Abolition of Sex Trafficking
"Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors—and they have no comforter."
"But this is a people plundered and looted, all of them trapped in pits or hidden in prisons. They have become plunder, with no one to rescue them; they have been made loot, with no one to say, "Send them back."
These are hard words of Scripture. Yet, even harder is this Scripture's contemporary reality, daily reflected in the tears of millions of women and children who are trafficked into sexual slavery. Secretary of State Colin Powell asserts, "It is appalling that in the twenty-first century hundreds of thousands of women, children, and men made vulnerable by civil conflict, dire economic circumstances, natural disasters or just their own desire for a better life, are trafficked and exploited for the purposes of sex or forced labor. The deprivation of a human being's basic right to freedom is an affront to the ideals of liberty and human dignity cherished by people around the world."1
This resolution addresses a gaping hole that exists in The United Methodist Church's advocacy concerning sexual violence—sex trafficking. The United Methodist Church has never recoiled in the face of controversial and painful issues such as the myriad ways in which human sexuality is abused.2 It would be wrong to suggest that this hole exists purposefully. Rather, one can rightly assume that the pervasive existence and deep gravity of the sex trafficking industry has only recently begun to be uncovered.3 Sex trafficking was briefly raised as a concern for "Responsible Travel" in the 2000 BOR. However, the daunting statistics have not been discussed, nor has the direct and indirect compliance of U.S. citizenry and businesses in this matter been exposed to the members of the Church. In its prophetic role, The United Methodist Church is called to inform its members and the public at large that an estimated 700,000 to 4,000,000 people worldwide are trafficked each year. Furthermore, the most overlooked aspect of these statistics is the fact that 18,000 to 20,000 people are trafficked into the United States each year.4
Sexual violence in the twenty-first century, through many and varied manifestations, destructively permeates the whole of society. Not only must the Church denounce these issues, such as sex trafficking, both in and outside its own walls, but also, it must embrace its crucial responsibility to witness to the only One who is truly able to offer lasting hope, refuge, restoration, and redemption. The United Methodist Church is called to model that the church universal is the very first place to which people can turn in their hunger for justice, wholeness, and sanctuary. This calling comprises an essential element of the church's identity as the body of Jesus Christ, and, for The United Methodist Church specifically, the identity of being a community that carries the Wesleyan legacy of seeking justice and proclaiming the healing that can only come from our reconciling, Incarnate God. The church is given by God to be a place in which broken people—both victims and perpetrators of sexual violence—can be welcomed, heard, embraced with the gospel, and even healed.
WHEREAS, the United Nations defines trafficking to be "the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or service, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude . . . ";5
WHEREAS, there are currently an estimated 20,000 women and children trafficked yearly into the United States, and an estimated 700,000 to four million worldwide; and
WHEREAS, the church has a difficult and awesome responsibility, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to seek justice and Christ's healing in the face of structures of oppression; and
WHEREAS, such structures of oppression are well-embedded in the institution of sex trafficking,
Therefore, be it resolved, that The United Methodist Church, through education, financial resources, publication, lobbying, and the use of every relevant gift of God, shall join in the active battle against the modern-day enslavement of humans for commercial sexual exploitation, i.e., sex trafficking.
Be it further resolved, that the General Board of Church and Society shall lead The United Methodist Church's efforts toward the abolition of sex trafficking for the 2005-2008 quadrennium. On this issue, the GBCS shall work in cooperation with the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women and the Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries. The United Methodist Church shall recognize the urgency and gravity of this issue through a substantial monetary investment toward the galvanization of the Church at all levels to live out her gifts and calling in relation to the abolition of modern day slavery. To this end, the General Board of Church and Society shall receive sufficient funding toward the concrete implementation of a specific anti-sex trafficking program, which would include the empowerment of victims to support themselves and the prevention of their return to sex-related industries.
See Social Principles, ¶ 165.
1. U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2003. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2003/ http://www.state.gov/g/ tip/rls/tiprpt/2003/
2. See previous BOR 2000 statements regarding issues such as sexual abuse in the Church and in the home, sexual harassment, pornography, and on the Federal level, the support of reparations made for the use and abuse of military "comfort women" in WWII.
3. The first trafficking case in the U.S. was prosecuted in 1998 and the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons was created in 2001. For more information on the recent press given to sex trafficking, see http://usinfo.state.gov/topical/pol/usandun/03092305.htm. Excerpt: "There's another humanitarian crisis spreading, yet hidden from view. Each year an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 human beings are bought, sold, or forced across the world's borders. Among them are hundreds of thousands of teenage girls, and others as young as five, who fall victim to the sex trade. This commerce in human life generates billions of dollars each year—much of which is used to finance organized crime . . . The American government is committing $50 million to support the good work of organizations that are rescuing women and children from exploitation, and giving them shelter and medical treatment and the hope of a new life . . . Other governments [are urged] to do their part . . . The trade in human beings for any purpose must not be allowed to thrive in our time." For a comprehensive overview of trafficking on the global scale and current efforts toward its abolition, see the aforementioned State Department Trafficking in Persons Report.
4. According to estimates by the CIA and the State Department. http://usinfo.state.gov/gi/Archive/2003/Jun/10-239681.html.
5. FACT SHEET from the Trafficking in Persons National Security Presidential Directive, http://usinfo.state.gov/gi/Archive/2003/Jun/10-239581.html.