News/UN: 14 Women Ministers Seek End to Human Trafficking

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Subject: News/UN: 14 Women Ministers Seek End to Human Trafficking
From: Melanie Orhant (
Date: Sun Oct 17 1999 - 10:11:26 EDT

I am very happy to hear that the 14 Foreign Ministers talk about different
types of trafficking, such as domestic servitude. Although these Ministers
are obviously interested in women, they discuss the "human beings" which I
interpret as including men and boys who are trafficked!



    14 Women Ministers Seek End to Human Trafficking

OTC 10/16/99 1:32 AM

 UNITED NATIONS (All Africa News Agency, October 15, 1999) - Fourteen
women Foreign Ministers, including US Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright, have written to UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan seeking an end
to the widespread practice of trafficking in women and children.
   "On the edge of the 21st century, it is unacceptable that human beings
around the world are bought and sold into situations - such as sexual
exploitation, domestic servitude and debt bondage - that are little
different from slavery," their letter said.
   The 14 women Ministers - who thanked Annan for focusing international
action on "this heinous practice" - were from the Bahamas, Barbados,
Bulgaria, El Salvador, Finland, Niger, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg,
Madagascar, Mexico, Mongolia, South Africa, Sweden and the United States.
   Describing themselves as "concerned women" - the Foreign Ministers gave
their "strong support for the struggle to end the repulsive trafficking in
human beings". The Ministers also pledged to build strong links among
themselves - and called on other nations to join them. They also pledged
support for the proposed UN Convention against Transnational Organised
Crime and the protocol on trafficking in persons, both of which are
currently under negotiation. Last week, speaking on behalf of the
15-member European Union EU, Finnish Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen
expressed concern over the discrimination of women world-wide.
   Halonen said trafficking in human beings violated many of the most
basic human rights and most of the victims of this practice were women and
children. She said that concerted international action was needed in the
fight against trafficking. "The EU supports the work done to develop
international standards to prevent these crimes and to punish the
perpetrators," Halonen said. "Measures must be taken to help victims of
this type of exploitation".
   The European Union considered human rights essential in the maintenance
of international peace and security, she noted and added that the United
Nations had a primary role in the promotion of universal respect for human
   The United Nations, meanwhile, also planned to probe the appalling
working conditions of women migrant workers in the Middle East, many of
whom toiled under conditions of near-slavery. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN
Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, said that her office was
examining the possibility of a visit to the Middle East to examine some of
the problems facing migrant workers in the region.
   Currently, millions of women workers, mostly domestic servants from the
Philippines, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh, were reportedly working
under horrendous conditions in Western Europe and East Asia. Other areas
include Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United
Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman. Most Middle Eastern countries have
resisted attempts to open their doors to UN scrutiny.
   In a 1995 study titled, "Punishing the Victim: Rape and Mistreatment of
Asian Maids in Kuwait", the Middle East Watch said that housekeepers of
Indian, Sri Lankan, Bengali and Philippine origin were targets of rape,
physical assault, non-payment of salaries, debt bondage and abusive work
conditions because of their nationality".
   The International Labour Organisation ILO has reported numerous cases
of maltreatment, sexual harassment and abuse, and excessive workloads.
Salma Khan of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against
Women said abuses committed against women migrant workers were of great
concern to her Committee. "Many of the women migrant workers were being
trafficked and abused," she added.
   Publication Date: October 18, 1999
   By Stephen Mbogo in Nairobi
   Copyright 1999 All Africa News Agency. Distributed via Africa News
    Copyright 1999

Melanie Orhant

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