SPC Forum on Human Trafficking

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by Audra Kunciunas

If you thought that slavery in the British colonies ended with Wilberforce in the 19th century, read on. Slavery still exists today and is now referred to as human trafficking. From the 16th to the 19th centuries, about 12 million Africans were shipped as slaves to the Americas. Today, some 27 million people are enslaved world-wide, and traffickers have no regard for gender, race or age.

Human trafficking takes many forms: forced and bonded labour; trafficking in women, children and babies; domestic slavery and forced prostitution of adults and children; forced marriage and the sale of wives; and child labour. Globalisation has helped make trafficking one of the world’s fastest growing industries; nearly every country is a source, a transit or destination, including Australia. Victims often go willingly because traffickers deceive them about the work promised or about their final destination.

At the recent SPC forum on human trafficking moderated by Rachel Ball from the Human Rights Law Centre, Professor Jennifer Burn, Director of The Anti-Slavery Project, spoke about the psychological chains of coercion making human trafficking “a prison without walls”.  Australians’ lack of awareness about the extent of human trafficking in this country makes awareness-raising very important. Jennifer described how trafficked people can be openly walking around, and that it was important to hear these people’s stories.

Michaela Guthridge, Justice Development Manager at Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand and an SPC Board member, covered the issue of “sham marriages” and abuses involved.  Michaela reminded us that for a genuine marriage both parties must give free and full consent; if not, such ‘marriages’ are thinly veiled master/servant relationships. One of the most shocking aspects of such ‘marriages’ is that they can involve the threat of rejection, physical abuse or death, by family or community if one partner – usually the woman – refuses to comply.

ACRATH’s Program Coordinator, Christine Carolan, outlined five basic ways we can help make a change for the better in the area of human trafficking:

  1. Educate ourselves (visit advocacy websites, join emailing lists to stay updated, go to talks, etc.);
  2. Raise awareness more broadly (as simple as telling five people what you have learned about human trafficking);
  3. Be conscious about buying ethical products; check they are not made by ‘slave’ labour (look for the fair trade logo, buy from cooperatives such as the Good Shepherd’s Trading Circle);
  4. Fundraising; and
  5. Help lobby government for housing and compensation for victims of trafficking, support the Millennium Development Goals (treating the cause), and bring the issues to the attention of parliamentarians.

If you would like to hear Christine Carolan’s talk please clich HERE.

Those in attendance were informed how a trafficker once told a trafficked woman: “Nobody cares about girls like you.”Let’s prove him wrong.”

At  SPC’s conference on ‘Churches and Public Policy’ on 19 July at the Abbotsford Convent, one of the four workshops will look at human trafficking.

Please click HERE to listen to our audio podcast of this event; Michaela Guthridge’s talk.
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