Marta Torres Presents at UN in Vienna

Marta Torres October 18, 2012

Marta Torres Presents at UN in Vienna

On October 18, 2012 Marta Torres presented at the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

"CATW is a non-governmental organization created in 1988, in affiliation with women’s struggles for equality for more than one hundred years. Our organization works to end human trafficking, the commercial sexual exploitation of women and children, and the legalization and organization of prostitution worldwide. A unique strength of CATW is that we engage in advocacy, education, victim services and prevention programs for victims of trafficking and prostitution in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, the Mediterranean Region, and North America.

Since its creation, CATW has provided widely recognized leadership on local, national, regional, and international levels in promoting legislative, policy and educational measures to raise awareness about the root causes of human trafficking. CATW holds Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and was a key consultant at the UN Transnational Organized Crime Meeting from 1999-2000 the outcome of which is the Palermo Protocol, the world’s most recognized legal instrument on human trafficking. I followed most of the sessions of the two years’ negotiations on the Palermo trafficking. I witnessed myself what was at stake in the definition of trafficking, and our victory in the inclusion of an important provision in this definition: that the consent to exploitation is irrelevant. We therefore enforced what was included in previous international human rights and women’s rights treaties, such as the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, as well as the provisions of the CEDAW Convention.

We also worked to ensure that the Protocol would establish good measures to protect victims of trafficking, to have strong prevention measures, based on non- discrimination and gender equality, including and making visible for the first time in an international instrument, the DEMAND though article 9.5.  

Now, 12 years after, it’s time to analyze the implementation of this Protocol. Adoption of a monitoring mechanism is crucial. We believe that such a mechanism would make State Parties accountable to both their national constituencies and the international community. It would require State parties to report on the legislative, judicial, administrative or other measures that they have put in place to implement the Convention. 

We believe that a good model to follow would be the monitoring mechanism established for the CEDAW Convention. Upon considering each State Party’s report, the CEDAW Committee formulates concluding comments which outline difficulties affecting the implementation of the Convention, positive aspects and recommendations to enhance the implementation of the Convention. The reporting process is public. The participation of civil society in the monitoring process is of the highest importance. NGOs must also participate in this process. By submitting their own reports to the Committee, NGOs can help it to assess the validity of the reports submitted by State Parties. We must work to ensure that the Protocol is interpreted correctly and that it is used as a basis for new national, regional and multi-regional legislation. Monitoring must also be coherent in its definition with all international human rights instruments, mostly 1949 Convention and CEDAW Convention.

This week, the Conference of parties is discussing how to monitor the convention and its Protocols. We don’t have enough time to show examples of how a lack of monitoring has sometimes emptied the content of a Convention, but in any case we can assert that the lack of an enforcement mechanism could weaken the implementation and effectiveness of the Protocol.

I just want to conclude that for the CATW the participation of NGOs in the monitoring process is essential and the model to follow should be the one existing for the CEDAW Convention.

Trafficking is a very complex problem, with a lot of different dimensions and many different approaches. We only have 10 minutes today, and I would like to focus on the DEMAND issue, as a main factor in perpetuation of trafficking. 

The inclusion in the Protocol of Article 9.5 to discourage the demand constituted a genuinely new step in the approach to Trafficking and to ending the oldest form of exploitation of women worldwide. It served also as a model for other international standards, at the UN level, with the 2005 code of conduct for UN personnel, the 2005 resolution of the Commission on the status of Women asking to eliminate the demand and the Warsaw Convention of the Council of Europe on Trafficking, the SAARC Asian convention on Trafficking, among others…. 

The Palermo Protocol was a key tool also to promote what we call the Nordic Model, the world's first law to recognize prostitution as violence against women and a violation of human rights. It criminalizes the purchase of commercial sex by criminalizing the buyers, and offering exit services and assistance to victims. The Nordic Model originated in Sweden (1999) and has been passed in the Republic of Korea (South Korea, 2004), Norway (2009) and Iceland (2009).

The CATW has always advocated for the visibility of all actors in the industry, including the buyers of sexual services. We have set up different human rights projects all over the world to discourage the demand, in many different background cultural countries such as Australia or Canada, but also in most countries of Latin America, in Asia, the Mediterranean region including the Middle East and North Africa, and Africa and Eastern and Western Europe. 

We work on awareness campaigns with local NGOS such as the one we initiated with the EWL in 2005 in 15 countries of Eastern Europe, training journalists and promotion of cultural tourism instead of sexual tourism as in Albania. We have joined a campaign between Spanish and French organizations on the border of France against the weekend tourism of French men in the big brothels of la Jonquiere in Spain and the education of young men in schools and community organizations in the Philippines, Mexico and Italy. This Model is designed to educate young men and boys about the construction of traditional masculinity and the consequences of the demand for commercial sex while promoting an alternative conception of male sexuality based on gender equality. This is also coherent and complementary with other programs to empower, train and help victims and survivors of prostitution, sexual exploitation and trafficking.

The CATW international was also the first organization to launch an international campaign “Buying sex is not a sport”, during the world football games in Germany in 2006, a campaign in which we obtained 160 000 signatures for a petition of organizations and individuals worldwide, in some 150 countries. 

Nowadays, a new battle for understanding of the concept of demand is taking place in international forums.   By criminalizing the purchase of sexual services, some countries like Sweden, Norway and Iceland have adopted measures to address the demand for services that foster the exploitation of others. These governments have sent a loud and clear message to criminal networks that they are not open to them  for business.

On the other hand, in other different forums, there is a new debate about addressing the demand for sexual services by encouraging men to buy women in prostitution in a so-called “responsible” manner. The Coalition thinks that there is no responsible way of buying a human being. Women and men aren’t products or commodities and they never should be bought and sold as such.

In the Netherlands in recent years, despite the attempt to regulate prostitution and so-called “sex work”, it has produced a significant increase in illegal prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation. The Government is currently considering a bill to penalize clients of prostitutes who are not registered, or who are not "working" in the legal framework. The Crime Stoppers Campaign exhorts men to enlist buyers in reporting abuse, and encouraged them not to use force or coercion when they buy women. 

In December 2011 France adopted a very important Resolution after the report submitted in April by the Parliamentary Mission on Prostitution in France entitled "Prostitution, the requirement of liability: Ending the myth of the oldest profession in the world.” As is indicated in the Proposed Resolution "the law must clearly mark everyone's responsibility in the perpetuation of the prostitution system .....”

This report confirms the abolitionist human rights position of France: all political parties in the French National Assembly affirmed 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 some other countries like England, Scotland and Ireland, the debate on the demand and the responsibility of the buyers is also well underway, and these countries are currently considering the adoption of a law criminalizing clients.

Since I am Spanish, I would like to speak also about my country.  Spain is the leading consuming country of prostitution in Europe (39%), which represents an atypical value in Europe, where the average is around 19%. (UNODC 2010). 

Ninety-nine percent of demand is male with an average age between 30 to 50 years (Comisión de Investigación de Malos Tratos a Mujeres, 2011). Despite the alarming data, consumption of prostitution in Spain is not penalized. Because “buying sexual services” is viewed as normal, a part of everyday leisure, prostitution is absolutely trivialized. 

In Spain, in general, the debate on regulating prostitution and criminalizing buyers does not arise in terms of violence against women. The approach to prostitution can be very different depending on the cities. Spanish cities like Bilbao or Barcelona, among others, have adopted municipal laws trying to regulate the practice of prostitution. Because they need a solution for street prostitution and neighborhood problems, as well as for other kinds of problems, like public order or road safety, women prostitutes and clients can be penalized, and exploited women are re-victimized as prostitutes and as criminals. At this point, the CATW wishes also to address the issue of re-trafficking and re-victimization which tends to be neglected in national and regional immigration and/or trafficking laws.

In some other cities like Madrid, however, the debate arises in other terms. The buyer must be made visible and punished, because the demand encourages trafficking and human exploitation. The Madrid City Council, since 2003 has launched awareness campaigns against sexual exploitation, stating that prostitution is a form of violence and discrimination against women. The campaign "Because you pay, prostitution exists”, has had a huge impact in society both, nationally and internationally. On the same basis, some new Municipal Acts have come into force in 2011 in Valencia and Seville to penalize men who buy prostitution on the streets, with fines between 1 000 and 4 000 €. These laws do not contemplate sanctions for women. These cities have put into place various campaigns against sexual exploitation, that emphasize the responsibility of the buyer: "Don’t buy sex, you are buying life" (City Hall ​​of Seville), or "Don’t you know it yet?, women are not commodities, don’t buy our body", (Government of Andalucía)".

The fact that countries like the Netherlands and France, which have such different regulations on prostitution and trafficking, have referred in 2011 and 2012 to the criminalization of buyers of prostitution for fighting against sexual exploitation and human trafficking, is a clear signal that it is a priority to target the demand, as claimed in article 9.5 of the Protocol. It is not an option; it is an obligation and a real necessity for the countries and the international community. It’s also a real tool to protect the victims and to prosecute the crime.

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 really hope that women’s NGOs representing broad experience on these issues will not only be consulted by international organizations, but also will play an active part in the writing of the proposals, that will serve as models and guidelines for a better approach to human trafficking as a real violation of human rights, incompatible with human dignity and freedom. "