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SPECIAL: Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road

6/20/2007 - 5:55 AM PST

(Page 12 of 18)

are unfortunately common, and pay special attention to people who "live" in the streets.

86. The teaching of Pope John Paul II, which condemns the exploitation of women, encourages this pastoral commitment: "Then too, when we look at one of the most sensitive aspects of the situation of women in the world, how can we not mention the long and degrading history, albeit often an 'underground' history, of violence against women in the area of sexuality? At the threshold of the Third Millennium we cannot remain indifferent and resigned before this phenomenon. The time has come to condemn vigorously the types of sexual violence which frequently have women for their object and to pass laws which effectively defend them from such violence. Nor can we fail, in the name of the respect due to the human person, to condemn the widespread hedonistic and commercial culture which encourages the systematic exploitation of sexuality and corrupts even very young girls into letting their bodies be used for profit"[32].

87. Pope Benedict XVI teaches that female prostitution could be considered as one of the forms of trafficking in human beings with these precise words: "Trafficking in human beings -- especially women -- flourishes where opportunities to improve their standard of living or even to survive are limited. It becomes easy for the trafficker to offer his own 'services' to the victims, who often do not even vaguely suspect what awaits them. In some cases there are women and girls who are destined to be exploited almost like slaves in their work, and not infrequently in the sex industry, too. Though I cannot here closely examine the analysis of the consequences of this aspect of migration, I make my own the condemnation voiced by John Paul II against 'the widespread hedonistic and commercial culture which encourages the systematic exploitation of sexuality' (Letter to Women, 29 June 1995, no.5). This outlines a whole programme of redemption and liberation from which Christians cannot withdraw"[33].

I. Some key points

Prostitution is a form of slavery

88. Prostitution is a form of modern slavery, which may also affect men and children. Unfortunately, it has to be noted that the number of prostitutes in the world has risen dramatically, due to a set of complex economic, social and cultural reasons. First of all, it is important to recognise that sexual exploitation and prostitution linked to people trafficking are acts of violence, which constitute an offence to human dignity and a serious violation of fundamental rights.

89. It should also be taken into account that, in many cases, the women involved in prostitution have experienced violence and sexual abuse since childhood. They are drawn into prostitution by the hope of obtaining sufficient means for looking after themselves and their families, the need to deal with debts or the decision to abandon situations of poverty in their countries of origin, thinking that work offered abroad may change their lives. The sexual exploitation of women is clearly a consequence of various unjust systems.

90. Many prostitutes in the so-called developed world come from poor countries, and in Europe, as elsewhere, many have fallen victim to people traffickers to meet a growing demand from sex "consumers".

Migration, people trafficking and human rights

91. The link between migration, people trafficking and rights is defined in the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons especially Women and Children[34].

People who emigrate to deal with the necessities of life and the victims of people trafficking share many aspects of vulnerability, but significant differences also exist between migration, people trafficking and smuggling. Women that are indebted and unemployed as a result of macro-development policies who emigrate to survive and help their families or communities are in a very different situation from female victims of people trafficking.

92. In order to develop an effective pastoral response it is important to know which factors drive or draw women into prostitution, the strategies brokers and exploiters use to keep them under their control, the routes they take from their countries of origin to reach the countries of destination and the institutional resources that are required to deal with the problem. The international community and many non-governmental organisations increasingly seek to tackle criminal activities and protect the victims of people trafficking, by developing a wide range of initiatives to prevent the phenomenon and rehabilitate its victims in terms of social integration.

Who are the victims of prostitution?

93. The victims of prostitutions are human beings, who in many cases cry out for help, to be freed from slavery, because selling one's own body on the street is usually ...

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