Part of the role of the social justice team is to remind/inform the congregation of issues of social justice which church members may want to think or pray about further. In response to this, we are intending to bring occasional articles to highlight some of the issues facing our church and our world. This month, we are focusing on modern slavery and human trafficking.
What is it? - Trafficking is being deceived or taken against your will, bought, sold and transported into slavery for example for sexual exploitation, forced begging, as child brides or into sweat shops, farm labour or domestic servitude.
How common is it? - Very! Estimates vary that between 9 and 30 million men, women and children are enslaved or being trafficked at any given time. It is the world’s fastest growing crime.
Where does it happen? - Everywhere! Across the world, people are removed from their homes by force, trickery or for payment. They may end up thousands of miles from their home as forced labourers, domestic servants (slaves) or sex workers. And locally! In a recent case, a Moor Park resident was convicted of ABH and threatening to kill an Indian woman kept as a domestic servant. The victim was forbidden to leave the house and made to work 16 hour shifts with no breaks, seven days a week. She was subjected to horrendous physical abuse including burning her with an iron, hitting her over the head with a rolling pin and dragging her down the stairs by her hair. Cases are in the news on an increasingly regular basis and the government is looking at new laws to try to deal with the problem.
Does it affect me? - Yes! Each of us may unwittingly be playing a part in this terrible crime against humanity. Forced or cheap labour is used in many parts of the world to produce crops which end up in our food chain in the UK. It is also used to produce cheap (and not so cheap) items sold in our shops.
What can I do? - Firstly, be aware of the problem. Secondly, think about your buying habits. Look for certification that the produce you buy is ‘traffic-free’ (e.g. Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ). Ask retailers where their products come from and whether they are ethically sourced and traded. Consider not buying those items that you know are tainted by trafficking - coffee, chocolate and sugar are some of the most common crops involved. Victor, trafficked from Mali to the Cote d’Ivoire says: ‘Tell your children that they have bought something that I suffered to make. When they are eating chocolate they are eating my flesh.’
If you would like more information on the issue, check out www.ungift.org, the United Nations website on trafficking or www.stopthetraffik.org, or speak to a member of the SJT.