Human Trafficking

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. Millions of people worldwide live and suffer in slave-like situations. According to the United Nations, human trafficking is ranked as the third greatest revenue source of organized crime just after narcotics and arms. While the U.S. Department of State estimates that 800,000 – 900,000 people are trafficked across borders annually, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and many other organizations taking the lead to eradicate trafficking put the number above 2 million. Adding domestic trafficking to those numbers, which is defined as people trafficked within the borders of one nation, the number reaches almost 4 million persons trafficked per year.

Trafficked victims are often deceived, forced, or coerced into vulnerable situations that make it easy for the traffickers to hold them in forced labor and/or slavery. The overwhelming majority of victims of trafficking are women. They are often also victims of war, poverty, discrimination, and violence.

Definitions of Human Trafficking

1) The International Human Rights Law Group defines trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining, by any means, any person for labor or services involving forced labor, slavery or servitude in any industry, such as forced or coerced participation in agriculture, prostitution, manufacturing, or other industries or in domestic service or marriage.”

2) The United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act defines “severe forms of trafficking in persons” as “sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery”.

3) The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines trafficking in persons as:

(a) “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability [footnote 1] or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation [footnote 2], forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery [with footnote on illegal adoptions], servitude or the removal or organs [with footnote explanation].

Explanation (1): “The travaux preparatoires should indicate that the reference to the abuse of a position of vulnerability is understood to refer to any situation in which the person involved has no real and acceptable alternative but to submit to the abuse involved.”

Explanation (2): “The travaux preparatoires should indicate that this Protocol addresses the exploitation of prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation only in the context of trafficking in persons. The terms ‘exploitation of the prostitution of other’ or ‘other forms of sexual exploitation’ are not defined in the Protocol. The Protocol is therefore without prejudice to how States Parties address prostitution in their respective domestic laws.” {In other words, the Protocol does not define all prostitution as trafficking and so recognizes the difference between forced and voluntary participation in the sex industry by adults. Voluntary migration for sex work is covered by the Smuggling Protocol, which was developed at the same time as the Trafficking Protocol.)

(b) “The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth in subparagraph (a) shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) are established; [footnotes 4 and 5]”

Explanation (4): The travaux preparatoires should indicate that this subparagraph should not be construed as imposing any restriction on the right of accused persons to a full defence and to the presumption of innocence. ***”

Explanation (5): “Paragraph b of this Article should not be interpreted as laying upon the victim the burden of proof, as in any criminal proceedings, it is incumbent upon the public prosecutor to prove the elements of the offense in accordance with domestic law.”

Forms of Human Trafficking

The three most common forms of trafficking are labor trafficking, including child labor, child soldiering and sweatshop work; sex trafficking, including child sex tourism and ‘mail order’ brides; and domestic servitude.

Iran’s Nobel Laureate human rights lawyer Dr. Shirin Ebadi served as the first woman judge in Iran’s courts until the 1979 revolution, when the new regime forbade women from holding judgeships. Ebadi was awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her work as a lawyer and activist supporting the rights of political dissidents, women, and children. She is a cofounder of the Tehran-based Defenders of Human Rights Center, which was forcibly closed by the Iranian authorities in January of 2009. Authorities raided Dr. Ebadi’s personal office and seized her writings, confidential legal files, and two computers amid claims of so-called tax evasion.

In August 2006, the Feminist Majority Foundation and human rights organizations throughout the world asked supporters to write the Iranian government, which at that time was threatening to arrest Ebadi and close the center. The Iranian authorities responded, and the center remained open.

In 2006, the Feminist Majority Foundation presented Dr. Ebadi with the Eleanor Roosevelt Global Women’s Rights Award. Her bravery, leadership, and determination are unforgettable. Time and time again, she has risked her life for women and children. Dr. Ebadi’s human rights advocacy is so important it should not and must not be silenced.

Million Signature Campaign

The One Million Signatures Campaign was established in the summer of 2006 and ever since, has been seeking equal rights for women in Iran by demanding change in at least 10 discriminatory laws such as divorce, marriage, custody of children, right to travel, etc. The Campaign emphasizes a face to face approach designed to raise awareness among Iranians. This cultural awareness is not only limited to Iranians living in Iran, but also targets those living outside, to promote gender equality. Through persistent activism, the Iranian women’s movement has been successful in persuading Iranian officials to review and change certain laws, such as the inheritance law, which until recently only allowed women to inherit a portion of portable property and those non-portables that were standing, such as buildings and trees. However, the new legislation has added ground assets, such as land and other standing property that their husbands owned while alive. In addition, through a recently issued directive by the Judiciary, insurance companies are now obliged to pay equal compensation (deyeh) to men and women injured through car accidents. Prior to this directive, women received compensation for automobile accidents at half the rate of men.

Despite their peaceful and civil approach many feminist activists, including Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, have faced pressures, through arrests, harassment and intimidation. Despite these pressures Campaign activists contend that their activities are civic and legal and that they are committed to continuing with their efforts to raise awareness about gender discrimination and reform laws.

In the past, Campaign activists have faced vaguely worded security charges such as: “acting against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the state.” They are under persistent pressure and the form of these pressures varies from telephone calls harassing activists, to violent house searches, travel bans, insults to the activists and their family members, and imprisonment. It should be noted that Esha Momeni, a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign in California, and a CSUN graduate student, was arrested on October 15, 2008, during a visit to Iran with family and to complete her graduate thesis, which focused on conducting interviews with feminist activists. She was imprisoned for three weeks before being released on bail of nearly $200,000 on November 11, 2008. Between the date of her arrest and August 11, 2009, she faced a travel ban and was not allowed to leave Iran.

(Source: Change for Equality)

In March of 2009, the Campaign was awarded the Global Women’s Rights Award by the Feminist Majority Foundation.

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