General recommendation No. 38 (2020) on trafficking in women and girls in the context of global migration (CEDAW/C/GC/38) – World


  • Article 6 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (the Convention) sets out States parties’ legal obligation to “take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women”. Despite the plethora of existing anti-trafficking legal and policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels, females continue to comprise the majority of detected victims of trafficking across the world and perpetrators enjoy widespread impunity.

  • In the Committee’s view, this situation persists due to a lack of appreciation of the gender dimensions of trafficking overall and in particular, trafficking in women and girls who are exposed to different types of exploitation, including sexual exploitation. A gendered analysis of the crime reveals that its root causes lie in sex-based discrimination, including the failure to address the prevailing economic and patriarchal structures and the adverse and gender-differentiated impact of States parties’ labour, migration and asylum regimes that create the situations of vulnerability leading to women and girls being trafficked.

  • Globally dominant economic policies further exacerbate large-scale economic inequality between States and between individuals that manifests as labour exploitation, including denial by corporations, public procurement officials and employers of an obligation to ensure that there are no trafficked persons in their supply/production chain. Globalized macroeconomic and political factors, including the privatization of public goods, deregulated labour markets, the shrinking of the welfare state and austerity measures as part of structural adjustment policies and aid conditionality, often exacerbate unemployment and poverty and produce the economic injustice disproportionately impacting women. Often accompanied by other economic policies, such as reduction in government spending on social services and the privatization of public goods and services, regressive tax shifts and labour market reforms, all severely hamper states’ abilities to implement social policies that lay the basis for dismantling structural inequalities, including gendered inequalities and violations of women’s human rights in different spheres. Reduced social expenditures furthermore shift the responsibilities for basic social services from the government to women. Those factors reinforce, and are perpetuated by, discriminatory cultural and social norms that engender oppression of different groups of women.



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