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status of women committee report july 2012 – june 2013

Report by Dr Anne Morris, Chair

After a year away from the position of Chair, I resumed this work in April 2013. The Committee has been very committed and active over this period.

Human trafficking

Committee member Marni Besser has worked significantly on trafficking for ICJW. She circulated to affiliates the weblink to the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, produced by the US State Department, which rates each country’s performance in addressing human trafficking within its borders, specifically on Prevention, Prosecution and Protection . Affiliates were asked to read their country’s report and share this information with their members. Marni produced a curriculum to further guide affiliates in becoming involved in anti-trafficking activities, encouraging them to join with key anti-trafficking organisations, lobby for change, and hold forums to educate their members. She has produced reports and articles for the ICJW website and has received encouraging responses from affiliates that have followed these directions.

The ICJW website now has links to the newly re-launched web resource which provides extensive information on human trafficking: HumanTraffickingSearch.Net

Rita Fishman is the ICJW representative on the Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons convened by the UN. The committee has representatives from over fifty NGOs, and Rita is a member of the Business Ethics task force. This task force highlights that: 20.9 million people are victims of forced labor globally, the majority between 18-24 years old; 32% of victims are used for forced labor, 52% are women and girls. It is estimated that the global annual profit made from trafficking is US$ 31.6 billion. Rita reports regularly on the work of the committee.

Rita attended the “Modern Slavery in America: Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration of Survivors of Human Trafficking “conference and the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2012 presentation ( www.unodc.org/glotip) . In Europe Eliane Sperling attended the conference, “Tackling Human Trafficking in Europe”.

Members of CSTIP submitted a statement to the Secretary General at the 57th Session of CSW, urging U.N. agencies and States Parties to form strategic partnerships and review progress on their promises to combat human trafficking for commercial exploitation.

Rita has also been investigating the possibility of ICJW becoming involved in the UN. GIFT Box project to bring GIFT/BOX to USA via the US Tennis Open. 2014 STOP THE TRAFFIK and the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) piloted the project at the London Olympics and Paralympics in twenty sites around London. The GIFT box is a large public art installation in the shape of a giant gift, which is placed in key locations at large events. The outside entices visitors to enter (in much the same way as victims of trafficking are enticed), but the inside reveals the awful reality of human trafficking. The initiative generates awareness of and action against human trafficking . The project was designed to be adapted for use around the world. Its initiators will continue to develop the project culminating in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

I was able to put Rita in contact with the coordinator of Stop The Traffik (STT) in Australia, to discuss possibilities of partnering with them to bring the UN.GIFT box to the US. This work is still in progress.

The Status of Women committee decided in May to link more closely with Stop the Traffik. As an international organisation with branches in many countries, it is the main anti-trafficking NGO with which the UN works closely. We will recommend to affiliates to contact STT if it operates in their country, and join their meetings and campaigns.

In Australia the Victorian Section of NCJWA, and more recently, the national organisation, works closely with Stop the Traffik and has joined their regular campaigns. STT focused recently on campaigns bringing to the attention of industry, government and NGOs information about products manufactured by women and children who are trafficked, particularly in the cotton and chocolate industries. STT is also involved in lobbying governments to improve their responses. Linking with STT would help affiliates find their feet in this work and involve them with other organisations that similarly wish to work against trafficking.

The Get and Pre Nuptial Agreements

Vice Chair Susie Ivany compiled a report on how affiliates are working with Pre Nuptial Agreements in their countries. Six affiliates provided information, giving a snapshot of activities in Hungary, Canada, UK, Israel, France and Australia, and demonstrating there is variety in the work and achievements globally.

In Israel our affiliates are strongly connected with the International Coalition on Agunah Rights (ICAR) which lobbied rabbis and members of the Knesset to support legislation requiring all rabbis to provide couples with samples of prenuptial agreements.

While there has been a great deal of progress in Israel, there is room for improvement. Our Israeli affiliate would welcome an international campaign by ICJW to promote the signing of prenuptial agreements by all Jewish couples as part of preparation for their wedding.

In June Sharon Shenhav attended the Agunah Summit in New York which was sponsored by the New York University Tikvah Center for Law and Jewish Civilization and the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) (see her report).

Over 100 participants from Israel, the US and Canada, including Orthodox rabbis, judges, lawyers, scholars, women's rights activists met to discuss solutions to the problem of agunot. At last at this Summit it appeared there could be progress, particularly with a proposal for an alternative international Bet Din which would apply Halachic solutions and free agunot.

ICJW’s Silent Vigil

During May 2013, Sharon Shenhav, Carol Slater and Susie Ivany organised the Silent Vigil at the Knesset entitled “Jewish Women Worldwide Demand Equality.” The Vigil was reported in the Jerusalem Post in an article by Sharon Shenhav. Women from over 20 countries stood silently, dressed in white and holding placards with their national flags. The vigil was organised to make it visible that despite progress, women in general and Jewish women in particular still suffer from inequality in almost every area of life. Decision–making positions are still held predominantly by men. Women earn more than 30% less than men, even when they hold executive positions. Jewish women are rarely hired as CEOs of major Jewish organizations, but those few Jewish CEOs are paid less than their male colleagues.

Sharon points out that religious inequality continues with male Orthodox rabbis controlling the divorce process, and women trapped in unwanted marriages when their husbands refuse to give them a get. Women cannot be appointed as rabbinical court judges (dayanim). The Women of the Wall have shown us that Jewish women are barred from praying according to their wishes, unlike Jewish men.

Domestic violence and other forms of violence against Jewish women continue to flourish, including work-based sexual harassment.