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Violence Against Women and Girls

“Every woman and every girl has the right to a life free from violence.” – UN Secretary General António Guterres

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Living free from violence and discrimination is a fundamental human right. It is a necessity to achieving sustainable peace and development around the world. Yet, women and girls face violence and discrimination every day because they are women and girls.

72% of detected trafficking victims are women and girls.
94% of identified sex trafficking victims are women and girls.

(2018 Global Report on TIP)

Sex trafficking and sexual exploitation are clear forms of sex-based and gender-based violence and discrimination — occurring because of and at the same time perpetuating this violence and discrimination. Sex traffickers prey on the most vulnerable and marginalized among us: women and girls who are young, mostly of color, poor, homeless, of low socio-economic class or caste, who have already suffered sexual abuse and violence, often at a young age, and who lack choices in life.

The majority of human trafficking victims are women and girls. While some are trafficked for the purposes of forced labor as domestic servants, in factories or in agricultural fields, most are exploited within the sex trade, particularly in prostitution. There they suffer violence, both physical and psychological, at the hands of their exploiters — traffickers, pimps, brothel owners and­ the men who buy them.

Sex traffickers and pimps, who are very often one and the same, exercise a variety of ways to “condition” their victims. They often initially use romance, pretending to be a boyfriend (known as “lover boys” or “Romeo” pimps or traffickers), and subsequently use abusive tactics and subject their victims to many forms of violence, including rape, gang rape, physical abuse, starvation, beatings, confinement, threats of violence towards the victim and victim’s family, forced drug use, torture, and shame. Survivors of the sex trade have also testified that sex buyers frequently abused them, causing long-term, irreparable harm. Women and girls bought and sold in the sex trade often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, dissociation and suicidal ideation. Some commit suicide.

The sex trade is a cause and consequence of violence and discrimination against women and girls. Sex trafficking is one of the vehicles that gets them there; economic desperation and lack of opportunities is another.

With the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol, international law has established that sex trafficking, sexual exploitation and the exploitation of the prostitution of others are crimes — especially committed against women and girls — governments must urgently address.

In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UN’s member states recognized their commitments under international law and acknowledged that the elimination of all forms of violence against women is an essential part of sustainable global development. Among the agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Goal 5 calls on governments to achieve gender equality, with its target 5.2 focused on the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls. Recognizing that trafficking and sexual exploitation particularly affect women and girls, target 5.2 highlights trafficking and sexual exploitation as specific forms of gender-based violence that must be eradicated.


What is the 5.2 Global Partnership?

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