[Dr Melanie O'Brien is a Research Fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. She attended the CEDAW session as a delegate of the American Society of International Law.]
session of the Committee on the Elimination of the Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) celebrated 30 years of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (the Convention). During the session, CEDAW considered the state reports of the Bahamas, Bulgaria, Guyana, Indonesia, Jamaica, New Zealand, Mexico, and Samoa. The Committee addressed many issues including access to healthcare, access to justice, abortion, education, LGBT concerns, marital and divorce rights, migrant and domestic workers, minority groups (e.g. Roma; rural women), prostitution, and violence against women. However, two issues in particular were emphasised: participation of women in politics, and trafficking of women and girls. The former was the focus of the introductory event commemorating the 30th
anniversary of the Convention, as well as considered in the state reporting. Trafficking in women and girls received attention through the state reporting, but was also the topic of a special event held on the final day of the public part of the session.
Trafficking is of serious concern to CEDAW, as nearly 80% of trafficking victims are women and girls. The majority of perpetrators are male. Sexual exploitation (79%) is by far the most commonly identified form of trafficking in persons, followed by forced labor (18%). [All statistics from the UNODC 2009 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons
.] Due to the bias against women as victims, CEDAW identifies trafficking in persons (TIP) as a form of gender-based violence. TIP also amounts to organised crime and is a violation of human rights. CEDAW is at the forefront of combating TIP through Article 6 of the Convention, which requires States Parties to “take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women”. Through this, the Committee is keen to inform states and the UN on national law, implementation of national activities and plan, the existence of shelters for victims, measures to address root causes of TIP, numbers of prosecutions, and training/awareness raising of law enforcement personnel and the judiciary. CEDAW also interacts with civil society, through non-governmental and other organisations, to explore ways and means of helping states address TIP concerns.