“SOLWODI is fortunate to work with hundreds of strong and courageous women every year. These women have experienced terrible circumstances; many of them are severely traumatized and afraid to speak about their experiences, while others are eager to share their stories in the hope that this will raise awareness and help protect other women and girls. It is vital that these women’s voices and experiences are recognized and taken into consideration when governments are debating policies on prostitution and trafficking; they are the true experts.”
- Sr. Dr. Lea Ackermann, Founder and President of SOLWODI, Coalition member
In 2012, Equality Now brought together a coalition of nearly 100 organizations worldwide working to end sex trafficking and the exploitation of women and children in prostitution. Many of these organizations are led by trafficking survivors who know first-hand the human rights violations inherent in sex trafficking and exploitation; others have spent decades working internationally against the sexual exploitation of women and bring substantial expertise and experience to this field.
The coalition was convened to address the disturbing policy recommendations put forth in two 2012 reports backed by United Nations (UN) agencies: 1) the Global Commission on HIV and the Law’s report, HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights and Health (9 July), published by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and 2) the UNDP, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS)-backed report, Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific (18 October). These reports tell countries that in order to support efforts to reduce HIV/AIDS and to promote the human rights of people in prostitution, all aspects of the commercial sex industry should be decriminalized, including exploitative practices such as pimping and brothel-keeping. They also recommend narrowing the definition of trafficking currently found in international law, which would prevent many victims of trafficking from being recognized as such and would jeopardize their ability to access support and justice and reduce accountability for their traffickers.
On 15 November 2012, Equality Now sent letters to the heads of UNDP, UNFPA and UNAIDS raising the coalition’s concerns and asking them to consult with a more representative range of survivors of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation when developing policies and programs that affect people in the commercial sex industry. Following the letters, Equality Now met with two of the UN agencies, other individuals within the United Nations, and government officials working on gender equality and anti-trafficking issues to discuss these concerns.
Today, Equality Now, the coalition, survivors and thousands of activists worldwide are calling on the United Nations to clarify their position and to incorporate a more diverse range of survivors and anti-trafficking organizations in policy-making.
Read the coalition’s 2012 letters at: www.equalitynow.org/letters_UNDP_UNFPA_UNAIDS