By JOAN LUCAS, Special Contributor | Published February 24, 2005
A form of modern-day slavery, human trafficking occurs when unscrupulous individuals prey on those who are poor and infrequently unemployed, lacking access to social safety nets, predominantly women and children in certain countries. Trafficking “feeds” the sex slave market, which is a worldwide billion-dollar business. Sexual predators believe they can go overseas and engage in sex with minors without “getting caught.”
The media has reported the rising concern that many child victims of the tsunami have and will become victims of trafficking. One million children have been affected by the tsunami disaster in southern and southeast Asia, an area known as a “hot spot” for trafficking and exploitation of children.
UNICEF reports that in Indonesia between 40,000 and 70,000 children, mainly girls, are trapped in prostitution networks. Indonesian women are trafficked to different parts of the world. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children stated that “there is an element of this world that preys upon children, and this is a particularly easy time for them when they can prey upon the weak, the vulnerable and the needy.” Reports have surfaced that there are orphaned children who have been snatched and then sold as they wandered around after the tsunami. The government of Indonesia is temporarily barring anyone from taking children from Achech province out of the country.
Trafficking of all people, especially vulnerable women and children, constitutes a grave violence and is a breach of their fundamental human rights.
What can we do, so far away from the situation, to help? Here are some thoughts:
1.) Be aware and help make others aware of the situation.
2.) Pray for these very vulnerable people, especially women and children, that God will give them hope for a future of freedom and restore their dignity.
3.) Send monetary contributions to Catholic Relief Services, Inc., marked for the Children of Tsunami, 209 West Fayette St., Baltimore, MD 21201. The Web address for this organization is: www.Catholicrelief.org.
4.) Write to your national legislators and ask them to call upon countries to ratify and implement international conventions to strengthen, promote and protect the rights of all, especially women and children who are trafficked. Ask them to review immigration laws with the aim of preventing trafficking and to review, improve and implement comprehensive legislation at the national level.
5.) Be aware of the harmful effects related to sex trafficking, including that women and children risk repeated pregnancies, maternal mortality, abortions, sexually transmitted disease and HIV/AIDS, drug and other addictions and associated physical and mental deterioration.
In a recent letter Pope John Paul II said the following: “The trade in human persons constitutes a shocking offense against human dignity and a grave violation of fundamental human rights.”
Furthermore, the Second Vatican Council (Gaudium et Spes #27) states “that the selling of women and children is an affront to the fundamental values that are shared by all cultures and peoples and values rooted in the very nature of the human person.”
Joan Lucas, a member of the Atlanta Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, serves as the organization’s international concerns chair for the Northwest Deanery. She has also served on a national human trafficking board. She works in collaboration with a local human trafficking inter-agency work group, which includes the Georgia Rescue and Restore Coalition. The coalition is part of a national group that helps identify victims of trafficking and place them in safe homes. To build awareness of human trafficking in Georgia, Lucas is a speaker at events around Atlanta, most recently with Church Women United in Cobb County. For further information, contact her at (770) 953-3946.