Foundation Against Trafficking in Women (STV)
m.o. Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW)
Beijing, 16 september 1995
The Fourth UN Conference on Women is concluded. At about 16.30 hours on 15th September 1995 the participating governments adopted the "Beijing Declaration", in which they expressed their committment to implement the Platform for Action which had been painstakingly negotiated the last two weeks.
The Platform for Action itself has remained a more than dan 140 page document. On the last 2 days negotiations over the language of the Draft were concentrated on the most difficult concepts: sexual and reproductive rights, and sexual orientation. Concensus was finally reached and all brackets had been removed, with or without a reformulation of texts, but after the adoption of the Platform for Action, a number of muslim states and the Vatican and a few catholic Latin American states expressed reservations to these paragraphs. Reservations were made to particularly 2 paragraphs:
Paragraph 97. "The human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. Equal relationships between women and men in matters of sexual relations and reproduction, including full respect for the integrity of the person, require mutual respect, consent and shared responsibility for sexual behaviour and its consequences."
and 232 (f):
"Take action to ensure that women's sexual and reproductive rights are fully recognized and respected."
The reasons given voor these reservations were clear; these states were afraid that according women these rights will undermine the concept of the family and the traditional role of women in their societies. They wish to avoid any inadvertent recognition of "abnormal" sexual relations or condoning of sexual relations outside marriage.
In spite of these reservations the Platform for Action contains a number of innovating elements, which are particularly positive for the strategies to address trafficking in women. Of particular significance are: recognition of the informal and unremunerated work of women, and of the precairious situation of women migrant workers.
Trafficking in women on the agenda of the Women's conference
The Platform for Action contains a number of paragraphs on trafficking in women which open the perspective of a more pro-rights approach if governments are to take them seriously in designing national measures.
The most important ones are paragraph 230(o) in the Human Rights Section (I).
"Strengthen the implementation of all relevant human rights instruments, in order to combat and eliminate, including through international cooperation, organized and other forms of trafficking in women and girls, including for the purposes of sexual exploitation, pornography, prostitution and sex tourism, and provide legal and social services to the victims. This should include provisions for international cooperation to prosecute and punish those responsible for organized exploitation of women."
and 131 (d) (Strategic Objective D.3):
"Allocate resources to provide comprehensive programmes designed to heal and rehabilitate into society victims of trafficking including through job training, legal assistance and confidential health care and take measures to cooperate with non-governmental organizations to provide for the social, medical and psychological care of the victims of trafficking.
The positive elements in these paragraphs are that states are called upon to use human rights instruments, which give a better guarantee that measures based on these principles will be more respectful of the rights of the women concerned. There is an implicit recognition that there are other manifestations of trafficking in women than that in the sex industry, through the use of the word "including for the purposes of...". The call for international cooperation, with other governments and with NGOs is imperative for both prevention and advocacy work.
Needless to say the allocation of resources is essential, and "comprehensive programmes...including job training..." opens exciting perspectives to really be able to develop alternatives for the victims of trafficking.
The NGO Forum in Huairou
The most positive result of the NGO Forum is perhaps that the 20 - 30,000 women
(nobody knows the exact number of participants) who participated in the NGO Forum have proved that they are tough, persistent, indomitable. They overcame the difficulties presented by the location, inadequate lodgings, transportation and other facilities, compounded by an inflexible and inscrutible China Organizing Committee, a virtually absent NGO Forum Organizing Committee and several days of pouring rain (during which busloads of participants from Beijing were dropped on the outskirts of the NGO Forum venue and had to wade through streams of mud and water). They did not allow themselves to be intimidated by the blatantly present Chinese security agents who swarmed the terrein with cameras and walky-talkies, or the stories of Chinese language materials disappearing during the night from the Lesbian Tent, and hotel rooms being searched in Beijing. They went on with their planned activities and organized spontaneous manifestations to express anger, sadness or solidarity in relation to the issues they represented.
There were more than 3000 scheduled meetings which all did take place, and more which were organized on the spot. The great diversity of peoples and issues was made visible.
The successful day to day facilitation of the NGO Forum was possible due to the army of young English-speaking students in yellow T-shirts who were present at every corner, and instantly came up to anyone who looked doubtful with a friendly "May I help you?" These young students directed, guided and comforted as best they could. At the end of each day another army of Chinese young men and women surged out to clean away the tons of paper and plastic and food remains left everywhere by the participants. The ones who perhaps bore the greatest burden of the NGO Forum are the residents of Huairou. Not only was their daily routine disrupted by thousands of strangers, they were restricted for the whole period of the NGO Forum to certain parts of the town, and they had to reduce use of water and electricity.
NGO activities on the issue of trafficking
It was quite clear, from studying the NGO Forum Schedule of Activities, that trafficking in women is one of the priority issues at the NGO Forum in Huairou. It is being addressed by a growing number of NGOs and international institutions. However, just as there are "many roads leading to Rome", there are different approaches to the issue. This is not surprising since trafficking is an issue which conflates with a number of other issues; e.g. labour migration for domestic work and work in the sex industry, informal labour, commercial marriage brokerage. Trafficking was thus discussed in a number of diverse workshops organized by migrant workers' solidarity organizations, grassroots organizations, and development organizations. This was a stimulating inspiration to those working on the issue; common problems were identified and the need for concrete strategies was shared.
Workshop on Trafficking in Women
In Huairou, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), of which the Foundation Against Trafficking in Women(STV) is a member, convened a workshop "The Globalisation of trafficking in women and the Need for New Strategies" which was attended by about 200 people. There the recent trends in international trafficking in women was presented, based on the findings of a recently completed action research project of the Foundation For Women in Thailand and the conclusions of two international workshops held last year in Thailand and the Netherlands. The Workshop attempted to focus discussion on strategies which were proposed. There was enthousiastic response from the participants. Many who were working on the issues of trafficking stood up to share problems they faced in their work. Questions asked revealed a shared need to develop more concrete methods to address local situations, and to acquire more understanding of the international instruments which can be used to pressure governments to take action nationally.
This reaction was typical in many of the workshops and meetings held at the NGO Forum. There is an urgent need felt for new methods and actions. Women are no longer satisfied with beautiful words and inspiring messages; they ask what they can do .....
Cases of trafficking in women were also presented at the Global Tribunal on Accountability for Women's Human Rights, convened by the Centre for Women's Global Leadership and at the World Public Hearing on Crimes gainst Women organized by the Asian Women's Human Rights Council. For both testimonies the Foundation Against Trafficking in Women (STV) provided case materials and helped in the preparation of the testifier.