The CEDAW Committee’s New General Recommendation on Human Trafficking: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Late last year, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women issued General Recommendation 38 on trafficking in women and girls in the context of global migration. This was a culmination of a multi-year process, which we in Amnesty International, along with scores of women’s rights and sex worker rights organizations and activists, had engaged closely with.

For many of us, however, the final result was bitterly disappointing. While there are some welcome and inspiring elements to the new general recommendation, it also suffers from a number of missed opportunities and regressive provisions. Worst of all, it has completely disregarded the lived realities and rights of sex workers, a key group of stakeholders who are deeply affected by anti-trafficking policies.

The Good

The general recommendation takes aim at a broad range of root causes of trafficking, particularly the socio-economic injustice it is fueled by, and includes far-reaching steps states must take to tackle the wider structures that leave women at risk. These include gender-based discrimination and patriarchy, structural inequality, lack of decent work, denial of social protection and discrimination in migration policies. In particular, the general recommendation sets out the need to place a labour rights and safe migration approach at the center of States’ efforts to address trafficking.

These calls are particularly important in a context where trafficking is traditionally addressed as an issue of transnational crime or security under international law, to be dealt with by stronger criminal justice approaches, national security measures, and tighter border control. It is an implicit rebuke to popular discourses which blame the deaths of migrants in transit on criminal trafficking gangs, for example, camouflaging the gross inequalities that trigger flight and the restrictive border regimes that push migrants into high-risk circumstances.

The Bad

The general recommendation is, however, still torn between a transformative vision concerned with promoting women and girls’ autonomy and agency, and a narrower approach that sees women as victims and the State as protector. This stops it from reaching its full potential and raises a series of concerns.

As Radhika Coomaraswamy, former UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women has stated, by empowering State officials to increase their surveillance of women’s lives, the general recommendation assumes a benign State which does not match the lived realities of all women. Migrant women, sex workers, women of diverse racial origin, LBTI women among others have reason to fear ill-treatment, arrest, detention or deportation from the authorities, and in many cases prefer to remain invisible. This is particularly the case in contexts where irregular entry, same-sex conduct and sex work are criminalized.

More policing without wider legal and policy change, and a multi-faceted approach that puts the needs of rights-holders at the center, still leaves women at risk. Some women may also wish to avoid being “rescued” as this interjects the State into many facets of their lives and may result in unwanted deportation and other adverse outcomes.

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Go On! 2021 Global Scholars Academy

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Go On! makes note of interesting conferences, lectures, and similar events.

►  The Institute for Global Law and Policy at Harvard Law School, in collaboration with The Graduate Institute, Geneva, and supported by The Open Society University Network announced open registration for The 2021 Global Scholars Academy, which will be held in Geneva, Switzerland from August 16 – 20, 2021. The Academy is open by application to scholars working to understand and map the levers of political, economic, cultural and legal authority in the world today. We particularly welcome applications from scholars from the Global South and those working on policy challenges of concern to communities in the Global South. The deadline for applications is April 2, 2021.

Additional information about the 2021 Global Scholars Academy program and application process can be found on the IGLP website.

Write On! Call for Journal Submissions and RMLNLU Extended Deadline

This installment of Write On!, our periodic compilation of calls for papers, includes calls for submissions to Trade Law and Development journal from the National Law University, Jodhpur, India and an extended deadline for submissions to the RMLNLU Journal on Communication, Media, Entertainment & Technology Law as follows:

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Trade Law and Development, a student-edited journal on international and economic law from the National Law University, Jodhpur, India has announced a call for submissions for Special Issue on “Trade and Technology: Rebooting Global Trade for the Digital Millennium” in the form of Articles, Notes, Comments and Book Reviews. The deadline for submissions to the Vol. 13 No. 1, Winter ’21 issue is March 31, 2021. For more information and submission guidelines, please click here.

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EXTENDED DEADLINE: RMLNLU Journal on Communication, Media, Entertainment & Technology Law announced a call for papers for Volume VIII. The Journal accepts submissions from law students, academics and legal professionals in the form of articles, case note and comments, book reviews or essays. The submissions may be on any contemporary legal issue connected with media law and its allied fields of communications, entertainment and technology. The deadline for submission is  February 16, 2021. For more information see the below image and contact information.

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Go On! EULab Summer School on Labour Migration in the European Union Opportunities

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►  The EULab Summer School announced a call for application to the Summer School on Labour Migration in the European Union, which will be held in a hybrid format (virtually or in person) July 9 – July 25, 2021, at the Law Department of University of Napoles Federico II. The program will consist of up to 30 postgraduate students in the fields of Law, International Relations and Social Science who intend to develop a solid knowledge on labour migration to Europe from the specific lens of international and EU law. For more details on the program or how to apply, click here.

► The EULab is also hosting a Roundtable on Labour Migration: The Role of Local Authorities in the Social Integration Process of Labour Migrants with Particular Reference to Agricultural, Domestic and Care Workers. The Roundtable will be held on Thursday, July 15, 2021 from 4pm – 6:30pm (CET). The event will be open to the general public and attendees will learn about the practical impact of legislative and policy choices of local authorities on the actual enjoyment of migrant workers’ rights. For more information on the program, click here.

► The EULab invites submissions on trafficking in human beings for the purpose of labour exploitation for its Young Scholars Workshop, which will be held on July 9, 2021 from 9am – 5pm (CET). The Workshop aims to bring together young researchers under the age of 35 from a variety of backgrounds with the ultimate objective to allow the exchange of research ideas and perspectives, foster a fruitful discussion on crucial aspects of career development with specific reference to interdisciplinary migration studies, and allow an opportunity to discuss both research and career building and development. Insights should be submitted by April 30, 2021 to eulab2020@gmail.com with the subject line “Young Scholars Workshop”. Submitted insights should not exceed 500 words, and should include a description of the research questions and topics analyzed by the prospective participant at the time of the submission. Successful applicants will be informed by May, 15 2021. For more information on the program or application process, click here.

Go On! Speakers Series: Transitional Justice in the USA

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Go On! makes note of interesting conferences, lectures, and similar events.

►  The Center for International Law and Policy announced a speaker series, Transitional Justice in the USA. The first of the five part series, titled Comparative Lessons: What is Transitional Justice and How Has it Worked in Other Countries, will be held on Tuesday, February 23, on Zoom.  For more details on the series, click here.

Read On! Social Media Bans Can Be Shaped by International Human Rights Law

Social Media Bans Can Be Shaped by International Human Rights Law is an op-ed piece discussing how, in the wake of Twitter’s ban of Former President Trump, Twitter and other global media companies should learn from international human rights law to shape policies on banning participants. Cornell University Law Professor Sital Kalantry points to U.N. human rights documents and treaties that can guide social media policies. Read the full op-ed here.

Rohingya Genocide Expert Roundtable

The following event will take place this Friday, Jan. 29th, from noon -1 p.m. EST: Expert Roundtable: The Rohingya Genocide. The event is hosted by the Public International Law and Policy Group and sponsored by Orrick. Panelists include: Dr. Greg Noone, Dean Michael Scharf, Drew Mann (former U.S. Government official), Sandra Hodgkinson (former U.S. Government official), Yasmin Ullah (local Rohingya activist), and Prof. Milena Sterio (moderator).

The event link and registration are available here: Expert Roundtable: The Rohingya Genocide — PILPG (publicinternationallawandpolicygroup.org)

Call for Contributions to a Special Issue on the ICC

On July 1, 2022, the International Criminal Court (ICC) will mark the twentieth anniversary of the entry into force of its constitutive treaty, the Rome Statute. Since the Court’s establishment, scholars and practitioners have extensively debated its effectiveness in achieving its core missions of ending impunity for atrocity crimes, providing justice for victims, and contributing to the prevention of mass violence. The twentieth anniversary of the Rome Statute’s entry into force provides an opportune time to re-engage these debates and take stock of the Court’s record. To this end, we are proposing a special journal issue focusing on the ICC’s performance, broadly construed. We welcome theoretical and empirical contributions from diverse scholars and practitioners examining issues relating to the Court’s performance, including, but not limited to, questions such as: How should we assess the ICC’s performance?  What are the theoretical and practical challenges associated with evaluating the ICC’s performance?  To what extent has the ICC been effective in achieving the core missions the Rome Statute envisions for the Court?  More specifically, to what extent has the ICC been effective in ending impunity for atrocity crimes under its jurisdiction?  To what extent has it, across various stages of the legal process and in different contexts, succeeded or failed in deterring these crimes (including crimes that have not yet been explored in the deterrence literature, such as torture, wartime sexual violence, and forcible deportation, inter alia)? How effective has the ICC been in delivering a sense of justice—retributive, reparative, or otherwise—to victims and communities where it has investigated crimes? We also invite contributions examining factors that may contribute to, or undermine, the Court’s performance, such as popular perceptions of its legitimacy across different contexts; relations with great powers, the United Nations, and regional blocs such as the African Union; and cooperation from state parties and others. We hope to compile 10-12 abstracts (of no more than 5,000 characters) to submit as part of a proposal to leading political science and/or international studies journals by March 1, 2021. If you are interested in contributing, please contact M.P. Broache (mpbroach@uncg.edu) and Jacqueline R. McAllister (mcallisterj@kenyon.edu).

Webinar on U.S. Government Sanctions Against the ICC

I am posting information about an exciting webinar that will take place this Wednesday, Jan. 27th, at noon EST, on the topic of “Sanctions Against the International Criminal Court: Constitutional and International Law Issues.”  The webinar will feature Prof. Gregory Magarian, Washington University School of Law, as moderator, and Prof. Leila Sadat, Washington University School of Law, Prof. Gabor Rona, Cardozo Law School, Stephen Rapp, former Ambassador-at-Large, Office of Global Criminal Justice, Scarlet Kim, ACLU, and Prof. Milena Sterio, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law as speakers.  Panelists will address the ongoing litigation against the U.S. government – two lawsuits are now pending, one in New York and one in California – challenging the legality of the underlying Executive Order (through which the sanctions regime was established) on constitutional law grounds (Professors Rona and Sterio are co-plaintiffs in the New York lawsuit, and Prof. Sadat and the ACLU are co-plaintiffs in the California lawsuit). The panel is co-sponsored by the AALS National Security Law Section, the ABILA ICC Committee, and the ASIL International Courts and Tribunals Interest Group. 

The event link (registration required) is available here: https://www.law.csuohio.edu/newsevents/events/2021012712006019

The Cost of Battling Discrimination in Academia

Amrei Mueller is an Associate Professor at the University College Dublin. She has published several books, including the ‘The Relationship between Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and International Humanitarian Law’ published in the series Nottingham Studies on Human Rights (Brill, 2013), a pioneering in-depth study of the parallel application of socio-economic rights and IHL in times of armed conflict, and edited anthologies: ‘Judicial Dialogue and Human Rights’ (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and ‘Human Rights Diplomacy’ (Brill, 2011; with Michael O’Flaherty, Zdzislaw Kedzia and George Ulrich). Her research has also been published in prestigious international journals, among them the Human Rights Law Review, the International Review of the Red Cross and the International Journal of Human Rights; and in edited collections with leading international law publishers such as Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Routledge. She researches the duties and responsibilities of armed non-state actors under IHL and human rights law, taking account also of the right to self-determination.

She applied for a position at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo, Norway. Although she was ranked #1 by the Academic Committee, the Faculty gave the job to the candidate who was ranked #3 (a Norwegian Man). Amrei sued the University for discrimination and lost in court, leaving her with the obligation to pay 27,000 Euro in legal fees. She has set up a Go Fund Me account. The quest for fairness and transparency in Faculty hiring is costly. Please share her GoFundMe link to those who may help ease her burden.