Date of Meeting: 21 June 2017

Meeting Organizer: UN Women, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Equality Now, Permanent Missions to the UN of Panama and Sweden, UNODC

ISJC Staff Present: Lt-Col. Eirwen Pallant, Dr. Laurelle Smith, Joseph Halliday

Reporter: Joseph Halliday

Which SDG does this topic cover? 5, 8, 10, 16, 17

Type of meeting: Panel discussion

Brief summary of presentation of information made

Purna Sen, UN Women: made opening remarks.

Performance of A Day in the Life by GoodCapp Arts, introduced by Christine Lahti, actor and Advisory Board member, Equality Now who made the following points:

  • There is a need for governments to enforce legislation that protects women and girls from violence. The progress made so far is at risk of being undone.
  • 96 per cent of sexual exploitation victims are women and girls.
  • Sex trafficking is particularly lucrative because bodies can be sold repeatedly.
  • Sex trafficking has an impact on all women and girls (not just trafficked) – it affects the attitudes and values of society.

Simone Monasebian, UNODC: acted as moderator. She explained the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

H.E. Laura Flores, Ambassador of Panama to the United Nations

  • Comments made on the huge scale of the problem: ‘Barely a day goes by without news of a trafficking ring being dismantled.’ There is a normalisation of the situation – and ‘this must stop’.
  • Every country has a responsibility to stop trafficking, a ‘severe threat to dignity and human rights.’ 
  • SDGs are a ‘collective pledge to leave nobody behind’. 
  • Panama is a migration destination, so the country is aware of the trafficking risk. It is working to build up the capacities of public institutions; to improve the socio-economic situation of country; and to incorporate anti-trafficking measures into all programmes.
  • Human trafficking occurs in nearly every country. Effective international co-operation must be in place. Countries must adopt preventative measures and must share data and best practice.
  • Panama appointed to new Board of Trustees for UN Trust Fund for trafficking victims.
  • SDGs offer a huge opportunity and potential to transform world – improving the lives of all citizens. ‘Each women and girl has the right to fulfil her potential - this must be a priority’.

H.E. Per-Anders Sunesson, Swedish Ambassador at Large for Combating Trafficking in Persons

  • Speaker’s mandate from his country covers all forms of trafficking but has a particular priority for sexual exploitation. ‘Prostitution is always sexual exploitation’ - clear line from Swedish government.
  • It is not criminal to sell sex in Sweden – this decision was debated for years, resulting in cross-party support to change perspective to put focus onto those buying sex. Those who are in prostitution should not be punished but supported. Many falsehoods given over Swedish approach but over half of those who used to buy sex have stopped, the number of prostitutes is going down, there is a majority of public support, and experience suggests prostitution is not being driven underground (as feared), with lower levels of sexual trafficking. Other countries have followed suit: including Norway, Canada and Ireland.

Ruchira Gupta, Apne Aap

  • States that the goal of the organisation is a world where no woman or girl is bought or sold.
  • Mention made of Swedish model (criminalise demand, decriminalise supply) and its success. Majority of trafficked are women and girls and most are trafficked for sex. Average age of girl is 9 to 13 in India and 13 to 15 in US.
  • Entire families can be caught up in sex trafficking - offspring replacing the mother, for example.

Taina Bien-Aimé, Coalition against Trafficking in Women (CATW)

  • Perception of ‘hysteria’ over work on sexual trafficking (i.e. a perception that its importance is overstated) - but this is not the case. The UN is critically important to this work. SDGs are all equal – and trafficking is embedded throughout, see targets 5.7, 8.7, 9.5, 16.2 - which is significant, shows equal weight should be given in the effort on the part of stakeholders.
  • Domestic trafficking should not be overlooked.

Yasmeen Hassan, Equality Now

  • People on the ground know the issues and the best way to solve them. It is important for legislation to reflect the experiences and knowledge of the people involved.
  • Different manifestations - in some countries, sexual trafficking results through poverty, through deception, through forced marriage, through child marriage, through conflict. 
  • A lot depends on political will – a voice must be given to civil organisations, they should not be marginalised.

Withelma ‘T' Ortiz Walker Pettigrew, Sex Trafficking Survivor

  • Speaker was trafficked from age of 10 to 17 in US (domestic sexual trafficking). There was little family support and she grew up in poverty - ‘trafficking is a process’ and she had a ‘bond’ with trafficker (as she saw it at the time). Later became advocate, after her experience. 
  • All governments must provide exit strategies - safety, support. Multi-disciplinary team approach required which must include the survivor. Trauma care is important.
  • ‘We must target demand.’

What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?

  • The success of Sweden’s approach – of decriminalising those selling sex and moving the focus onto those buying it – should be noted, and wide-ranging, survivor-centred support given to those who have been trafficked.

Web links for more information

Tags: SDG10: Reduced Inequalities, SDG16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, SDG5: Gender Equality, SDG17: Partnerships for the Goals