Since 2010, January has been declared National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month by presidential proclamation. Working to end human trafficking is a priority of members of the Viatorian Community and this annual month heightens this human rights issue and ways to combat it.
Here is the background on human trafficking, developed by the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking, as well as a toolkit with action items.
● Calculated as a 150-billion-dollar industry, trafficking in persons has become the fastest growing source of illicit profit for criminals worldwide.
● There are an estimated 40.3 million victims of modern-day slavery worldwide. Of these, 25 million are victims of labor or sex trafficking and 15 million are people trapped in forced marriages. Nearly 30% of all victims are men and boys, and an astounding 1 in 4 victims are children.
● Trafficking cases are increasing under COVID-19, as traffickers prey upon people experiencing heightened vulnerabilities linked to pandemic-related lock downs, stay at home orders, and job loss.
● Two decades have passed since the United States adopted landmark legislation to combat trafficking. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, and its several reauthorizations, defines what constitutes trafficking in the U.S., establishes trafficking as a federal crime, and offers protection for victims and survivors. Last year, the U.S. State Department launched a publication to celebrate 20 years of progress to combat human trafficking.
● Every year, the State Department issues the Trafficking in Persons Report, a diplomatic tool used to hold accountable government efforts around the world to address human trafficking. The latest edition underscores the important role of faith-based organizations in eradicating trafficking.
The Church’s Position on Human Trafficking: ● The elimination of human trafficking is a priority issue for the Catholic Church. Because every life is a gift from God and is sacred, it deserves to be protected and nurtured. We each have a responsibility to fight against the violation and degradation of our brothers and sisters. The Vatican released a set of guidelines, or pastoral orientations to help the Catholic community eradicate trafficking.
● The Catechism of the Church forbids acts that cause the enslavement of humans. During the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the Church further stated “slavery, prostitution, the selling of women, and children, and disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as mere tools for profits rather than free and responsible persons are infamies and supreme dishonor to the creator.” (Gaudium et Spes, 1965).
● In 2014, Pope Francis stated during his Declaration on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery: “[M]odern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labor and prostitution, and organ trafficking, is a crime against humanity. Its victims are from all walks of life but are most frequently among the poorest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.”
● Men and women religious play an integral part in the battle against human trafficking. In 2001, 800 women leaders of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) passed a resolution dedicating one million members “to work in solidarity with one another within our own religious communities and in the countries in which we are located to address insistently at every level the abuse and sexual exploitation of women and children…” The U.S. Catholic Sisters against Human Trafficking is the domestic response to this call.