A GUEST POST BY WENDY ALEXANDER The Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland last week announced an in-depth Inquiry into human trafficking in Scotland with a particular focus on commercial sexual exploitation. This Inquiry cannot get underway too soon as, shockingly, there have been no convictions for trafficking offences in Scotland compared to over 100 convictions in the rest of the UK. And this absence of convictions is against a backdrop of a widely held belief amongst many that Scotland has a disproportionate share of the UK human trafficking trade. Last autumn I commissioned some work from the Scottish Parliament Research Service (http://www.wendyalexander.co.uk/human-trafficking-campaign/definition-of-human-trafficking/) on the extent of human traffiking in Scotland. They cited 79 individuals, believed to be victims of human trafficking, coming into contact with public agencies in Scotland between April 2007 and March 2008. The majority of those cases involved adult female victims who had been trafficked into sexual exploitation. So it is good news that action is finally being taken.
The Inquiry, to be led by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, will seek to identify the nature, extent and causes of human trafficking in Scotland; it will assess to what extent Scotland is meeting international and domestic human rights obligations to prevent and prohibit trafficking, prosecute traffickers, and protect its victims.
The Inquiry will gather material on trafficking in Scotland from broad sources and will take evidence from victims of abuse, experts and those with responsibility for combating trafficking. The aim is also to identify and promote international good practice on the prevention and prohibition of human trafficking.
Encouragingly the Inquiry's focus will be on on human trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. It may be hidden but such exploitation is blighting lives through the most extreme abuses of human rights. The Inquiry's first meeting is scheduled for April and conclusions and recommendations for action are expected by the summer of 2011 - and they cannot come soon enough.