Unsplash/Yu Kato。 Night view of the streets of Seoul.
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) said today that South Korea violated its rights under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by failing to identify three Filipino women who were forced into prostitution as victims of human trafficking and to ensure that they had access to justice and adequate redress.
The Commission issued its decision today after examining the complaints filed by the three Filipino women.
Trafficking in human beings under the guise of "recruitment".
The Commission said that the three Filipino women entered the Republic of Korea on E-6-2 visas for hotel entertainers. They were recruited as singers in the summer of 2014, two of them by recruitment agencies and the other through a singing competition and obtained visas at the South Korean embassy in Manila, Philippines.
They planned to work in entertainment, but instead ended up working as waiters at the Golden Gate Club in Seoul. They are restricted in their freedom and eventually forced to provide sexual services. The owners of the club confiscated their passports and subjected them to psychological and physical violence.
The victim is considered a criminal
In March 2015, the Seoul Metropolitan Police launched a crackdown on the Golden Gate Club, and three Filipino women were arrested. However, during interrogation, the police treated them primarily as prostitution offenders rather than victims of human trafficking. The three Filipino women reported to the police that they were victims of human trafficking, but they were only interrogated for prostitution crimes, and none of the immigration or police officials asked whether they had been sexually harassed or whether their rights had been violated in any other way.
Corinne Dettmeijer-Vermeulen, a member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said: "They are seen as criminals, not victims of crime. Based on the information we have so far, there are many signs of human trafficking, such as passport confiscation, fear of club owners, and E-6-2 visas, which police and immigration officials know and should be aware of. ”
After 40 days in detention, they were ordered to be deported in April 2015. If deported back to the Philippines, they will struggle to successfully hold perpetrators accountable in South Korea, and bringing perpetrators to justice is critical to their recovery. They filed an administrative lawsuit against the deportation order with the Seoul Administrative Court in May 2015, but it was dismissed in 2017. Their subsequent appeals to the Seoul High Court and Supreme Court were also rejected in 2018.
The judicial process brings secondary harm
After exhausting all legal remedies in South Korea, the three victims filed a petition with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, claiming that South Korea was responsible for its ineffective law enforcement and the failure of immigration agencies to effectively investigate gender-based violence, which constituted gender-based discrimination. They also stated that the expulsion order prevented them from participating effectively in the legal process due to gender bias and discrimination in criminal and administrative proceedings in the judiciary.
The Committee noted the discrimination suffered by victims throughout the investigation and judicial proceedings and found that victims were violated their rights under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by failing to guarantee them access to justice and adequate remedies.
"In this case, we have observed preconceived biases on the part of the police and the courts, which hinder their identification of trafficking victims," said Detmayer-Vermourand. Victims are denied access to the justice they deserve, and they are re-victimized by the criminal justice system. ”
Strengthen oversight and accountability
The Commission demanded that the Republic of Korea provide full compensation to the victims and recommended that the Republic of Korea revise its current E-6-2 visa system and strengthen regulation of entertainment companies that recruit foreign women.
The Committee further recommends that the State party address the negative collateral impact of its efforts to combat trafficking in persons by ensuring that innocent women and girls are not arbitrarily arrested, ill-treated or falsely accused, and by strengthening the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators involved in trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women monitors States parties' compliance with the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which to date has 189 States parties. The Committee is composed of 23 independent human rights experts on women's rights from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.
The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women allows the Committee to receive and examine complaints from individuals or groups of individuals subject to the Optional Protocol claiming to be victims of violations of any of the rights set forth in the Convention. To date, 115 States have ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocol. The Committee's observations and decisions on individual communications constitute an independent assessment of the State party's compliance with its human rights obligations under the Covenant.