Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director

CCPCJ event on Promoting the role and voice of women in countering human trafficking and migrant smuggling in Asia and the Middle East

  18 May 2022 


Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for joining us for this important discussion on the margins of the Crime Commission.

Advancing women’s representation and promoting gender-responsive criminal justice are priorities across the work of UNODC, to improve women’s access to justice and support to victims, and to strengthen the quality of justice for all, women and men.

GLO.ACT Asia and the Middle East, our flagship anti-trafficking programme with the European Union, has been a forerunner in promoting the role of female officials and supporting a gender-sensitive approach to the crimes of trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling.

Crimes like human trafficking and migrant smuggling are not equal opportunity offenders. Poor, marginalized women and girls are targeted by traffickers, and as smuggled migrants women and girls are at great risk of sexual assault.

Female victims continue to be the primary targets for trafficking in persons. UNODC research found that for every 10 victims detected globally, five were adult women and two were young girls. Most women and girls detected are trafficked for sexual exploitation, while men and boys are mainly trafficked for forced labour.

A recent analysis by GLO.ACT on the situation in Afghanistan highlighted the increased dangers and threats of sexual violence facing women and girls.

Emergencies, conflict, and post-conflict situations provide fertile ground for human trafficking and other forms of exploitation. Among the most prevalent forms of human trafficking in the context of armed conflict are trafficking for sexual exploitation and slavery, and the abduction of women and girls for forced marriages. 

Despite the gendered nature of these crimes, women are too often left out of criminal justice responses, and as a result, women victims may not receive the support they need.

Law enforcement and the justice sector remain heavily male-dominated all over the world. In Pakistan, women make up just some 2 percent of the police service.

In response, the GLO.ACT Women’s Network of Gender Champions against Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling is seeking to remedy the severe under-representation of women in justice and law enforcement in its region.

In June 2020, I had the privilege of launching the Network, and I am pleased that distinguished members from Pakistan and Iraq are joining us today to tell us about their work and the impact of the Network.

By providing both female and male gender champions with networking opportunities, training and mentoring, the Network is helping to sharpen responses to these crimes in a region where vulnerable people are at acute risk.

Furthermore, in its project activities, undertaken with IOM, GLO.ACT has helped to ensure that women are part of the trafficking and migrant smuggling solution.

For example, in Iraq, the programme helped to ensure the inclusion of female judges in the drafting of a guidance note on victim protection, which is currently under review by the Iraqi High Judicial Council.

I am also pleased that GLO.ACT trained a first cohort of female investigators in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, with a focus on human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

In Pakistan, GLO.ACT provides ongoing coaching to 25 female investigation officers, and as a result, improvements in the quality of investigations and victim assistance have been recorded.

High-level female officials from the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran have also been consistently engaged in the Network.

With our partners at the European Union, UNODC is looking to take this work forward and empower more women to be agents of change and improve equal access to justice for all.

In the context of challenges stemming from Afghanistan, urgent action is needed to further the reach of protective services to victims of trafficking and to vulnerable migrants.

Prevention of trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling must also be mainstreamed into emergency responses, and the international community needs to step up tailored capacity building, education and livelihoods support focusing on women’s economic empowerment.

Such responses rely on close cooperation between governments, international organizations, and civil society.

I am grateful to the EU anti-trafficking coordinator and the EU for working with UNODC to promote such partnerships through GLO.ACT, to advance victim-centred and human rights-based approaches to countering trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling, including through improved detection, investigation, and prosecution, as well as referral of victims

By promoting women in justice, for justice, and implementing rights-based and gender-equal law enforcement responses, we can help break the trafficking and migrant smuggling business models, and end the exploitation.

Thank you, and I wish you fruitful discussions.