Demand fosters human trafficking

“Demands for sexual exploitation, for cheap labour and domestic workers, for organ removal and sale, for illicit adoption and forced marriages, for criminal activities or begging, or for the exploitation for armed groups, all constitute substantial contributing factors to human trafficking,” the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, said while presenting her annual report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In her report, Ezeilo explained that the “demand” side of human trafficking should be understood more broadly. She referred to a consumer demand for particularly cheap goods and services, which fuels demand for cheap labour that was at times met by trafficked labour.

The expert  noted that there are different levels of demand related to human trafficking, as identified by the UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, which include: employer demand; consumer demand (clients or prostitute-users, corporate buyers in manufacturing and household members for domestic work); and the third parties involved in the process.

Ezeilo presented measures taken by States, businesses, non-governmental organizations and civil society to prevent trafficking and address its demand side, particularly in business supply chains.

“In today’s globalized world, the risks of human trafficking in supply chains are significant in a number of economic sectors ranging from agriculture, to textile and manufacturing as well as services; and these risks have not been adequately dealt with, either by States or by businesses themselves.”

Referring to the responses by States to trafficking, the UN expert noted that they had often focused exclusively on demand for commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls, and neglected other types of trafficking such as forced labour or trafficking for the sale of organs.

Ezeilo, who reminded States that they had a responsibility to protect against human rights abuses, including trafficking, also encouraged them to analyse and consider the underlying factors that generate demand for sexual exploitation as well as forced labour.

“They should set out clearly the expectation that all business enterprises shall respect human rights throughout their operations, both at home and abroad, and take appropriate action to prevent and stop trafficking in persons.”

 “It is necessary to put regulatory and supervisory mechanisms in place whenever they encourage or facilitate any forms of labour migration, as the absence of such mechanisms has had the effect of facilitating trafficking in persons,” underlined the Rapporteur.

She added that anti-trafficking measures should not adversely affect the human rights and dignity of persons, in particular the rights of those who have been trafficked, migrants, internally displaced persons, refugees and asylum seekers.

Days prior to the presentation of her report, Ezeilo undertook a consultation in Berlin, Germany, with national rapporteurs and other mechanisms on trafficking in persons tasked with monitoring and evaluating countries’ anti-trafficking laws and policies, as well as their implementation. The meeting enabled participants from around the world to analyse current trends in trafficking and share best practices to respond to this scourge.

The participants noted that “the consultation has provided an essential platform for learning from one another and exchange of experiences at a global level, and fostered a spirit of understanding and collaboration across many different countries to achieve the shared goal of combatting human trafficking”.       
2 July 2013
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