By Santosh Digal
Manila: Two thirds of nearly 45 million human trafficking victims worldwide are in Asia, an international conference in the Philippines was told.
Millions continue to be forced into bonded labor, commercial sex trafficking and child soldiering and the worst vulnerable are women and children, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index (GSI).
The information was shared at the July 20-22 conference on “Women Empowerment against Modern Day Slavery” at University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila, capital of the Philippines. The conference aimed to understand modern forms of slavery in Asia, the organizers said.
Asian Conference for Religions for Peace (ACRP) organized the meet. It is the world’s largest regional body of religiously inspired people working for peace and interreligious harmony.
About 120 participants from Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines attended the conference. They included ACRP women committee members, organizations working against human trafficking, school-based advocacy groups, religious and faith-based organizations and Philippine Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking.
The participants visited four rehabilitation shelters for women and children rescued from trafficking. They are given counseling and skill training there.
Deepali Bhanot, a retired professor of the Delhi University, urged civil society and faith based groups to work together to prevent and curb human trafficking. “There is no political will from governments to implement proper laws to check the menace of human trafficking,” she regretted.
This was supported by Lilian Sison, chair of Asia-Pacific Women of Faith Network and secretary general of Religions for Peace Philippines. “All faith-based organizations across Asia should unite to fight against the human trafficking,” she added.
The care for the marginalized and the protection of the rights of the vulnerable especially women and children is among the ACRP concerns. The 2014 Incheon ACRP declaration has stressed the need to implement programs for the prevention and protection of women and children.
It is for this reason that, through the ACRP Committee on Women, an international conference was held, to respond to the issue and concretize the ACRP resolution.
Advanced technology, globalization and the increasing economic divide between rich and poor countries have exacerbated the demand-supply of human trafficking. The sad reality is that the traditional protectors such as parents, mothers, grandparents and relatives have fallen prey to the lure of economic gain are becoming conduits to the abuses done to their own children and family members.
Thus, the breakdown of traditional values has somehow made the home, the first line of care for the children and women, as the very site of abominable abuses, said Aurora Javate-de Dios of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Commission on the Protection and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children.
The conference highlighted women as the key to revive family values in multi-faith traditions and thus check trafficking of vulnerable people.
The empowerment of women is based on two assumptions: first, on the very nature of woman; and, second, empowerment as the very articulation of the faith. Thus, the unique attribute of the conference was to locate empowerment in the very nature of womanhood and multi-faith traditions to rekindle human dignity and good of the person both at home and in social relations.
The challenge therefore is how to translate faith-based women power into programs and activities for a effective and efficient prevention, protection of victims and prosecutions of abusers.
Finally, the conference is ACRP’s contribution to the global celebration of the UN World Day of Trafficking against Persons.
The objectives of the conference were to understand modern day slavery in the context of globalization, poverty, technology and social communication. It also addressed women’s role and multi-faith cooperation in addressing human trafficking.
It also aimed to chalk out action plan, establish linkage and partnership among organizations and stakeholders to enhance cooperation and strengthen action for the protection of vulnerable women and children.
The key action points on the role of women in addressing human trafficking will be presented to the July 30, UN World Day of Trafficking Against Persons inter-agency conference, said Joan Christi Trocio, chairperson of Women’s Desk, Religions for Peace Philippines and professor of the UST.
The dynamics of the conference also included plenary lectures, panel discussions and workshops.
The conference was cross-sector collaboration of Religions for Peace, Asia, UST-Institute of Religion, UNIHARMONY Partners Manila, Talitha Kum Philippines, and International Justice Mission (IJM), Philippines.