Teresa C. Ulloa Ziáurriz began her law career representing trade unions. But after she accepted the request from a group of women to represent several 12- and 13-year-old girls who had been victims of sexual abuse, Ziáurriz began litigating rape cases.
Tuesday evening, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership honored the activist–who is the current director of the Latin America and Caribbean division of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women–with the Gleitsman International Activist Award for her leadership in the field.
The award ceremony, held at the Kennedy School, was accompanied by a panel discussion about sex trafficking.
Davíd Carrasco, a professor of Latin American studies, and Mary I. Setterholm, a Divinity School student joined Ziáurriz in the conversation.
The three discussed prostitution and sexual exploitation along with the initiatives Ziáurriz has developed during her time with CATW.
Setterholm, a former prostitute and victim of sexual abuse, described the activist and her work as “mercy” for her and other women who had been subjected to sexual violence.
Ziáurriz, who has litigated over 30,000 rape cases, said that the culture of sexual abuse is primarily the result of the media over-sexualizing female bodies.
“What is selling [over-sexualization] to all of us is TV,” she said. “Women are just flesh, skinny flesh.”
The internet, she claimed, allows boys and men access to an unlimited amount of pornography that she said was harmful.
“The internet is a black hole and the law never goes faster than that black hole,” she said.
In her position at CATW, Ziauriz has led programs to reduce incidences of sexual violence.
The organization currently hosts camps for young men and boys to educate them about the negative role of male sexual expression in female prostitution.
Hannah M. Baron ’14 said, “[Ziáurriz’s work] is very much an approach to a solution that directly tries to solve the problem [of prostitution] on the demand side.”
Ziáurriz also emphasized her goal of reforming sex education so that it includes topics beyond simply biological functions.
After receiving her award, Ziáurriz wiped tears from her face, as she thanked the members of CATW and spoke of the survivors of sexual violence and daughter as the motivations for her activism.
In the past, award recipients have included individuals such as Nelson Mandela and Karen I. Tse, founder of International Bridges to Justice.
“To see someone who has saved over 869 children and who has a holistic approach to the problem is empowering,” said Kate Sim ’14, who is the president of Harvard’s International Women’s Rights Collective.
—Staff writer Eliza M. Nguyen can be reached at email@example.com.
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