WASHINGTON (CNS) — The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on “overlapping inequalities” in society around the globe, said Good Shepherd Sister Winifred Doherty.
In doing so, it “has revealed fault lines” in current systems and structures that are “the carriers” of root causes of human trafficking for labor and sexual exploitation, she said in a keynote speech March 8.
“COVID-19 has exposed and exploited overlapping inequalities as well as weaknesses in our social, economic and political systems and is now threatening to undo and reverse years of human development,” she said during a virtual conference on human trafficking.
“The global public health crisis that is COVID-19 is exacerbating gender injustice while furthering economic inequalities in countries and between countries,” Sister Doherty added.
The pandemic also “has been a wake-up call with regard to our interconnectedness across the planet,” she said.
Sister Doherty, who represents the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd at the United Nations, spoke on the first day of the two-day “Shine the Light Human Trafficking Conference: Root Causes and Intersections on Human Trafficking,” which included survivors, service providers and advocates as speakers and drew close to 500 participants.
It was sponsored by the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd along with Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, and the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Justice Team.
The day Sister Doherty spoke was International Women’s Day, and she wished participants well for the observance but quickly added: “For so many girls and women, it is not a happy day, as girls and women for the most part do not experience gender justice or have their dignity upheld.”
Quoting U.N. statistics for 2018, the latest figures available, she said for every 10 victims detected globally, about five were adult women and two were girls, and about one-third of the overall detected victims were children — girls and boys — while 20% were adult men.
“Trafficked children detected in low-income countries are more likely to be exploited in forced labor, and in higher income countries, (they’re) more frequently trafficked for sexual exploitation,” she added.