So Lord Morrow’s ground-breaking private member’s bill introducing measures to tackle human trafficking has been passed by the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly. Much attention has been paid to Clause Six which makes paying for sex illegal. This correctly puts the emphasis on to men (the vast majority of the users) to rethink whether paying for sexual services is a good leisure activity. And this is the crucial next phase. When this bill becomes law it is cultural change that will deem it successful or otherwise. If this legislation leads to a new culture amongst men that paying to use a woman’s body for sex is unacceptable then it will have achieved its purpose. Demand for sexual services will fall and therefore the supply of women and girls trafficked for sexual exploitation will follow suit. It is time for such a cultural shift- for too long society has had a casual approach to the grim realities of sexual exploitation against women. We have been too relaxed about prostitution as we have about rape, revenge porn and many other life-altering degrading experiences. So let’s recognise that this is only the beginning. There is so much more to do. But changing the male mindset has to be the key objective. Continue reading The Morrow Bill is just the start
Twitter is the best place for crowd-sourcing opinion on political matters. So thanks to Jamie Reed MP for putting it out there with this relevant question. Certainly, ‘Christian’ opinion has been in the news with increasing regularity over the past decade from a very low base – you could be forgiven for thinking that we folded as a company after the Keep Sunday Special Campaign. The key question of analysis then is this: What has changed to precipitate this? Firstly, I think the church has woken up to the fact that its influence has waned. More positively, the evangelical church has recognised that the creation mandate demands a greater stake in society – a narrow mission of words-only evangelism is a limited message to a hurting world. So the Christian involvement in the campaign against human trafficking (including legislative meat to enforce prosecution and care for victims) has been huge. Secondly, culture is moving at speed to challenge the assumptions and foundations of the past. What might have been seen as ‘sacred cows’ like the traditional formulation of a marriage relationship are suddenly up for grabs. This has led to a wide gap where a kind of ‘sacred/secular divide’ in understanding leads to all kinds of mistrust and talking past one another. And Christians have been guilty of purely defensive thinking, defending territory and not arguing positively for alternatives (granted the media aren’t so keen on positive stories). Thirdly, politicians do not declare their hands openly, especially on social issues. Perhaps this is because they cannot foresee the rate of change or maybe it’s because such scrutiny at election time is uncomfortable. Either way, it results in a sense of a democratic deficit. Which leads me to my final plea to fellow Christians: We are Christ’s ambassadors. Deal with it. I often tell the story of when I first met my MP. At the end of our first constituency meeting he said this: ‘Some of the nastiest, most aggressive letters I receive are from my Christian constituents’.
Where is our value of respect for human dignity in all this? We should be those who thank, those who encourage, those who pray and those who challenge recognising we have a human being in front of us. Yes, we sometimes have our backs against the wall, yes we are passionate about issues. But if we win the battle through dubious tactics we will lose the war because we deny the gospel a hearing. And deservedly so.
The UK government has a great opportunity to opt-in to the EU Directive ‘Preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting victims’. As has been widely commented on, the Coalition Agreement stated that this government would make tackling human trafficking a priority. But at this stage, the government appears unwilling to sign-up to a very sensible series of articles that will update and enhance the protection of the most vulnerable people, including children. When the voting in Europe was more closely examined, it emerged that ALL Conservative and Lib Dem MEPs present voted in favour of the directive. Indeed, when I was over in Brussels recently, one MEP said she wasn’t sure what the objections were in London. And now it has emerged that the Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope, speaking on behalf of the European Conservatives and Reformists group has stated:
“It is still not perfect but the directive we have now is far better than the original proposal and, on balance, we felt that the human benefits would outweigh the concerns that we had.”
So, is the government listening to the more coherent voices emanating from its own members in Brussels? Or are they prepared to keep their focus on domestic politics, declaring that they will not opt-in for fear of conceding ground to the EU? If so, it’s difficult to see how they can say that tackling human trafficking is still a priority.
Today is anti-trafficking day throughout the EU- an opportunity to press for better policies on prevention of trafficking, prosecution of traffickers and protection of victims. We have a really live issue here in the UK that we simply must address. We are not compliant in some areas and we are less than fully compliant on others. One proposal of the EU directive on human trafficking is to provide protection from prosecution for trafficking victims for crimes committed whilst controlled by traffickers, pimps etc. Quoting Denis MacShane MP (from Hansard):
‘According to CARE, a Christian organisation working on the issue, the UK Government are only semi-compliant. Article 7 deals with the non-prosecution or non-application of penalties to the victim, a point made strongly by other hon. Members. Again, the UK is only semi-compliant. There is no requirement in UK law not to prosecute victims, even though the Council of Europe convention explicitly states that there should be.’
Surely this is something we all support, regardless of our political colours? The prime minister stated that we were applying all the areas of this legislation in the UK already but, with the benefit of further research, this has proved not to be the case. It appears, therefore, that the underlying reason for resisting this directive is the worry of Eurosceptics that Brussels may be over-reaching itself into our sovereign jurisdiction. Indeed, I spoke to a source close to the PM who said ‘it is the danger of mission creep’ holding back our signature. We are one of only two countries to continue to resist. As I’ve said before, we are a broadly Eurosceptic nation with a broadly Eurosceptic government. But we must not let our Euroscepticism get the better of us, clouding every initiative good and bad that originates from Brussels. As Mark Durkan MP noted later in the debate:
‘Opting into the EU directive would give us much needed greater reach against human trafficking and its perpetrators and users. More action is needed on both the control and demand sides.’
Absolutely. We need some political courage here to stop the assault on human dignity & human rights that is going on right now in grotty rooms up and down our land. We need vision and maybe we can draw inspiration from another era:
‘Wilberforce should be living at this hour’ (Denis MacShane MP)
Wilberforce may not be with us to head up this campaign but we are. Through violence and intimidation the victims have been silenced. We will be their voice.
To read a brief synopsis of the three debates last week click here.
To read the full anti-slavery day debate in Hansard click here.
To find out what you can do click here.
Dear David Cameron and Nick Clegg,
Whilst I welcome a number of the coalition government’s initiatives (including the stated objective to stop the detention of children for immigration purposes) I’m really struggling to understand why you are refusing to sign up to the EU directive on human trafficking. The main aim of this legislation is to prevent the prosecution of trafficking victims for crimes committed whilst under duress, oppression and slavery. How does this refusal fit with your liberal conservative view of personal responsibility? Surely when under the control of a sex trafficker, a victim’s responsibility is so diminished that prosecution becomes a degradation of human dignity (as well as being a legal minefield). Victims need to be counselled, rehabilitated and given new opportunities to recover from the horror of mental, physical and sexual abuse. It serves no purpose to have the threat of prosecution hanging over their heads to increase their trauma. And we as a society are enhanced when the most vulnerable are treated in such a way as to restore their human dignity.
PS anyone wishing to play their own part in joining the campaign please click here.
CARE are delighted to announce today that the film ‘Call + Response’ will be launched in the UK as a major event of the Pentecost Festival. The film tackles the huge and growing issue of human trafficking through stories from the frontline along with contributions from academics, politicians and performances by Moby, Natasha Bedingfield, Switchfoot and many others. It was conceived in the mind of musician Justin Dillon whilst touring Russia and hearing accounts of fake job opportunities luring girls into forced prostitution. On returning home he set about creating a film that would tell the story of modern-day human trafficking. There was one big challenge: he had no money or experience of the film industry. By enlisting the help of activist Daryl Hannah, the project gained momentum as more and more well-known artists pledged their support to a not-for-profit charity; Call and Response was born.
The film links the common thread of slavery from the slave ships of the 18th century through to the brick kilns and brothels of today. It informs of the oppression and injustice that is being done to countless millions today- a multitude who have no voice. But Call + Response is not simply about information; as it name suggests it’s a call to action.
We hope you will join this worldwide movement for change. Justin Dillon will be joining us to share his inspiration and vision for the film before we watch it together in the historic Coronet Cinema, Notting Hill on Saturday May 22nd. Afterwards, there will be opportunities to get involved in the campaign. As he has put it ‘Justice is what love looks like in public’.
For details about how to book your place at this event click here.
For other information about Call + Response click here.
For further information about the Pentecost Festival click here.