Item 12 – Violence against Women in particular, trafficking in persons

Oral Intervention by Lin Chew, on behalf of Asian Legal Resource Centre and Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women.

Mr. Chairperson,

In our written submission to this Commission, ALRC highlighted several forms of violence against women in Burma, India, and Pakistan. However, I would like to underline the seriousness of the life-threatening and systematic violation of the human rights of Dalit women in India, (the details are contained in ALRC written submission E/CN.4/2000/NGO/65).

In India caste and gender discrimination is perpetrated in its worst forms on Dalit women. Dalit people are considered “out-castes” of Indian Society. Dalit women suffer three-fold discrimination: because they are women, because they are Dalits, and as Dalit women, by their own menfolk. Incidents of violence against Dalit women are regularly reported, illustrating the systematic manner in which Dalit women are being subjected to extreme inhumane treatment, as punishment for asserting their rights, or standing up to dominant castes. Often police are standing by, or have done nothing to prosecute perpetrators. Torture, rape and killing of Dalit women in police stations is a common occurrence in India.

Mr. Chairperson, on the issue of trafficking in women, ALRC and the Global Alliance against Trafficking in Women congratulate the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women on the lucid and constructive Report (E/CN.4/2000/68) she presented to this session. The Report presents a clear analysis of the complex issues involved in the continuum of trafficking in women and sets out an unambiguous definition based on the rights and concerns of women who seek work and a life elsewhere than in their own communities.

We fully agree with the Special Rapporteur that the vulnerability of women in the trafficking process must be understood in the context of the basic right to freedom of movement : it is the attempts of governments to restrict the movement and migration of women through immigration and emigration policies, and the exploitation of such attempts by traffickers that place women in situations in which they are unprotected by law…. “.. women who attempt to exercise their freedom of movement are often placed in vulnerable positions vis-a-vis the protection of their human rights” .

Paragraph 60 of the Report unequivocally places the issue in a broad human rights perspective; trafficking will continue to thrive:

“In the absence of strong measures to protect and promote the rights of women..

In the absence of equal opportunities for education, shelter, food, employment, relief from unpaid domestic and reproductive labour, access to structures of formal state power, and freedom from violence .. …

…..”Policies and practices that further curtail women’s rights and freedoms, such as those that restrict women’s movement and limit safe and legal modes of immigration, serve only to further entrench trafficking…”

In particular, we commend the Special Rapporteur for her consistency in calling for conscientious adherence to the principles of human rights in all aspects of addressing this complex issue (para. 80, pg 26):

“Any remedy or strategy proposed to combat trafficking and provide assistance to victims of trafficking must be assessed in terms of whether and how it promotes and provides protection for the human rights of women”.

(para 60)

She warns against paternalistic modes of “rescue and rehabilitation ” and “protective” strategies usually employed by states, which often result in the further curtailment of the rights of the women concerned; for example, restriction of her freedom of movement and freedom to earn a living, stigmatisation and the resulting discrimination and exclusion. She gives many examples of such problematic strategies in Section VIII (Governmental responses).

Together with the Special Rapporteur we call on governments “to move from paternalistic approaches that seek to “protect” innocent women to more holistic approaches that seek to protect and promote the human rights of all women, including their civil, political, economic and social rights.”(para 88)

We applaud the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation to governments and the international community to utilize the Human Rights Standards for the Treatment of Trafficked Persons, launched several years ago jointly by the Global Alliance against Trafficking in Women, the Foundation against Trafficking in Women and the International Human Rights Law Group. (Here available).

Built on the fundamental human rights principle of non-discrimination, which underlies

the principles enshrined in international instruments and international legal norms, the HRS sets out procedures and practices to ensure access to legal redress and all forms of social and personal support and assistance to trafficked persons.

We are convinced that the immediate implementation of these standards is basic to the greater, long term task of evolving rights-based strategies to address all forms of violence against women.

We commend the Special Rapporteur for her constructive Report to this (56th) Session and whole-heartedly support her re-appointment for another term.

Posted on 2000-03-20


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The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.

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