Women with Disabilities
SE Asia - First Court of Women on Trafficking & HIV
First South East Asia Court of Women on HIV and Human Trafficking held in Bali
The jury deliberating on a most unusual trial โ the first South East Asia Court of Women on HIV and Human Trafficking in South East Asia โ here have urged the governments, UN agencies, civil society organizations and others to urgently address the vulnerabilities of women to trafficking and HIV.
However, these responses should be rights and gender-responsive and should not โre-victimiseโ the women who have been trafficked, they said. What is required are joint-efforts based on human rights principles rather than inappropriate law enforcement.
This was no typical court proceeding, but was instead a symbolic court held in connection with the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP), which opens here on August 9.
โThe vulnerabilities of women to trafficking and HIV are rooted in the disproportionate human insecurity, poverty, illiteracy and disempowerment that they face in their daily lives,โ the Jury said in a statement issued at the end of the Court. In several countries, women who are trafficked are chased by the same law that is meant to protect them. They are treated as โillegal migrantsโ and โcriminalsโ and are often denied their rights and choices.
The jury of six eminent legal and human rights experts heard real-life testimonies in the Womenโs Court, including harrowing stories of trafficking, violence and exploitation. The Court provided a forum for women across SE Asia to share their personal survival stories and to create further awareness about trafficking, sexual exploitation, bonded labour, and HIV in the region.
Alongside the powerful and poignant testimonies of women who suffered at the hands of traffickers, โexpert witnessesโ presented data and powerful analyses to highlight the intense violation of dignity and rights of thousands of other women from South East Asia. The Court brought together leaders, politicians, activists and communities who are working to make a difference to empower women and reduce their vulnerability to trafficking and HIV in the South East Asia region.
The event was organised by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Asian Womenโs Human Rights Council (AWHRC), and Yakeba, a Balinese NGO , with financial support from the Japanese Government and in partnership with UNODC and others.
Opening the court, Ms. Meutia Hatta, Minister for Womenโs Empowerment of Indonesia, said: โof the total number of people trafficked globally, one-third is from South East Asia and gender inequality and unequal power relations are the main fuelling factors for this phenomenon.โ In view of the seriousness of the issue, the Government of Indonesia enacted the anti-trafficking law in 2008. The spread of HIV in the region is increasingly impacting women 2-3 times more at risk of contracting HIV than men in the same age group.
In her key note address, Dr. Nafis Sadik, UN Secretary Generalโs Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific region, said that trafficking was a matter of legislation alone, though laws were essential. They should be drafted with due respect for human rights and there must be even-handed enforcement. โToo often, we find double or triple standards at work.โ She added: โthe sex workers are endowed with the same rights as other human beings; and that coercion in all its forms, including trafficking, has no part to play.
The testimonies heard by the Court included:
*A young Cambodian woman selling sugar care juice on the streets of Phnom Penh couldnโt resist the lure of an overseas job that promised her a decent salary. Smuggled out of her country through the Cambodia-Thai border, she ended up in Malaysia as a bonded sex worker. After months in several brothels and a jail, she is now back in Phnom Penh, thanks to the intervention of an NGO. But with a battered past and HIV, life is a daunting struggle for her.
*One woman Indonesia took a job in the Middle East as a domestic worker, but faced extreme hardship and escaped, ending up in a detention centre in Jakarta. Unable to make both the ends meet, she tried for another job in another country. This time, the working conditions were worse. โThey forced me to work without a break and withheld my pay frequently. I fell unconscious often. I was raped several times.โ
The eminent jury included Hon. Mieke Komar Kantaatmadja (Supreme Court Justice, Indonesia), Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn (Prof. of Law and Former UN Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Thailand), Marina Mahathir (Steering Committee Member, Asia Pacific Leadership Forum on HIV/AIDS and Development, Malaysia), Annette Sykes (Lawyer, New Zealand), Sylvia Marcos (Director, Center for Psycho-ethnological Research, Mexico), and Esperanza I. Cabral (Secretary, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippines).
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South East Asia's first "Womenโs Court" on trafficking and HIV
Harrowing personal stories narrated by more than 20 women who have endured trafficking, violence, exploitation and HIV will mark the first โSouth East Asia (SEA) Court of Women on HIV and Human Trafficking: from Vulnerability to free, Just and Safe Movementโ to be held in Bali, Indonesia on 6 August.
Organised by UNDP, Asian Womenโs Human Rights Council (AWHRC) and Yakeba - a Balinese NGO with financial support from the Government of Japan, together with a broad range of UN and CSO partners, the Court is being held in conjunction with the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP9) that gets underway here from 9 August.
At the Court, Wanta, a young HIV positive Cambodian woman will narrate her personal account of exploitation at the hands of trans-border traffickers that landed her in bonded sex work in Malaysia. Today she is back in Phnom Penh, living with HIV among many other voiceless survivors of trafficking. The case of Nitha, from Indonesia will expose the unspeakable violence faced by poor women from the region who go to the Arab States region as domestic workers. Another compelling case will be that of Rina, a trafficking survivor from Myanmar, who was chased by the same law that was meant to protect her. Other testifiers will share in their own voice the many forms of violence and exploitation that poor women in the region face in their daily lives.
The Court will employ a unique format of weaving the objective and the subjective as well as the personal and the political to bring out the intense violation of dignity and rights of women. It will also feature substantive analyses on the issue by experts from the region and elsewhere. โThe testimonies will be presented before an eminent jury of wise women and men validating their experiences, legitimizing their memories and seeking new ways of justice,โ said Ms. Corinne Kumar, International Coordinator, Courts of Women.
โThe Womenโs Court is both a call for action against human trafficking and HIV, and a testament to the resilience and courage of women from the region who have survived unspeakable exploitation and violence,โ said Caitlin Wiesen, Regional HIV/AIDS Practice Leader & Programme Coordinator, Asia & Pacific, UNDP. It is estimated that the region accounts for one third of human trafficking in the world. Countries in the region are source, transit and destination areas for human trafficking. There are cases where women are trafficked across the border into surrogacy, sexual slavery and bonded labour, which will be presented as testimonies at the Court. Ms. Caitlin Wiesen, said the Court and the testimonies are not a one-off event, but are part of a process aimed at making a difference to countless women who are subjected to trafficking, violence and exploitation and are vulnerable to HIV in South East Asia. The Court will bring forth evidence on the diverse forms of exploitation that women suffer during their voluntary and forced movement within and across national borders.
Ms. Corinne Kumar, said โthe concepts and categories that we use are unable to grasp the violation against women. The existing jurisprudence is gender-blind and we need to move towards a justice that is restorative and healing of individuals and communities.โ โIt is essential that the linkages between HIV and human trafficking be viewed and addressed through the prism of dignity, access to justice, health and human security of individuals and communities, she added.
Her Excellency Meutia Hatta, Minister for Womenโs Empowerment from Indonesia will officially open the Court while Dr. Nafis Sadik, UN Secretary Generalโs Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific region, will deliver the key note address.
This event is a major partnership initiative involving United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), United Nations Inter- Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) and Asia Pacific Network of People living with HIV (APN+) with financial support from the Government of Japan. The Court will bring together leaders, politicians, activists and communities who are working to make a difference to empower women and reduce their vulnerability to trafficking and HIV in the South East Asia region.
From right to left: Corinne Kumar, International Coordinator, Courts of Women; Caitlin Wiesen, Regional HIV/AIDS Practice Leader & Programme Coordinator, Asia & Pacific, UNDP; Bob Moukhouse of Yakeba (an NGO for HIV and Human Rights based in Bali); and Nelia Sancho, Regional Coordinator, Asian Women's Human Rights Council (AWHRC) at a press conference in Bali, Indonesia on 4 August. The eminent jury will include Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn (Prof. of Law and Former UN Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Thailand), Marina Mahathir (Steering Committee Member, Asia Pacific Leadership Forum on HIV/AIDS and Development, Malaysia), Annette Sykes (Lawyer, New Zealand), Sylvia Marcos (Director, Center for Psycho-ethnological Research, Mexico), Mieke Komar Kantaatmadja (Supreme Court Justice, Indonesia) and Esperanza I. Cabral (Secretary, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippines).
The Womenโs Court will have four sessions: human rights of vulnerable communities; public health impact of anti trafficking legislation; and responses from communities (celebrating womenโs successes on overcoming various challenges). The sessions of the Court will be introduced by a group of โExpert Witnessesโ comprising Mabel Bianco (Argentina), Prof. Irwanto (Indonesia), Irene Fernandez (Malaysia), Vichuta Ly (Cambodia) and Eni Lestari (Hong Kong).
The Court will end on a celebratory note. A Talking Poleng made by the participants of the Court with expressions of hope, strength, solidarity and commitment will be unveiled by distinguished guests and speakers. In addition, a traditional Balinese dance called Mulat Sarira will be performed by a dance group based in Bali.
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