February 1, 2013

CATW-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP) conducts original camps designed to create gender equality. The camps focus on gender equality as a necessary part of development. The camps address sexual exploitation by preventing young men from becoming buyers of commercial sex or future perpetrators of violence. The camps empower young women by making them aware of the oppressiveness of current cultural definitions of female sexualization. Graduates of the camps formed the national advocacy organization, Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality (YSAGE). To date, thousands of youth have been educated throughout the region: 3,000 in the Philippines, 150 in Thailand, 80 in Indonesia, and 80 in India.

The first-ever Regional Meeting of Survivors was organized by CATW-AP in New Delhi, India on April 2-5, 2011.  With four survivor leaders attending from the Philippines, they were able to share model strategies from our project which will be emulated by survivors and advocates in India, Nepal, Taiwan and South Korea. 

CATW-AP developed and carries out a Survivors’ Empowerment Program, which provides multi-level support to sex trafficking victims-survivors during the difficult transition period immediately after their traumatic experiences. Support is provided through a network of services providers including psychologists and lawyers.  

CATW-AP began a campaign posting anti-trafficking stickers on Jeepney transport workers vehicles. The stickers included messages such as: "Real Men Don't Buy Women,"  "Gender-sensitive Man on Board," "Real Men Do Housework," and "Women are NOT Commodities."  T-shirts were also reproduced and widely distributed containing these same messages.

CATW-AP established a restaurant cooperative to provide economic alternative opportunities to survivors of commercial sexual exploitation. Survivors participate in management, financial and cooperative trainings. This cooperative project is critical as it gives survivors access to decent work, control over their source of income, teaches cooperation in lieu of the competitive culture learned in the sex industry, and affords them with experience in profitsharing.

CATW-AP organized the First Education Camp of Sex Trafficking Survivors on Critical Issues and Leadership at the Bohol Bee Farm on Panglao Island in 2010. The camp was attended by 15 leaders of three survivor groups: Bagong Kamalayan, which helps women trafficked to the streets of Quezon City; BUKLOD, the oldest survivors’ group helping women trafficked into the bars and streets of Olongapo City; and Batis AWARE, which consists of the survivors and returnees from Japan. The camp included training sessions requested by the survivors’ leaders during the training assessment and included subjects such as women’s human rights, laws for women, organizing, leadership, counseling, and debating prostitution issues.
CATW-AP held a regional meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand to develop a plan of action for our regional coalition in 2006. In the three day planning session, 30 CATW representatives came from 9 different countries (Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Korea, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and the United States) to address three key CATW programs: the demand side of trafficking and sexual exploitation, empowering and organizing survivors, and challenging states, social movements and media.

In 2005, the first conviction under the Philippines anti-trafficking law took place on December 4 in Zamboanga City, a pilot area in CATW-AP’s project called Bantay-Bugaw (Trafficker-Watch). Here, CATW conducted educational seminars with local government agencies including police and prosecutors. In Quezon and Calbayog Cities, similar activities were held and memoranda of agreement were signed with the police to stop the arrest of women in prostitution, and instead focus on investigating the perpetrators. Cases have already been filed against pimps in these areas.

In 2003, after eight long years of advocacy CATW Asia Pacific, in concert with 30 other NGOs, were successful in helping to pass a progressive anti-trafficking law in the Philippines. Working with the National Commission of Filipino Women, CATW Asia Pacific had been part of the drafting of this law since the very beginning leading up to its passage in the Senate on March 19, 2003. Former first lady of the Philippines, Sen. Luisa Ejercita led the bill through the Senate, and Senate President Franklin Drilon and Senate Majority Leader Loren Legarda were the bill’s co-sponsors. On May 26, 2003, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed the bill into law stating that it was “A milestone in our quest for women’s empowerment and gender equality.”’

The bill protects victims of trafficking, makes the consent of the victims irrelevant, and states that victims of trafficking shall not be penalized in any way. It also provides for comprehensive support to victims of trafficking.

On October 21, 2003, the first National Conference of Filipino Victims/Survivors of Prostitution was held in Manila. Seventy-five prostituted women from General Santos, Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato, Davao, Cebu, Angeles, Olongapo and the National Capital Region denounced issuing business permits to legitimate prostitution, police abuse of women in prostitution, and police corruption and called for passage of the Anti-Prostitution Act. Alma Bulawan, President of BUKLOD in Olongapo City, stated: “Legalization of the industry is not necessary for social security benefits to apply to prostituted women. We want our rights as citizens, but we reject legalization of prostitution which will only maintain women’s low status in society.”