‘Hear Victims, Treat The Whole Problem,’ Human Trafficking Conference ToldJuly 8, 2019
Washington D.C., Jun 26, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Human trafficking survivors shared their stories of abuse and oppression before an audience on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, kicking off a day of education and advocacy in the U.S. Congress.
Experts, members of Congress, and trafficking victims spoke at a Capitol Hill conference on human trafficking held on June 26. The National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd co-hosted the event, along with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the DC Baptist Convention.
“I cannot talk about human trafficking without saying ‘modern-day slavery’. Because when I think about my situation, it was a form of modern-day slavery,” said Evelyn Chumbow, speaker with Survivors of Slavery and a survivor of labor trafficking.
Chumbow emphasized the importance of not separating sex trafficking from labor trafficking when discussing the problems. “One thing I hate is separation. I hate to separate the issue of sex and labor [trafficking],” she said, because “if you’re going to address the issue, address the whole issue.”
There are an estimated 40.3 million human trafficking victims worldwide, according to the International Labour Organization; the trafficking industry is estimated to be around $150 billion.
The lack of investigation and prosecution of labor trafficking in the United States is a significant problem, said Hilary Chester, PhD, Associate Director of the Anti-Trafficking Program for United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
While “we do have relatively robust laws” against trafficking, she said, pointing to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), “what’s missing right now is accountability.”
This creates a system of impunity where “there is no consequence for exploiting a worker,” whether it be in a small business, agriculture, or a hotel chain. “There really isn’t much risk for them,” Chester said.
Sister Winifred Doherty, RGS, the United Nations Representative for the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, said there is a common thread running through global systems of exploitation.
“Laudato Si, as I Iook on it and reflect on it, connects the dots,” she said, referencing Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical. Doherty said the Pope has frequently drawn attention to how economies built towards the pursuit of profit rather than respect for human dignity lead to a market culture based on exploitation.
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