Since 2009, March 4th has been designated as the World Day of the Fight Against Sexual Exploitation
Every year on that day, hundreds of thousands of activists, community members and leaders around the globe recognize the importance of combating this heinous violation of human rights and reaffirm their commitment to fight it and expand services and protections for the survivors.
In the International law, “sexual exploitation” is defined as any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.
According to the International Labor Organization, close to 5 million people annually, exclusively female, are victims of forced sexual exploitation. Children comprise more than a fifth of all victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Male individuals are not immune either. A significant number of boys and young men get trapped in sexual exploitation as well. Members of the LGBT community are especially vulnerable due to stigma and lack of specialized services.
While understanding that sexual exploitation may any individual, we recognize that this grave violation of human rights, often amounting to the crime of human trafficking, is gendered, and rooted in structural discrimination and inequalities. We support the General Recommendation on Trafficking of Women and Girls in the Context of Global Migration, which was adopted by the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Committee on 6 November 2020 and acknowledged that widespread trafficking in women and girls persists because of a lack of appreciation of the gender dimensions of trafficking, which leaves women and girls exposed to different types of exploitation, including sexual exploitation.
The CEDAW Committee’s affirmation that trafficking in women and girls is rooted in sex-based discrimination and is a form of gender-based violence, and consequently a function of abuse of male power and privilege, is critical to ensuring that responsibility and accountability is placed on perpetrators, and not on women and girls whose rights are being violated and need to be supported to exit sexual exploitation. Across all societies, persisting norms and stereotypes regarding male domination, and their control and power over women and girls enforce patriarchal gender roles and male sexual entitlement which generate the demand.
We support the CEDAW Committee’s analysis and recommendation, which encourages governments to address underlying structural gender and socio-economic inequalities that make women and girls vulnerable to exploitation. We also applaud the committee’s call on governments to address the demand that fuels the criminal market of human beings for sexual exploitation.
Eradicating sexual exploitation and human trafficking requires collective action and multidisciplinary collaboration on a global scale. The international Alliance of Women reaffirms its commitment to partner with stakeholders around the world in fighting this heinous violation of human rights and assisting the survivors.
Dr Antonia Lavine
Coordinator of the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking