Human trafficking is a significant problem around the globe, yet we are making the barest dent in it. There are an estimated 20.9 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, but in 2014, there were only about 10,000 trafficking in persons (TIP) prosecutions and fewer than 5,000 cases led to convictions.†
These disturbingly low numbers are due to an inability to locate perpetrators and identify victims, and insufficient attention paid to highly vulnerable groups. In no small part, these are the result of inadequate training, a poor understanding of the problem, and little cross-border coordination. The impact is especially serious for women since the majority of people trafficked for sexual exploitation or forced labor are female.
Fighting human trafficking requires judicial leadership both domestically and across borders to collect and share evidence and enforce decisions. Because the IAWJ is an international network of women judges, we are uniquely positioned to work on this critical issue involving gender and access to justice.
In fact, IAWJ members voted in 2008 to elevate anti-human trafficking efforts as a priority of the association. Throughout our chapters around the world, our members lead awareness campaigns and caravans that bring local government and civil society actors together to address the cross-sectoral challenges to fighting human trafficking. Members help draft laws and provide expert testimony to legislators to create or enhance anti-trafficking laws. IAWJ members develop curriculum to train judicial peers on the application of new laws and explore emerging trends such as the link between human trafficking and recruitment of ‘jihadists’.
IAWJ in the Forefront of Anti-Trafficking Efforts
In November 2018, the IAWJ launched a Counter-Trafficking in Persons Working Group in the Latin America and Caribbean region. This program is designed to increase capacity of justice sector actors to combat trafficking in persons. The regional working group includes judges and other justice officials from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Argentina, Chile, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Guyana, Saint Lucia, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The regional working group has two primary objectives:
- To disseminate a questionnaire to judicial actors throughout the Latin America and Caribbean Region.To plan and carry-out a 3-day regional conference on Trafficking in Persons in 2019 in the Dominican Republic.In Tunisia and Haiti, IAWJ members played leading roles in drafting and bringing about new anti-human trafficking legislation.Members in the USA prepared a Training Guide for judicial training centers and local chapters IAWJ members in Argentina and Haiti trained peers on counter-trafficking laws.At the inaugural conference of the Caribbean Association of Women Judges’ (CAWJ) in 2014, CAWJ members discussed human trafficking in the region and its disparate effect on women and girls.Members in the Middle East and North Africa met to share specific cases and discuss implementation of recently adopted counter-trafficking laws and the need for victim-centered approaches.
† Human Trafficking by the Numbers. (2016). Retrieved March 27, 2017 from www.humanrightsfirst.org