57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations in New York City

CATW April 9, 2013

CATW was once again an active participant in the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 57) at the United Nations in New York City. The priority theme was The Elimination and Prevention of All Forms of Violence Against Women and Girls. CATW sponsored two panels, moderated one and had several board members participate in other NGO's panels. 


CATW sponsored the panel Ending Impunity: Holding the DSKs, Elliot Spitzers and the Berlusconis Accountable, on Wednesday, March 6th. Panelists included Esohe Aghatise of Associazione IROKO ONLUS, Malka Marcovich CATW's European Representative, Teresa Ulloa Ziaurriz Regional Director of CATW Latin America and the Caribbean, Natacha Henry Founder of Gender Company, and Dorchen Leidholdt, Director of Legal Services at Sanctuary for Families who moderated the discussion.


The panel was lively and well attended by many representatives from around the world. Teresa Ulloa Ziaurriz began with an introduction that highlighted the situation of women and girls in Latin America and the Caribbean. She spoke about the feminization of poverty and how organized crime increases the incidence of violence and sex trafficking of women and children. 

Malka Marcovich reported on a current trial in France in which a French diplomat is being charged with the sexual abuse of his three-year-old daughter in India. She read a letter portraying the struggle the child's mother faces in bringing him to justice. She concluded by requesting that members of the audience sign a petition in support of the efforts of the Mediterranean Network Against Trafficking in Women to support the mother in her legal battle. 

Esohe Aghatisepresented on the impunity of men, specifically Berlusconi, and how it exemplifies male entitlement in Italy and Nigeria. Natacha Henry gave an impassioned speech categorizing sexual violence in France, particularly in relation to Dominique Strauss Kahn and other men like him. She further spoke of the media's role in promoting a sexist culture that particularly showcases violence against women.


The second panel, Survivors Speak: Prostitution and Sex Trafficking was on March 7th. Moderated by CATW's Executive Director Norma Ramos, this panel was co-sponsored by the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd. Panelists included Vednita Carter Founder and Executive Director of Breaking Free, Stella Marr Author and Founding Member of Sex Trafficking Survivors United, Rachel Moran Founder of the Ireland based organization SPACE, Natasha Falle of Sex Trade 101, and Theresa Der-Lan Yeh of Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation.


Norma Ramos moderated this panel and posed a series of key questions to the panelists. A dynamic discussion ensued among panelists as they answered questions including: What are the key social conditions that lead to prostitution and sex trafficking? What is the relationship between pornography and prostitution? Why do we have an endless supply of men willing to buy commercial sex? Why should we reject terms such as "sex work" and why is the Nordic Model the most effective legal model?


The panelists discussed the vital role of survivor leadership. They pointed out that the anti-trafficking movement must not play a role in exploiting survivors by having them tell their stories as a means of fundraising, rather than treating them as policy experts. 

There was also a discussion on how the convergence of cofactors such as capitalism, racism and patriarchy come together to create the conditions that gives rise to sex trafficking, and how we must incorporate an analysis of these conditions in order to achieve our goal of ending human trafficking and prostitution.


The extraordinary panelists received a standing ovation.


CATW partners in Sweden, founders and members of Roks invited Norma Ramos to moderate their panel titled Why Are Policies on Prostitution Important to Combat Violence Against Women, held on March 7. Panelists included Angela Beausang Chairwoman of Roks Sweden, Dorit Otzen of Reden (The Nest) in Denmark, Jonas Trolle of the Stockholm Police Department, Agnete Strom from The Women's Front of Norway and Gudrun Jonsdottir of Stigamot in Iceland. 

Panelists provided an overview of the state of the Nordic Model. Jonas Trolle gave an inspiring firsthand account outlining the success of the Nordic Model in Sweden. Gudrun Jonsdottir gave an impassioned report on Iceland's bold efforts to stop online pornography and the need for effective and creative strategies to hold the sex industry accountable. 

Dorit Otzen with over 46 years of experience in working with women in prostitution gave invaluable insight about counseling services and treatment for women in street prostitution. Agnete Strom inspired audience members speaking about the continuing work to strengthen the Nordic Model in Norway and the importance of expanding this model all over the world. Angela Beausang presented on her work in shelters in Sweden with survivors who received assistance because of the Nordic Model and gave statistics of the law's effectiveness.


All three panels were well attended and were followed by very active question and answer periods. CATW provided free posters and handouts about effective policies geared towards eliminating sex trafficking. CATW met with members from other NGO's attending CSW in order to strategize and plan for upcoming programs and events.


CSW 57 Outcome Document

We learned that very some regressive language had made its way into the draft Outcome Document. The two regressive phrases are "sex work" and "forced prostitution." Norma Ramos put out a call to action to our partners and urged them to lobby their delegations to have this language removed. Dorchen Leidholdt and Norma Ramos organized a separate lobbying effort at the US Mission, where apparently this language originated. With six other NGOs and survivor leadership, we held a successful meeting with key members of the US Mission staff.


Aurora Javate De Dios, was one of the lead negotiators of the Philippines delegation at CSW 57 that proposed amending language used in United Nations legislation relating to prostitution by deleting the term forced prostitution from UN Amendments and replacing it with exploitation of prostitution. The terminology exploitation of prostitution is used in the 1949 Convention on the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, Article 6 of CEDAW and the UN Trafficking (Palermo) Protocol.  


The term forced prostitution predates both the UN Trafficking Protocol and the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act and fails to reflect their more inclusive definitions of trafficking.


This important change to UN language during CSW 57 was supported by the Indonesian delegation, members of the Bangladeshi delegation and from the Scandinavian delegations, especially those of Iceland, Norway and Sweden which strongly supported exploitation of prostitution. Of special note is the leadership that Agnete Strom and Anton Popic provided in lobbying their key delegations. This was truly CATW at its best and we were ultimately successful in having this regressive language deleted.


CATW Partners Meeting.

We took advantage of the fact that so many of CATW's partners would be in town for CSW and organized a Partners Meeting where we shared current challenges, strategies, opportunities to act, and victories as we work to end human trafficking worldwide. 

We welcomed over thirty of our international partners at the meeting on the evening of March 5. A lively and productive meeting was held where we discussed various challenges facing abolitionists including the UNAIDS Report, released in the summer of 2012, that called for state parties to legalize prostitution as AIDS prevention. We discussed the impact these policy recommendations are having on their NGOs, specifically their constituents and ways to counter its purposed implementation.


We took the opportunity to discuss the current challenge that has made its way to the US Supreme Court regarding the anti-prostitution policy governing US federal grants. We concluded the meeting with a renewed sense of our partnership as we headed into CSW 57.