Human trafficking is a shame for Europe

Politicians and civil society must act, says the EESC

The United Nations and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) presented the film Sold – a film about human trafficking by Jeffrey D. Brown - at Brussels' Centre for Fine Arts BOZAR on 10 January 2017.

Opening the screening, together with Deborah Seward (Director of UNRIC), Madi Sharma, member of the EESC, said: I would like to ask you, to think while you are watching the film: This is not just happening in Asia; this is happening on our doorstep. The only way, we can make a difference is to not look the other way. It is our responsibility. We, together with civil society organisations, can work on protecting people, on prevention and on the policies that are needed to put in place to make the difference. We all have a responsibility not to look the other way.

Sold illustrates the brutality and inhumanity of child trafficking, affecting millions of children all over the world and each year. Based on the globally acclaimed novel by Patricia McCormick the feature film adaption tells the shattering story of a young Nepalese girl called Lakshimi, a victim of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. The film shows that human trafficking is often related to poverty, inequality, corruption, crime and other issues. As it is a serious crime and violation of human and individual rights, affecting all genders and ages, leaving people vulnerable and traumatised, the film urges the society and governments to act and shows how also each individual can make a difference.

With millions of people being trafficked globally every year, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, sexual exploitation (53%) is the most common form of human trafficking, followed by forced labour (40%) which is increasing. EUROSTAT's 2015 working paper on Trafficking in human beings shows that 69% of registered victims in the EU were trafficked for sexual and 19% for labour exploitation. While worldwide 49% of detected trafficking victims are adult women, 33% are children.

In its previous opinions on human trafficking the EESC has called for increased protection and support for victims who are often identified in the first instance by grassroots civil society organisations. The Committee urged that victims be given sufficient protection to enable them to reintegrate into the legal sphere of the society from which they were excluded. Their integration into the labour market should be supported by public funding.      

The screening was followed by a lively debate with high level speakers moderated by Goedele Liekens (UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador and media personality). Ozark Henry (UNODC Goodwill Ambassador and musician), Irene Wintermayr (ILO Policy Officer), Cornelius Williams (UNICEF Global Chief of Child Protection) and Madi Sharma (Member of the EESC and social entrepreneur) discussed the reasons and possible measures against human trafficking, like EU trade and development policies, international treaties and legislation. They also called for action and highlighted the crucial role civil society organisations and each individual can play.

Madi Sharma called on tougher political action and rethinking European policies: Just signing policies and documents is not enough. We have spent more time debating trade and trade agreements than we have ever considered trafficking and human trafficking. We cannot have this free trade which is giving us more and more inequalities across the world without raising questions of human rights. We also should better monitor and evaluate the money which we give for development to ensure that it's spent appropriately. Until we are not improving in this regard, development aid will be wasted money.


Related initiatives against human trafficking:



Photo by United Nations Regional Information Centre (UNRIC)