Australia pledges USD 2 million to support campaign protecting women from forced labour in Southeast Asia


Author: Montira Narkvichien

The Government of Australia has announced that it will be providing USD 2 million towards UN Women’s project to help prevent the abuse and exploitation of women migrant workers in South East Asia, placing the country as a top donor of UN Women Asia and Pacific to support gender equality and women’s advancement.

The funding was announced today at a National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery by the Hon. Julie Bishop, Australia Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The USD 2 million pledge over two years will support UN Women’s Preventing the Exploitation of Women Migrant Workers in ASEAN project to raise awareness among women in the region about the dangers of migration and to promote understanding of the risks and their legal rights.

Globally, the numbers of women, men and children affected by human trafficking and exploitation continues to rise. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that there are 20.9 million adults and children in forced labour, bonded labour, and commercial sexual exploitation at any given time. Of these victims, 55 percent are women and girls, and at least 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for by far the largest number of forced laborers – 11.7 million, or 56 percent, of the global total.

There are a number of international instruments to combat human trafficking. These include the ‘Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children’ (also known as the ‘Palermo Protocol’), which entered into force in 2003 and supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime; CEDAW (“Article 6: States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women”); and the Beijing Platform for Action (“Strategic objective D.3. Eliminate trafficking in women and assist victims of violence due to prostitution and trafficking”), amongst others.

In addition, CEDAW General Recommendation 26 promotes gender-sensitive migration governance and coherence between labour, migration and trafficking laws and policies, while at the regional level, the 2004 ASEAN Declaration against Trafficking Persons, Particularly Women and Children, provides a normative basis for preventing and responding to this issue and represents an important regional commitment for doing so.