Tag Archives: UN

Holy See expresses alarm over new digital technology being used to perpetrate violence against women

Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic

GENEVA – Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations here addressed a session of the Human Rights Council on 20 June 2018 on violence against women.

The Holy See has expressed alarm that the means of communication and new technologies are being misused to perpetrate violence and abuse against women and girls.

“Violence against women continues to be one of the greatest human rights concerns of our time,” said Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic.

“Despite the progress achieved, violence against women and girls, in its different forms and various contexts, remains a grave scourge at every level of society,”  he told a session of the Human Rights Council on violence against women.

He noted that violence often causes deep wounds and long-lasting consequences that may profoundly disrupt their lives as young girls, wives, mothers, or workers.

Archbishop Jurkovic expressed alarm that the mistreatment of women is exacerbated by the improper use of modern means of communication and that new technologies remain powerless to protect adequately the dignity of women, as well as their privacy and freedom of expression.

He said it is high time to stop violence against women that is facilitated, in particular, by the daily use of insufficiently protected social networks and various online applications.

He lamented that instead of representing a momentous tool for the eradication of every form of discrimination, as well as structural inequities and violence against women, digitalization has actually become an instrument to perpetrate new forms of violence and abuse against women.

The Holy See official noted that achieving full respect for women involves more than simply condemning violence.  It also requires strong efforts to promote and educate respect for the other, to raise awareness, especially among new generations on the value of an authentic dialogue, where the proper understanding of the human person and of her own dignity is a precondition to truly human and effective communication. – Robin Gomes, Vatican News

Human trafficking called ‘one of the darkest, most revolting realities’ today

Children at the Pope Francis Rescue Center in Malindi, Kenya, present their homework to Sister Benedicta, a counselor from Sisters of the Holy Family, and Sister Veronica Nyambura. (CNS photo/Lilian Muendo, courtesy GSR) 

UNITED NATIONS – Mely Lenario quietly described her harrowing journey from ambitious, naive rural girl trafficked to hopeless, drug-fueled urban prostitute, through slow rehabilitation to a new life as an outreach worker.

After she finished her story, hundreds of people in a UN conference room jumped to their feet in a sustained ovation.

Lenario spoke on 13 March 2018 on “Preventing Human Trafficking Among Rural Women and Girls,” a panel co-sponsored by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.

As an 8-year-old, Lenario was abused by her stepfather in the Philippines. He threatened her at knife point after she watched him rape her sister. When she confronted her mother and neighbors about it, she was placed into a Jesuit-run orphanage for seven years.

As a teen, she accepted an offer of work and a free education from an elegant woman visitor who arranged transportation to Cebu, a city distant from her hometown. In Cebu, she was prostituted and forced to use drugs to stay awake all night and improve the glum demeanor that discouraged customers.

Lenario begged for release but was told she had to pay for the transportation and other expenses incurred by her traffickers.

She resigned herself to a life of prostitution. “I felt hopeless and worthless. I felt already ruined,” Lenario said.

Ultimately, she met compassionate women and men religious who introduced her to the Good Shepherd Welcome House in Cebu. With their help and five years of effort, she overcame her drug habit, finished high school and trained to be a nurse’s aide.

“I had to learn how to forgive myself and the people who caused me pain,” she said.

Lenario now studies social work and serves as an outreach counselor to trafficked women and girls at the Good Shepherd Welcome House.

“I want to give them hope. I want to be an inspiration and give voice to all the abused women out there. I want to show them that if I could change my life, they can, too,” she said.

The UN panel was a side event to the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

It focused on the contributions of women religious to prevent trafficking by providing educational and employment opportunities for rural girls, women and their families, disrupt the “supply chain” of the trafficking business, and help survivors tell their stories.

Trafficked women are “marginalised by an environment that can’t meet their needs,” Mercy Sister Angela Reed said. Therefore, anti-trafficking strategies must address the root causes of the problem, which include poverty, unemployment, discrimination, violence, rural isolation and lack of access to education, she said. Sister Reed is the coordinator of Mercy Global Action at the United Nations.

“Human trafficking is one of the darkest and most revolting realities in the world today,” said Msgr Tomasz Grysa, Vatican deputy ambassador. Vulnerable rural women and girls suffer “compounded marginalisation” and are at a “cumulative disadvantage prior to being trafficked,” he said. “Their dignity and rights are not adequately respected before they’re trafficked, something that makes them more susceptible to much worse violations of their dignity and rights later.”

Religious sisters are “going to the existential peripheries” to do heroic work, but they cannot do it alone, Msgr Grysa continued. Trafficking is “a global phenomenon that exceeds the competence of any one community or country. To eliminate it, we need a mobilisation comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself.”

Sister Annie Jesus Mary Louis, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary, is executive director of Jeevan Jharna Vikas Sanstha in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. She said, “Sexual exploitation is big business, governed by the same principles of supply and demand as any commercial activity.”

The sex industry treats people like products and the sex trade has a supply chain of exploitation driven by demand and fueled by greed, vulnerability and deception. It is an illusion that women and girls freely choose prostitution, she said.

The supply chain can be disrupted and trafficking prevented when families have opportunities and feel like society cares about them, Sister Louis said. Families need loving accompaniment and rural women and girls should be protected with at least the same level of investment that is put into labor exploitation, she said.

The rural population is disproportionately affected by trafficking, said Mercy Sister Lynda Dearlove, founder of Women at the Well in London. Religious groups with long-term enduring local relationships have an advantage over large organisations in preventing trafficking, she said.

“Individuals hold the key to empowering women and girls,” she said. Large international funding groups sometimes create an unnecessary layer between donors and those in need, she said.

Sister Reed said women must be seen as anti-trafficking advocates. The Religious Sisters of Mercy help women share firsthand accounts to bring women’s voices into public policy discussions and prevention efforts. “We need to change the dominant narrative that trafficking is a random act” to an understanding that it is a sign of systemic marginalisation and oppression, she said.

Successful preventive approaches counter the vulnerability of potential trafficking victims, Sister Reed said. They include providing an adequate standard of living and quality education, fostering human attachment and a sense of belonging in adolescents, and supporting decent work and full participation in society for adults.

Sister Sheila Smith, a Sister of the Sacred Heart, who is co-founder of Persons Against the Crime of Trafficking in Humans in Ottawa, Ontario, described the mutual relationship between human rights and human dignity in the context of rural trafficking.

“We work tirelessly for prevention because we value each other,” she said. – Beth Griffin Catholic News Service

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