Sociology club raises human trafficking awareness; Sri Lankan relates conditions in his country

By Meghan McSloy
March 31, 2010

To raise awareness about the global issue of human trafficking,  the national director of a Catholic humanitarian aid agency serving the war-torn island of Sri Lanka, came to speak in the Wolfington Center as a part of a series of events held at Cabrini. Fr. George Sigamony is the director of Caritas Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is poverty-stricken country located just south of India. It has become one of the most problematic countries in the world.  This makes the country more susceptible to social problems such as human trafficking.

Sigamony came to speak in the Wolfington Center on Tuesday, March 23, as a part of a series of events that shed light on the global problem of human trafficking. Sigamony’s talk was presented in conjunction with the film “Call and Response,” sponsored by the Sociology Club.

Sigamony gave real-life accounts of how people, the majority of them women, are often misled into thinking they will be given job opportunities or a chance to earn some extra money for their family, but end up as sex slaves.

“To escape poverty, many Sri Lankans become domestic servants abroad and end up in a much different life, often times being trafficked,” Sigamony said.

According to Sigamony, once these people are taken, they become property of the trafficker who can “sell” them, sometimes for thousands of dollars.  The treatment of these people is deplorable and those who survive often become disabled as well as mentally disturbed as a result of their brutal treatment.

As explained in “Call and Response,” one common misconception is that human trafficking only affects countries abroad such as Sri Lanka.  In reality, it is happening in our own backyards. The truth is that this issue is the second most illicit profitable trade, surpassing weapon trade and rivaling illegal drugs.  This trend will only continue if action is not taken.

Sigamony explained that this issue has to be brought to the attention of officials in order for action to be taken.

“People can write a lot of articles about what is happening, share the stories of the migrant workers and simply tell the stories of the people being affected by this,” Sigamony said.

Maureen McCullough, who is the northeast regional director for Catholic Relief Services, agreed with Sigamony in that the stories of the people being affected by human trafficking need to be told to raise awareness.

“The dad who is young himself and is a cancer patient with two young children and his wife is lying dead. Just the stories that these statistics represent are ghastly and yet they don’t show up, people don’t know,” McCullough said in reference to a slide show including graphic pictures of those affected by human trafficking.

In conjunction with the presentation by Sigamony, the film “Call and Response” was shown in the Widener Lecture Hall later in the night.  The film, which is presented by Fair Trade Pictures, is a rockumentary featuring original music from Grammy-award-winning artists. The film outlines the issue at hand and gives first-hand accounts of what really happens to someone who is a victim of human trafficking.

According to Call and Response University Screening Tour, there are more slaves on the planet today then there were during the 400 years of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.  The film featured undercover video clips that explored the inside of various brothels where the slaves are housed.  Girls as young as 8-years-old were shown attempting to attract “customers.”

According to Sigamony, it is difficult to beat the system in some of the more corrupt countries around the world, but people in the United States should pressure the government to take action and do something about what is happening.

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Meghan McSloy

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