Statement on 2012-2016 EU Strategy to Eradicate Human Trafficking - Reduce Demand

CATW-Europe September 25, 2012 France

Trafficking in Human Beings, European Commission

From Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Europe

Re: Communication from the Commission to The European Parliament, The Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and The Committee of the Regions


The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Europe (CATW, Europe) welcomes the Communication from the Commission concerning the EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012-2016.  The CATW has maintained an active presence in Europe since its founding in 1988 when it became the first organization organized to combat trafficking on an international level.


For many years, CATW has confronted trafficking in persons, especially women and children, from the perspective of a woman’s right to be free from sexual exploitation. We therefore applaud The Communication for its emphasis on trafficking as a gender-based offense. In this context, we are pleased to see The Communication confirm the UNODC data that the majority of known victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation, and that women and girls are the main victims. We also support the attention devoted to the fact that victims should not be victimized and re-victimized. Especially during this European economic crisis, we see more and more women from countries in crisis being trafficked throughout the continent. For example, many Greek women have already been trafficked throughout the Schengen region. All of this information and these recent events confirm the necessity for action to be taken that addresses the particular situation of women and that proceeds from a women’s rights framework.


There are, however, sections of the Communication that that are of major concern to us.


Setting the Scene - In citing the instruments that are of special import to the problem of trafficking, we are puzzled that several do not appear.  In particular, we question why the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others is not cited or even footnoted. The majority of the EU member states have ratified this convention, as well as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which is also missing from the acknowledgments.

All conditions of trafficking elaborated in the UN Palermo Protocol on Trafficking and the European Warsaw Convention should be mentioned, not only those relating to “force, coercion or fraud” but also abuse of power or of a person’s vulnerability.  Both the Palermo Protocol and the Council of Europe Convention contain the important definitional provision that “The consent of a victims of trafficking to the intended exploitation…shall be irrelevant” where any of these means have been used. Therefore, all victims of trafficking are protected, not just those who can prove force.


Understanding and Reducing Demand – In this context, we also recall the Council on the Status of Women (CSW) resolution of 2005 to “eliminate the demand leading to trafficking for sexual exploitation;” as well as the human trafficking policy of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) making it a punishable offense for UN military, peacekeepers and related personnel to solicit women for sexual activities in prostitution, even if prostitution is legal in the jurisdiction where UN peacekeepers operate.

In light of the emphasis in The Communication on trafficking as a gender-based violation, we are surprised to see that demand has no gender in this document, particularly as it relates to trafficking for sexual exploitation– i.e., that it is mainly men who buy women for purposes of sexual exploitation.


The Communication footnotes the IOM “Buy Responsibly” campaign to suggest that it can be used as a best practice to reduce demand “for all forms of trafficking, including sexual exploitation.” However, the IOM “Buy Responsibly” campaign correctly limits its campaign to buying products responsibly.  Women are not products, nor should they be bought and sold as products, even “responsibly.” The reference is therefore deceptive in that a campaign that makes no mention of buying sexual activities responsibly should be suggested as a strategy to reduce demand for trafficking for sexual exploitation. 


We realize that some countries in Europe have taken the road of encouraging men to buy women in prostitution “responsibly.” The Crimestoppers Campign in the Netherlands is such an example where men who buy women for sexual activities are exhorted to enlist buyers in reporting abuse and encouraged not to use force or coercion when they buy. However, several other countries in Europe have specifically rejected this policy and the practices that follow from it. Sweden, Iceland and Norway have legislation that penalizes the buyers and does not accept that there are “responsible” ways to buy sexual activities. In 2011, all parties in the French National Assembly affirmed France’s abolitionist policy on prostitution, resolved that legal acceptance of prostitution is incompatible with French policies that promote gender equality and human rights, and expressed the need to criminalize the buyers.


In understanding and reducing demand, it is necessary first of all to understand that demand has different meanings when challenging labor trafficking and trafficking for sexual exploitation. We should not confuse the two, which The Communication appears to do in suggesting that the IOM “Buy Responsibly” campaign can be used as a best practice to understand and reduce demand.


The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Europe, stands ready to share the outcome of its work, particularly that done in 16 countries of Europe, on understanding and reducing demand.  We note that research is to be conducted on “Reducing the Demand for Services Provided by Victims of Trafficking” in 2013; and that “Models and Guidelines on the Reduction of Demand” are projected to be ready by 2016. 


We hope that women’s NGOs representing broad experience on these issues are not only consulted but also play an active part in the writing of the research and the proposals that issue from this research that will serve as models and guidelines for understanding and reducing demand.




Malka Marcovich

European Regional Director, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women


Janice G. Raymond

Board of Directors, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women International


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