Women’s Rehabilitation Center (WOREC) organized an interaction program on “Revisiting SAARC Convention against Trafficking to Strengthen its Comprehensiveness and Effectiveness” on 30th November at Alfa Complex, New Baneshwor. The program was organized to reflect the existing realities of trafficking in South Asia and the current relevance of SAARC Trafficking Convention and develop appropriate text and plan of action along with the government of Nepal to propose for its revision.
There was participation of the representatives from the government organizations, constitutional bodies, international non-government organizations, civil society organizations, trade unions and media at the program. Ms. Pemba Lama, Member of Parliament and member of International Relations and Employment Committee, Mr. Ramesh Prasad Khanal, Joint Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), Ms. Draupada Sapkota, Under Secretary of MoFA, and Mr. Raghu Raj Kafle, Executive Director of Foreign Employment Promotion Board (FEPB), were among the special guests. The program was moderated by Dr. Renu Adhikari, Chairperson of WOREC.
At the beginning of the program, Ms. Ashmita Sapkota, Program Coordinator at WOREC, gave a brief overview on SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution. The Convention was signed in 2002 and was considered to be a landmark in eradicating trafficking in the region. However, the Convention does not comply with internationally agreed definitions of trafficking and is limited to trafficking for commercial sex work only. It also completely excludes trafficking of men.
The presenter also stressed that over the years, the trend of trafficking has changed significantly from trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation to trafficking for forced labor, organ trading, and servitude, among others. The Convention restricts women’s right to free movement and criminalizes voluntary sex work, and addresses the problem of trafficking from a moralistic and protectionist perspective.
Speaking during the discussion, Mr. Raghu Raj Kafle, Executive Director of FEPB, said that many migrant workers from South Asian region are working in forced labor situation and they should also be covered by the Convention. He emphasized that there is also a need to undertake internal assessment to prevent people from being trafficked. Now that Foreign Employment Act and Anti-trafficking Act are under amendment procedure, there is a need to build harmony between these laws so that both are well-implemented.
Similarly, Mr. Ramesh Prasad Khanal from MoFA said, “Since Nepal is the Chair of SAARC, we can raise our concerns regarding the Convention at the moment. Firstly, Ministry of Women,
Children and Social Welfare should take the initiative and bring the issues to MoFa. After that, MoFA can put forward the agenda regarding the amendment of Convention during the meetings”. He also emphasized that the Convention was adopted more than a decade ago, so there are definitely many changes required due to the changed context of trafficking. Ms. Pemba Lama also highlighted that there are many efforts being made from the governments of South Asian countries to bring migration induced trafficking in the mainstream, and Nepal should also continue doing so.
Concluding the program, Dr. Renu Adhikari, Chairperson of WOREC, said there are many works already done to provide recommendations to the government and amend the Convention. With the survivors emerging as change makers, there is still a lot to be done to address their issues and provide proper reintegration to the survivors and persons affected by trafficking.
The program came out with an action plan and formed a working group to develop recommendations so that the issues will be well taken by the government of Nepal.