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Equality Now applying an Ecosystem’s approach to ending sexual exploitation

In 2001, Equality Now was part of a coalition that advocated for the passage of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, also known as the Palermo Protocol. Now, 20 years later they are exploring ways to engage in the Review Mechanism of the Implementation of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC).

Taking trafficking for sexual exploitation seriously

In Malawi, Equality Now is working in partnership with a local NGO, People Serving Girls at Risk (PSGR), to undertake advocacy activities calling on   the government of Malawi to effectively implement its laws on sex trafficking. As part of this work, both organizations are currently involved in a strategic litigation case to help ensure access to justice for a survivor of sex trafficking, who was just 16 years old when she was internally trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation.
Equality Now and PSGR’s role in the case includes monitoring how the investigation is being conducted, advocating for the allegations to be taken seriously by police and prosecutors, and keeping track on how the case is dealt with by the court. 
By accompanying a case as it progresses from start to end through the criminal justice system, Equality Now is not only providing important assistance to the survivor but is also closely observing how the case is being handled by police, prosecutors and court officials. These observations can help identify areas for improvement, strengthen advocacy for other trafficking survivors seeking justice, and increase the likelihood of offenders being held to account by the state. 


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An ecosystems approach

Ending sexual exploitation requires political will and strong commitment from State actors. But not only. Civil Society Organizations, survivors, and other key stakeholders need a seat at the table as they each have different yet important roles. Likewise, while laws on trafficking in persons are pertinent for this work, they are not the only relevant instruments. Equality Now’s work in Kenya and elsewhere points to the interlinkages between different sets of laws at the national level, such as those relating to sexual offenses, immigration, technology, and sex discrimination. In Kenya, Equality Now’s work takes an ecosystems approach which involves working in an integrated manner bringing together different sets of laws and actors.
This kind of expertise and work on the ground is fundamental for identifying best practices and gaps within a given justice system. Part of their advocacy work is to call on governments to bring laws on trafficking in persons at the national level to be aligned with international standards. One way to strengthen this work among non-governmental and governmental actors is the Review Mechanism of UNTOC.
Tsitsi Matekaire from Equality Now took part in the 3rd Stakeholder Engagement for the implementation of the Review Mechanism of the UNTOC (SE4U) online self-paced course. This course is part of the SE4U project to facilitate engagement of Civil Society in the review process.  Tsitsi Matekaire had this to say:
"As an organization that specializes in anti-trafficking, we are familiar with the Palermo Protocol, but this course expanded on the entire UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Once I started to see the connections, I could really understand the Review Mechanism, its key players, and where we can fit in as Civil Society. Taking this course now, before the process has started in several regions, gives us time to prepare at the country level."
The Review Process indeed is a multi-year development and covers the entire Convention. This poses no simple task. Yet precisely because Civil Society is recognized as a relevant stakeholder in Resolution 9/1, wide consultations with Civil Society at the country level are encouraged.
"Sometimes from the outside one could simply point out what is not working. This is an opportunity to collaborate that will strengthen CSO relations with governments, which in turn may have an impact on accountability. The way the Review Mechanism is set up enables us to take the process forward and that is exciting!"
2021 has been shaped by COVID-19 and the exacerbation of inequalities that have followed in the wake of the pandemic. As the year comes to an end, Equality Now is developing strategies in the best ways to bring relevant stakeholders together to join forces in participating during the review processes at country level.
For more on Equality Now visit www.equalitynow.org
Visit Equality Now’s profile on WhatsOn here.
Visit the UNODC-Civil Society Unit’s website for training opportunities.