By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
International Day for the Abolition of Slavery will be observed on Wednesday, December 2. As the UN states: “Slavery is not merely a historical relic. According to the International Labour Organization more than 40 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery. Although modern slavery is not defined in law, it is used as an umbrella term covering practices such as forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, and human trafficking. Essentially, it refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and/or abuse of power. In addition, more than 150 million children are subject to child labour, accounting for almost one in ten children around the world.”
Our Church tells us that the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person are the foundation of a moral vision of society. Each of us is made in God’s image and likeness and, as Pope Francis says: “everyone has a God-given right to be free”.
The Vatican II Document, Gaudium et Spes, reminds us that: “Whatever is opposed to life itself…whatever violates the integrity of the human person…whatever insults human dignity, such as…slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed. They poison human society, and they do more harm to those who practise them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator”.
In January 2015, to mark World Day of Peace on the theme: No longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters, Pope Francis “urged people of all religions and cultures to unite to fight modern slavery and human trafficking, saying…All of us are called [by God] to be free, all are called to be sons and daughters, and each, according to his or her own responsibilities, is called to combat modern forms of enslavement. From every people, culture, and religion, let us join our forces.”
And in his recently published encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, on fraternity and social friendship, he reiterates that all human beings are created “equal in rights, duties and dignity”. He deplores “certain trends” impeding universal fraternity, including modern slavery. Modern slavery is opposed to life and to freedom, yet, on February 13, 2020, a report on new research shows that “in almost half of the world’s countries, there is no criminal law penalising either slavery or the slave trade. In 94 countries, you cannot be prosecuted and punished in a criminal court for enslaving another human being” (https://antislaverylaw.ac.uk).
I remember when I worked in London, I was involved in rescuing a few women and girls from domestic servitude. Listening to the trauma they experienced I often wondered at humans’ inhumanity to each other. Their stories are indelibly etched in my memory.
And when I visited some Asian countries, I met a few persons who, through poverty, had sold their organs on the black market—mainly kidneys. Because there is no aftercare, some had become so ill that they could not work again.
Writing in forbes.com, Abigail Hall, research fellow at Independent Institute and an assistant professor of economics at the University of Tampa said: “On the black market, a kidney can sell for US $160,000. Even if donors only receive 1% of this price, or $1,600, such a payday could be more than three times what a person could earn in a year in some parts of the world.”
The World Health Organization estimates that 10,000 kidneys are traded on the black market worldwide annually, or more than one every hour. Like trafficking in persons, organ trafficking is “a lucrative global illicit trade” (www.acamstoday.org).
The culture of death that pervades our world is linked to what Pope Francis calls the “throwaway culture”. He says: “Unfortunately, what is thrown away is not only food and dispensable objects, but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as ‘unnecessary.’ For example, children being bought and sold in that terrible form of modern slavery, which is human trafficking, which is a crime against humanity.”
In T&T the brothels are open in plain sight! T&T is a destination, source, and transit country for persons subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution, and children and men in conditions of forced labour.
When the justice systems across the world start prosecuting/convicting the perpetrators of these heinous crimes, then perhaps this will become a deterrent.
Let’s be true advocates for justice and seek to eradicate modern slavery.
CCSJ expresses sincere thanks to all those who contributed to Justice, Peace and Community Week (November 14–21). May we, members of the Body of Christ, continue to collaborate to build God’s Kingdom here on earth.