Applauding The Release of a Singapore National Plan of Action Against Trafficking in Persons
By Trina Liang-Lin, President of Singapore Committee for UN Women, a non-profit organisation working towards women’s empowerment and gender equality through a wide range of public education programs, membership events and resource mobilisation activities.
We, the Singapore Committee of UN Women (formerly UNIFEM Singapore), applaud the concrete steps being taken by the Singapore Government to fight the transnational crime of Trafficking in Persons (TIP). We commend the Inter-agency Taskforce for their consultative initiatives to date with relevant stakeholders, including Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and were happy to provide feedback on the tentative ideas for the proposed National Plan of Action (NPA) when it was out on review earlier this year.
After being part of the launch of the NPA yesterday, we appreciate the great strides being taken, while we continue to hope for further improvements.
In the years since ratifying UN CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women), Singapore has been urged by the UN CEDAW Committee to ratify the UN Palermo Protocol on Trafficking. We would strongly recommend that the Singapore government make accession to the Protocol a specific goal with necessary feasibility investigations completed within 2012, one year ahead of the NPA indicative timeline for review.
In terms of prosecution, it is our very firm belief that Singapore needs to go beyond a review of current legislation. We strongly urge the Singapore Government to enact specific anti-trafficking legislation incorporating the UN definition of TIP and comprehensively addressing all aspects to clearly signal, both nationally and internationally, how seriously the issue is being taken. Specific anti-TIP legislation will also raise the profile of the issue within Singapore, avoid the risk of gaps resulting from piecemeal amendments to existing legislation and put a stop to the unethical treatment of victims as perpetrators of criminal acts (e.g. immigration offences). TIP specific legislation would also set the definitions and parameters of classification and coverage for consistency and continuity in prosecution. We also strongly believe that the legal review should be inclusive and involve victim rights groups and civil society in general.
The importance of prosecution of TIP cases cannot be understated and we appreciate the set of initiatives proposed by the Inter-agency Taskforce, while acknowledging the difficulties faced in implementation and successful prosecution. We ask that at all stages of the prosecutorial process, laws, policies, strategies and actions be firmly victim-centred and from a human rights approach and within the CEDAW framework i.e. the victim and their experiences are the paramount focus and concern of actions taken. This means the collection of evidence beyond physical, but also include mental and emotional abuses as in the case of domestic violence under the Family Violence Act. Difficulty of prosecution should not be an excuse for ignoring the rights and needs of the victims.
During the investigation and prosecution of TIP cases victims will need to be supported with legal and financial assistance (either direct or as an opportunity to earn a living). We believe it is essential that victim support during these stages is unconditional, i.e. that legal assistance and other support are provided regardless whether the victim agrees to be a prosecution witness or not.
The horror of human trafficking reaches into every corner of the globe, including the Asia Pacific region. Singapore is affected by all manifestations of human trafficking much like other developed countries around the world. As an attractive hub of economic activity with high people flows and international travel, Singapore is no less vulnerable than other countries. The city state is primarily a destination (not transit or a source) country for women, children and young people trafficked from other countries in Asia.
UN Women globally works to further women’s empowerment and we campaign on behalf of vulnerable women, in particular migrant women who leave their communities and countries with the hope of making a better living abroad. In the region outside Singapore, UN Women is working to facilitate safe migration practices as well as local livelihood programs, so that young women in desperate financial need do not have to take the risks that sometimes results in them being trafficked for sexual purposes. Indeed, poverty is at the root of child prostitution and sex trafficking. Lack of education and values surrounding women are further contributing factors.
The Singapore Committee for UN Women Singapore is a non-profit organisation working towards women’s empowerment and gender equality through a wide range of public education programs, membership events and resource mobilization activities. Established in 1999, it supports programs that provide women and children with access to education, healthcare, economic independence and a life free of violence and abuse.