Lawyers for Human Rights & Legal Aid
Opp. Sindh Assembly Building, Court Road,
UAN: 111-911-922 Fax:5685938
LHRLA is the first organisation to take up the issue of trafficking of women in Pakistan. It was also the first one to initiate the issue in Bangladesh, when a meeting was held in 1991; since then, over 20 NGOs have been established with a strong focus on trafficking which has become a very urgent regional concern.LHRLA has worked for the release of all the women detained illegally and subjected to the practice of trafficking. These women's cases were taken up and free legal aid provided; they were ultimately released and either joined their families or took refuge in Edhi Homes as they had no other recourse.
The one-year project on 'Trafficking of Women in Pakistan', was supported by CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) with the aim of minimising and eventually eliminating trafficking of human beings in Pakistan.
The project aims to:
LHRLA was the first NGO to take up the issue of trafficking of women and children in Pakistan in 1989. In 1990 The Flesh Trade Lawyers, on their jail visits had found thousands of Bangladeshi and Burmese women languishing in jail. They had been lured by dreams of riches to be found in Karachi, by unscrupulous people. There was a network of trafficking syndicates consisting of recruiting agencies transport agencies and, moneychangers, hotel owners and promoters. Even the heartless members of their own families were involved in this nefarious trade. These unfortunate women were first raped, even gang raped and then sold into prostitution. Young boys were sold as camel jockeys to the oil rich Middle East Sheikhs.
Soon it was realized that the SAARC countries were all affected by these heinous crimes. A South Asian Workshop on 'Trafficking in Women and Children: Formulating Strategies for Resistance' was held in Tangail, Bangladesh during October 1996. The participants had all been actively involved in their own countries in resisting the increasing phenomenon of trafficking. Key questions were raised, as each country's representatives voiced their specific concerns, whether it was about the camel jockeys or about 'mail order brides'. The multiple faces and complexity of the trade were highlighted. Representations were made to the various heads of state attending the SAARC Conference and the SAARC People's Forum was formed. Its principles were based on a study of international documents and conventions as CEDAW and CRC. Resistance assisted the SAARC Secretariat to develop the SAARC Convention on Trafficking. This is pending approval by the heads of the respective states and should prove to be the cornerstone and guideline for future course of action. Thus the ground rules have been laid to develop a more comprehensive Convention.
The first SAARC People's Forum was organized by Resistance in Sri Lanka in 1998. The Resistance Network members connected the anti-trafficking movement to the question of overall migration as well as the question of food rights with SANFEC (South Asia Network on Food, Ecology and Culture). At present most of the meetings are being organized by these two networks. The LHRLA had already held a regional conference on Trafficking in Women and Children. The 1998 National Conference on Migrant Women had linked the issue with trafficking.
Now LHRLA has launched a massive research all over Pakistan and broadened the scope to cover all women in Pakistan, whether of Central Asian, Afghan, Burmese or Bangladeshi origin.
The members of the Resistance Network against Trafficking in Women and Children and members of SANFEC from Nepal, Sri Lanka, India Pakistan and Bangladesh met for a Regional Planning Meeting towards 2nd SAARC People's Forum in Bangladesh in June 2000.
The conclusion reached was that the root of the problem was actually economic. The helpless internal, regional and international migrants in jail were there because of a crisis of means of livelihood. Thus the weakest segment of the population - the women and children were sold. It was a pathetic survival strategy; the horrendous problem was linked to the concept of global concerns about the effect of modern agricultural methods. The destructive pesticides were responsible for droughts leading to famine. In turn the famine stricken families sold the vulnerable and weak members for a pittance, hoping against hope that at least they would find a better life elsewhere! The Plenary themes decided upon for the proposed SPF2 to be held from 11 - 14 September 2000 link trafficking to modern technology, crisis in livelihood, migration, globalization and strategies of resistance.