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SPECIAL: Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road

6/20/2007 - 5:55 AM PST

(Page 13 of 18)

not what they would voluntarily choose to do. Of course, each person has a different story to tell, but a common thread of violence, abuse, mistrust and low self-esteem, as well as fear and lack of opportunities, runs through them. They all bear deep wounds that need healing, whilst they seek relationships, love, security, affection, self-assertion and a better future for themselves and their families.

Who are the "customers"?

94. The customers too are people with deeply rooted problems, and in a certain sense are also slaves. Most of them are over 40. However, a growing number of young people, aged between 16 and 24, are among the "customers". Also on the increase is the number of men looking for prostitutes, more to dominate them than for sexual satisfaction. In social and personal relations, such people experience a loss of power and "masculinity" and are unable to develop relations of mutual respect. These men seek out prostitutes for an experience of total domination and control over a woman, even though only for a short period of time.

95. The "customers" need help in solving their most intimate problems and in finding suitable ways of directing their sexual tendencies. "Buying sex" does not resolve the problems that arise primarily from frustration and lack of authentic relationships, and from the loneliness that characterises so many life situations today. An effective measure towards cultural change with respect to prostitution could derive from associating criminal law with social condemnation.

96. In many cases, relationships between men and women are not on an equal footing, because violence, or the threat of it, gives men privileges and power that may make women silent and passive. Women and children are often driven onto the street, or drawn to it, by the violence they have suffered from men in their homes, who in turn have "internalised" models of violence linked to ideologies which have crystallized in the social structures. It is particularly sad to note the participation of women in oppression and violence done to other women within criminal networks linked to prostitution.

II. The Church's duty

Promoting the dignity of the person

97. The Church has a pastoral responsibility to defend and promote the human dignity of persons exploited by prostitution and to advocate for their liberation, even providing economic, educational and formational support for this purpose.

98. In response to these pastoral needs, the Church denounces injustice and violence perpetrated against street women, and calls on all men and women of good will to deepen their commitment to sustaining their human dignity, by putting an end to sexual exploitation.

Solidarity and proclamation of the Good News

99. Renewed solidarity among Christian communities and religious congregations, ecclesial movements, new communities, and Catholic institutions and associations is needed in order to raise the visibility of the pastoral care of women exploited for prostitution. Such care is at the heart of unequivocal proclamation of the Good News of full liberation in Jesus Christ, namely of Christian salvation.

100. In taking care of the needs of women over the centuries, religious congregations -- especially female ones -- have always paid attention to the signs of the times, rediscovering their value and the relevance of their charismas in new social contexts. Todoay, women religious -- in faithful meditation on the Word of God and the Church's social teaching -- are seeking new ways of bearing witness to the dignity of women.

They offer also to street women a wide range of aid services, in welcome centres, lodging and safe houses, with programmes of formation and education. Members of Contemplative Orders also show their solidarity by giving support through prayer, and when possible, financial assistance.

101. Specific training courses are needed for pastoral agents to develop skills and strategies aimed at combating prostitution and trafficking in human beings. Such programmes are important initiatives aimed at committing priests, religious and lay people to prevention of the problem and social reintegration of the victims. Collaboration and communication between their Churches of origin and destination are essential[35].

A multi-dimensional approach

102. A multi-dimensional approach is needed to carry out ecclesial action to liberate street women. This should involve both men and women and place human rights at the centre of all strategies.

103. Men have an important role to play in working towards the achievement of sexual equality, in a context of reciprocity and fair differences. The exploiters (usually male "customers", traffickers, sex tourists, etc.) need to be enlightened regarding the hierarchy of the values of life and human rights. They should ...

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