United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) held an event to raise awareness for “Gender- Based Violence & Human Trafficking during the COVID19 Pandemic.” The event primarily focused on how to help vulnerable women during the pandemic. Yet, some of the rhetoric used by speakers lacked a global perspective, harming the cause.
The pandemic is predicted to push an additional 47 million women and girls into extreme poverty, making them much more susceptible to gender-based violence and trafficking. The UNODC’s Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking and President of Nadia’s Initiative, Nadia Murad, along with other speakers, called on countries to invest in tangible measures to help those in danger of gender- based violence by ensuring that organizations which usually help victims are enabled to continue their work as “essential” amidst the pandemic.
Re-emphasizing the dignity of women, speakers called for all countries to provide equal opportunities for women to help them avoid and escape violence and trafficking. They also suggested education as a long term means of promoting the innumerable value of human persons, especially women.
Although the event’s focus on a rejuvenation of resources to end gender- based violence and human trafficking amidst the pandemic was crucial, the often repeated need for equality between genders to end such violence quickly slipped into requiring complete sameness between genders.
The calls for an end to gender- based violence and human trafficking must speak to a global audience of diverse cultural backgrounds. While it is absolutely true and necessary that women have equal human rights regardless of the culture, there are many cultures which do not hold an overtly postmodern view of the sameness between genders.
In concluding remarks, Mira Sorvino, UNODC’s Goodwill Ambassador for Global Fight Against Human Trafficking and an American actress, claimed it is an improvement to raise our girls like boys, but she looks forward to the day when we can “raise our boys like girls.” Although this may resound in the ears of some, it is not universally efficacious.
If effacing gender roles underly the need to end gender-based violence and human trafficking, there is bound to be at least a lack of enthusiasm for change from some countries. A global effort must stem from the universally acknowledged dignity of women and horror of gender-based violence and human trafficking.