Day against human trafficking: 150,000 people trafficked every year in South Asia

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Day against human trafficking: 150,000 people trafficked every year in South Asia

Milan (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis released a video message for the 9th World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking. In it, the pontiff says that, ‘Human trafficking disfigures dignity. Exploitation and subjugation limit freedom and turn people into objects to use and discard.”

In South Asia alone, the United Nations estimates that 150,000 people are trafficked each year, most of them women (44 per cent) and girls (21 per cent); forced labour, sexual exploitation, and early marriage are the main reasons for this crime.

“[T]he system of trafficking profits from the injustice and wickedness that oblige millions of people to live in conditions of vulnerability. Indeed, people impoverished by economic crisis, wars, climate change and many forms of instability are easily recruited,” Francis says in the video.

This year’s theme, “Journeying in dignity", remembers Saint Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese woman who was sold into slavery, abused, and finally freed, and is now the patron saint of survivors of human trafficking.

The pope's words reflect the experience of many Church entities in Asia that fight prostitution and human trafficking, like the Trust of Nano Nagle School (TNNS) in Goa (India). Run by Redemptorist Fathers, it is open to children who live in slums or from migrant families.

“The school’s vision is to provide free English medium education to migrant street children, slum children and dropouts in Goa and prevent child labour and child abuse, and to uphold the rights of children,” said TNNS director Fr Ritesh Rosario, speaking to AsiaNews.

The school, which is located in the Redemptorist Vice Province of Majella, welcomes children, especially girls, from the slums in Margaon and Navelim, south of Goa.

In line with the statutes of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, the TNNS offers schooling from kindergarten to high school; in addition to an all-round education, it provides breakfast and lunch.

Its courses cover a panoply of subject matters, from home skills, personality development and moral values to technical training and computer literacy.

For Fr Rosario, the school programme’s overall aim is to help girls to break free from the dangers that lack of education favour.

According to some estimates, at least eight million people have become involved in India’s trafficking networks, mostly slave labourers.

The successes of so many girls who attended the Redemptorist school show the importance of education to prevent young people from being abducted or lured into trafficking.

The latter is a tragic, daily reality in many parts of Asia, as evinced by a recent case in neighbouring Bangladesh, where two girls went missing, very likely taken by human traffickers.

In the morning of 28 December 2022, Rumila Mardi, 14, and her baby sister Maria, 4, went to harvest rice in a paddy, but never made it back to their village, Phulbaroiya Baghdanga, in Chandpukur Naogaon, northern Bangladesh.

After two days, the mother went to report her missing children with the police who failed to formally file the case; only after the intervention of Fr Belisario Ciro Montoya, a Colombian fidei donum priest associated with PIME, did the authorities begin an investigation.

“I met the family,” Fr Montoya said. “I want the police to search for these missing girls. Every day we pray for them during Mass and the rosary,” he told AsiaNews.

"We have no enemy. We are also on good terms with our neighbours; we don't understand why our daughters disappeared," said Aroti Murmu, the mother of the two girls.

According to a UNICEF report, about 400 women and children are trafficked in Bangladesh every month.

Another study notes that some 300,000 Bangladeshi children and women between the ages of 12 and 30 were trafficked to India alone in the past decade.

Nirmala Carvalho and Sumon Corraya