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Manila statement on Modern Day Slavery 

Multi-Faith Approach to Women Empowerment Against Modern Day Slavery

Women Speak-up, Share, and Connect!

We, the representatives of various religious communities, faith-based organizations, and human rights advocate groups, gathered in Manila on 20-22 July 2017 for the International Conference on Women Empowerment Against Modern Day Slavery. We discussed to understand the complexities and obstinate dehumanizing adverse effects of modern day slavery to children and women, and reflected on the significant roles of women and religious traditions as key to empowering women in addressing modern day slavery.

This conference was convened by the Religions for Peace Asia (ACRP) in collaboration with the International Justice Mission, the Uniharmony Partners Manila, the University of Santo Tomas Institute of Religion and Simbahayan Community Development Office.

Based on a deeply held and widely shared moral concerns, we agreed on the following:

1. We are alarmed by the increasing number of trafficked women and children. The 2016 Global Slavery Index (GSI) reveals that there are nearly 45 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, of which, nearly two-thirds are from Asia. Millions continue to be forced into bonded labor, commercial sex trafficking and child soldiering. The vulnerability of women and children in these modern-day forms of slavery is our utmost concern.

2. We are aware that the advancement of technology, the rise of globalization and the increasing economic divide between rich and poor countries have exacerbated the demand-supply of these modern day slavery.

3. We lament that modern-day slavery is one of the most lucrative global industries. All forms of modern day slavery share the darkness of violently stealing away the rights and freedom of the poor and vulnerable by exploiting their bodies for work or for sex.

4. We are saddened by the fact that traditional protectors such as parents, mothers, grandparents and relatives have fallen prey to the lure of economic gain due to abject poverty thereby becoming conduits to the abuses done to their own children and family members. Thus, the breakdown of traditional values has made the home, the first line of care for the children and women, as the very site of abominable abuses.

5. We are concerned with the seemingly weak criminal justice system and ineffective law-enforcement in Asia resulting to a massive scale of modern day slavery.

With our common understanding of modern day slavery, we stand together on the following:

1. We are in solidarity with the global observance of the United Nations’ World Day against Trafficking in Persons every 30th of July. We support, subscribe and commit to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized crime (2000), Palermo Protocol, and other International Instruments concerning trafficking of persons.

2. We subscribe to the United Nations’ definition of human trafficking with its tri-component “Act-Means-Purpose”. Act refers to the trafficker committing one or more of the following: recruit, transport, transfer, harbor, receive and give/receive benefit. Means emphasizes the usage of one or more of the following: violence, threat of violence, coercion, abduction fraud, deception and abuse of power. And, purpose signifies exploitation, which includes; sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery, servitude and organ removal.

3. We declare that modern day slavery is contrary to the teachings and values of all religious traditions. Modern day slavery is a crime against humanity, and a grave offense against God.

4. We commend the efforts undertaken by private organizations and religious communities such as the Asean Conference of Religions for Peace (ACRP), First Love (FL), Visayan Forum (VF), RuhamaCenter for Women (RCW), She WORKS, Uniharmony Partners Manila (UPM), International Justice Mission Philippines (IJM), Philippine Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking (PIMAHT), and the Institute of Religion (IR) and Simbahayan of the University of Santo Tomas to prevent human trafficking, protect the victims, and prosecute the perpetrators. While we feel terribly sorry for the sad and horrible experiences of the victims in the various Centers that we have visited, we draw the fountain of hope in the successful healing and reintegration of these Centers in combating modern day slavery.

5. We believe that a more cohesive and wider partnership among faith based organizations, religious communities, key government agencies and civil society organizations is essential in combating modern day slavery.

6. We believe that reviving traditional family values and roles of women are keys to preventing the trafficking of vulnerable women and children. Empowering women has to be located in the very nature of womanhood expressed in various multi-faith traditions as the mechanism to rekindle human dignity and good of the person both at home and in society.

1. Religious communities need to promote awareness about the gravity of the issue of modern day slavery, especially at the grassroots level, in order to develop a sense of commitment in the mitigation of all forms of slavery.

2. Religious communities need to strengthen their network by sharing and maximizing the use of resources to be able to respond to the pressing global issue of modern day slavery.

3. Religious communities play a key role in both pressuring lawmakers to take action and providing relief to victims of trafficking.

4. Religious communities need to support the criminal justice system in their fight against human trafficking.

5. Religious communities need to intensify their practices of educating the parents about the indispensable role they play in the psycho-social development of their children, especially their daughters. While we understand the importance of empowering women, we strongly advocate for the education of men who stand equal with women in the fight against human trafficking.

6. Religious communities need to develop programs for the restoration and integration of the victims through therapeutic shelters, foster and kinship care, assessment center, reintegration/survivors support network

7. Religious communities need to specialize trauma-informed care training, community-based interventions for survivors and their non-offending families.

8. Women of faith are needed in order to influence decision-making and bring about responsible, ethical, and holistic peace and security in our world, not just for today but for generations to come.

9. To promote the “Woman! Speak-up, Share, and Connect” advocacy campaign inspiring women and children to aggressively understand and fight for their rights and freedom in our respective organizations, to schools and to the society.

Together let us fight human trafficking!

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