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Program on Human Rights expands human trafficking research to Asia

The Program on Human Rights at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) is beginning to expand its research to examine the response of regional and sub regional court systems to human trafficking in Asia. Stanford Professor Helen Stacy, a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and director of the CDDRL Program on Human Rights, initiated this new research initiative during a visit to Jakarta, Indonesia in September.

“Regional and sub regional courts are key to dealing with the international issue of human trafficking when governments are unwilling or lack the capacity to modulate trafficking across borders,” said Stacy. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have until very recently moved beyond approaching of human trafficking as an issue of national sovereignty and towards  a regional strategy Trafficking in the region is most widely acknowledged as an issue involving women and children.

While in Jakarta, Stacy met leading activists on the ground as well as court and government officials. This included the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), personnel at the U.S. Embassy and activists working for grassroots anti-trafficking NGOs. The ASEAN declaration against trafficking —adopted in November 2004 —is now the primary document against the trafficking of women and children in the region. The AICHR, founded in September 2009, now mediates the regional response to human trafficking.

Personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta are also working to institutionalize Indonesia’s larger response to human trafficking. The forced labor and trafficking of young boys to fishing platforms off the coasts of many surroundings islands remains a growing concern. Campaigns set up through the U.S. Embassy and local NGOs are now working with local law enforcement to recognize, manage and prevent trafficking using a victim-centered and sensitive approach. 

Groups working on anti-human trafficking in and around Jakarta are gaining growing support from the community. Founded by survivors of sex trafficking, a woman’s empowerment and anti-human trafficking organization campaigns around the capital of Indonesia working with victims and strengthening networks of women.

Stacy’s background in regional and sub regional court systems in both southern and eastern Africa has shaped the platform for a study of such existing systems in ASEAN. Her work now continues in Burma, Thailand and China.