A Modern Malaise
A phenomenon that transcends international boundaries, human trafficking is one of the largest and fastest-growing illegal trades in the world. According to the UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2009, sex trafficking accounts for 79 percent of global human trafficking, and the victims are predominantly women and girls. In Southeast Asia alone, more than one million children are sexually exploited in the commercial sex industry. Poverty and lack of economic opportunity make women and children potential victims of traffickers associated with international criminal organisations.
However, although women and children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking for the sex trade, human trafficking is not limited to sexual exploitation. It also includes those who are trafficked into 'forced' marriages or into bonded labour markets, such as sweatshops, agricultural plantations, or domestic service. A deep-seated and complex problem, human trafficking requires several types of interventions to be fully eradicated. These include awareness campaigns, prosecution of traffickers and the rehabilitation of victims.
In keeping with our commitment to women's issues, we at UNIFEM Singapore are doing our part to combat the scourge of human trafficking by raising awareness on the issue through our public education and engagement programs. We are also pleased to announce our latest partnership with The Body Shop, ECPAT and H.O.M.E for a public education campaign, STOP, to prevent sex trafficking. As part of this collaboration, we will also be screening 'Trade', a gripping tale about sex trafficking by Marco Kreuzpaintner, at the next installment of the UNIFEM Film Series.
This month's newsletter is also dedicated to this pertinent issue, starting off with a feature on Dato' Ambiga Sreenevasan, an accomplished lawyer and human rights advocate who has spoken out strongly against human trafficking and gender discrimination. We also bring you a report from our latest event - an introductory workshop on human trafficking conducted by Dr. Sallie Yea, Visiting Fellow at the National University of Singapore. What's more, we also provide a list of films and documentaries for those who would like to find out more about the issue. Also highlighted is UNIFEM's Stop Rape Now campaign, with initiatives launched both locally and internationally to end violence against women.
Help us keep UNIFEM Singapore going by supporting our fundraising events, attending our film screenings, or simply by participating in discussions on our Facebook page! Your support will go a long way in helping us assist women in the region.
UNIFEM Singapore wishes you a wonderful month ahead!
Woman of the Month: The Fearless Advocate: Dato' Ambiga Sreenevasan
A renowned and forceful advocate for good governance, democracy, and human rights, former Malaysian Bar Council President Dato' Ambiga Sreenevasan is the second woman to assume the position in the organisation's history, and has contributed significantly to judicial reform and the strengthening of women's role and status in civic society.Dedicated to the cause of equality and justice, Dato' Ambiga has courageously worked and lobbied for greater transparency and accessibility in Malaysia's legal and governing structure, while also tirelessly seeking legal solutions to issues that arise from inter-ethnic and inter-religious frictions. A believer that "gender equality is a responsibility of all Malaysians," Dato' Ambiga has successfully fought to amend Malaysia's Federal Constitution to ensure that women's testimonies would carry equal weight to men's in Shari'a courts. She continues to fight for the rights and religious freedoms of women who convert to Islam upon marriage. For her outstanding work, Dato' Ambiga was among the eight recipients of this year's prestigious "International Women of Courage Award," presented by US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Washington DC. In her acceptance speech, she said: "This occasion gives us an opportunity to reflect on the importance of the rule of law in promoting the rights of women around the world. When the rule of law is upheld, equality is upheld, the cause of justice is upheld, and human rights are upheld." As she continues her fight against gender discrimination, Dato' Ambiga has expressed interest in building a network of support for women's causes around the world. She is also keen to help in raising social awareness on human trafficking in Malaysia, and feels that while there are legal frameworks to address the issue, more can be done. She said: "Trafficking is an area that's very much tied up with illegal immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. So, I think it is an issue that is far more serious than we realise."
The UNIFEM In Conversation Series presents Dato' Ambiga Sreenevasan, winner of Women of Courage Award 2009, on Monday, 24th August. She will speak on challenges and victories in using the rule of law to challenge sexism and controversial areas, such as religious freedom and women's rights. For more information, please click here.
10 Films and Documentaries on Human Trafficking
Human trafficking has become one of the most prevalent and severe human violations in recent times. Here are ten films and documentaries that have been produced to throw light on this pressing issue:
1. Trade (2007) by Marco Kreuzpaintner
Based on a 2004 New York Times magazine article by Peter Landesman, Trade reveals the mechanics of sexual enslavement by tracing the route of a kidnapped girl from her home via a globally administered trafficking network.
'Trade' will be screened at the next installment of the UNIFEM Film Series. For more information, please click here.
2. Dirty Pretty Things (2002) by Stephen Frears
As the demand for organs for transplants has far exceeded the supply around the world, the illegal kidney trade has increased tremendously over the last few years, with the number of trafficked kidneys estimated at 15,000 each year.
Stephen Frears's award-winning thriller Dirty Pretty Things explores the horrors of organ trafficking. It tells the story of migrant workers, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Audrey Tautou, who inhabit the seedy underworld of London and how desperate circumstances traps them in harrowing ethical dilemmas.
3. Lilya 4-Ever (2003) by Lukas Moodysson
A Swedish film depicting the struggles of 16 year-old Lilya, played by Okshana Akinshina, Lilya 4-Ever deals with trafficking of women for prostitution. Lilya is abandoned by her mother and is forced to turn to prostitution to support herself. Her situation appears to improve with the appearance of a Swedish businessman who pledges to save her, but this leads to other problems instead.
4. Holly (2006) by Guy Moshe
Shot on location in Cambodia, Holly tells the story of an American stolen artifacts dealer who tries to save a young girl from being smuggled across the border to work as a prostitute. As part of the K11 Project and the Redlight Children Campaign, this film was produced with the aim to raise awareness and promote action against child sexploitation through three films and a rapidly growing international grassroots campaign.
5. Dying to Leave (2003) by Chris Hilton and Aaron Woolf
Each year, an estimated 2 to 4 million people are shipped in containers and herded through sewage pipes to uncertain futures, with many ending up in bondage, compelled to work as prostitutes or labourers in sweatshops. Dying to Leave explores the current worldwide increase in human trafficking, and examines the plight and circumstances that drive people to such measures.
6. Promised Land (2003) by Amos Gitai
Promised Land depicts the story of a group of young Estonian girls who are smuggled through Egypt to be auctioned off as prostitutes in Israel. Left with little dignity and sent out to pay their way, there seems little chance to escape their desperate circumstances. However, hope emerges when one of the girls finds refuge through a madam, while unique bonds are also formed amongst the women.
7. Trafficked (2005) by Luigi Acquisto
Developed with the assistance of the Australian Film Commission and Film Victoria, Trafficked explores the international sex trade and chronicles the journey of former police officer Chris Payne as he investigates the case of "Nikkie", a young Thai girl who was deported after she was discovered working in a Sydney brothel following the trail of evidence from Australia to Thailand.
8. Maria Full of Grace (2004) by Joshua Marston
A story about survival and determination, Maria Full of Grace tells the tale of an impoverished and pregnant 17-year old Colombian, Maria, played by Catalina Sandino Moreno, who signs on as a drug mule to transport cocaine into the United States and is embroiled into the risky and ruthless world of international drug and human trafficking.
9. Trading Women (2002) by David Feingold
Narrated by Angelina Jolie, Trading Women investigates the trafficking of girls and women from hill tribes in Burma, Yunnan and Laos into the sex industry of Thailand and sheds light on how women are constrained by the economic and political conditions in which they find themselves. It also explores the complex world of the trade and examines the international community's response to the issue.
10. Modern Slavery (2007) by Thomas Robsahm and Tina Davis
A documentary about people living under extremely restricted conditions across the world, Modern Slavery provides an insight into the negative consequences of neoliberal economics and politics. It also examines the claim that it is in the interest of certain economic and social forces to preserve modern slavery, and features famous figures such as Noam Chomsky, Sir Bob Geldof, Joseph Stiglitz and Somaly Mam.
Say NO to Violence - Stop Rape Now
There are daily reports of deliberate and widespread sexual abuse in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Darfur, Sudan. As a member of the Say NO network, join UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman in an action of global solidarity to help stop rape as a tactic of war. The Stop Rape Now campaign, an effort by 12 United Nations organisations to prevent conflict-related sexual violence, is asking for your help.
How? GET CROSS! Join us in a display of global solidarity: Cross your arms, take a photo and upload it on the Stop Rape Now website. Adopting the UN Action's crossed-arm gesture is an effective way to send the message that sexual terror will not be tolerated.
Your photo will be showcased on the Stop Rape Now website and in a large global mosaic at the UN Headquarters, showing that people around the world are raising their voices against what has been called one of history's greatest silences.
In August, the United Nations Security Council will debate an action plan on how to curb this war crime, punish perpetrators and document the atrocities. It will build on Security Council Resolution 1820, unanimously adopted on 19 June 2008, to recognise conflict-related sexual violence as a tactic of war and as an urgent matter of international peace and security.
By sending your picture, you support the following call:
Sexual violence attacks not only the health and wellbeing of women and girls, but the peace process itself. Show that you Say NO to sexual violence in conflict. Upload your crossed-arm photograph for display on the Stop Rape Now website. Show you care. Show your support.
The Say NO Team
UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman, through this crossed-arm gesture, demonstrates her solidarity with the urgent cause of ending sexual violence in conflict, which terrorises millions of women and girls and is a present-day tactic intentionally used on a large scale by armed groups. UNIFEM is one of 12 United Nations organisations that work together through UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict (UN Action) to strengthen services provided to survivors and to protect women and girls during and after conflict.
Did you know?
These rapes inflict immense psychological and physical harm. We need to act now.
Say No to Violence. Say No to Rape.
The 'No to Rape' campaign seeks to make marital rape a crime in Singapore.
Launched recently on 1 July 2009, the organisers are calling for a petition to the Prime Minister to repeal two instances of marital rape immunity in the Penal Code.
To date, 1410 have signed the online petition.
To find out more, please visit http://www.notorape.com.
STOP - Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People
UNIFEM Singapore is a proud partner of the STOP (Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People) campaign launched by The Body Shop Singapore. Launched on 6th August, the three-year global campaign will raise awareness of the scale of the issue of sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children and young people.
Working in partnership with ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) International, this campaign aims to draw attention to this major issue, to inspire long-term change and to stop the sexual exploitation of an estimated 1.8 million children and young people every year. It also aims to raise funding for vulnerable children at risk or exploited by sex trafficking, and inspire those with decision-making power to effect change and offer all children better protection.
The campaign will be the focus in all The Body Shop stores in Singapore for two weeks, and the stores will also begin the sale of a special edition Soft Hands Kind Heart Hand Cream, priced at S$14.90, which is a key part and symbol of the campaign. Profits from the sale of the Hand Cream will go towards funding education and awareness, local research, and a community project that protects children at risk of sex trafficking.
Profits from the sale of the Hand Cream will be donated to the National Committee for United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Singapore and Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (H.O.M.E). Money raised will go towards educational workshops to create public awareness and engage young people on this issue. Donations will also support an ECPAT-led grassroots project helping young people who have been trafficked and at-risk children in South Vietnam.
Event Report - Understanding Human Trafficking - Introductory Workshop for Service Providers and Public
Nine UNIFEM staff and volunteers were amongst about forty participants in a one-day workshop on human trafficking, held on Saturday, 4th July. The workshop was conducted by Dr. Sallie Yea, Visiting Fellow at the National University of Singapore, a specialist in the subject who has accumulated much knowledge and research in this region and beyond.
Given the increasing awareness and concern about human trafficking, as well as the complexity of the issues involved, the workshop offered much needed training and insight for non-governmental organisations and concerned members of the public who are working to tackle the problem.
The workshop was structured in four sessions, ranging from the conceptual to the practical and hands-on. Dr Yea explained that such an introductory workshop would ordinarily take five days, and due to the limited time available, much of the teaching content had to be compressed. Nonetheless, the four sessions covered a wide range of issues about human trafficking, including its definitions, forms and modus operandi, common myths and issues, victimology, and good practices and models to combat the problem. Dr Yea also provided a resource guide of key academic texts, websites, films and documentaries, underscoring the importance of sound understanding and research in dealing with the often volatile and complicated problem of human trafficking.
Dr Yea was careful to establish the working definitions of human trafficking: trafficking is often confused with smuggling, but while the latter involves facilitated movement, it does not include the dimensions of recruitment and intended exploitation as the former does. Also, whether a victim of trafficking had consented to his or her plight is irrelevant, simply because complicity does not undermine victimisation. More often than not, 'consenting' migrants had been deceived by shady means of recruitment, and are exploited due to their vulnerable position of poverty and lack of opportunity. Also, human trafficking tends to be primarily perceived as a transnational crime issue, which eclipses other pertinent approaches to the issue, such the dimension of gender equality and human rights.
Other than definitional debate, other key debates in human trafficking involve the controversies over prostitution and sex work, as well as the estimated numbers and scale of the problem. The final session of the workshop was an open-ended discussion about strategies and best practices in responding to human trafficking, in the areas of prevention, protection and prosecution. Dr Yea emphasised a victim-centred approach towards enacting social change on human trafficking, and reiterated that any real solution to the problem must ultimately break the cycle of vulnerability common to all victims of trafficking.
All in all, the workshop provided a glimpse of the challenges ahead, and also the potential of what could be achieved if organisations were joined in a well-grounded approach to the emerging issue.
Contributors: Baey Shi Chen, Danielle Zheng
Join the UNIFEM Singapore Group on Facebook
UNIFEM Singapore is now on Facebook!
Our Facebook group is an active platform for UNIFEM Singapore to share updates, photos and information to all group members. It will also serve as a forum for group members to share ideas and thoughts about women's issues.
The UNIFEM Singapore Facebook group is open to everyone. To join, simply search for 'UNIFEM Singapore' on Facebook. Just a small reminder, please note that you have to sign up for Facebook before you can join the group.