Building Coalitions to End Trafficking in Asia
Last month, Equality Now joined 230 participants from 23 countries for four days at the Asia Region Anti-Trafficking conference in Bangkok to share ideas, build relationships, and strengthen efforts to end human trafficking.
The annual Asia Region Anti-Trafficking Conference is co-hosted by STOP THE TRAFFIK and Chab Dai Coalition with the goal of multi-sector learning and partnership building in the fight against human trafficking and slavery in Asia. Last month in Bangkok, Equality Now joined 230 participants from 23 countries to discuss current regional trends and challenges (and what that means for our future work), share best practices, and find points of synergy for collaborative action. Equality Now examined how our legal advocacy work intersects with direct services, research and fundraising, and community building to protect women and girls from sex trafficking and sexual exploitation over the course of four action-packed days.
Topics of discussion included: organizational and staff development at NGOs (exploring challenges in monitoring and evaluation, staff well-being, working across diverse stakeholders), different forms of trafficking in the region (labor, sex, child, internal, international, online, etc.), various efforts in anti-trafficking from prevention awareness to social work/after-care to freedom businesses (for-profit social enterprise businesses which specifically employ survivors) to research and advocacy, funding, and more.
- Estimated USD $99 billion industry globally
- 500 known trafficking flows across 6 continents
Estimated 20.9 million people trafficked annually for sexual exploitation
- 96% of victims are women and girls
- 73% of victims are from the Asia-Pacific region
Sex trafficking is a global issue targeting primarily women and girls worth an astonishing amount of money. The high value of the sale of humans motivates traffickers to invest exorbitant amounts of time, money, and creativity into circumventing law enforcement, meaning governments and civil society need to work even harder to combat this human rights abuse together.
While traffickers around the world use similar tactics of preying on the vulnerable, sexual exploitation does manifest differently in different parts of the world. The Philippines, for example, has become a global epicenter for the online sexual exploitation of children, while China is witnessing increasing bride trafficking from Southeast Asia due to its unprecedented gender imbalance coming out of the One Child Policy era. As such, it is crucial to examine the issue within regional contexts and to coordinate with diverse local actors that touch on different parts of a survivor’s experience from prevention/awareness to access to justice and legal advocacy to rehabilitation and social services.
Law as the foundation for social change
The majority of the countries in East Asia and the Pacific introduced legislation to address human trafficking in line with the Palermo Protocol within 5 years of its enactment. However, despite existing anti-trafficking laws, sex trafficking, sex tourism, and prostitution continue to flourish in the region with a devastating impact on women and children. The law is a crucial first step toward ending sex trafficking, but it must be coupled with enforcement of the law against perpetrators and access to justice and support services for survivors.
In addition to a stellar lineup of speakers and workshops that covered a range of issues from labor trafficking in the Thai fishing industry to trafficking of Rohingya refugees to trafficking for sexual exploitation, participants created a bank of useful resources for the fight against trafficking:
- Chab Dai/Liberty Shared collaborative data collection on human trafficking and migration routes, giving an overview of current patterns and needs for partnerships;
- Victim Case Management System: shared case management data and technology to support NGOs in serving survivors;
- Freedom Collaborative Legal Impact Hub: trafficking related legal resources and community support board;
- Victim Image Use Guidelines: guidelines for victim-sensitive use of images in campaign materials
- Delta 8.7 Knowledge Platform: global knowledge platform exploring what works to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour, an aim set out in Target 8.7 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals;
- Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative (CTDC): global data hub on human trafficking;
- Freedom Collaborative General Trafficking Info: research, policy papers, reports, and more on human trafficking;
- IOMX Resources: free campaign development materials to fight human trafficking;
- Ethical storytelling: a community of nonprofit practitioners and storytellers learning how to tell effective stories without inadvertently exploiting or re-traumatizing survivors.