglers or traffickers. This is a difficult problem for governments wishing to manage migration downwards and therefore very keen to eliminate irregular migration but not to uphold the right to asylum as a universal human right. This can lead to an over-emphasis on the rights of migrants within the trafficking debate, and ignoring or denying the rights of those who are smuggled.
A final example is that of child labourers and the reality that many families rely on the income from children to reach a basic level of subsistence. This can sometimes result in regional trafficking networks, such as those in West Africa which involve children being sent to towns or neighbouring countries as domestic or agricultural workers. However, the ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour has helped distinguish the types of labour (and trafficking) that must be stopped immediately at source from those that require a more medium-term developmental approach in the context of alternative sources of income and upholding the right to education.
- Anderson, B. and O'Connell Davidson, J.,Trafficking . a Demand Led Problem?Trafficking . a Demand Led Problem?. Sweden: Save The Children, 2002. http://www.rb.se
- Gallagher, A., 'Trafficking, Smuggling and Human Rights: Tricks and Treaties'.Forced Migration ReviewForced Migration Review, vol. 12, 2002.
- Morrison, J.,The Cost of SurvivalThe Cost of Survival. London: The British Refugee Council, 1998.
- Nadig, A. and Morrison, J., 'Human Smuggling and Refugee Protection in the European Union: Myths and Realities'. In J. van Selm et al. (eds),The Refugee Convention at Fifty: A View from Forced Migration StudiesThe Refugee Convention at Fifty: A View from Forced Migration Studies. Lexington, 2003.
- Taran, P. and Moreno-Fontes, G.,Stopping Exploitation of Migrant Workers by Organised CrimeStopping Exploitation of Migrant Workers by Organised Crime, 2001. http://www.december18.net/paper44LOUNICRI.pdf
- Tworney, P.,Trafficking in Persons: Europe's Other MarketTrafficking in Persons: Europe's Other Market. 2001.
International human rights approaches
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has played a leading role amongst intergovernmental agencies in raising human rights issues that arise from the 2000 UN Convention on Trans-national Organized Crime. Of particular note were a legal analysis of the draft text of the two protocols (UN document A/AC/254/16) submitted by the High Commissioner in June 1999 and an inter-agency statement concerning the protocols submitted by OHCHR, UNHCR, UNICEF, and IOM to the Committee in early 2000 (UN document A/AC.257/27 and Corr.1). The inter-agency statement contained specific recommendations for strengthening the draft text of the two instruments by enhancing protection provisions, and ensuring adequate and appropriate links to existing international human rights instruments and standards. Similar comments have now been more formalized in a report from the High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Economic and Social Council in May 2002 (E/2002/68/Add.1).
Two of the special rapporteurs to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) have written on the issue. Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, reported on trafficking in women, women's migration, and violence against women in 2000. A series of individual cases have also been presented to Ms Gabriela Pizarro, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants. Other international work has looked at specific human rights within the trafficking arena, for example migrant workers (ILO), refugees (UNHCR), and children (UNICEF).
- Convention Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child LabourConvention Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (ILO Convention 182) http://www.ilolex.ilo.ch:1567/english/convdisp2.htm
- Convention Concerning Forced or Compulsory LabourConvention Concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour (ILO Convention 29) http://www.ilolex.ilo.ch:1567/english/convdisp2.htm
- E/CN.4/2000/68.Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy, on trafficking in women, women's migration, and violence against womenReport of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy, on trafficking in women, women's migration, and violence against women
- Fact Sheet No.23,Harmful Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and ChildrenHarmful Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children
- IMADR and International Human Rights Law Group (1999) NGOConsultation with the UN/IGOs on Trafficking in Persons, Prostitution and Global Sex IndustryConsultation with the UN/IGOs on Trafficking in Persons, Prostitution and Global Sex Industry "Trafficking and the Global Sex Industry: Need for a Human Rights Framework" June 21-22 1999, Palais de Nations, Switzerland. http://www.hrlawgroup.org/resourcesE/2002/68/Add.1. Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking
- OHCHR and UNHCR paper on Combating Trafficking in Human BeingsOHCHR and UNHCR paper on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings
- Questionnaire for Allegations of Violations of Migrants, including Trafficked Persons to Ms Gabriela Rodriguez PizarroQuestionnaire for Allegations of Violations of Migrants, including Trafficked Persons to Ms Gabriela Rodriguez Pizarro http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/7/b/mmig.htm
- Optional Protocol to Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child PornographyOptional Protocol to Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/dopchild.htm
- Slavery ConventionSlavery Convention http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/f2sc.htm
- Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to SlaverySupplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/30.htm
Regional and national human rights approaches
Examples of regional work:
- Limanowska, B. et al.,Trafficking in Human Beings in Southeastern EuropeTrafficking in Human Beings in Southeastern Europe. UNICEF/UNHCHR/OSCE/ODIHR, 2002 http://www.unicef.org/sexual-exploitation/report_trafficking.html
- Morrison, J. and Crosland, B.,The Trafficking and Smuggling of Refugees: The End Game in European Asylum Policy?The Trafficking and Smuggling of Refugees: The End Game in European Asylum Policy?. Geneva: UNHCR Evaluation and Policy Unit, Geneva, 2000. http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/pub/wpapers/wpno39.pdf
- Sorensen, P.,Report on Combating Organized Crime: Further Actions in the Fight against Trafficking in Women.Report on Combating Organized Crime: Further Actions in the Fight against Trafficking in Women. (A5-0127/2000), 2000. http://www2.europarl.eu.int/omk
- Asian Women's Human Rights CouncilAsian Women's Human Rights Council http://awhrc.com
- Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), Trafficking in Women in Asia-Pacific Region: A Regional ReportGlobal Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), Trafficking in Women in Asia-Pacific Region: A Regional Report http://wagner.inet.co.th/org/gaatw/index.html
- ..,Human Rights and Trafficking in Persons: A HandbookHuman Rights and Trafficking in Persons: A Handbook. Bangkok: GAATW, 2001.
- Teng, Z.,Research Report on the Mainland Chinese Sex WorkersResearch Report on the Mainland Chinese Sex Workers, 2000 http://ziteng.org.hk
- ECOWAS,Declaration on the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons, Economic Community of West African StatesDeclaration on the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons, Economic Community of West African States, 2001 http://www.undcp.or.at/adhoc/crime/trafficking/Declarationr_CEDEAO.pdf
- Casa Alianza, Costa Rica http://www.casa-alianza.org
- Fundacion Esperanza, Columbia. http://www.fundacionesperanza.org.co
- Human Rights Watch, Hidden in the Home: Abuse of Domestic Workers with Special Visas in the USHuman Rights Watch, Hidden in the Home: Abuse of Domestic Workers with Special Visas in the US, 2001 http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/usadom/
- O' Neill Richard, A.,International Trafficking in Women to the United States: A Contemporary Manifestation of Slavery and Organized CrimeInternational Trafficking in Women to the United States: A Contemporary Manifestation of Slavery and Organized Crime, 1999. http://www.cia.gov/csi/monograph/women/trafficking.pdf