Re­li­gious sis­ters pose as pros­ti­tutes to save sex slaves

Kuwait Times - - INTERNAT IONAL -

LON­DON: An army of re­li­gious sis­ters who res­cue vic­tims of hu­man traf­fick­ing by pos­ing as pros­ti­tutes to in­fil­trate brothels and buy­ing chil­dren be­ing sold into slav­ery, is ex­pand­ing to 140 coun­tries, its chair­man said yes­ter­day. John Studzin­ski, an in­vest­ment banker and phi­lan­thropist who chairs Talitha Kum, said the net­work of 1,100 sis­ters cur­rently op­er­ates in about 80 coun­tries but the de­mand for ef­forts to com­bat traf­fick­ing and slav­ery was ris­ing glob­ally.

The group, set up in 2004, es­ti­mates one per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion is traf­ficked in some form, which trans­lates into some 73 mil­lion peo­ple. Of those, 70 per­cent are women and half are aged 16 or younger. “I’m not try­ing to be sen­sa­tional but I’m try­ing to un­der­score the fact this is a world that has lost in­no­cence ... where dark forces are ac­tive,” said Studzin­ski, a vice chair­man of US in­vest­ment bank The Black­stone Group. “Th­ese are prob­lems caused by poverty and equal­ity but it goes well be­yond that,” he told the Trust Women Con­fer­ence on women’s rights and traf­fick­ing hosted by the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion.

De­tail­ing some cases in­volv­ing traf­fick­ing and slav­ery, Studzin­ski said the treat­ment of some vic­tims was hor­rific. He told of one woman en­slaved as a pros­ti­tute who was locked up for a week with­out food, forced to eat own her fae­ces, when she failed to have sex with a tar­get of 12 clients a day. In an­other ex­treme case, one woman was forced to have sex with a group of 10 men at the same time. Studzin­ski said the re­li­gious sis­ters work­ing to com­bat traf­fick­ing would go to all lengths to res­cue women, of­ten dress­ing up as pros­ti­tutes and go­ing out on the street to in­te­grate them­selves into brothels.

“Th­ese sis­ters do not trust any­one. They do not trust gov­ern­ments, they do not trust cor­po­ra­tions, and they don’t trust the lo­cal po­lice. In some cases they can­not trust male clergy,” he said, adding that the low-key group pre­ferred to fo­cus on their res­cue work rather than pro­mo­tion. “They work in brothels. No one knows they are there.” The sis­ters were also proac­tive on try­ing to save chil­dren be­ing sold into slav­ery by their par­ents, set­ting up a net­work of homes in Africa as well as in the Philip­pines, Brazil and In­dia to shel­ter such chil­dren.

He said the re­li­gious sis­ters of Talitha Kum raised money to pur­chase th­ese chil­dren. “This is a new net­work of houses for chil­dren around the world who would oth­er­wise be sold into slav­ery. It is shock­ing but it is real,” he said. Studzin­ski said the net­work of re­li­gious sis­ters, that was in the process of ex­pand­ing, also tar­geted slav­ery in the sup­ply chain with sis­ters shed­ding their habits and work­ing along­side lo­cals for as lit­tle as 2 US cents an hour to un­cover abuses. He said Talitha Kum, which trans­lated from Ara­maic means arise child, was now be­ing hired by com­pa­nies to see what is go­ing on with re­spect to the sup­ply chain and ex­pand­ing glob­ally would help ad­dress this is­sue. “You can’t gen­er­al­ize about traf­fick­ing and slav­ery as no two coun­tries are the same,” Studzin­ski said. — Reuters

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