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Human trafficking: An outrage on conscience

It is a matter of shame that after 156 years of Emancipation Declaration by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863 abolishing slavery and after 71 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human trafficking is increasing worldwide with 24.9 million victims today in 2019.

Human trafficking: An outrage on conscience

By Joe Palathunkal
“For a generous welcome of the victims of human trafficking, of enforced prostitution, and of violence.” This is the papal intention for the month of February 2019 and in his typical style Pope Francis has given a prayer intention for the whole world that will prick the conscience of humanity and will challenge governments and legislators everywhere irrespective of their religion or region. This prayer intention will definitely touch the raw nerve of everyone who has a conscience.



Poverty, terrorism, unexamined religious thinking and beliefs, racism, cultural ethos and values, and many other reasons can be recounted as the causes of this widespread cancer but they in no way reduces the fact that it is the most inhuman crime against humanity and it is the biggest blot on humankind in 21st century after so much progress man made through science.

It is a matter of shame that after 156 years of Emancipation Declaration by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863 abolishing slavery and after 71 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human trafficking is increasing worldwide with 24.9 million victims today in 2019.



A look at the definitions of human trafficking must put to shame everyone who claims to be modern and must force him to think whether he lives in 21st century AD or BC or even in prehistoric times.

The United Nations defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labour or sexual exploitation.

The U.S. Government defines human trafficking as: (a) Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age. (b) The recruitment, harbouring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labour or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt, bondage, or slavery.



These definitions clearly say human trafficking merely reduces human being to the level of an animal as well as a commodity to be sold and treated the way the owner or custodian wants and desires. A human being is at the disposal of another human being like a commodity, reminding everyone what Immanuel Kant said as a warning: “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.” 

God has created human person as an end because he or she was created in the image of God when God said (Genesis 1: 26 - 27): “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.”

There is no mention that God created human being to have dominion over other human beings but only on the animals and therefore human trafficking which is the subjugation of another human being by one or many is a clear violation of the Biblical mandate. 

See the repetition of the word ‘image’ and it has come three times and the author of the Genesis did not want to leave any doubt that human being is created in the image of God and by adding male and female at the end the author made sure that it applies to woman also so that no demented hermeneutics can claim that only the male was created in the image of God and therefore men can do anything with women as it happens in ‘enforced prostitution, and violence’ as mentioned in the prayer intention. 

Though we have a covenant like Civil and Political Rights (1966) and UN conventions like on the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation, and Transnational Organized Crime, since our collective conscience has not examined deeply and changed the outlook and attitude towards women, human trafficking is still prevalent and increasing; if governments have failed to make effective policy changes and legislations, a major reason is this misanthropic attitude. That is why Josh Hawley said: “The swelling epidemic of human trafficking makes a mockery of the law and its protections.” It is indeed an epidemic so much so that small children cannot even go to school for the fear of being trafficked and no less than Malala Yousafzai has said it: “Some girls cannot go to school because of the child labour and child trafficking.

Jesus gave the first blow to human trafficking when he said to a self-righteous group (John 8: 7): “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” When he spoke this he was bringing out the whole Biblical theology of human being created in the image of God and implicitly he as telling that stoning the woman, therefore, would amount to stoning God himself and therefore, it is indeed the biggest blasphemy in the world. That is why Pope Francis calls it the biggest and most brutal crime against humanity and his following words make amply clear why he says so and why he has given the above prayer intention:



“It is not possible to remain indifferent before the knowledge that human beings are bought and sold like goods! I think of the adoption of children for the extraction of their organs, of women deceived and obliged to prostitute themselves, of workers exploited and denied rights or a voice, and so on. And this is human trafficking. It is precisely on this level that we need to make a good examination of conscience: how many times have we permitted a human being to be seen as an object, to be put on show in order to sell a product or to satisfy an immoral desire? The human person ought never to be sold or bought as if he or she were a commodity. Whoever uses human persons in this way and exploits them, even if indirectly, becomes an accomplice of injustice.”

(Joe Palathunkal is Associate Editor, Living in Faith)

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