March, 2019 Monthly Reflection

March: A Month to Speak Out for Trafficked Victims Everywhere

by Sister Jean Schafer

Among the many international days of remembrance and action in the month of March, there are several that can inspire us to reflection and action on behalf of those trafficked:

March 8thInternational Women’s Day, advocating for women’s full equality in all aspects of human life.

March 21stInternational Day to Eliminate Racial Discrimination, especially against migrants, refugees and people of African descent.

March 24thInternational Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims The relatives of victims of summary executions, enforced disappearance, missing persons, abducted children, torture, require to know what happened to them.

March 25thRemember Slavery Day  Over four centuries, more than 18 million people were forcefully removed from Africa to the Americas (including the Caribbean) and Europe, suffering cruel and inhumane treatment and appalling conditions as they underwent slave labor.

A Memorial inaugurated March 25, 2015 helps deepen an understanding of the history and consequences of slavery and raises awareness about the current dangers of racism, prejudice and the lingering consequences that continue to impact the descendants of these victims today. The Memorial’s placement at UN Headquarters is a significant symbol of what the UN represents: the promotion and preservation of the dignity and worth of all human beings – principles that are central to the UN Charter.

The human rights most relevant to human trafficking (Fact Sheet, pg. 4) are:

  • The prohibition of discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status
  • The right to life
  • The right to liberty and security
  • The right not to be submitted to slavery, servitude, forced labor or bonded labor
  • The right not to be subjected to torture and/or cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment
  • The right to be free from gendered violence
  • The right to freedom of association
  • The right to freedom of movement
  • The right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
  • The right to just and favorable conditions of work
  • The right to an adequate standard of living
  • The right to social security
  • The right of children to special protection

‘Human Rights and Human Trafficking’ Fact Sheet No. 36, 2014.

(The Human Rights Fact Sheet series is published by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Office at Geneva.)

In 2015 leaders of 193 nations gathered to formulate the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs). These seventeen goals aim to end poverty, fight inequalities, and tackle climate change. An improvement over the prior Millennial Development Goalsof 2000, the SDGs include new issues (inequality, climate change, sustainable consumption and production, environment, modern slavery, human trafficking, and forced labor).The SDGs are a challenge to spur to action governments, the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders and strengthen their collaborative efforts that no one is left behind.

Poverty is one of the root causes for slavery and human trafficking. By focusing on ending poverty the SDGs provide an opportunity to conclusively deal with the issue of trafficking.

During formulation of the SDGs, human trafficking was at the fore of the discussions, seen as a gross human right violation.

Human trafficking is specifically mentioned in the following SDGs:

Goal 5: Gender Equality: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.’ (Target 5.2)
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early, forced marriages and female genital mutilations’ (Target 5.3)

The targets broaden the definition of violence against women and girls to include trafficking and exploitation. Other targets within Goal 5 also relate to human trafficking – elimination of child and forced marriages (5.3), valuing unpaid care and domestic work participation and promoting gender equality and implementation of policies that promote gender equality.

SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labor in all its forms.’ (Target 8.7)

This target is hailed the most direct target focusing on the issue of human trafficking by tracking poverty as a push factor. It also points out transgressions of human dignity through vulnerabilities and temptations, threats, deception and force. The indicators also extend to children.

SDG 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries

Facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through implementation of planned and well managed migration policies.’(Target 10.7)

SDG 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

‘End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.’ (Target 16.2)

Issues challenging legal identity, such as lack of birth certificates, hinder poor people from accessing social services or from proving their actual age, which can be exploited by traffickers or child marriage offenders. (Target 16.9.1)

Other targets, such as combatting organized crime, promoting the rule of law, and reducing all forms of violence are all connected to ending trafficking. 

Governments cannot do it alone. We can contribute as well:

  • Ensure active participation of Faith communities and civil society.
  • Ensure sufficient resources are allocated to SDG planning at all levels.
  • Ensure no one is left behind (tell stories, do research and identify groups that have been typically excluded from progress – indigenous, elderly, disability, migrants, etc.)
  • Ensure collaboration and partnerships are integral to trafficking prevention, victim protection, and perpetrator prosecution.
  • Ensure that governments implement the SDGs because of the close connection of poverty to trafficking.

Action to achieve the sustainable development agenda will ensure a life of dignity for all and build greater shared prosperity. It is in everyone’s interest!

So, as we celebrate the March International Days let us join forces to get our government leaders, communities of faith, civic partners, and others to realize how interconnected are our efforts toward gender and racial equality, improved affordable education, economic opportunity for the marginalized with successfully stemming the reach of human trafficking among our vulnerable sisters and brothers.


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