Human Sex Trafficking in Canada

Human Sex Trafficking is a form of slavery. It happens when human beings are sold and bought for the purposes of sexual exploitation. It includes people (mostly women and girls) being recruited, transported, transferred, harboured or received. These actions are accomplished by means of force, the threat of force, or other forms of coercion. It is always involuntary because even when consent is achieved, it is through some form of fraud, deception, abduction/kidnapping or abuse of power/vulnerability (adapted from the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, 2000). Although there are numerous forms of human trafficking.


Extent of the Problem

Estimates range from a low of 700,000 to a high of 4 million people that are trafficked annually worldwide. It is estimated that two children per minute are trafficked for sexual exploitation─an estimated 1.2 million every year (UNICEF). The sale of human beings is run by international organized crime. Human trafficking is a $10 billion (USD) annual business. Profits from human trafficking fuel other criminal activities.

Trafficking in Canada
The R.C.M.P. estimates that 800 foreign women are bought into the Canadian sex trade each year by human traffickers. Another 2,200 newcomers to Canada are smuggled into the United States from Canada for work in brothels, sweatshops, domestic jobs and construction work. It is widely believed that only 1 in 10 victims in trafficking report to the police, so the numbers are likely much larger.

Who is Being Trafficked?
90% of people sexually trafficked are women and girls. Members of society who are most at risk of sexual trafficking are women, the poor, youth, widows/abandoned wives, orphans/abandoned children, and those with histories of (sexual) abuse.

Why it Happens
Pull factor: Demand for sex. There is a global marketplace made up of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of brothels, bars, strip clubs, massage parlors, escort services, and street corners where (mostly) men purchase people for sexual acts.

Push factors: Poverty, high unemployment rates, domestic violence/childhood abuse, discrimination against women, desire for a better life and a way to help their families. These factors make women and girls more vulnerable to entry into the global sex trade.

Trafficking vs. Prostitution
Sometimes the terms prostitution and sexual trafficking are used interchangeably, but they are different. Trafficking requires an element of force, coercion, deception and exploitation (whereas this is not always the case for prostitution). People are also trafficked sexually for many different aspects of commercial sexual exploitation; not just prostitution. If prostitution/procuring becomes legalized in Canada, this will directly increase the size of the sex industry, as well as the demand for more prostitutes and others in the sex trade. These extra bodies will be supplied internationally, and trafficked into Canada. (Case example: Victoria, Australia: Prostitution was legalized in 1994. This led to a massive increase in the sex industry, and also the levels of sex trafficking into the country).

Local pimps, family members or other small-time criminals can be involved in human trafficking. In Canada, gangs and larger organized crime networks are significantly involved in the sale and distribution of humans for exploitation. Traffickers may be male or female, family members or trusted associates, and affluent and seemingly upstanding members of the community. Recruiters and traffickers are often women and sometimes relatives; almost always known and trusted by targeted victims. Traffickers use various methods to trap victims and exploit vulnerable persons for profit or personal gain


New Report on Sex Trafficking in Palestinian Territories


 A report entitled “Trafficking and Forced Prostitution of Palestinian Women and Girls: Forms of Modern Day Slavery,” was recently released by SAWA, a Palestinian NGO.  The report found that trafficking in Palestinian territories is widespread.  Many of the victims became vulnerable to forced prostitution and trafficking due to abuse suffered at home, forced marriage, unemployment, and poverty.

The report found that there are few shelters for victims, who may be shunned by their family.  Police treat them like criminals, and few cases are prosecuted against their traffickers.  The report recommended that new legislation be drafted that offers protection to these victims of sexual violence.

Compiled fromCNN World: “Report lifts veil on trafficking, prostitution of Palestinian women” (11 December 2009)


Law targets violence against women in Morocco

The Secretariat of State for the Family, Childhood and the Handicapped has prepared a draft bill on combating violence against women aims to provide them with protection and safe harbour.

 The bill is considered “an important step in the continuous establishment of the legal framework for protecting women’s humanitarian rights and strengthening this protection”.

In addition to spousal violence, the bill targets sexual harassment and other forms of economic and social violence, and recognizes the role undertaken by listening centres and associations.

The new law further stipulates that women employees or workers who are victims of violence shall benefit, within the bounds of their workplaces, from reduced work hours or temporary cessation of work when necessitated by their psychological state or state of health. The women’s rights and benefits are guaranteed under the Labour Law. Further, women victims of violence are given priority in changing work location when doing so is necessary to protect them, on the condition that the need for these exigencies is verified by a report from specialised medical authorities.

The anticipated law for combating violence against women includes four sections with 26 texts, identifying violence and its forms and the places where it is perpetrated and clarifying the penitentiary procedures for violence.


Palestinian Women’s Village Voice Part 3

  “In the past, the woman’s role was restricted to her household and children and assisting her husband on the farm. She was not allowed to do much more than that …”
The nature of life in Palestinian villages has changed as a result of the political situation and has impacted the definition of roles assumed by women, requiring them to move beyond their reproductive role and venturing more into the productive and socio-political aspects of village life. Although there is a significant productive role for rural women, it often remains informal because it is part of household production and unpaid. Although women’s productive role brings economic benefit to the entire family, it does not help improve the economic status of the women themselves. Rural women may have ventured out of their homes, but their roles still remain largely restricted within the village and within prevailing social norms.

Palestinian women’s political participation is still weak. However, through the quota system in the most recent elections – in accordance with new election laws and under pressure from women’s organizations – women have been encouraged to compete. This has had a significant impact in Palestinian villages. According to the Central Elections Committee, in the local Palestinian councils, 75 women were elected through the quota system and a further 130 women were elected directly by majority vote! Also, two rural women have been elected as heads of local councils, and five rural women have been elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council through election lists (not as independent candidates). These results indicate the importance of rural women’s role in political life despite the challenges they might face in terms of how community members and other council members perceive this role. These impressive results have encouraged many women to run for political positions in future elections – boding well for increasing Palestinian women’s representation in decision making and ensuring that Palestinian village voices are heard!

Najwa, a rural woman from Beit Ula, was married at an early age and had the chance to complete her education. She obtained the Tawjihi certificate and a university degree in Islamic (Shari’a) law. Last year, she competed in the elections for the Beit Ula Municipality and was elected to the council. In addition to her new duties and to her role as a mother and farmer, she continues to work as a volunteer coordinator of Beit Ula Sabaya Centre.

Much can be said about Palestinian rural women, and no single article can do them justice. But a glimpse into their lives, challenges, and achievements can garner a better understanding of their underutilized potential. They have been instruments of change within their communities and have been challenging the norms that restrict their life.

Um Nidal from Deir Abu De’if, Jenin, says: “Throughout my life, I have worked in farming along with my own and then my husband’s family. I take care of the sheep and process dairy products. Ten years ago, I did something different and helped to establish a local women’s society. At that time, I felt that we should get education and training and started to encourage other women to get involved. It was very difficult at the beginning, but now, women join in with the activities more easily. I have also started to venture out of the village to attend courses and seminars in Jenin City.”

We believes that women’s centres and networks in rural communities have contributed to changing the roles of rural women. They have supported and helped women take initiative, increased their community participation, and encouraged them to explore beyond the boundaries of their villages. Has this all increased the burden that they bear? Well, yes. Attitudes and behaviours take a very long time to change, but women are up to the challenge:

Um Nidal says: “Rural women are well organized. They prepare a schedule and a plan ahead of time because any activity they want to be involved in will need a portion of their valuable time. Therefore, you will find them getting up early in the morning to fit everything in. For instance, when I have a meeting or a course, I get up one hour earlier than usual and finish the household chores and the cooking. I go to the farm in the afternoon and process the cheese at night. Yes, it is tiring, but I would not give it up.”


Palestinian Women’s Village Voice Part 2

Education has become a necessity, but …” says a young woman from Deir Abu De’if Village in the Jenin district.

Education is an area that is close to the heart of Palestinians worldwide, and many feel proud of the fact that Palestinians are considered highly educated. How does this translate for women in Palestinian villages? According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the enrolment rates in basic education for girls in rural areas have improved over the past five years, since 2000. However, the trend is not so positive at the secondary level (grades 11 and 12), and only 19.1 percent of young women in rural areas are enrolled in secondary school. According to UNIFEM’s Indicators of Rural Women’s Development, the trend continues a downward spiral after secondary school: only 4.27 percent of women complete higher education.

“… she will only go to university as long as her family’s financial situation allows …”
Many women in rural communities who are in their twenties, thirties, and forties are now feeling the longer-term effect of economic pressures and an incomplete education. The political conditions that prevailed during the second Intifada – extended closures and the decrease in job opportunities for male workers, particularly in the Israeli labour market – are now motivating them to pursue their education in the hope that it can help them obtain a job and a steady income for their families.

Hiyam, from the village of Talfeet in the Nablus district, completed grade 9 at school and promptly got married. She now has 9 children. Because of her husband’s illness, she had to take the responsibility for her family’s livelihood. She applied for a job as a janitor in the school. Afterwards, she joined the Tawjihi class organized by the UNIFEM-supported Talfeet Sabaya Centre and passed the exam with distinction. She went on to university and is currently in the third year of an English Language study programme. She has been able to manage to combine her household responsibilities, her job, and university study. She is an inspiration to her children and to many young women in her village.

Women in Palestinian villages tell us that the establishment of Al-Quds Open University, which adopts distance learning, has helped women complete their university education even when they are married. A woman from Kufr Ad-Dik Village states: “Over the past five years, 90 percent of married women in the village are pursuing their education at Al-Quds Open University in Salfit.”

“Women in the village are wives, caretakers for their households, farmers, and often productive members … provided that they work inside the village.”
The data proves it! According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, rural women account for the largest portion of women in the labour force and in the economic sector:“During the Intifada, when workers lost their jobs, women started to search for jobs in order to ensure livelihood for their children. Whether working in sewing, food processing, farming, or selling, the most important thing is to gain an income. Women ask for much less than men …” says a woman from Arrabeh Village in the Jenin district.

The higher rates of labour-market and economic participation are explained by the fact that agricultural work is a main source of livelihood in rural communities and depends on household labour, particularly by women. Furthermore, due to their lower educational attainment and lower skill level, women in rural areas tend to take up unskilled jobs, which may not be popular among urban women.


Palestinian Women’s Village Voice- Part 1

Palestinian Women’s Village Voice
By Suad Abu Kamleh

It is always with trepidation that we get into our car to head out for a field visit in the West Bank … How many checkpoints are we going to cross? … How many delays are we going to encounter? … Are we going to have time to squeeze in our busy agenda? What delicious homemade treats await us? With a furrowed brow and a look of determination, we set off. We leave dusty, stony Jerusalem behind, and we manage to navigate the checkpoints; as the road follows the natural curve of the mountains, the landscape turns green, and we know that it is going to be a good day.

Our positive feeling is reinforced when we see the bright, open, beautiful faces of the women who greet us. They welcome us, overwhelm us with their generosity, and never fail to impress us with their resilience, determination, adaptability, and diversity. They are rural Palestinian women, and they are the main reason that we love to go to work every morning.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the total rural Palestinian population is estimated to be 1,098,519 – almost half are women. They are a crucial human resource that upholds the social fabric of many isolated and marginalized Palestinian communities; from our experience, they have an incredible sense of community and an endless well of creativity that they want to use in order to help all the members of their village – old and young, girls and boys, men and women. The political situation, however, continues to wear down isolated Palestinian communities, and many villages suffer since, on one hand, they are cut off from urban centres, which have historically served as social and economic hubs, and on the other, they are cut off from land and water, which represent the core of their existence. Rural women face particular challenges, and in these difficult circumstances, despite their resilience, they can become particularly vulnerable.


Economic Security and Empowerment as a Solution to Violence Against Women

Effectively reducing violence against women requires an integrated approach that involves international and national lawmakers as well as community leaders, families and individual men and women. This integrated approach, recognized by government and women organizations and other global leaders, aims to increase women’s access to judicial and support services as well as to prevent violence from occurring. Though much work remains, improvements have been made to the laws and policies to protect women and girls from violence and to facilitate women’s access to necessary support services. However, the organizations and government are not doing enough to prevent violence from occurring in the first place. But they can prevent violence.  And one of the best strategies to do so is by economic empowerment. By economically empowering women, we can increase their status within the household and the community and decrease their chances of suffering violence. We can also engage men and boys to address the prevailing community norms that might encourage violence. Without examining these factors and implementing preventative strategies, we will never see a sustainable reduction in violence. In my work with UNIFEM, I have met countless working- women, working in Food processing sewing, farming, selling, and managers of small businesses. They demonstrate incredible ingenuity and resourcefulness in finding ways to earn an income and provide for their families. However, they often lack access to the necessary tools and resources to increase their economic returns. Economically empowering women means giving opportunities where there is none and strengthening the contributions women already make to their communities by ensuring they are paid appropriately for their labour. Developing strategies that lead to a better economic standing for women can ultimately help thwart violence. The violence they face is rooted in inequitable power dynamics within a household – men own the land, the home, all of the productive assets and control the income, even when women are the source of that income. Increasing a woman’s economic independence can provide her the leverage to negotiate protection or leave a violent relationship. Additionally, women are more likely than men to spend their income on the well-being of their families, including more foods that are nutritious, school fees for children and health care. One successful mechanism that is proven to empower women and reduce violence is microfinance. Microfinance consists of small loans usually given to poor people – mostly women – with little or no collateral to help them start or expand small businesses. When microfinance is distributed in combination with other community programs, it can actually prevent violence.