A Comparative Analysis of ASEAN Countries’ Responses to Human Trafficking during COVID-19

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Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi state university, Faculty of social and political sciences
The COVID-19 is not only a pandemic impacting people‟s health; it is also a transnational threat that has threatened the rights of vulnerable groups of people who have less voice. The Southeast Asian region has been facing the challenges of non-traditional security threats, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, low-income families in ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries have faced tremendous risks that rely on governments to address the issue. In particular, women and children are often suffered from unequal access to resources, services, and opportunities. According to the UNODC report, fifty-one percent of victims in East Asia were women, and children comprised nearly a third. The research questions of this paper are, first, what are the key human trafficking risks to vulnerable groups of people related to the COVID-19 crisis in Southeast Asian countries? Second, what are the ASEAN governments‟ responses to those risks? In this paper, the author identifies key human rights risks to children related to the COVID-19 crisis and then analyzes the ASEAN government‟s responses to children‟s rights issues during the pandemic. The four countries selected are Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam due to the unique trafficking profile of each. This paper provides an empirical analysis using an analytical framework developed by the author. Data were collected from primary and secondary sources such as the international organization‟s official websites and ASEAN countries‟ official publications, official records, and newspapers. This researcher employs a cross-case comparative method using a pattern-matching technique to analyze the data. This paper concludes with policy recommendations and steps that ASEAN countries should take to protect women and children‟s rights in the pandemic and mitigate its devastating effects.
Human trafficking, ASEAN, COVID-19, gender inequality, non- traditional security threat