7th March 2014 Beirut, Lebanon
Inhuman Human Trafficking
In the 21st century we get angry about many small things: traffic jams, power cuts or a failed internet connection. We get plenty of opportunities for all three in Lebanon.
But last Friday I joined an event about an issue worth getting really furious about. The Beirut Bar Association launched a Human Rights Institute booklet on human trafficking, funded by the British Embassy. It provides information on what people should do if they see human trafficking happening. Further information will be on the Beirut Bar Association website.
Anyone who has seen the searing (and now Oscar winning) ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ should be appalled that trafficking still exists. I hope that this booklet will help people understand their rights, and what they can do to challenge those who abuse them. We all have a responsibility.
Tackling this evil is complex, requiring strong coordination between ministries, police and civil society. It is a cross border problem needing cross border solutions. In Lebanon, the dangers have been increased by the huge movement of people fleeing the violence in Syria. Far from offering them compassion, traffickers exploit them further: forcing children to work, controlling access to humanitarian supplies, and selling the adults as cheap labour in a form of modern day slavery.
I was recently at an event where it became apparent that domestic workers had been asked to sit in a separate area. It reminded me that the true measure of the generosity of a society is not the way it treats Ambassadors, but the way it treats the most vulnerable. I joined the domestic workers for lunch and left.
As the world prepares to mark International Women’s Day, discrimination and violence against women and girls remains one of the most widespread human rights abuses. We know that trafficking affects women most of all – it destroys lives and traps survivors in poverty and insecurity.
Last year in London, G8 Foreign Ministers agreed to make sexual violence in conflict a grave breach of the Geneva Convention, and by September 119 countries signed up to a declaration committing to end sexual violence in conflict. That number now stands at 140. But that political commitment doesn’t mean anything without lasting changes on the ground – increased support for survivors, an end to impunity. That is why in June 2014 William Hague and Angelina Jolie will co-chair the Global Summit in London to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. (#TimeToAct).
In Lebanon we continue to lobby for better political representation for women, advocacy and building future leaders.
We all have a responsibility to help. In Lebanon, you can report abuse by calling the Internal Security Forces on 112, General Security on 1717, the Ministry of Social Affairs on 1714, or the Ministry of Justice on 1740.