We at the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) mourn with the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and other Black Americans murdered by the police or vigilantes because they were Black Americans. We stand in solidarity with the movements to end historical and institutional racism, mass incarceration, police brutality, and the systemic dehumanization of Black people in the United States.
Our work is steeped in overturning systems of oppression, unjust laws and harmful practices that allow human rights violations against women and girls — sexual violence, discrimination, trafficking, sexual exploitation, pornography and prostitution — all of which occur pervasively around the world with impunity and cultural acceptance, sanctioned by weak political will.
We are a women of color-led organization that partners with survivors, social justice advocates and direct service providers who fight to protect the rights of women and girls in law and in practice. We advocate in many countries that have been colonized, occupied, militarized, and suffer chronic ecological and socio-economic stress that creates devastating vulnerabilities among the most marginalized populations. Every day, we witness the disproportionate impact of racism and misogyny on Black women and girls in the U.S., who are more likely to be sex trafficked, sexually violated and exploited, while criminalized for their own exploitation by their states and law enforcement.
Police brutality has a longstanding history of shattering communities of color, in particular Black people, causing inter-generational physical and psychological trauma and death. We are tired of this unacceptable state of affairs, but must remember that we cannot tackle police brutality in a vacuum. The police are the enforcement branch of historical systems of inequality. They do as they are told by our governments; they are not independent of them.
While criminal justice reform is therefore key and urgent, we must first understand the pillars on which economic, judiciary and political structures are built. Without addressing the causes and consequences of racism, xenophobia, and the discrimination that leads to sexism, homophobia and transphobia, reform will remain ineffective.
While we will never know how many Black men have perished from state and police violence in the U.S., we will also never know how many Black women and girls have died under these systems of subjugation. Our conversations about race must include conversations about Black women and the impact colonial invasion, slavery and patriarchy has had in their lives. We #SayHerName because, while we recognize the high rates of police killings of Black men in the U.S., we cannot ignore the policing, criminalization and desecration of Black women and girls. We must just as loudly invest in the struggle to ensure women’s equality and dignity.
If you live in a country where you can vote, do so for the pursuit of justice. If you live in a country where you can protest, do so for your voice to be counted. If you live in a country in which you can contribute to organizations that fight for human rights and the alleviation of suffering, do so.
We honor these lost lives. Our hope thrives on knowing that every effort counts and that together we can hold our institutions and elected officials accountable to the promise of justice. We will always believe that, with meaningful resistance and the rule of just laws, we can achieve peace, justice, freedom and equality for all.
In solidarity and peace,
The CATW International Team