KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s Office of Women, Peace & Security (USINDOPACOM WPS) sponsored a workshop on “Gender-Responsive Approaches to Combatting Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and Smuggling of Migrants (SOM)” May 9-12 to support Malaysia’s efforts to strengthen institutional capacity, laws, policies, and procedures to address TIP and SOM.
The event, organized alongside Pacific Forum International, brought together diverse representatives from 21 organizations across the U.S. government, Government of Malaysia, civil society, and the international community who all have a role in addressing TIP & SOM.
The four-day workshop began with leveling briefs delivered by both Malaysian and U.S. subject matter experts to improve collective understanding of TIP & SOM, to discuss gender considerations associated with these crimes, and to share existing best practices for survivor-centered support. Participants then worked in small groups alongside trained U.S. Department of Defense Gender Advisors, Gender Focal Points, and TIP & SOM experts to develop actionable recommendations to strengthen Malaysia’s approaches to these issues. They presented their findings to senior leaders on the final day of the workshop.
“Human trafficking and migrant smuggling are examples of the complex, transnational security challenges we face today,” said Admiral John Aquilino, Commander of USINDOPACOM. “But we can’t face these challenges alone. Advancing human rights requires investment, commitment, and resourcing from all sectors of society.”
Aquilino continued by emphasizing that events like these help build trust through transparency. “We need to meet each other with honesty about our challenges if we hope to make meaningful progress,” he said. “Today, it is more important than ever that we work together to promote the rules-based international order as a means of achieving sustainable peace and lasting stability.”
Elizabeth Ludan from USINDOPACOM’s Office of WPS served as the lead organizer of the event and highlighted how “drivers of TIP and SOM are gendered – meaning men, women, boys, and girls become vulnerable in unique ways and are exploited in very targeted ways.” For this reason, she continued, “approaches to combatting TIP & SOM must be gender-responsive and should be integrated across efforts to strengthen prevention, prosecution, and protection of survivors.”
U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia Brian McFeeters highlighted, “...the gender aspect of human trafficking is not talked about enough in trafficking spaces.” He emphasized the importance of discussions that integrate gender perspectives. “Keep the momentum going with your interagency peers and collaboratively combat human trafficking using a whole-of-government and a whole-of-society approach.”
General Tan Sri Affendi Buang, Malaysia’s Chief of Defence Forces, also delivered remarks alongside Syuhaida Binti Abdul Wahab Zen, the Undersecretary of the National Strategic Office of Malaysia’s Council for Anti-TIP and Anti-SOM. Both reaffirmed their organizations’ strong commitments to addressing these crimes.