UN human-trafficking expert slams Lebanese Penal Code

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  One in three of migrant workers in Lebanon are estimated to be victims of human trafficking.
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One in three of migrant workers in Lebanon are estimated to be victims of human trafficking as revealed by a special rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights. “The [Lebanese] government appears to have recognized human trafficking as a problem,” said Sigma Huda, commissioned with a fact-finding mission on human trafficking of women and children in Lebanon.

Human trafficking, defined as a person brought into a situation of “economic or sexual exploitation – including prostitution – by force, coercion, abduction, fraud or deception,” has long been considered a taboo topic in Lebanon.

Home to over 200,000 migrant workers from Asia and Africa, only recently has treatment of these workers been openly debated and addressed, with actual steps taken by officials in dealing with this issue.

“The new Cabinet has made reference to the issue in its first Ministerial Declaration. In August, the Lebanese Parliament ratified the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, this important international treaty obliges Lebanon to criminalize all acts of trafficking,” said Huda.

But Huda criticized the Lebanese Penal Code, that criminalizes prostitution, as leading to “double standards.”

“A woman engaging in acts of prostitution may be subject to prosecution, detention and deportation. At the same time, the person that operates the “supernight clubs” to which the women are brought to find their clients, are operating legally according to administrative rules set by General Security,” said Huda, human rights lawyer in Bangladesh.

During her visit, Huda conferred with government officials, including the justice and labor ministers.

“The victims are often invisible victims because they suffer in places that remain hidden to the public eye such as private homes or hotel rooms,” said Huda.

“The widely held attitudes of discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity and gender contribute to the prevalence of human trafficking,” stressed Huda, as she called for awareness and respect for the migrant workers in Lebanon.

Beirut, 16.09.2005

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