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Trafficking in Women and Children
The JPIC Commission of the Union of the Superiors General (USG/UISG) has produced an Information and Workshop Kit on this issue. The following story is one of many in this kit which have been told by women who have been trafficked or by people who are working with them.
The Girls from Albania
In the tiny and poor village of Fushara in northern Albania, the girls are disappearing. Frane Bicaku’s teenage daughter Valentina, vanished from their home nearly a year ago. She hasn’t been heard of since.
Gjin Lieshi lost two daughters – one was 15 and the other 17. He says that they were taken by two men who promised to marry them. Instead the girls wound up as teenage prostitutes on the streets of Italy, smuggled there by the Albanian mafia. It happens almost every day in Albania, in just about every town and village. “They are kidnapped mostly” said Lydia Bici of the International Catholic Migration Commission. “The minors are kidnapped mostly from discos and bars and even from schools.” In some of the villages families have stopped sending their teenage girls to school fearing that they could be kidnapped and taken to a world they cannot imagine.
“A majority of the women who are trafficked are under 18 years old” says Sophie Mosko of Save The Children. “They’re demanded younger and younger in the sex trade because there’s less fear of AIDS.” There are now about 30,000 Albanian prostitutes walking the streets of Europe. In a country of only about 3 million people, that is almost one percent of the Albanian population. It is believed that most of these prostitutes were trafficked into Europe as children.
Two years ago 15 year old Mariana Lieshi was lured away from her home by a local shop owner who said that he wanted to take her to Italy to marry her. For three weeks her parents heard nothing. Then they received a horrifying letter in which Mariana told her parents she had first been driven to the northern Albania city of Skhoder, where the man who had said that he wanted to marry her said that there would be no marriage. His true plan was to sell her as a prostitute. When she resisted he took out a knife and forced her to go with them. Like most of the future prostitutes smuggled out of Albania, Mariana was taken to the southern port city of Vlore, the epicentre of the country’s smuggling industry. From there it is only approximately 70 miles across the Adriatic Sea, a journey the traffickers can cover in less than 2 hours in high speed boats. According to the Albanian police the boats carry more than 40 people at a time.
When they reach Italy the girls are sold to the pimp. Their value is then determined by their age, beauty and experience. “A young virgin-like girl by the time she gets to Italy could be worth as much as $10,000″ said Degan Ali of the International Organization for Migration. “She’s a real investment.” One former prostitute who was kidnapped at the age of 17 said that even though she made about $500 a night her pimp took it all. One night he found money tucked in her underwear and having drugged her he beat her until she was unconscious.
With Mariana trapped in Italy, back in Albania tragedy was striking the Lieshi family once again. Mariana’s 17 year old sister was also kidnapped and this time a third sister, Marta, told the police who did it. Shortly after that, her father says, Mariana was brutally killed. Her dismembered body was found in a bag by the river. The killers have never been caught.
(ABCNEWS.com, 21 May 2002)
What is Trafficking?
Trafficking is twenty-first century slavery. Trafficking in persons is the illegal trade in human beings through abduction, the use of threat of force, deception, fraud or “sale” for the purposes of sexual exploitation or forced labour. It involves transporting people, primarily women and children, within and across borders. Trafficking exists in every country. Vulnerable women and children, and sometimes men, are trafficked to work in every facet of the sex industry, in domestic roles, in restaurants, in factories, in fields and in sweat shops. In some cases they are even sold for body parts.
An accepted international definition of trafficking is found in the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children supplementing the Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime which says:
a. “Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
Exploitation shall include, at the minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;
b. the consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) have been used;
c. the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered “trafficking in persons” even if this does not involve any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article;
d. “Child” shall mean any person less than eighteen years of age.
The promise of an improved economic situation, a way of supporting parents and families in villages and of escape from situations of conflict, lures people from impoverished and low-income households in rural areas and urban slums to become the easy prey of traffickers.
Click here to view some short TV spots produced by the United Nations which show how easy it is for people who are poor, vulnerable and ignorant of their rights to become targets of unscrupulous traffickers.
The Global Reality
- Every year up to 4 million persons, mainly women and children, are trafficked across international borders
- More than 2 million girls aged between 5 and 15 are coerced, sold or trafficked into the illegal sex market
- Well over $10 billion (US) a year is generated from sex trade and trafficking
- In developing countries with economies in transition young women are entrapped in the slave trade each year
- In the last 30 years, trafficking in women and children in Asia for sexual exploitation has victimised over 30 million people
- Trafficking in human persons is the fastest growing form of transnational crime – it is the second most lucrative form of illegal trade, after drugs and before arms.
(Taken from the Religious Congregations’ Anti Trafficking Working Group Proposal to ACLRI, June 2005)
Trafficking of women and girls is one of the largest commercial enterprises in the world. Trafficking and slavery are linked to other crimes – drug trafficking, human smuggling, rape, torture and money laundering. The FBI reports that, in the USA alone, trafficking and slavery generate $9.5 billion a year.
The Causes of Trafficking
Looking at both the supply and demand factors that foster the growth of trafficking can identify some of the causes of trafficking. Such causes can be further categorised into different aspects of life such as socio-cultural, economic and political.
|Supply Side||Demand Side|
(Taken from the Trafficking in Women and Children Information and Workshop Kit, produced by the JPIC Commission of the Union of the Superiors General, pages 17-18)
Trafficking Mechanisms and Techniques
- are widespread, complex, operate underground and are often out of the reach of the legal system
- are constantly changing and often follow migration patterns
- are difficult to identify – traffickers are adept at avoiding detection and escaping arrest
- are hidden – because those trafficked are illegal migrants, they remain silent and undiscovered for fear of reprisals from traffickers, and deportation
- have extensive complicity of corrupt State officials
- are facilitated by technological advances such as telephone, fax, internet, expanding the scope of international transactions and use new communications and information technologies through which they can easily buy, sell and exchange millions of images and videos
- are organised information networks between mafias operating in countries of origin, transit and destination.
Many persons are involved in the trafficking business, from the initial recruitment and procurement of women and children, to their widespread movement across borders. They include:
- agents in the trafficking networks
- tour operators and travel agencies (“front” businesses)
- employment agents
- foremen and trafficking gangs
- crime syndicates with bases in many countries
- bar madams, local women recruiters
- parents, relatives and friends
- school teachers
- villagers and village headmen
- “mamasans”, brothel owners
- pimps and procurers
- customers, clients, bar owners
- corrupt officials (e.g. police, customs, immigration, peace keepers, border patrollers).
Some trafficking techniques
- local contacts: traffickers enlist the help of local persons and villagers to identify vulnerable families. They make contacts with unsuspecting women and children around bus and train stations
- direct sale: women and children are sold to traffickers by parents or other family members
- deceit: unscrupulous agents deceive parents, lure women and girls with false promises of well-paid work in cities or marriages to rich partners
- debt bondage: economic incentives to parents and arrangements which bind children and young women into sex-slavery or other exploitative forms of labour, though details of these debt terms are ill defined
- kidnap: criminal gangs or middlemen kidnap women and children, force them to work against their will, and often sell them to brothels
- falsification of documents: false documents and passports make it difficult to identify and trace trafficked persons
- bribes: commonly paid to various officials or police to procure false documents, or at border crossings
- transportation: women and children are transported by foot, motorcycles, mini-buses and pick-up vans, and boats.
(Taken from the Trafficking in Women and Children Information and Workshop Kit, produced by the JPIC Commission of the Union of the Superiors General, pages 20-21)
International Conference on Trafficking
Letter from John Paul II
In a recent letter to Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran on the occasion of the International Conference “Twenty-first Century Slavery – The Human Rights Dimension to Trafficking in Human Beings”, Pope John Paul II said the following:
The trade in human persons constitutes a shocking offence against human dignity and a grave violation of fundamental human rights. Already the Second Vatican Council had pointed to “slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, and disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as instruments of gain rather than free and responsible persons”, as “infamies” which “poison human society, debase their perpetrators” and constitute “a supreme dishonour to the Creator” (Gaudium et Spes #27). Such situations are an affront to fundamental values that are shared by all cultures and peoples, values rooted in the very nature of the human person.
(Taken from the Trafficking in Women and Children Information and Workshop Kit, produced by the JPIC Commission of the Union of the Superiors General, page 26)
Prayer for an End to Trafficking
O God, our words cannot express
what our minds can barely comprehend
and our hearts feel
when we hear of women and girls deceived
and transported to unknown places
for purposes of sexual exploitation and abuse
because of human greed and profit
at this time in our world.
Our hearts are saddened and our spirits angry
that their dignity and rights are being transgressed
through threats, deception and force.
We cry out against the degrading practice of trafficking
and pray for it to end.
Strengthen the fragile-spirited and broken-hearted.
Make real your promises to fill these sisters
with a love that is tender and good
and send the exploiters away empty-handed.
Give us the wisdom and courage
to stand in solidarity with them
that together we will find ways
to the freedom that is your gift to all of us.
(School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND), Trafficking Reflection Booklet, Canadian Province, page 10)
of the Religious Women participating in Congress 2008
“Women Religious in Network Against Trafficking in Persons”
International Union of Superiors General
Organized in Rome 2 – 6 June 2008 by the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) and the International Organization for Migrants (IOM)
We 47 participant members of 29 Religious Congregations representing the National, Regional and International networks in more than 30 countries, have come together to share experiences, discuss, reflect and pray about our delicate mission of counter trafficking in persons.
We denounce the crime of Trafficking in persons and
proclaim it as a grave offense against the dignity of the person and
a serious violation of human rights.
As religious women in solidarity with our sisters and brothers who suffer the consequences of this evil we will not remain silent.
We strongly condemn this crime, addressing ourselves first of all to the Governments of the countries of origin, transit and destination in which our sisters and brothers are sold and rendered objects of this modern form of slavery.
We call on governments to be responsible not only to make laws against trafficking and to protect the victims, but also to implement these laws at all levels and to allocate adequate resources to combat this crime. It is their responsibility to activate national and international networks capable of effectively counteracting this trafficking in persons.
We urge Catholic Episcopal Conferences, National Conferences of Religious and Catholic and non Catholic communities, to take a stance and commit themselves with renewed energy for the defense of the rights of these sisters and brothers and to denounce all forms of trafficking.
WE COMMIT OURSELVES
To network with other social, civilian, religious and political organizations.
- To strengthen existing efforts and initiatives
- To maximize resources for the prevention, protection, assistance, awareness-raising and condemnation of trafficking in persons
- To continue to develop educative programs that awaken the consciousness of people to this phenomenon.
We know that only by working in collaboration and solidarity will we be able to confront the structural causes that generate trafficking.
This mission obliges us to take a prophetic stance that requires of us continuous conversion and change of mentality.
We renew our commitment to promote the dignity of every person as a response to Christ’s words:
“I have come that they may have life, life in its fullness” (John 10:10)
Universal Declaration of Human Rights – 1948
Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948. The articles that are applicable to the issue of trafficking in women and children are:
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude, slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Information and Workshop Kit
Copies of the Trafficking in Women and Children Information and Workshop Kit can be purchased from:
JPIC Commission of the USG/UISG
Via Aurelia 476, cp9099 (Aurelio)
00100 Rome Italy
Cost of the Kit: 8 Euro plus postage
- Trafficking in Persons Global Patterns (United Nations Office on Drug and Crime) April 2006
- Trafficking in women and girls Report of the Secretary-General (UN General Assembly) 2000
- Activities on the Elimination of Exploitative Migration and Trafficking in Persons (International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism)
- Anti-Trafficking and Human Rights Programs (Vital Voices Global Partnership)
- Stop Trafficking! (Anti-Human Trafficking Newsletter)
- Trafficking in Persons Clearinghouse (Good Shepherd Social Justice Network)
- ACRATH (Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans)
The United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, 1949 (Entry into force: 31 July 1951)
The Convention consolidates other international agreements concluded on this issue since 1904. The main objective of the Convention is to provide effective measures against all forms of trafficking in women and the exploitation of prostitution. For the first time in an international instrument, the Convention declares prostitution and the traffic in persons to be incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person and to endanger the welfare of the individual, the family and the community.
The Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995
The fourth critical area of concern “Violence Against Women” has an objective specifically reserved for trafficking in women for prostitution followed by the definition of actions to be taken by the different actors. The objective and the corresponding actions recommended are as follows:
Strategic objective D.3
Eliminate trafficking in women and assist victims of violence due to prostitution and trafficking.
Actions to be taken
130. By governments of countries of origin, transit and destination, regional and international organisations, as appropriate:
- Consider the ratification and enforcement of international conventions on trafficking in persons and on slavery;
- Take appropriate measures to address the root factors, including external factors, that encourage trafficking in women and girls for prostitution and other forms of commercialized sex, forced marriages and forced labour, in order to eliminate trafficking in women, including by strengthening existing legislation with a view to providing better protection of the rights of women and girls and to punishing the perpetrators, through both criminal and civil measures;
- Step up cooperation and concerted action by all the relevant law enforcement authorities and institutions with a view to dismantling national, regional and international networks in trafficking;
- Allocate resources to provide comprehensive programmes designed to heal and rehabilitate into society victims of trafficking, including through job training, legal assistance and confidential health care, and take measures to cooperate with nongovernmental organisations to provide for the social, medical and psychological care of the victims of trafficking;
- Develop educational and training programmes and policies and consider enacting legislation aimed to preventing sex tourism and trafficking, giving special emphasis to the protection of young women and children.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 1989 (Entry into force: 2 September 1990)
The most relevent articles of the Convention concerning trafficking in children especially girls for sexual exploitation are:
States Parties undertake to protect the Child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. For these purposes, States Parties shall in particular take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent:
- The inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity;
- The exploitative use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices;
- The exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials.
States Parties shall take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent the abduction of, the sale of or traffic in children for any purpose or in any form.
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of: any form of neglect, exploitation, or abuse; torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or armed conflict. Such recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child.