European Network Against Trafficking in Human Beings

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Regional Victim/Witness Protection Protocol to Combat Trafficking, Commercial Exploitation and Sexual Abuse of Women and Children in South Asia

Document number
1339
Date
undated
Title
Regional Victim/Witness Protection Protocol to Combat Trafficking, Commercial Exploitation and Sexual Abuse of Women and Children in South Asia
Author/publisher
South Asia Regional Initiative/ Equity Support Program (SARI/Equity)
Availability
View/save PDF version of this document
Document type(s)
Meeting Documentation/Conference Reports,
Keywords
Regional Action Forum on Improving the Implementation of Laws Protecting Women and Children, Assistance, Reintegration, Social assistance, Rehabilitation, Reflection period, Repatriation; Return; Redress, Protection, Social inclusion; Residence permit; Witness assistance, Witness protection programs, Relocation, Legal remedies,
Summary
This Regional Victim/ Witness Protection Protocol to combat violence against and commercial sexual exploitation of women and children, prescribes basic guidelines on the standards of prosecution of all offenders profiting from the misery of the victims. The Protocol recommends specific measures to be taken by the State and wherever applicable in collaboration with non-governmental organizations. PREAMBLE: Even though official data are lacking in the South Asia context, it appears to be widely accepted that (a) incidents of violence against women and children (including trafficking) have considerably increased in the last decade; (b) few cases are reported to the law enforcement agencies and even fewer reach the trial stage; and that (c) 15 to 20% of the accused are convicted - most cases resulting in acquittals. One of the main reasons for the low rates of complaints and convictions appears to be the reluctance of victims to come forward in filing complaints against those who have violated their rights or to testify in court for fear of humiliation and threat to their own life and property or that of their families. Strong legal instruments for the protection of victim witnesses are therefore needed. Women and children who are victims of crime are uniquely vulnerable to threats and intimidation, far more so than the average witness. Their human rights are violated both in the course of the crimes committed against them and in their subsequent persecution by their assailants when they attempt to do their duty as citizens and testify. Violations of human rights are both a cause and a consequence of violence against and commercial sexual exploitation of, women and children. Accordingly, it is essential to place the protection of all human rights at the center of any measures taken to prevent and combat these crimes. The testimony of a victim in a crime of violence is often the best and the only evidence that can be obtained against an accused. It is therefore incumbent upon the State, in fulfillment of its duty of meting out justice, to ensure that victims who would be witnesses are protected against the threats and the intimidation, psychological and physical, of the associates of the accused. The victim-witness special status needs to be recognized. The State is best equipped to provide protection and security to victimwitnesses and thereby protect their human rights. Currently, neither India, Bangladesh, Nepal or Sri Lanka have a distinct law, policy, guidelines or programs to protect victim witnesses before, during or after the trial. Though some existing laws (penal codes, criminal procedure codes and constitutions) refer to witness protection, provisions appear to be insufficient to adequately protect women and children victim witnesses who have been trafficked for sexual exploitation. There is thus a need for a more rights based and regional level protocol to combat violence against and commercial sexual exploitation of women and children in South Asia and to protect and promote certain rights of victims and witnesses of crimes in proceedings where their lives, psychological and physical security and property are endangered due to their contribution to the collection of evidence in order to meet ends of justice.
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