Human Trafficking: “The open wound on the body of our contemporary society”
According to Pope Francis, “Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity.”
In a recent gathering on the 11th of January 2024 at ECOSOC Chamber in the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the sovereign Ambassador for the Order of Malta stated that “Human trafficking represents a multifaceted and pervasive problem that reverberates through different segments of society.” This phenomenon involves the manipulation of individuals using tactics like coercion, fraud, or force, leading to exploitation in the form of forced labour and sexual abuse. The network of human trafficking extends to diverse domains that include labour and workforce, migration, transnational crime syndicates, technology, innovation and, notably, the field of medicine.
Specifically, the global healthcare system is facing an overwhelming surge of human trafficking victims. Approximately 30 million individuals are ensnared in this contemporary form of slavery, impacting more than 50 million individuals on a global scale. According to the International Labour Organization, human trafficking constitutes a lucrative industry, generating around $150 billion annually. This dark industry ranks among the largest global markets, with a significant portion —$99 billion— stemming from the commercial sexual exploitation sector. In the context of human trafficking survivors, the composition varies in different countries. Women and girls make up 72% of the total. This includes 49% women and 23% girls. Men account for 21%, while boys make up 7%. Globally, around 16 million people are currently affected by labour trafficking. Among them, 60% are males including boys and the remaining 40% are females including girls.
In collaboration with the Ambassador of the Sovereign Order of Malta in Geneva, we invited resource persons to speak against human trafficking through webinars. Following the enormity of the challenge on human health and well-being, a good number of NGOs and Catholic consecrated women around the world engage in the ministry for those who are victims of human trafficking and forced labour with a view to creating awareness and advocating through strategic programmes that are aimed at mitigating this dark industry.
From the 8th to the 10th of October 2023, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in the Province of Rome, in Cagliari, Sardinia during the 20th anniversary of Ellen Joy Project, which is dedicated to the rehabilitation of victims of modern slavery. For this occasion, I presented a paper on the best practices and response of the United Nations to the fight against human trafficking and all forms of human exploitation on the 9th of October.
The visit was further blessed with the joy and privilege of seeing the Shrine of Blessed Giuseppina Nicoli. This, for me, was a great opportunity to walk in her footsteps; a sacred moment to ask for her blessings on all that we do in the name of the Company, for those who are poor and victims of human trafficking.
It is important to note that our mission in the fight against human trafficking is a response to the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically Target 5.2, which calls for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private arenas including trafficking, sexual and other types of exploitation and Target 8.7, which urges us to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025, end child labour in all its forms. If we are faithful in doing our part, we will contribute to rebuilding human integrity in our society and the realization of the SDGs as they are consistent with our core Vincentian values.