People often think of slavery as a thing of the past. They think of cotton plantations and the transatlantic slave trade, the Abolitionist movement and the Civil War. Yet, slavery remains present all over the world today in the form of human trafficking. In 2016, more than 40 million people were victims of human trafficking. Of this number, 25 percent were children and 75 percent were women or girls. These people are subjected to inhumane conditions, forced labor and sexual exploitation. Many organizations and movements are fighting to end this modern slavery. The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) is one of those organizations.
5 Things to Know about the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women
- The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women is a group of more than 100 non-governmental organizations from countries all over the world that promotes human rights and fights human trafficking, specifically trafficking of women and girls, as they account for a great majority of human trafficking victims.
- The network was founded in 1994 at an international conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand, by a group of women mainly from the Global South, many of whom had personally experienced migration, displacement and/or trafficking. The alliance, now based in Bangkok, revolutionized the way human trafficking is perceived as it was one of the first entities to apply a human-rights approach to the issue. This involves recognizing that human trafficking is both a “consequence and cause of human rights violations” and emphasizing the need to protect victims’ rights.
- Member organizations include anti-trafficking groups as well as human rights, women’s rights and migrants’ rights organizations from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Though member organizations work independently, they must adhere to the GAATW’s basic principles and abide the certain conditions. Collaboration among members is crucial to the network’s success and is coordinated by the International Secretariat.
- Every three years the GAATW’s member organizations and other relevant actors meet at an International Members Congress and Conference, where the network’s strategy to fight the trafficking is refined and updated. The alliance’s strategy has three central themes: increasing accountability of different actors to implement anti-trafficking plans, access to justice and the protection of victims’ human rights and power in migration and work, which involves analyzing how labor and migration policies affect women and empowering women in these areas.
- Raising awareness of human trafficking, conducting research and advocating for victims’ rights are a central part of GAATW’s operations. In 2012, the GAATW began publishing the Anti-Trafficking Review, the first peer-reviewed open-access journal centered on human trafficking. Through these processes, the Global Alliance in Traffic Against Women has made remarkable progress. The GAATW helped establish an internationally recognized definition of trafficking. It also created the Human Rights Standard for the Treatment of Trafficked Persons, a system of standards that are used around the world to protect the rights of those who have been trafficked.
Human trafficking is modern slavery and represents a severe violation of people’s rights. The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women is an incredible network that is raising awareness of this problem and pushing governments and other parties to do more to end it. As history has taught us, eliminating any form of slavery is a long and difficult process, but with the GAATW and many other important organizations working tirelessly, ending human trafficking is achievable.
– Laura Turner