Thursday 11th November - 10.32pm
Before I write about today's ride, I want to spend some time explaining the specific project we are fund-raising for.
The ARTICLE 25 project aims to advocate for children and women’s rights to foster greater access to justice for trafficking victims in Lao PDR. It will push initiatives for a greater understanding of human trafficking for sexual exploitation and associated laws among authorities and communities alike to encourage a better informed and more effective response, and to increase preventative measures.
It will educate all, including judges, lawyers, policemen, civil servants, social workers, bar-owners, villagers and victims about a new law, ARTICLE 25, that gives victims the right to legal assistance, compensation and rehabilitation. In conjunction with Article 89 and 90 that makes child prostitution illegal there is now a legal basis to provide protection. However without the project no one will know about the law, no one will enforce and the problem will get worse.
ARTICLE 25 Objectives
• To advocate for access to justice and the rights of children and women victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation under Lao law;
• To build and reinforce capacity of authorities to understand and enforce the law
• To empower victims to realise their rights under the law.
What is the Problem?
While lack of access to justice is not peculiar to victims of human trafficking globally, they often also have additional burden of not being adequately informed of their rights under the law.
In Laos, the problem extends beyond lack of justice and access to rights for victims to a lack of access to information for authorities. Relevant laws, such as Article 25 exist in Laos to protect the rights of children and women victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. The problem is that these laws are not sufficiently enforced, hence the rights of victims are not sufficiently realised or understood.
As the main body providing direct assistance to victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in Laos, AFESIP is in a unique position to access information on victim needs. In this respect, access to justice has been identified by AFESIP as an area of dramatic weakness in the provision of victim support.
Of more than 100 cases supported by AFESIP since 2006, not one victim has been sufficiently compensated under Article 25 of the Lao law.
How will the project help?
Firstly, ARTICLE 25 will empower authorities by ensuring they are sufficiently informed to maximise their understanding of the application of Lao laws and guidelines; they cannot alone be held accountable for victims’ inaccessibility to justice in Laos, but they can play the central role in dramatically improving the situation.
By better informing authorities, they will be suitably equipped to impose and monitor trafficking law on perpetrators including beer-bar owners, effectively increasing victims’ access to justice and support.
Secondly, ARTICLE 25 will advocate for the right to information for trafficked and exploited children and women: a right to be informed about their legal and immigration status and the services available, their rights under the law of the Lao PDR, and every decision or process that will affect them. This right to information must be respected not only to provide them with the tools to make crucial decisions about their future, but also to respect their inherent dignity as individuals with control over their life.
What will the ARTICLE 25 project concretely do?
1. Capacity building of local authorities and enhancement of their role for the protection of victims’ rights:
• Conduct training sessions with government staff and police;
• Integrate monthly stakeholder coordination and referral meetings;
• Coordinate workshops to exchange lessons learned through intervention;
• Coordinate information sessions for bar owners;
• Produce relevant IEC materials to support training and encourage sustainability;
• Conduct an interagency media campaign to increase public awareness of TIP, CSEC and the associated Lao laws.
2. Empowering victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation through provision of information on their rights and legal support:
• Provision of a legal advisor to determine the legal statute of individual cases and empower them through knowledge and support in their path to justice;
• Provision of a Legal teacher to conduct classes for victims on legal awareness and reinforcement of rights related to CSEC, children’s, women’s and family issues;
• Production and dissemination of IEC materials regarding victims’ rights, the Lao law and support services.
The role of the authorities is enhanced:
• District authorities and committees responsible for responding to cases of trafficking and sexual exploitation are trained, and skills are improved, in enforcing the laws on protection of children and women (Article 25).
• Authorities are able to correctly identify situations of trafficking and sexual exploitation of children and women in the service sector and implement planning and action for appropriate interventions.
• Referral system to protect and provide support for children and women victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation is set up with concerned authorities and an ad hoc committee at a provincial level.
• Authorities and AFESIP carry out case management for children and women victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation and monitor the effects of law enforcement through operation of the referral system.
• Police monitor bars and entertainment venues to enforce the law according to Article 25 and to meet the needs of the NPA.
• Bar owners are informed and warned of the laws related to trafficking and sexual exploitation of children and women.
• Communities are empowered through knowledge of trafficking law and vigilance support networks.
Victims’ access to information and support is improved:
• Victims of trafficking and exploitation are empowered through access to knowledge of their rights under Lao law.
• Legal support and advisory mechanisms are improved to increase access to justice.
• Tools are produced to give victims access to information on their rights under Lao law.
• Victims’ access to decision making power and independence is increased
Rights of Victims
A ‘victim’ means a person who has suffered from trafficking in children and women. Victims have the following rights:
1. To ask for assistance from any individual who is nearby;
2. To notify police officers;
3. To testify and present evidence relating to the case, to concerned officers;
4. To request for compensation, to be rehabilitated and to be reintegrated into the society;
5. To receive protection and care to ensure personal safety;
6. Not to be prosecuted and detained on any charge of trafficking in children and women, prostitution, [or] illegal immigration;
7. Not to be photographed, [and] not to have any video recorded or broadcast, where such would affect personal honour;
8. To receive suitable assistance in the form of shelter, food, clothes, medical services, vocational training, repatriation and others;
9. To have other rights according to laws
The ride - today's special - sun dried cyclists...
We got ourselves organised well enough that we were ready to go at 8am but we first needed to drive to where we stopped last night so we only started cycling at 10. It was baking hot by that time with not a single cloud in the sky or tree to offer shade. As we were up on the plains again, this time with mountains separating us from the Mekong we also didn't have any cooler air coming from the river. It was hot.
We were all drinking twice as much water than before due to the heat but somehow today we had our best day cycling. We were averaging over 30km an hour at times even uphill (obviously we didn't keep the speed but it was fun while it lasted) as I guess we all realised that we were getting closer to the finish so felt emboldened that we would actually make it. I must of suffered from heatstroke or gone delerious at one stage as I felt more fit than during any other part of the cycle despite having cycled 5 hours in the scorching sun. I was already thinking about the next ride in 2 years, thinking about another cycle holiday later in the year and even being so optimistic about my newfound fitness that I could beat my friend Paul, a real cyclist, at a 90km challenge I foolishly signed myself up to (the odds I got were 20 to 1 but he is actually considerably faster than me to the point that he was toying with joining the Tour de France). Ben and I also took it in turns to overtake and outrun mopeds which we knew was a lost cause but fun anyway to see the taken aback motorcyclists rev their engines and ultimately speed past to prove that petrol power beats human power eventually as long as the tank doesn't run dry.
Today was the first day our bodies had properly adjusted to the long cycle rides. Despite mild cramp in my calves and a greater need for water, we cycled faster and miraculously felt better afterwards. Its days like this that I just love the sport. We saw the landscape unfold infront of us as we turned corners, climbed hills and covered plains on straight roads. With children cheering us on and the sense of accomplishment from having cycled so far already we were flying and only the onset of darkness put a stop to our enthusiasm to ride.
Tomorrow I will hopefully be writing from the finish line as we have been able to cover so much ground without any real rest that we think we will finish a day early. If today is anything to go by, we most certainly will!
Route - Route 13 117km north of Pakse to 17km south of Pakse direction Veun Kheum
Distance - 134km
Road conditions - Good to great
Traffic - Relatively quite except in Pakse where it was fun cycling in the rush hour traffic
Elevation - very moderately hilly of varying degree and a lot of flats
Weather - Scorching sun all day except a short respite in the mid afternoon
Number of metres I cheated by holding on to a tuktuk while saying hi - 580 metres