La Strada: The Government is destroying anti-human trafficking policy



The International Women’s Human Rights Centre La Strada – Ukraine has issued a statement expressing concern and outrage over the total destruction of the system for implementing State policy on combating human trafficking.

The statement explains that the administrative reforms of December 2010 resulted in a restructuring of central bodies and their regional divisions. However important branches of governance in the social sphere were both then and during the subsequent months ignored.

As of the end of April 2011 no central body has been assigned duties with respect to countering and preventing human trafficking and providing assistance to trafficking victims.  There are no relevant provisions in the list of duties of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry for Social Policy, nor the Ministry of Education, Science, Youth and Sport. The latter is stipulated as responsible for implementing the Cooperation Plan on Countering Human Trafficking signed on 15 February 2011 between the Governments of the USA and Ukraine

This will meant that human trafficking will not be combated at the regional and local level since there is no structure responsible for coordinating action, and for enforcing a national mechanism for referring trafficking victims for comprehensive assistance and carrying out preventive work.

La Strada – Ukraine points out that the government is showing such disregard despite the immediacy of the problem, the appearance of new forms of human trafficking and increase in the number of cases of internal trafficking. It stresses that this attitude is against a background of increased wish to emigrate and therefore danger that people will fall victim to human traffickers.  There is no let up in the number of cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children, and even an increase in the number of such proposals on the Internet.

According to International Organization for Migration (IOM) figures, in 2010 reintegration assistance was provided in Ukraine to 1.085 trafficking victims – 693 women and 392 men.

Ukraine has recently been gaining the features of a transit country for people from other countries who are sold into labour or sexual explanation, as well as a destination country.

The issue of combating human trafficking was not considered once during 2010 and the first half of 2011 by the Inter-Departmental Council on the Family, Gender Equality, Demographic Development and Countering Human Trafficking.

Despite the obligations declared almost a year ago in the State Programme for Social and Economic Development, there has still been no adoption of the comprehensive Law on Combating Human Trafficking drawn up by the Ministry for the Family, Youth and Sport together with international and civic organizations according to the Timetable for Reform “International Integration and Cooperation” linked to the President’s Programme of Economic Reforms as one of the main conditions for a visa-free regime between Ukraine and the EU.

The State Programme on Combating Human Trafficking from 2011 to 2015 has not been passed, nor the programme for supporting the family and promoting gender equality in society.

In jeopardy is also the Cooperation Plan on Countering Human Trafficking between the Governments of the USA and Ukraine according to which each country takes on commitments to carry out active measures aimed at fighting trafficking. At local level there is total disorientation in the Departments of the Family and Youth which had been charged with the coordination of this work.

Despite numerous appeals from the public stressing the need to not only retain, but also develop mechanisms for ensuring gender equality, implementing family policy and gender equality policy, the role of the Department on Family and Gender Equality within the former Ministry on the Family, Youth and Sport remains unclear.

La Strada Ukraine reminds those high-ranking officials responsible for destroying these vital institutions and action aimed at combating human trafficking, that they must answer for their actions both before the Ukrainian public and the international community. There are, after all, international conventions which Ukraine is signatory to.  In September 2010 the President signed the Council of Europe Convention on Measures against Human Trafficking ratified by the Verkhovna Rada. This document has now become a part of Ukraine’s legislation.

European choice and the values of democracy, rule of law and human rights are declared only in words, not in deed.

The dismantling of activities on fighting human trafficking is taking place against the background of a serious deterioration in the situation with women’s rights in Ukraine, demonstrated by the discriminatory and sexist utterances of the country’s leaders, the adoption of knowingly discriminatory normative documents, the planned pension reforms, and the already passed adoption of a new Tax Code.   Women are deprived of access to decision-making, participation in State governance, etc.

La Strada Ukraine insists that urgent and radical changes are vital, as well as careful attention to issues regarding human trafficking, ensuring gender equality, and reminds the authorities that human rights and their infringements are no internal matter.

It demands:

  1. That changes be made and introduced as a matter of urgency to the provisions on central bodies of power which specify the body authorized to address issues regarding combating human trafficking;
  2. That the State Programme on Combating Human Trafficking from 2011 to 2015 be reworked and adopted.
  3. That the Law on Combating Human Trafficking be adopted.
  4. That the work of coordinating structures (an Inter-departmental council) be reinstated on countering human trafficking.
  5. That consultations be held with civic and international organizations.
  6. That an action plan be drawn up and adopted on measures to implement the provisions of the Council of Europe Convention on Measures against Human Trafficking.

La Strada is also calling on international organizations, the Monitoring Committee of the Equal Opportunities Commission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and to GRETA to carrying out monitoring on Ukraine’s actions on countering human trafficking and ensuring equal opportunities for men and women. 

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