(If you are interested in Lent resources, please see note at the end.)
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. What could be worse than children’s having to anticipate a year of forced labor, forced sex, forced soldiering, lack of freedom, beatings — being totally enslaved and exploited? (Horrible for adults, too, of course.)
Some Relevant Stories
‘It is very easy to trap an indigenous woman compared to a mestizo. First of all, they do not speak Spanish and secondly, as they suffer from poverty due to loss of their land and house in [regional conflicts], they need some employment urgently. So looking at their situation, we promise the parents or husband good employment with shelter for their daughter and wife and provide them with a little money telling them that after their daughter or wife starts work they will send them some money”. words of a trafficker [Stop Trafficking 11/17]
After racking up an exorbitant debt [Cambodia] with a loan shark, Kieu’s mother sold her 12-year-old for sex. The desperate mom secured a “certificate of virginity” from a doctor for her daughter and sold the girl to a man who raped her in a hotel for two days. After the ordeal, Kieu was sold to brothels on three occasions and finally escaped to a safe house after learning that her mom planned to send her away for a six-month prostitution stint. [CNN 2013]
Tessa [U.S.] was sexually abused by her dad for the first time when she was 7. Her drug-addicted mom was too consumed with her own issues to get involved. When Tessa was a sophomore in high school, she met Jared, whom she didn’t know was a pimp. He showered her with gifts and dates, and often reminded her that no one else could possibly love her because she was “damaged.” Jared soon convinced Tessa to sell her body for sex and would attack her and deprive her of food if she did not meet her quota. He kept all of the money she made and forced her to tattoo his name on her neck. Tessa eventually escaped.
“During the time I was on the street, I went to hospitals, urgent care clinics, women’s health clinics, and private doctors. No one ever asked me anything anytime I ever went to a clinic.” Lauren, survivor
Some Relevant Facts
A $32-billion-a-year industry, human trafficking is the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise, according to the U.S. State Department. An estimated 27 million people are victims of the crime, which involves being forced to perform labor or commercial sex acts.
In the United States, an estimated 100,000 children are in the sex trade, according to ECPAT-USA, a nonprofit that fights the sexual exploitation of children.
Experts say that in Delhi alone, there are an estimated 100,000 girls as young as 12 who are trafficked as domestic workers.
“Whether because of financial desperation, drugs addiction, mental illness, or compulsion from pimps, women often have little choice but to sell their bodies for money. These are not people who can be said to be truly ‘choosing’ a risky line of business.” Supreme Court of Canada
Some Relevant Dates
Month of January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month.
January 1st is the World Day of Peace. Pope Francis’ theme is ‘Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in search of Peace.’ Migrating people are often targets for traffickers.
January 7th is the beginning of National Migration Week.
February 8th is the feast day of Saint Josephine Bakhita (patron saint of those trafficked) and the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking
Some Relevant Actions
Keep handy the number 888 373 7888 – National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline – just in case you see anything suspicious. Trafficked persons can be found in the apparel industry, apple orchards, bars, beauty salons, brothels, citrus fields, construction, dairy farms, domestic help, fishing boats, food processing, food trucks, forced commercial sex, hotels, landscaping, lawn care, mines, motels, nail salons, nannies, pornographic production, restaurants, seasonal occupations, strip clubs, truck stops and…
Advocate for international agreements that offer refugee status to displaced people.
Support agencies working with refugees and offering them legal protection. (Of many, I note one begun by the Society of the Holy Child Jesus: Casa Cornelia Law Center in San Diego (www.casacornelia.org). It offers pro bono legal services to victims of human and civil rights violations in the San Diego area.
Purchase Fair Trade products, especially if they expand opportunities for displaced persons.
Pray and call attention in prayer and other ways to the connections between human trafficking and climate change, poverty, civil unrest, violence.
Note re. Lent resources: Three group resources — Laudao Si’ Reflection Resource, Creation Covenant (Species and Ecosystems), and Renewing the Face of the Earth (Air) — are available here: https://ecospiritualityresources.com/lent/