by Sister Mary Kabat
As women religious we stand boldly in support of life from womb to tomb and work on behalf of those whose quality of life is compromised. We are members of the Franciscan Federation, an organization of men and women religious who follow the Third Order Rule of St. Francis. Last July at the Federation's annual conference the members overwhelmingly approved the resolution, "Trafficking of Human Beings: Our Response as Franciscans."
We, upholding the inherent dignity of each human person in the tradition of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi, denounce all forms of human trafficking as criminal acts that violate basic human rights and exploit innocent people. We pledge to work for the elimination of human trafficking and its causes; to advocate for rescue, safety and justice for trafficked persons; and to demand prosecution of perpetrators.
Since then, the Sisters' Ministry Circle, which is committed to walking with people on the margins, has met with several hotel and law enforcement representatives in the Green Bay area in an effort to raise awareness of human trafficking. Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. The United Nations estimates that 2.5 million men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year for forced labor or sexual exploitation. Eighty percent of the victims are women and girls and 50 percent are minors. Between 200,000 and 500,000 women are trafficked from Latin America to the United States and Europe each year, trapped by promises of a better life. In the words of one victim, "We are in this life because of poverty and because of a culture that puts women in a lower status."
Unfortunately, human trafficking is not something that happens in distant countries. Since passage of the Trafficking Victims' Prevention Act (TVPA) in 2000, Wisconsin has had nine convictions in federal court. Wisconsin passed its own state law on human trafficking in 2008, and state court prosecutions are slowly increasing.
Special training is necessary to be able to identify victims and investigate the crime of human trafficking. For this reason, Wisconsin's Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen, held a summit in early June for 300 law enforcement officers and prosecutors.
Human trafficking often occurs during major sporting events such as the Super Bowl or the Olympics. The Franciscan Federation joined with other faith groups to raise awareness of the crime and to minimize the number of its victims during the London Games.