Photo Credit: Mahima India
Efforts by Anglicans and Episcopalians to tackle human trafficking in Ghana, Hong Kong, the US and the UK will be brought to the attention of a Committee of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights this week. The Anglican Communion’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Jack Palmer-White, will tell the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that faith organisations have a key role to play in preventing trafficking in women and girls in the context of global migration. CEDAW is hosting a general discussion on the issue on Friday to help it prepare a “general recommendation” for UN member states.
“Ghana has emerged as a major country of origin for victims of child trafficking, both internally and across borders”, Mr Palmer-White has said in a written submission to the group. “In response to this, the Diocese of Accra partnered with the United States Embassy to tackle this injustice. They established a community shelter called Hope Village in order to facilitate the rehabilitation of rescued children, in addition to seeking partnership with the government to create awareness and ensure that the government of Ghana can eventually meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”
He continued: “Help for Domestic Workers, a community outreach programme of St John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong, provides free advice and assistance on employment, immigration and human rights issues to domestic workers in Hong Kong. Their mission is to aid foreign domestic workers in gaining access to justice and receive fair and equal treatment before the law. Over the last 26 years it has responded to more than 52,000 requests for assistance from domestic workers, many of whom have been trafficked into Hong Kong and become trapped in forced labour.
“The Cathedral also operates a walk-in centre, the Mission for Migrant Workers, which has been operating since 1981. The need for a temporary shelter, particularly for female workers, was identified and in 1986 the Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge was established to provide shelter, counselling, emergency assistance and support around workers’ rights to any migrant woman in distress. It provides support to hundreds of women every year.”
In his paper, Mr Palmer-White also highlights the work of Episcopalians around this year’s Super Bowl sporting event in Atlanta, Georgia, who swapped hotels usual soap bars with ones containing telephone numbers for anti-trafficking hotlines. The Tampa Bay Times reported that an FBI operation around the Super Bowl led to the arrest of 169 people – 26 of them alleged traffickers – and the rescue of nine juvenile victims, at least one as young as 14.
Mr Palmer-White’s submission also reports the work of the Church of England’s Clewer Initiative. Funded by the Clewer Sisters, the C of E’s anti-trafficking campaign “works to enable churches to detect modern slavery in their communities and provide victims with support and care”, the submission says. “By identifying resources, developing partnerships, and providing training, the Clewer Initiative hopes to play an important part in eradicating modern slavery. The Initiative has also launched a Safe Car Wash App as a tool for gathering community intelligence by identifying working standards in informal car washes, a key industry for the use of forced and bonded labour in the United Kingdom.”
Mr Palmer-White, who has asked to make an oral submission on Friday, argues in his written submission that countries should recognise the role that churches and other faith groups can play. “This submission outlines just some of the ways that churches of the Anglican Communion around the world are responding to the issue of human trafficking, through support for victims of trafficking and those at risk of being trafficked, particularly women and girls”, Mr Palmer-White says. “We request that the General Recommendation produced by the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women reflects the key role that churches and other faith actors can, and do, play in the fight against trafficking of women and girls in the context of global migration.”
He said: “The Fourth Mark of Mission of the Anglican Communion is: ‘to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation.’ To support the implementation of this goal across the member churches of the Anglican Communion, the Anglican Consultative Council has requested them to develop strategies and support to address trafficking, abduction and abuse of children and women for rituals, forced labour, and forced marriage.”
He continued: “We also take this opportunity to remind the Committee of the crucial role faith-based organisations play in the advancement of the rights of all women and girls. Our cry for gender justice is rooted in our faith. The Anglican Consultative Council has committed itself to gender equality and justice by upholding just relationships between women and men as a reflection of the Christian belief that women and men are made equally in the image of God.
“It is our conviction that a world which does not allow for the full flourishing and potential of all human beings does not meet the vision of our Creator. Human trafficking deprives individuals of their rights and freedoms, robs them of autonomy, and leaves them at risk of further violence and exploitation. Each member of the human family is made in the divine image to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect; never to be trafficked or exploited.”
Friday’s meeting is expected to be streamed live by UN TV between 10 am and 1 pm CET (9 am and midday, GMT).
- This article was corrected on 19 February. The original article incorrectly stated that CEDAW was a committee of the UN Human Rights Council. It is actually the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and is supported by the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)