Categories for Around the World

Sister Eugenia Bonetti on Human Trafficking Victims: Nobody Does This By Choice

April 25, 2021

ROME — Coronavirus lockdowns have not led to a reduction in human trafficking, which primarily affects women and girls, but actually increased it over the past year, according to Consolata Sister Eugenia Bonetti.

“The different types of exploitation have changed, becoming more violent and, in the case of sexual exploitation, more hidden,” she says. “They have moved, in fact, from the streets to apartments or online sites.”

For over two decades, Sister Eugenia has served on the frontline of the Church’s efforts to combat human trafficking of women and girls — a ministry that began in 1993 when, as a missionary in Africa, she first saw women on roadsides waiting for clients.

Since 2012, the Italian sister has headed “Slaves No More,” a Rome-based association extending to 30 different countries and dedicated to fighting the scourge, which affects 27 million victims worldwide. The organization has collaborated extensively with the U.S. embassy to the Holy See during both Republican and Democratic administrations.

In this March 30 interview with the Register, Sister Eugenia explains more about her work to restore the dignity of trafficked women and girls, what the faithful can do to raise awareness of these acts of violence, degradation and exploitation against them, and how her conviction that we are one human family under Christ is central to her work.

Sister Eugenia, who are most liable to become victims of such modern slavery? How do they end up in this situation, and do they include minors?

The categories of people most at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking are undoubtedly women and young women and children.

Read the full story by Edward Petin at National Catholic Register.

Real Needs, Not Fictitious Crises Account for the Situation at US-Mexico Border

March 21, 2021

The number of unaccompanied children and asylum-seekers crossing the US-Mexico border in search of protection has increased in recent weeks. The former president, his acolytes, and both extremist and mainstream media have characterized this situation as a “border crisis,” a self-inflicted wound by the Biden administration, and even a failure of US asylum policy. It is none of these things. Rather, it is a response to compounding pressures, most prominently the previous administration’s evisceration of US asylum and anti-trafficking policies and procedures, and the failure to address the conditions that are displacing residents of the Northern Triangle states of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), as well as Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and other countries. In Central America, these conditions include:

  • Two hurricanes – Eta and Iota – that have left 8 million persons (1.8 million of them children) in need of humanitarian assistance, and have destroyed countless livelihoods and tens of thousands of homes in Guatemala and Honduras.
  • Negative economic growth in all three Northern Triangle countries.
  • The economic and public health devastation wrought by COVID-19.
  • The ravages of climate changes.
  • Gang control in many communities, breakdowns in the rule of law, and rampant violence. The homicide rates in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala remain among the highest in the world.

This is not the first time large numbers of unaccompanied children have sought to enter the United States. In the late summer of 2016, the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) and the Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN) embarked on a fact-finding trip to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Southern Mexico to visit migrant shelters and detention facilities, which mostly held deportees from Mexico. More than 160,000 unaccompanied children and a similar number of migrants traveling in family units had arrived at the US-Mexico border in the 18-month period prior to our trip. In meetings with public officials, community groups, and migrants, we heard repeatedly of the threats to children and adolescents living in communities controlled by gangs. Boys faced conscription, girls sexual enslavement, and family breadwinners extortion. The gangs met even perceived resistance with violence.  Children without parents at home were particularly vulnerable. Many children negotiated a daily gauntlet in their trip to and from school, passing through neighborhoods controlled by competing gangs that demanded their fidelity. Gangs had also taken over many public recreational spaces, leaving little safe space for these children. Not surprisingly, some families sought to protect their children by moving, and others by placing their children with family members in other communities. Many adolescents fled their countries of birth, often in an attempt to join their parents in the United States.

Read the full article by Donald Kerwin on Center for Migration Studies

Meet The Aussie Jean Brand Taking On Human Trafficking – And Winning

March 18, 2021

“I will look for you. I will find you. And I will kill you.”

When Liam Neeson said this line in the 2008 hit film Taken, it went on to become one of the movie’s most famous quotes.

However, the film – which has a narrative around human trafficking – had another, perhaps more significant legacy: the birth of Outland Denim, an Australian brand working to fight the crime.

“[Taken] was our introduction to the issue of human trafficking because we really had no idea,” Outland Denim co-founder Erica Bartle told Yahoo Finance.

The movie sparked an interest in the issue that was galvanized when she and her husband came across an NGO working to address it a few years later. Around 2.5 million people become human trafficking victims every year.

Bartle and her husband James Bartle decided to take action. They scraped together some money and sent James on a field trip to Cambodia and Thailand to better understand the issue. Bartle herself went into research mode, identifying the resources they could use to fight back and the hurdles they would face.

In 2016, six years after they decided to tackle human trafficking, they launched Outland Denim.

The clothing brand is an ethical and sustainable brand that provides training and employment for women who have experienced sex trafficking. It aims to eliminate the crime and has more than 80 employees across Asia and Australia who are paid living wages – a rarity in the $2.5 trillion fashion sector.

Outland Denim also uses up to 86 percent less water, 83 percent less chemicals and 57 percent less energy in its Cambodian wash and finishing facilities by incorporating new technologies.

Today, the brand has fans including Leonardo Dicaprio and Meghan Markle, potentially the most famous woman alive. The company had to take on an additional 46 staff when the Duchess of Sussex wore the black Harriet jeans on tour in Australia, sending royal watchers into a shopping frenzy.

Read the full story by Lucy Dean on Yahoo! Finance.

Traffickers Found Targeting More Children As COVID-19 School Closures Fuel Danger

March 9, 2021

LONDON, Feb 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Human traffickers worldwide are increasingly targeting children and will likely exploit school closures during the coronavirus pandemic to abuse the young, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

Children make up a third of trafficking victims who are uncovered – a share that has tripled in the past 15 years, with girls mainly exploited for sex and boys forced into work, a report by the U.N. Office On Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found.

About 49,000 victims were detected and reported in total in 2018 – up from 24,000 in 2016 – according to the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, which was based on research conducted before the start of the pandemic.

While worsening poverty and job losses spurred by COVID-19 have left millions of people globally at risk of trafficking, out-of-school children are especially vulnerable, UNODC said.

About 222 million schoolchildren – one in eight pupils – are affected by school closures, according to UNESCO, the U.N.’s cultural agency. The figure hit 1.6 billion in April last year.

“It is particularly alarming that in recent years more and more children are being targeted by traffickers,” UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly said during a virtual briefing.

“Already targeted and potentially at risk, youth who are denied their right to education will particularly find themselves easier prey for traffickers,” she added.

Trafficking of children is more prevalent in poorer countries where it is linked to child labour, according to UNODC, which said young people are “easier to exploit” when communities are used to sending them to work away from home.

Read the full story by Kieran Guilbert on Thomas Reuters Foundation News.

A Conversation on Anti-Human Trafficking

January 26, 2021

On 8 February, the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking takes place. In preparation for the event, the Global Sisters Report organized a webinar featuring Srs. Gabriella Bottani and Jean Schafer, both of whom are recognized as leaders in anti-trafficking efforts. They were joined by over 350 participants.

Sr Gabriella Bottani joined the webinar from Italy. As International Coordinator of the international network against trafficking in persons sponsored by the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), Talitha Kum, she brings a wealth of knowledge regarding the breadth of this pandemic on the international level. Sr Jean Schafer, board member of the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, sheds light regarding the plight of trafficked persons in the United States.

Key is exploitation

Sr Gabriella explained the international reality of this evil, which she described as complex and difficult to identify. Exploitation is one important issue she said needs to be considered. “It is the entry-door to identifying trafficking,” she said. While types of trafficking are nuanced throughout the world, “the dignity of the person is destroyed through exploitation and the limitation of freedom”, she emphasized.

Forms of trafficking

Some forms of human trafficking are domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, forced labor and begging. A common element, she said, is that women and minors are particularly vulnerable. The ratio is about 70% women to 30% men. One in every three trafficked persons is under 18 years-of-age. Thus, human traffickers primary targets are women and children. Trafficking takes place in every corner of the globe, whereas Southeast Asia and Africa have higher rates of trafficked persons. She also made the connection between ecological exploitation and human trafficking.

“Another element that we observe when we speak about human trafficking is the connection of exploitation of human beings and the exploitation of the environment. Often, they go hand in hand.”

United States reality

In the United States, trafficking exists in “every zip code”, Sr Jean Schafer said. The myth that there is an area in the US untouched by trafficking is false. It affects primarily people of color, citizens and immigrants. African Americans, for example, represent 13% of the overall population, but represent about 40% of those who are trafficked. Sr Jean said that higher sex trafficking areas are found in larger cities that attract large numbers of tourists. People are also becoming more aware of how much grooming of children is taking place online. “We thought it was something happening in Southeast Asia. But suddenly we find out our children are caught in the trap of vulnerability,” Sr Jean said. Many are learning about it and finding out how to counteract it.

To read the full story by Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp, on Vatican News: Click Here

Swiss to Vote on Tougher Responsibility Proposal for Companies

January 21, 2021

For several months, orange flags printed with “Yes!” have hung from balconies across Switzerland, encouraging the public to vote Sunday in favor of an initiative to make Swiss companies liable for human rights violations and environmental damage committed by their subsidiaries abroad.

The proposal, which has been promoted by a coalition of over 130 civil society organizations, has been opposed both by businesses and the government, which say it goes too far and could hurt Swiss companies as they struggle with a slowdown linked to the coronavirus.

The initiative, if approved, would require companies to ensure that their subsidiaries and supply chains comply with U.N. human rights guidelines and a range of international environmental standards. They would also be required to publicly report on potential risks, like suppliers being unable to verify the safety of factory buildings or the use of child labor, and what measures are being taken to address them.

The initiative would make companies based in Switzerland liable for violations that happen at entities and subsidiaries they control abroad, enabling victims to bring their cases before Swiss courts.

The law, which the latest newspaper polls suggest voters will approve, could have implications for the large number of multinational companies that have their global headquarters in Switzerland.

To read the full story by Noele Illien on The New York Times:Click Here

Anti-Trafficking Advocates Warn That Pandemic Is Increasing Human Trafficking

December 13, 2020

Those involved in efforts to end human trafficking fear that the global pandemic and resulting lockdowns are increasing the numbers of people forced into trafficking.

“The broad upshot is that we need to brace ourselves for 2021 and expect a huge increase in the number of people affected” by trafficking, Luke de Pulford, director of the U.K-based anti-trafficking organization Arise, said during a Dec. 2 webinar by the Catholic Sisters Initiative of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. (The foundation is one of the funders of Global Sisters Report.)

“We don’t know how bad the damage is yet,” de Pulford told GSR in an email after the event. “[But] when the statistics come in, they are going to be deeply shocking and troubling.”

Those being lured into trafficking work — be it slave labor or sexual trafficking — are those “already struggling” and at risk due to poverty, Sr. Jane Wakahiu, associate vice president of program operations and head of Hilton’s Catholic Sisters Initiative, said during the webinar.

“COVID has exacerbated dramatic increase in unemployment, reduced or loss of income for individuals working in informal or low wage sectors which leads to vulnerability, and at-risk individuals find themselves in precarious circumstances,” Wakahiu told GSR in an email following the webinar.

“The principal underlying cause of human-trafficking is poverty and the search for better economic opportunities. Prevention is impeded not just by levels of poverty itself but by a series of vulnerabilities, including armed conflict and migration, homelessness, disabilities, lack of supportive families, and racial and ethnic prejudice.”

“Populations which are more vulnerable [to trafficking] include those who are homeless, unemployed, and struggling to support their families,” Jennifer Reyes Lay, another webinar participant who heads U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, told GSR following the event. “As the pandemic continues with little economic relief or support in sight, we can anticipate that there will also be an increase in exploitation and trafficking as traffickers take advantage of these vulnerable communities desperate to survive.”

To read the full article by Chris Herlinger on Global Sisters Report: Click Here

COVID-19 Worsening Gender-Based Violence, Trafficking Risk, For Women And Girls

December 8, 2020

UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly was speaking during a virtual event to strengthen global commitment at a time when women and girls are locked down and locked in, rendering them further exposed to violence and harassment, or at greater risk of being trafficked.

“In every part of the world, we are seeing that COVID has worsened the plight of at-risk women and girls, while also hindering criminal justice responses and reducing support to victims,” she said.

A ‘shadow pandemic’ surfaces

Women and girls were already being exposed to different forms of violence before the pandemic.

Most female homicide victims are killed by their intimate partners or other family members, according to UNODC, while women and girls make up more than 60 percent of all victims of human trafficking.

However, lockdowns, stay-at-home orders and other measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic have led to what the UN has called a “shadow pandemic” of rising gender-based violence.

Women’s economic inequality also increases their vulnerability to trafficking and sexual violence, according to UN Women, which supports countries in their efforts to achieve gender equality.


To read the full story on UN News: Click Here

The Pandemic Has Created A Second Crisis In India — The Rise Of Child Trafficking

December 1, 2020

(CNN)One evening in August, a 14-year-old boy snuck out of his home and boarded a private bus to travel from his village in Bihar to Jaipur, a chaotic, crowded and historical city 800 miles away in India’s Rajasthan state.

He and his friends had been given 500 rupees (about $7) by a man in their village to “go on vacation” in Jaipur, said the boy, who CNN is calling Mujeeb because Indian law forbids naming suspected victims of child trafficking.

As the bus entered Jaipur, it was intercepted by police.

The man was arrested and charged under India’s child trafficking laws, along with two other suspects. Nineteen children, including Mujeeb, were rescued. Jaipur police said they were likely being taken to bangle factories to be sold as cheap labor.

In India, children are allowed to work from the age of 14, but only in family-related businesses and never in hazardous conditions. But the country’s economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and many have lost their jobs, leading some families to allow their children to work to bring in anything they can.

Making colored lac bangles like those sold in Jaipur is hot and dangerous work, requiring the manipulation of lacquer melted over burning coal. Bangle manufacturing is on the list of industries that aren’t allowed to employ children under 18.

To read the full story by Jessie Yeung on CNN: Click Here

‘Black gold’

November 19, 2020

For the past decade, Mikayla Lowe Davis has been braiding and styling hair for her customers.

“The first thing people see a lot of times is our hair,” she says. “We have to represent our crown and be confident with wearing it.”

The 29-year-old stylist, who owns Mikki Styles Salon, is braiding in synthetic hair to the head of a customer in Arlington, Texas, a process which takes several hours and costs upwards of $115.

“It helps them to become more empowered,” Lowe Davis says of her customers. “It gives them confidence when they can see how beautiful they are, how beautiful their hair is.”

Lowe Davis has a degree in biology, but the creative side of the hair industry drew her in. She sources products at beauty supply stores — a fixture of many African American communities.

“Black women spend so much money on hair care products,” says Frankesha Watkins, an MBA-educated entrepreneur who owns the BPolished Beauty Supply store in Arlington. “I learned that from this pandemic, no matter what’s going on, people want their hair to be nice.”


To read the full story by Rebecca Wright, Ivan Watson and Isaac Yee on CNN: Click Here