Friday, June 20, 2014
Yesterday was an important day in the anti-trafficking world; the State Department released its 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. This annual report card on international efforts to combat human trafficking is a product of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). The Report has been a significant resource as well as diplomatic tool to confront both trafficking and failed or weak efforts to address it.
The theme of this year's report is "The Journey from Victim to Survivor." This reflects the recent focus of anti-trafficking movements of victim services and the importance of governments working with NGO's to help victims. I was especially pleased to see this. As I have previously blogged, many Catholic women religious orders have been at the forefront of working with victims. This was recently recognized more publicly by the law enforcement community in an international meeting of law enforcement and religious organizations. Indeed, one chief of police noted that the women religious with whom he partnered were indispensable to their efforts to interface with victims.
Of particular interest to MOJ readers is a discussion within the first 10 pages of the report regarding the dignity of the human person – a bedrock of the Church's position on this issue. This is followed by a rather candid statement about the reality of victim services:
These individuals have often endured horrific physical, psychological, and/or sexual abuse at the hands of their traffickers and others. But victim services that focus on providing support only until individuals are physically well enough to be sent on their way—or put in line for deportation—are insufficient. Those who have been enslaved have endured more than physical harm. They have been robbed of their freedom, including the freedom to make choices about their own lives. Medical care and a few nights in a shelter do not make a victim whole again. Even as the physical wounds are salved and begin healing, a major element of the recovery process is helping victims regain their agency, their dignity, and the confidence to make choices about how to move forward with their lives.
As if to underscore the point, MOJ readers may be pleased to see that on that same page in the TIP report is a photograph of Pope Francis meeting with the President and the following quote from the Holy Father himself: "I exhort the International community to adopt an even more unanimous and effective strategy against human trafficking, so that in every part of the world, men and women may no longer be used as a means to an end."
I continue to work my way through the Report (all 432 pages of it), but encourage all MOJ readers to review its findings. It is encouraging to see it publicly endorse some of the important work the Holy See is doing in this area. It also provides a challenge to all of us as educators of young lawyers to consider how we can respond to Francis' invitation.