Awareness, Prevention and Elimination of Violence Against Women: Human Trafficking

The following is taken from the Summer 2011 Servicette

Mary Ann Dantuono, Diocese of Brooklyn

Two recent local news reports heightened interest in the topic of Human Trafficking in our area. In a suburban area of Suffolk County on Long Island, NY, two cantinas were closed and the owners prosecuted under Human Trafficking Laws. Women were ostensibly employed as waitresses at two pubs that federal officials say were at the center of a sexual–slavery ring. According to federal prosecutors, the women were forced into sex with customers. If they did not comply, they were beaten, abused and threatened with deportation by the three men on trial for sex trafficking, forced labor and harboring and transporting illegal aliens.

The second story involved two Indonesian young women enslaved as domestic workers by a wealthy immigrant couple in a multi–million dollar home. The couple brought the two workers to the US on a visitor’s visa.

For about two years the young women were forced to work long hours for no wages, suffer beatings, endure hunger and live in a closet. The conditions of enslavement were horrifying and the couple was eventually convicted of several criminal charges including forced labor and harboring aliens under federal Trafficking Laws.

These stories are not limited to the east coast. Across the United States and the globe, modern day slavery is a multi–billion dollar enterprise. Human Trafficking is an umbrella term that is used when one person obtains or holds another person in compelled service. Major forms of human trafficking include: forced labor, sex trafficking, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor and child sex trafficking. While estimates are difficult, the International Labour Organization estimates 12.3 million victims are in some form of forced labor and the US Department of State estimates that 56% are women and girls.

The Ladies of Charity have the opportunity to help in the fight against this modern slavery. The Board of LCUSA as part of our advocacy and educational efforts to end Violence against Women joined the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking. This umbrella group organized by the Migration and Refugee Services at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops consists of national and international Catholic agencies working to eliminate Human Trafficking. The Coalition’s main purposes are to:

  • formulate plans for combating trafficking and serving its victims.
  • promote the development of services for trafficking victims and approaches to empowerment of trafficking victims
  • dialogue with government officials and others engaged in public polices affecting this issue
  • devise strategies for public education, awareness–raising and grass roots action.

The Board joined this Coalition for three reasons. The first is that as part of the Vincentian Family we are challenged to work for systemic change collaboratively with others who share our values. Secondly, in 2011, federal legislation, The Trafficking Victims Protection Act, will be reauthorized. We have an opportunity to work with our sister agencies to achieve more services, protections and law enforcement resources to end this terrible crime against humanity. Third, this crime is very lucrative and a growing scourge. Each and every individual and association is needed to help provide education awareness and action on the international, national and state level.

How can we help? As Vincentian leaders of women acting together against poverty, we can:

  • Host educational, training and technical assistance programs on the issue of human trafficking
  • Meet with government officials to promote the legislative priorities of the Coalition of Catholic Organizations
  • Work on the state level with the State Catholic Conferences to support safe harbor for minors, services for victims of sex or labor trafficking and just criminal penalties for traffickers.

We will be posting information about this issue on the advocacy tab of the Ladies of Charity USA web site and you can also visit the website of the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking:

We look forward to working together to ensure human dignity and rights for all women and girls and the end to all forms of violence against women. †

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