Women religious gearing up for rally against trafficking

Leaders of Australia's religious congregations are staging a lunchtime rally in Adelaide on Thursday to protest against human trafficking in Australia.

Sisters from the Good Samaritans, Good Shepherds and other religious congregations are spearheading the campaign with a rally featuring speakers Elizabeth Hoban and Jennifer Burn, both of whom work against trafficking at an international level.

Sr Pauline Coll, Good Samaritans' anti-trafficking group coordinator, says that it is too easy to believe that trafficking exists only "overseas."

"Trafficking exists in almost all countries of the world," Sr Coll said. "It is estimated that between 700,000 and two million people are trafficked into the sex industry, forced labour, domestic labour, for marriage or for body organs, each year."

Recently in Victoria, Judge Michael McInerney handed down a guilty finding to Wei Tang, ex-licensee of Club 417 in Brunswick Street, who kept five Thai women as slaves in the Melbourne brothel to "service" up to 900 men each over a period of months to pay off "debts" of up to $45,000.

Sr Coll says these women earned nothing in cash during the period of their "contract," while Wei Tang earned up to $43,000 per woman with each woman's "owner," including Tang, earning as much as $75,000.

In Sydney, a similar trial is currently underway involving the case of a 19-year-old Thai woman who was allegedly put to work in a Sydney brothel against her will.

Sr Coll said that she hoped early intervention would prevent the "evil of trafficking from becoming the insidious threat in Australia that it presents in other countries."

Sr Coll said the rally on Thursday, starting at 12.30pm, in Victoria Square, Adelaide, will not only provide a opportunity for the Church to voice out against human trafficking but also provides "an opportunity for the men of Adelaide to publicly support the women in a cause that is obviously dear to the women's hearts."

The rally is part of the annual assembly of the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes which starts tomorrow also in Adelaide.

In January, the religious congregations' Anti-Trafficking Working Group presented a "Shadow Report" to the United Nations on the situation of trafficking of women into Australia.

The Anti-Trafficking Working Group, formed in May 2005, represents nine congregations of religious women across Australia - Sisters of the Good Shepherd Australia, Brigidine Sisters Australia, Sisters of St Joseph Lochinvar, Sisters of Mercy Melbourne Congregation, Marist Sisters Australia, Sisters of Charity Australia, Sisters of St Joseph, Presentation Sisters Victoria and Sisters of the Good Samaritan.

Press release, Sr Pauline Coll, Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Queen vs Wei Tang, County Court Victoria, 19/4-20/6/06)
Trafficking in Persons Clearinghouse
Project Respect
Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes

Client took pity on sex slave (Sydney Morning Herald 20/6/06)

26 Jun 2006