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Advocating for Strong Laws

Governments must enact strong laws and policies that ensure equality between women and men and end gender-based violence. In order to end the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls, we engage in advocacy at all levels. We call for laws and policies that provide access to justice, target demand, and ensure women and girls are free from the violence and exploitation inherent to the sex trade. While CATW recognizes that men, boys, and gender nonconforming individuals are also victims of this type of crime, our efforts are dedicated to women and girls, as they make up the overwhelming majority of trafficking victims.

Basing our work on principles of human rights codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international conventions addressing violence against women and girls, sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, we’ve been actively calling for stronger laws since our founding in 1988. When the UN Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of a Convention Against Transnational Crime began drafting an anti-trafficking protocol in Vienna in 1999, we participated in the consultation process. We joined forces with 140 other NGOs present at the discussions to form the International Human Rights Network. Through thoughtful advocacy and coalition building, we were instrumental in advocating for key provisions in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2000. 

Twenty years later, we still advocate and will continue until all jurisdictions fully implement the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol into their national laws and policies. This includes the internationally recognized definition of human trafficking under Article 3. Governments also have an obligation to develop policies and educational measures that effectively tackle the demand that is at the root of all forms of human trafficking (Article 9.5). For us, as an organization dedicated to ending the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls, this means working on legislative and policy measures to end the demand for prostitution that sustains the sex trade and fuels sex trafficking, while ensuring victims receive access to services and are not criminalized for their own exploitation.

The Equality Model

At the core of our work is the belief that all women and girls deserve to live their lives free from violence and exploitation. This can only be possible if no woman or girl is trafficked, exploited or prostituted in the sex trade. We call on governments to implement a legal framework that is based on fundamental principles of equality and women’s rights. It is a model that ensures women and girls will have chances to survive and thrive, while exploiters and sex buyers are held accountable for the harm they cause. First enacted by Sweden in 1999, the Equality Model (also known as the Swedish or Nordic Model):

  • Decriminalizes only individuals who are bought and sold in prostitution.
  • Provides prostituted people with comprehensive services and offers them options should they wish to leave the sex trade.
  • Criminalizes pimps, brothel owners and managers, and other third-party exploiters.
  • Penalizes the purchase of sex acts as the key means of curbing demand for prostitution.

Countries that have passed the Equality Model


Along with our work advocating for strong anti-trafficking laws and policies at all levels, we engage with local, state and national decision-makers around the world on legislation governing prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation. Through dedicated legislative advocacy, we seek to create a world where no woman or girl is ever bought or sold.


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