Activists call to revise Saarc convention on trafficking

- Post Report, Kathmandu
Women rights activists say the convention labels only those cases as trafficking where victims are sexually exploited or used for commercial purpose

Dec 2, 2015-Women rights activists have demanded revising the Saarc Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking of Women and Children for Prostitution, arguing that the convention labels only those cases as trafficking where victims are sexually exploited or used for commercial purpose.

“Forms of trafficking have changed and it has been revealed that it is not only women and children who are trafficked. Men too have fallen victims of this global trend. Moreover, sexual exploitation is not always for commercial purpose, but for purposes such as labour exploitation, organ transplant and domestic servitude, among others,” said Renu Rajbhandari, president of Women Rehabilitation Centre.

A prime example of trafficking involving sexual exploitation but which does not involve commercial aspect is the case of two Nepali maids who were sexually exploited by Saudi Arabian diplomats in India, where the women faced sexual exploitation but not for commercial purpose.

The convention also does not comply with the internationally-agreed definition of trafficking, as contained within the Palermo Protocols to the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and ILO Convention 2009 on Forced Labour.

Experts have called for incorporation of these conventions as well, claiming that Saarc Convention, through its traditional definition of prostitution, restricts women’s right to free movement.

“The convention criminalises voluntary sex work, and addresses the problem of trafficking from a moralistic and protectionist perspective which in turn restricts woman’s right to free movement,” said Sunita Danuwar, president of Shakti Samuha.

People working in the field of trafficking have also urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take the initiative to make the changes while Nepal is still the chair of the Saarc Secretariat.

MoU on Saarc-CIRDAP collaboration

KATHMANDU: The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) and the Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to foster collaboration between the two organisations in mutually agreed areas.

Saarc comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka as its members, while CIRDAP consists of six Saarc countries (except Bhutan and the Maldives) as well as Fiji, Indonesia, Iran, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The headquarters of the CIRDAP based in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

SAARC Secretary-General Arjun B Thapa and CIRDAP Director-General Cecep Effendi inked the MoU at the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu on Tuesday, replacing the erstwhile MoU that was signed in 2007 and expired in 2010.

According to a press statement issued by the Saarc Secretariat, the new MoU stands to open up a vista of opportunities for both the organizations to complement each other’s efforts in rural development and implement joint projects. The prospective areas of cooperation outlined in the MoU include rural development and women empowerment through agro-processing, promoting inter-regional trade in agricultural products, adopting techniques of climate smart agriculture,  generating user-friendly database on rural statistics, establishing a virtual and multi-stakeholder supported Rural Development Information System, formulating and implementing strategic action plan for rural development in the region and adopting an Integrated Rural Development Policy for South Asia.

The CIRDAP was established in 1979 in Dhaka to assist its member in national action, promote regional cooperation and act as a servicing institution for the promotion of integrated rural development in the Asia Pacific region. Saarc came into existence in 1985 with the principal objectives of promoting the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and improving their quality of life by accelerating economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region.

Published: 02-12-2015 08:14

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