Tuesday, August 25, 2009

South East Asia Court of Women on HIV and Human Trafficking

Vision and objectives:

The first South East Asia Court of Women on HIV and Human Trafficking: from Vulnerability to Free, Just and Safe Movement will be held in Bali , Indonesia on 6 August 2009 . The Court of Women is organised in conjunction with the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP), which will be held from 9-13 August 2009.

The Court of Women, organized jointly by UNDP and the Asian Women’s Human Rights Council (AWHRC), is a major partnership initiative involving United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), United Nations Inter- Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), Asia Pacific Network of People living with HIV (APN+) and Yakeba with funding support from the Government of Japan. The Court will bring together leaders, politicians, activists and communities who are working to make a difference to empower women and reduce their vulnerability to trafficking and HIV in the South East Asia region.


Human trafficking and HIV are serious issues of concern globally. It is estimated that South East Asia contributes one third of the total global figures for human trafficking. Countries in the region act as source, transit and destination areas for human trafficking. Sexual exploitation remains the primary purpose of trafficking of women and girls, while they are also trafficked for forced marriage, sweatshop labour and domestic work.

Not only is human trafficking a hideous crime and gross violation of human rights, it also contributes to the spread of HIV. Women’s multi-layered vulnerability is exploited by traffickers. The slaverylike working conditions of trafficked women undermine their rights and may increase their vulnerability to HIV infection. Unsafe migration practices also may lead to physical and sexual abuse of women and the conditions in the informal and unregulated employment sectors may further increase their vulnerability. It is therefore crucial to look at the changing context for migration which creates newer avenues for trafficking and generates violence particularly for women and girls.

It is also important to look at the public health impact of anti- trafficking measures ,which may drive the sex industry further underground making it more difficult to reach sex trafficked women and girls and jeopardizing the ability of women within the sex industry to access HIV prevention and treatment services and negotiate safe sex practices with their clients.

Both HIV/AIDS and human trafficking are serious threats to the health, dignity and lives of girls and women within and across the region. It is essential that the linkages between HIV and human trafficking be viewed and addressed through the prism of dignity, access to justice, health and human security of individuals and communities. It is in this context the Southeast Asia Court of Women on HIV and Human Trafficking: from Vulnerability to Free, Just and Safe Movement will seek to understand and respond in more effective and creative ways to the nexus between HIV and human trafficking and increasing vulnerability of women.

Goals and aims:

The goals and aims of the proposed Court of Women include:

· Advocating for and share widely the issues, concerns and opportunities related to the core theme from the perspective of survivors of trafficking and migrant workers living with HIV.

· Providing a forum for women from different countries in the region to share, reflect and have a deeper understanding of the linkages between HIV, traditional forms of gender discrimination and the more contemporary processes of globalization, poverty, forced migration and marginalization resulting in the increasing vulnerability of women and girls to trafficking and HIV.

· Recognizing and building upon the strengths, achievements and success stories of trafficking survivors and migrant workers living with HIV who have overcome tremendous difficulties and been empowered to lead a positive life with dignity

· Identifying coping and resistance strategies of women affected by customary practices and disempowering norms and values that put them at the risk of trafficking and HIV infection.

· Identifying collective means of challenging and transforming discriminatory state and legal policies that are creating and deepening structural inequities towards women and girls in disadvantaged situations.

· Formulating concrete and relevant follow up actions and campaigns at the regional, national and international levels to evolve long term sustainable strategies to address the issue.

· Strengthening regional and national networking among individuals and groups on this issue in order to work for more effective action and advocacy at various levels.


The Regional Court will bring together participants from government, civil society, donor community, the UN and will include:

• People living with HIV

• Trafficked survivors

• NGOs and CBOs working on trafficking and HIV issues

• Politicians

• Policy makers

• High-level government officials

• Judges and Lawyers

• Journalists and media representatives

• Bi- and multilateral organizations

• Trade union representatives

• Human rights activists

Expected outputs/outcomes:

· Greater visibility and understanding of the clandestine nature of trafficking, forced migration and HIV in the region;

· Increased public, policy and legal debates and attention regarding the dual vulnerability of women and girls to trafficking and HIV and support for survivors of trafficking and those who are forced to migrate for better livelihood options;

· Greater integration of HIV into policies, strategies and programmes on the prevention of trafficking, care of trafficking survivors and facilitation of safe migration;

· Enhanced collaboration and coordination between the anti-trafficking community, rights of migrant workers and HIV/AIDS community to address the issues in an integrated fashion;

· Various publications including a video production

History of the Courts of Women

The Asian Women Human Rights Council, in its work with issues related to violence against women since its inception in 1986, initiated the Courts in Asia as conceived by Corinne Kumar, the founder of AWHRC and the Secretary General of El Taller International. More than 30 Courts of Women have been held since then, in different regions of the world – Asia , Arab, Africa , Central and South America . The issues have been diverse and also specific to the regions they have been held in – from the violence of poverty, globalization and development, the violence of cultures, caste and racism to the violence of sexual slavery and of all wars.

The Courts of Women seeks to relook at these issues, reflecting the violence of our times, through its unique methodology of weaving together the personal with the political, the rational and the objective with the intuitive and the subjective and the logical with the lyrical. Inviting us to connect with these deeper and varied levels of knowledge, it urges us to reimagine jurisprudence that drawing from and also going beyond the limitations of the politics and processes of the nation state, seeks to understand and respond to the roots of the violence of our times in terms of its history and its context.

This specific Court on HIV and Human Trafficking will take into account the experiences and lessons learnt from two earlier Courts organized by AWHRC and UNDP in partnership with several other groups in the region i.e. the South Asia Court on Trafficking and HIV held in 2003 in Dhaka, Bangladesh; and the Asia Pacific Court of Women on HIV, Inheritance and Property Rights held in 2007 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It seeks to build upon and ground this learning in the specific context of South East Asia .

Organization and format of the Court:

Date: 6 August 2009

Venue: Bali International Convention Centre (BICC), Nusa Dua , Indonesia

Format: Court of Women from 9 am-6 pm , followed by a closing ceremony and celebration in the evening. The Court would be designed so that a core constituency of 5-10 persons from 8 countries in the region will participate to ensure support for follow up initiatives at country level after the conference.

The objective of the Court is to give women an opportunity to be heard by sharing their testimonies with a broader audience which includes leaders and decision makers. The structure of the Court is such that it will be divided into 5 broad segments. Each segment will be introduced by an audio visual poetic expression, an expert witness and 5 -7 women who will present their personal testimonies, verbally, in writing, or other creative mediums. Each segment will be approximately 45 minutes allowing for a total of 20 – 25 testimonies to be heard.

The segments will include:

1. Unraveling root causes of the vulnerabilities of women in the South East Asia region to unsafe migration, trafficking and HIV

2. Making visible and clearly articulating the linkages between HIV, trafficking and migration

3. Recognizing the rights of vulnerable communities including migrants, domestic workers, refugees, sex workers and PLHIV

4. Evaluating the human rights and public health impact of anti trafficking legislation and laws that restrict women’s movement

5. Responses/Resistance/ Celebrating successes


Through a series of poetic visuals the participants of the Court will listen to the voices of wisdom spoken by a jury of women and men chosen for their experience and sensitivity to the issues involved. Each presenter will speak in front of the entire audience. The option of speaking from behind a screen will be available if required. Translations during testimony presentation will be made available.

The Jury

4 – 6 eminent people will act as the Jury to this court. At the end of the hearing, the Jury will issue a declaration to all those present. The Jury’s declaration will be publicized regionally.

Closing ceremony

The Court will end on a celebratory note, where the Court participants will come together in celebration. This will take place in an open space where story tellers and other performers will anchor the closing.

Main partners in the Regional Court :

UNDP, Regional Centre in Colombo , Sri Lanka

The UNDP Regional HIV and Development Programme for Asia and the Pacific seeks to address the development and trans-border challenges of HIV/AIDS in the Asia Pacific region and supports integrated, rights-based, multi-sectoral responses that promote gender equality, sustainable livelihood and community participation. Focus areas of work include: policy advocacy and outreach, mobility and HIV/AIDS, including trafficking of people, capacity development, and empowerment of people living with HIV/AIDS. The HIV Practice Team also provides technical and substantive support to key partners including UNDP country offices in the Asia-Pacific region. These include programme formulation, monitoring and evaluation, strategic planning and HIV mainstreaming, socio-economic impact studies, leadership for results, people living with HIV/AIDS and access to treatment issues, GFATM processes, and ICT and web-based tools for enhanced outreach of information and services. In addition to the internal resources, the Programme draws on a pool of high quality experts.

The Asian Women’s Human Rights Council (AWHRC)

The focus of the AWHRC is the escalating violence against women in the context of the growing militarisation and nuclearisation of the nation states in Asia and the Pacific. The organization seeks to extend and transform the human right discourse from the perspectives and life visions of the south, the marginalized, the women. By challenging the dominant world view and its discourse, through women’s knowledge and wisdoms, it invites another dialogue, proffering new visions towards a just and peaceful world for women and men. Comprising of women from women’s groups, academia and human rights organizations, AWHRC functions from its regional secretariat in Bangalore , India .

Other partners to the Court include:

1. Buhay Foundation for Women and the Girl Child , Philippines

2. Asian Institute of Technology , Thailand

3. Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW), Thailand

4. Foundation for Women, Thailand

5. Shan Women’s Action Network / Women’s League of Burma

6. International Community of Women living with HIV, Thailand

7. Seven Sisters Network on HIV, Thailand

8. Legal Support Center for Women and Children, Cambodia

9. Migrant Workers Union , Indonesia

10. Population and Development Association, Thailand

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