The UN defines human trafficking as ‘the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit.’
Human trafficking generates more than $150 billion every year, including the illicit proceeds of sexual exploitation and forced labor. It is one of the largest global criminal industries, alongside drug trafficking and counterfeiting.
Forced LaborThe ILO Forced Labour Convention of 1930 defines forced labor as ‘all work or service which is extracted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily’. It is estimated that there are 27.6 million victims of forced labor worldwide.
Sex TraffickingSex trafficking is the crime of forcing individuals to engage in commercial sex acts through force, fraud, or coercion. There are an estimated 6.3 million victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
Child LaborThere are different definitions of child labor, but the ILO argues the following; ‘The term “child labor” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.’
Organ TraffickingOrgan trafficking is the illegal trading of human organs, which has become a lucrative criminal industry. Black market transplants are often highly dangerous, harming vulnerable people in majority lower-income countries. The illegal organ trade is estimated to be worth around $1 billion.
Forced marriageDifferent from arranged marriages, which require consent from both parties, forced marriage takes place against a person’s will. Threats of violence are common and victims are often young girls. The GSI estimated there to be 22 million victims of forced marriage in 2022.
Contribution of Sisters
In the 20th century, many Catholic religious orders established programs to combat human trafficking.
The Hilton Foundation noted the exemplary response from sister-led ministries and shelters after the 1995 El Monte scandal, one of the first major US modern slavery cases.
In recent decades, UISG facilitated anti-slavery studies and programs which led to the establishment of Talitha Kum in 2009.
Across continents, networks of sisters can be found, often under the Talitha Kum banner, working tirelessly to protect high-risk communities and survivors.
They are well-placed to provide insight into the gendered circumstances of trafficking, where over 70% of victims are women and girls.
Guided by a belief in universal human dignity, sisters refuse to abandon anyone in need of help.
To raise the profile of the phenomenal contribution of Catholic Sisters against human trafficking
To share knowledge and foster further collaborative anti-trafficking efforts between congregations and across the anti-trafficking sector as a whole
To broaden and deepen the protection of communities vulnerable to trafficking worldwide