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Equality Now, an international women’s rights organisation with individual and organisational members in 160 countries including Europe, welcomes a sustained focus by the European Union on the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings as an important step in the fight against human trafficking. Human trafficking is a huge and complex area of concern and a coordinated, comprehensive approach to combat this human rights abuse is vital in ensuring its end.

As highlighted by the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in its report Advancing women’s rights worldwide1 “...member states should step up efforts to combat discrimination generally against women and encourage political decision-makers to take into account the gender dimension in the development of policies and legislation.” With the majority of trafficked persons being women and girls, according to the Union Nations, Equality Now believes that critical attention needs to be given also to a gendered analysis of the problem of trafficking in order that strategies to combat all aspects of trafficking at their core can be ultimately successful. We encourage the European Commission and EU Member States therefore to pursue an holistic and comprehensive human-rights based approach on trafficking based on a thorough understanding of the impact of discrimination against women and girls at all levels. This would necessitate efforts which promote and protect women’s and girls’ right to be free from violence and sex discrimination generally.

To be truly effective in preventing trafficking in persons the strategy should encourage Member States to undertake efforts that address both the “demand” and “supply” side of trafficking. The Council of Europe report focuses rightly on the enormous profit being made from women’s bodies, yet little sustained effort has been made to address the demand that fuels the sex industry.2 Equality Now urges a strong focus on addressing the demand for trafficking which would also send a powerful message that the poor and disadvantaged are not for the exploitation of those with greater means.

Based on our experience working on prevention with anti-trafficking groups including many survivor-led groups around the world, we have learnt that while informational campaigns and sensitisation trainings are vital, so are strong, effectively-enforced laws that criminalise exploitation and trafficking.

In order to achieve comprehensive progress to end trafficking, we would urge the Commission and Member States to consult with trafficking survivors in supporting the design and implementation of anti-trafficking measures and we would be pleased to facilitate introduction to grassroots groups working in different areas of the world. In addition, we encourage the Commission to provide information on and encourage efforts which address emerging trends within the human trafficking industry, including the increasing use of the internet by traffickers, pimps and “buyers” to recruit and exploit trafficking victims.

Equality Now is an international women’s rights organisation which works to address and eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls across the world. In partnership with women’s rights groups at the national/grassroots levels, we work to ensure that systems are in place to protect women’s rights and that such systems are properly implemented.

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To read the EU Strategy towards the eradication of trafficking in Human beings, click here.

1  Doc. 12812, 5 January 2012
2 “There is strong resistance of many actors to recognise that the presence of “prostitution markets” in destination countries is a pull-factor for trafficking.  Trafficking in human beings is a real business, with a market, a supplier's side creating monopolies depending on geographical regions and a product differentiation with persons who are considered as products.  Without the demand for women in the sex industry, there would be no business of proxenetism and as a result no need for a “supply” chain.”  Ibid, para 92