20,000 cases of domestic trafficking in 2018

Islamabad: There were almost twenty thousand reported victims of domestic trafficking in Pakistan in 2018. 92 percent of them were women, said the official of Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) at a seminar jointly organized by UN Women Pakistan, National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) and Kashf Foundation under the theme: “Together to combat trafficking of women and girls” here on Tuesday.

Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by human trafficking. Global estimates indicate that women and girls may constitute up to 80 percent of persons trafficked globally, with more than 60 percent of those trafficked coming from the Asia region.

Most of the evidence on trafficking in Pakistan is anecdotal. While studies have been conducted at different levels, the number of girls and women trafficked for domestic labour, forced marriages or sexual exploitation is very difficult to ascertain from these reports. However, available data indicates that traffickers are not always strangers but can be family members, friends or acquaintances. Victims of trafficking are often lured on the pretext of better employment, marriages, better economic prospects or simply kidnapped from outside their homes or public places. The age of women and girls trafficked ranges from two years to fifty years.

Pakistani women are not only being trafficked from poverty-stricken areas to urban centres, but also from big cities like Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad to Southern Punjab and Balochistan. Recently there have also been reports of young Pakistani women being trafficked outside Pakistan on the pretext of marriage.It is clear that the scale of the issue is immense and needs to be tackled at all levels, including raising awareness among the masses.

While delivering his welcome address, Jamshed Kazi, Country Representative UN Women Pakistan, said, “When we prioritise protection of women’s rights as human rights and develop strategies to combat violence against women, we encounter various challenges.One of these challenges is trafficking of women and girls, which rarely gets the attention it deserves.”

He said, “In order for Pakistan to successfully tackle this threat, we need to work towards changing the underpinning social norms and behaviours in a transformative way, which would lead to adoption of new behaviours and result in social change.”

“One such initiative that is being supported by UN Women for the first time in Pakistan is a drama serial on trafficking of women in girls in partnership with NCSW and Kashf Foundation, which is currently being developed. It is often seen that the impact of an intervention lies in how its story is narrated, one of the reasons behind this is that people look at drama characters as role models.”

The seminar was attended by government officials, diplomats, civil society representatives and media. Two panel discussions were arranged during the seminar. The first discussion was on the topic of “Trafficking of women and girls in Pakistan – a discussion on the issue, legislative framework, and what is being done to address it”. Panellists for this session were Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson National Commission on the Status of Women, Dr. Riffat Sardar, Chairperson Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Commission on the Status of Women, Riaz Janjua, from Anti Human Trafficking Circle, Federal Investigation Authority (FIA), and Maliha Zia Lari, Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Legal Aid Society Karachi. The discussion was moderated by Moneeza Hashmi, Creative Media Head Kashf Foundation Lahore.

It was highlighted during the discussion that in May 2018, efforts of the Federal Investigation Agency led to the enactment of the “The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2018” and “The Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants Acts, 2018”. However, robust operating procedures and rules of business are needed for effective implementation of these laws to help curb trafficking of women and girls.

Survivors of trafficking require protection, assistance and support, access to remedies, and safe return andre-integration into their communities with dignity and respect. Law enforcement agencies and other service providers must be prepared and able to adequately respond to and support survivors and work in border communities to mitigate the impact of these crimes.The engagement and empowerment of women can have a powerful effect in dismantling transnational criminal activity, further promoting progress in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals.

The second panel discussion focused on “Shaping Mindsets Through Media”. Roshaneh Zafar, Managing Director Kashf Foundation, Moneeza Hashmi, Amina Mufti, Writer & Dramatist, and Saman Ahsan, Portfolio Manager, Governance, Human Rights & Ending Violence Against Women, UN Women Pakistan were the panellists of this discussion which was moderated by famous TV host Tauseeq Haider.

It was discussed that while UN Women in Pakistan supports government partners and other stakeholders in legislation, research and initiatives to end violence against women and girls, it also aims to work towards transforming social norms and mindsets by reaching out to people where they are. The drama serial is one key medium through which we can progressively change mindsets and transform our approach to combat trafficking of women and girls.

Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson NCSW, delivered the vote of thanks and hoped that the partnership between NCSW, UN Women and Kashf will lead to sensitizing people of Pakistan in general and policymakers, influencers and law enforcement agencies about the adversity trafficking of women and girls brings to a society and the need to tackle this issue effectively.