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Meet on domestic violence, trafficking

Personal tales of suffering and subsequent courage were brought to light, writes Shalini Narang.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2006 20:09 IST

On Sunday night, February 12, I smiled languorously at the efforts of the inimitable Gabrielle Solis (Played by Eva Longoria) of Desperate Housewives in wanting to retain the poor Chinese girl, a victim of human trafficking as her housemaid.

I enjoyed the apparent humour for what it was worth and did not think about the large issue of human trafficking or its manifestation on the victims or the societies worldwide, including source, destination and transit nations or its international scope due to porous borders and ease of communication.

Call it poetic justice or coincidence, I was awoken, or more appropriately, jolted from ignorance exactly twelve hours later at the Mission Bay Conference Centre at the University of San Francisco where I attended the first ever one-day symposium titled "Ending Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking in the 21st Century" with about 450 participants including business leaders, health care providers, educators, advocates, faith leaders and policy makers.

Inspirational keynotes and thought provoking panels and workshops by featured speakers and panelists put the mammoth dual problem of domestic violence and human trafficking in perspective.

Personal tales of suffering and subsequent courage to emerge out of a milieu of domestic violence were enumerated by speakers in tandem.

The leaders also reiterated the need for greater political will, stricter laws, law enforcements, increased corporate and societal responsibility and immediate holistic and collaborative actions at local, national and international levels for combating the global network of traffickers and violence at homes.

The roles of governments and non-government organisations for capacity building for combating the issues were also elucidated and elaborated in detail.

"These barbaric practices have caused far too many women and families to exist in a perpetual state of fear and vulnerability. Through our combined efforts we can work at the grassroots and legislative levels to end the cycle of abuse and trafficking," said Hillary Clinton via a video address.

Health experts stated that the adverse impact of intimate partner violence goes beyond immediate visible physical injuries to long term health adversities like heart ailments, diabetes and others.

"One of the most unsettling things about human trafficking and domestic violence is that they happen in front of us in our neighbourhoods, which is why community-based prevention is imperative in ensuring that women and children are safe from violence," said Roselyne C Swig, summit co-chair and founder of Partners Ending Domestic Abuse.

The role of businesses in addressing domestic violence via workplace initiatives were also taken up.

Employee training to identify and respond to domestic violence for not only lessening the detrimental impact on bottom lines but also as a part of ethical and legal responsibility of the corporate were discussed by local business leaders from Macy's West, the Blue Shield of California Foundation, the San Francisco Giants and Kaiser Permanente.

"It takes a community to fight violence against women and it is our hope that the powerful network of academic and community leaders present will help inspire and seed similar prevention efforts to protect women and girls," said Nancy Milliken, Director of the UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women's Health.

"Managers need to be briefed on how to recognise signs of domestic violence and respond appropriately to ensure the safety of not only the victim but of all the employees," said Brigid McCaw, medical director of the Family Violence Prevention programme at Kaiser Permanente.

In the workshop titled 'Confronting Global Human Trafficking: an International Perspective on Violence Against Women', Kavita Ramdas, President and CEO of Global Fund for Women opined, "Trafficking is more than a legal and a law enforcement problem. We look at trafficking as a human rights issue that is perpetuating in the world due to the multiple factors of gender inequality, illiteracy, extreme poverty, lack of employment opportunities and the rising gap between rich and poor within nations and between nations."

As a follow up to the summit, a Leadership Academy will be held on March 31 at Mills College to encourage ongoing activism and legislative advocacy.

First Published: Feb 20, 2006 20:09 IST