GLO.ACT promotes a gender-sensitive, human rights-based approach to Pakistan’s response to human trafficking and migrant smuggling

Islamabad, Pakistan 13 November 2020: Under the EU funded GLO.ACT - Global Action to Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants (GLO.ACT – Asia and the Middle East), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), held virtual dialogue titled “Ensuring a gender-sensitive, human rights-based approach to trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants in Pakistan” on 12 November 2020. 19 participants (11 male, 8 female) including government representatives, senior members of Pakistani civil society, UN agencies, criminal justice practitioners and academia joined the virtual dialogue.

The purpose of this policy dialogue was to present and deliberate the main findings of the national research study on gender and human rights in Trafficking Persons (TIP) and Smuggling of Migrants (SOM) and discuss policy proposals that will inform advocacy for a gender-sensitive and human rights-based approach to TIP and SOM in the country.

Aimee Comrie, UNODC GLO.ACT Project Coordinator in her welcoming remarks said, “Learning from the first phase of the project, GLO.ACT Pakistan seeks to ensure that in rendering support to the government to implement the national response to trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, gender and human rights issues have a baseline from which to measure impact by the end of the project, as well as policy directions to ensure deliberate factoring in of measures to address gender and human rights gaps in implementation.” Meanwhile Jeremy Milsom, Country Representative UNODC Pakistan, explained during his opening remarks that, “All recent instruments, including Pakistan’s national laws on trafficking refer to the gender and human rights dimension of the issue.” He identified two main advantages in applying a gender and human rights framework to trafficking and smuggling. He explained, “First, it promotes better understanding of the problems experienced by trafficked or smuggled persons. Second, it has the potential to promote a holistic approach which seeks not only legal, but also political, economic and social solutions.”

In his keynote speech, Sardar Zaheer Ahmed, Director Anti Human Smuggling, Federal Investigation Agency, said, “The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2018 complies with international frameworks on gender and human rights and has enhanced punishments in case of women and children. Similar is the case with “The Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants Act in which vulnerable smuggled migrants are non-criminalized.” He further stressed the need to ensure that gender and human rights-based approaches are fully integrated into Pakistan’s polices and framework.

Upon conclusion of the opening segment of the seminar, Shahida Gilani, UNODC Programme Officer Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling spoke about the concept of consent in trafficking cases and explained that consent is legally irrelevant in trafficking in persons cases. She outlined, that the consent or agreement of a victim, either to the intended exploitation or to committing a crime should never be used as basis for declining to apply the non-punishment principle.

Eurídice Márquez, GLO.ACT Programme Management Officer, UNODC HQ, during her intervention shared some good practices of how to integrate a gender-sensitive and human rights-based approach to addressing TIP and SOM. Ms. Márquez highlighted a few important points such as having to respect different needs and circumstances of people of all genders. She explained that there is need to tailor ones response and not to follow a “one fits all approach”. She also spoke about gender stereotypes and misconceptions that contribute to greater inequalities and need to challenge and address them.

Naveed Shinwari, the national expert working with UNODC on the research analysis, shared the key findings of the research and moderated a group discussion, giving participants the opportunity to deliberate some of the policy propositions.

Some of the discussion outcomes and recommendations included:

  • Participants unanimously agreeing that Pakistan should ratify the Smuggling of Migrant Protocol, as the country has already ratified similar treaties and conventions. They also argued that the domestic legislation is in line with the Protocol;
  • Participants expressing the need to engage all relevant stakeholders in the fights against TIP and SOM considering that these are multi-dimensional phenomena;
  • Participants recommending additional capacity building for law enforcement, lawyers, academia, judiciary, elected public representatives, civil society and media considering the technical nature of TIP and SOM laws and concepts;
  • Participants proposing the formation of parliamentary caucuses in provincial and federal parliament;
  • Ensuring appropriate and ethical reporting, sensitization of media on ethical reporting was also proposed by participants;
  • Participants expressing that they would like to see more women included in the fight against TIP and SOM and identifying several formal and informal avenues to engage women leaders.
  • Public awareness raising employing various techniques, such as TV drama, print and electronic media, social media, was also recommended to reach the general population, especially the most vulnerable groups of the society.

Concluding the virtual dialogue Ms. Márquez thanked all the presenters and participants for their lively contributions and insights.

The Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants – Asia and the Middle East (GLO.ACT-Asia and the Middle East) is a four-year (2018-2022), €12 million joint initiative by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) being implemented in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in up to five countries: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (Afghanistan), Islamic Republic of Iran (I.R. of Iran), Republic of Iraq (Iraq), Islamic Republic of Pakistan (Pakistan).

The project builds on a global community of practice set in motion in GLO.ACT 2015-2019 and assists governmental authorities and civil society organizations in targeted, innovative and demand-driven interventions: sustaining effective strategy and policy development, legislative review and harmonization, capability development, and regional and trans-regional cooperation. The project also provides direct assistance to victims of human trafficking and vulnerable migrants through the strengthening of identification, referral, and protection mechanisms.

The project is funded by the European Union.

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Shahida Gillani, National Project Officer


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