Australian Embassy and Permanent Mission to the United Nations
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia

MIKTA Side Event: Integrating a Gender Perspective to Combating Transnational Organized Crime

Ambassador Dr Brendon Hammer

Permanent Representative of Australia

MIKTA Side Event: Integrating a Gender Perspective to Combating Transnational Organized Crime


20 October 2016


Thanks John, and thanks to my fellow Ambassadors from Mexico, Indonesia, Korea and Turkey for your contributions.

Our missions together developed the idea for this side-event because gender equality is a core priority for MIKTA.

Today you can see the shared commitment of MIKTA countries to this issue on display.

Women play a key role in national responses to crime and make a distinct contribution to crime prevention.

Australia believes understanding the different needs, capacities and contributions of women and men can improve these responses at all levels.

And I would add that we believe that adopting a gender approach requires more than a discrete work program. It requires the consideration of gender equality in the design, implementation and review of all policy responses. 

The Australian Government has a firm commitment to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, particularly in our own Indo-Pacific region. 

In support of this the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has this year developed a Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Strategy.

This strategy aims to integrate a gender perspective across our foreign and trade policy and our overseas aid investments.

This work includes the appointment of an Ambassador for Women and Girls to advocate these issues at the highest level, as well as ensuring that at least 80 per cent of our aid investments – regardless of their objectives – address gender issues in their implementation.

Today, I want to use Australia’s experience in combatting human trafficking and slavery as an example of capacity building programs that integrate gender perspectives.


Human Trafficking in Australia

Australia is still a destination country for human trafficking and slavery.

Even though we have strong migration controls, geographic isolation and high regulation, we aren’t immune. 

Most trafficked and exploited people identified in Australia have been women exploited in the sex work industry. But more recently, authorities have identified both men and women exploited in the domestic work, hospitality and construction industries and in forced marriages.

Even so, global figures continue to indicate women and girls remain particularly vulnerable, and that gender plays a major role in shaping that vulnerability. And I note that the ILO estimates 55% of victims of forced labor are women and girls.[1]

Moreover, the UNODC estimates 70% of trafficking victims are women and girls.[2]

We find this pattern is reflected in trafficked and exploited persons in Australia.

Between January 2004 and 2015 the Australian Federal Police referred 293 people to Australia’s Victim Support Program for trafficked persons: 87 percent of these people were women, with the majority exploited in the sex work industry; 15 women were also identified as being in, or at risk of, forced marriage.


Australia’s Approach

In March 2016, Australia launched its International Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery (International Strategy) to better coordinate our international engagement on this issue.

This Strategy integrates a gender perspective across the four pillars of Australia’s domestic policies: prevention and deterrence; detection and investigation; prosecution and compliance; and victim support and protection.

For those who want to know more about this strategy – it is available online.

I’ll now provide a few examples of how this approach is benefitting Australian efforts in the prevention and deterrence and detection and investigation of trafficking and slavery.


Prevention and deterrence

A key part of our prevention and deterrence strategy is to ensure regional development programs protect migrant workers – including women and girls – by decreasing gender-specific vulnerabilities.

The strategy also supports regional and international cooperation to combat trafficking. For example, Australia is working with ASEAN Member States to reduce the risk of labour exploitation and trafficking in the region through what we call the TRIANGLE program.

TRIANGLE helps women, and men access migration information via a network of Migrant Resource Centres across South-east Asia. These centres also act as a referral and complaints service for those who have experienced exploitation. So far, 41% of the program’s beneficiaries have been women.

Recognising the need to enhance access for women and girls, TRIANGLE has conducted targeted outreach – including with female village leaders in Myanmar – to expand the program’s reach to potential female migrant workers in rural areas.

Australia is also working with the UN Women’s program entitled: ‘Preventing the Exploitation of Migrant Women Workers in ASEAN’, which is undertaking research and advocacy work needed to provide evidence-based, gender-responsive policy options for ASEAN policy makers,  with a particular focus on Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

Australia is also supporting the International Labour Organisation’s Better Work Program, which includes assessing and improving labour standards in garment factories.

Women account for over 80 per cent of workers in that sector.

By addressing worker vulnerability – including gender-based discrimination – this program is helping to reduce their risk of exploitation and trafficking.

In this way, it is directly contributing to eradicating modern slavery from garment industry supply chains.


Detection and investigation

Australia has also integrated a gender perspective into our efforts to detect and investigate trafficking and slavery. We have done this through the Australia-Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons (AAPTIP).

Here we are helping to build capacity in criminal justice agencies in the ASEAN region to implement effective and rights-based approaches to identify and support victims of trafficking, including women and girls.

With Cambodian government partners, this program is tackling gender-based stereotypes and promoting the active participation of female investigators in trafficking investigations.

Using coaching, on-the-job training, workshops and commitments from senior officers, the program has supported female Cambodian investigators to take on duties from which they were previously barred, such as surveillance, effecting searches and undertaking interviews of both victims and suspects.

Australia has strengthened our domestic legislative framework for human trafficking and slavery, including by strengthening offences relating to forced marriage.

Forced marriage is a crime that overwhelmingly affects highly vulnerable young women and girls. Those who coerce, threaten or deceive a person into marriage, without his or her full and free consent, now face up to 7 year’s gaol under Australian law.

Australia has also partnered with specialist NGOs to undertake outreach and education activities on forced marriage, including establishing a resource website, confidential helpline and free legal service primarily delivered by text message and email.



In conclusion, I want to share with you what I believe to be the most important lesson Australia has learned working on these issues. It is a lesson about inclusion and participation.

Our experience is that the credibility and effectiveness of any law, policy or practice in this area is directly tied to the extent to which those most affected – meaning those with the most at stake – have been involved, consulted and included.

For example, we’ve found that the quality of our work on trafficking in persons, both domestically and in our region has been greatly strengthened by ensuring that the needs of women and girls have been heard, addressed and integrated. By listening and including we’ve got better results.

This is one of the reasons Australia has been working hard to ensure that the UN is doing what it can to reach the UN-wide goal of gender parity in its workforce.

Creating an environment where women are empowered, engaged and involved means that we can draw on increased resources to combat transnational organised crimes.

Lastly, I want to conclude with a simple observation. This is that integrating a gender perspective is not about including gender as a separate or additional work program. It is about making gender perspectives a truly integral part of how we think and how we work.

Unless we do this, our efforts to combat transnational organised crime will be weakened.

Indeed, Australia’s belief is that integration of a gender perspective into our response to transnational organised crime should not be seen as some kind of ideologically driven step, but should be viewed as a key operational requirement to maximise achievement of real world results in fighting crime.

Thank you.  


[1] Global Estimate of Forced Labor, 2012

[2] Global Report on Trafficking in persons, 2014