Address to the Dissemination Meeting Review of SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking of Women and Children for Prostitution.

I would like to congratulate the Asian Development Bank and the International organization for Migration (IOM) for undertaking this review. Since the Convention has been in effect for four years, it’s a good time to take stock of what has been accomplished and what still needs to be done. I would also like to thank the National Human Rights Commission and the Department of Immigration for organizing this dissemination meeting.

What this convention covers is one of the most serious transnational crimes that our region faces. It addresses a crime that is a direct affront against the dignity and human rights of the two most vulnerable populations in this region. Our women and our children. The aim of this convention is to criminalize and punish trafficking offences. It also aims to strengthen regional cooperation in law enforcement, which includes mutual legal assistance, extradition, protection of trafficked persons and their timely repatriation. The overall aim is to take substantial steps towards addressing this problem; this blight on all our nations.

This review shows, that we have not fully succeeded in taking these initial steps and that serious shortcoming exist in both its implementation and coverage.

We find these short comings in proposed implementation blatantly evident across the board. We find them in the relatively limited scope of this agreement. In the narrow(or/broad/inappropriate?) definitions used, In the limited use of Human Rights Perspectives. In the limited regional cooperation for law enforcement. The insufficient data and analysis. And finally, we find them in the complete absence of an independent monitoring system.

Yet addressing these implementation issues is not enough. We need to look beyond them and take into account coverage as well. We need to include male victims and better define what a victim is. A victim is more than someone forced into prostitution, but also a forced laborer, a sex slave, and other forced into slave-like practices, including those forced to beg. Under the current framework, there is inadequate provisions for victim protection and their rehabilitation. In order to address these issues, we need to acknowledge that the absence of an effective and independent compliance mechanism undermines the overall the effectiveness of this convention.

The cause of trafficking is relatively simple. It is primarily greed and a complete disregard for human rights.

Trafficking is a worldwide, multi-billion-dollar industry. And although the problem is global, some of the worst forms of exploitation are found in Asia, where more than a million people are being affected. This is not acceptable.

Trafficking on this level cannot continue to escape the attention of local and national law authorities and I call on the governments of these and other countries to enforce both their national laws and to accept their obligations under this Convention.

For the good of our region, a unified effort must be made to address trafficking, and new contributing factors must be taken into account.The Internet is one of these new factors, contributing to sexual exploitation of women and children. The low cost of Internet advertising of the sex trade is attracting sex tourists and pedophiles to our nations and atrocities that are effectively banned in these degenerates’ homelands are being committed in ours instead.

These are activities legally banned in all of our countries. All of us have laws that prohibit such activities. Yet not all of these laws are being effectively enforced. I am calling on our law enforcement agencies to take effective and collaborative action against the continuation of such atrocities. Similarly, I urge governments of our neighboring countries to take serious preventive actions and to protect women and children from human traffickers.

Children, especially girl children are especially vulnerable and the effect on them is profound and may be permanent. Their sexual, physical and emotional development is often stunted and their lives are forever altered, often hindering the possibility for their future positive contribution to society.

While we have seen clear indications and evidence of trafficking across the region, Maldives is affected as well, and we are concerned that human trafficking could be a growing problem in our country. The report mentions Maldives as both a source country and a destination country.

This event provides us an excellent opportunity for a serious internal review and for us to take corrective actions necessary to protect our people. These actions will include improving the legal framework and ratification of relevant conventions including the UN Trafficking Protocol and the Convention on Migrant workers. The report recommends that Maldives is among the nations which must enact comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation and make provisions for the timely repatriation of victims.

However, we cannot simply take action from a unilateral standpoint. The government cannot do this alone. While we strengthen state law enforcement machinery and governmental systems to combat trafficking, we also need to strengthen civil society and raise the awareness of communities to protect their women and children from trafficking and exploitation.

I urge our national authorities, our dedicated police, our Immigration department and Ministry of Human Resources, all to use this opportunity to kick start a joint initiative to combat trafficking. We must take steps to mitigate future injustice and protect our citizenry from what is a global phenomenon and regional calamity. Thank you.

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