Vienna, Austria - 03 January 2023 - It is important to recognize and address the gender-based barriers and discrimination that female practitioners may face in the criminal justice system. Women have historically been underrepresented in the sector, and it is vital to work towards increasing their representation and empowering them to succeed. On an ongoing basis, UNODC promotes the engagement of women in the criminal justice sector and stresses the importance of gender empowerment as a strategy for tackling trafficking in persons (TIP) and smuggling of migrants (SOM).
On 17 October 2022, on the margins of the eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), the Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants – Asia and the Middle East (GLO.ACT) and the STARSOM project, in partnership with the Permanent Missions of Costa Rica and Pakistan, held an interactive discussion reflecting the role and voice of women in the criminal justice system, with special consideration of countering human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
The event featured representatives from the Pancha Carrasco Policewomen Leader's Network and the GLO.ACT Women's Network to highlight the benefits of projects like GLO.ACT and STARSOM, which adopt a gender mainstreaming and human rights perspective towards TIP and SOM. These initiatives were presented as examples of successful and promising efforts that can be replicated in other parts of the world to address TIP and SOM.
Following the opening remarks of H.E. Ambassador Aftab Ahmad Khokher, Dr Ibtisam Aziz, Chair of the GLO.ACT Women's Network presented the effort exerted by the women's Network in supporting and empowering women by contributing to their personal transformation process and developing their skills for their professional development.
According to Dr Ibtisam, since the GLO.ACT Women's Network was established in June 2020, it has offered a variety of workshops focusing on the development of interpersonal skills and professional development, as well as substantive workshops for practitioners on various essential topics concerning human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Dr Ibtisam further made the point that network members support one another by exchanging information and methods for overcoming obstacles when dealing with migrant smuggling and human trafficking.
Commissioner María Dolores López Sánchez, Head of the Human Rights and Equality Unit of the Spanish National Police, told the audience about some of the initiatives Spain has implemented to mainstream gender in the criminal justice sector, leading to better outcomes to address human trafficking.
Panellists from Pakistan, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic shared with the audience their insightful stories about the impact that the work done under STARSOM and GLO.ACT had both on their Networks and on them personally during the event. Additionally, they offered some remedies for the barriers and stumbling blocks that prevent women from effectively participating in operational and leadership roles in various countries.
On 18 October 2022, GLO.ACT and STARSOM organized a multilateral female practitioner exchange on TIP, SOM, and aggravated SOM as a follow-up to the COP side event. Practitioners talked about the importance of gender and human rights in TIP and SOM investigations as well as how UNODC can help more women in the criminal justice system.