US slams Switzerland on human trafficking

A report from the US has criticized Switzerland for not doing enough to meet international standards to combat human trafficking.

Unlike neighbouring countries, Switzerland is not doing enough to protect the victims of human trafficking, according to the United States Government 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report, news site NZZ Online reported.

Switzerland is home to between 2,000 and 3,000 victims of human trafficking, according to the report. The majority of these are women and children forced into prostitution, begging and stealing.

The victims come mainly from Central and Eastern Europe, in particular from Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine. Some are as young as 14 years old, and most of the victims have experienced violence and abuse prior to arriving in Switzerland.

The report criticised Switzerland for not doing enough to help the victims, and pointed especially to the fact that children had rarely been identified as victims.

In addition, the report pointed to instances where traffickers had got away on suspended sentences, instead of being sentenced to 20 years in prison, the maximum sentence for trafficking.

The report advised Switzerland to raise its standards to the international level, and in particular to focus more on male victims who often were often overlooked by NGOs or other groups working in this area.

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Spain’s top court reinstates first sex workers’ union

Spanish sex workers have the right to form their own union, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, overturning an earlier court decision ordering the dissolution of Spain's first such labour organisation.

Spain's top court reinstates first sex workers' union
Photo: Oscar del Pozo/AFP

Known as OTRAS (or “the Sex Workers’ Organisation”), the union was discretely set up in August 2018 but was closed three months later by order of the National Court following an appeal by the government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

But following an appeal, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of OTRAS, saying that its statutes, which had triggered the initial legal challenge, were “in line with the law” and that sex workers “have the fundamental right to freedom of association and the right to form a union”.

In its November 2018 ruling, the National Court had argued that allowing the union to exist amounted to “recognising the act of procurement as lawful”.


Contacted by AFP, the union did not wish to comment.

When it was founded, OTRAS received the green light from the labour ministry and its statutes were publicly registered in the official gazette the day before the government went into a summer recess.

But three weeks later, the government — which portrays itself as “feminist and in favour of the abolition of prostitution” according to Sanchez’s Twitter feed at the time — started legal moves against it.

In Spain, prostitution is neither legal nor illegal but it is tolerated.

Although it is not recognised as employment, there is a large number of licensed brothels throughout the country.