In this article Sr Eilís Coe highlights some of the initiatives taking place in Ireland at the moment concerning anti-human trafficking. Just at the moment a very unique ‘Gift Box’ is touring Ireland.
The United Nations Gift Box
A lot of time and energy is being put into preparation for the tour of the UN Gift Box in the Republic, beginning on Ash Wednesday. The Gift Box is a steel box large enough for three or four people to go in and walk around to see the display of anti-trafficking material on display inside. The outside is painted to look like a wrapped gift box, while the inside shows the grim side of the trafficking. This mirrors the tactics of traffickers who lure their victims with promises of good things and then enslave them. Inside the box are stories of people who have been trafficked and information for the public such as knowing the signs of trafficking and how to report their suspicions to the relevant authorities, together with phone numbers and websites.
The Box tour is an initiative of the Irish Loreto Sisters. Sr Elizabeth Byrne, Loreto, who is a member of APT (Act to Prevent Trafficking) asked for help and support and APT joined the Loreto Sisters in the project. To date, training of volunteers has been completed in several venues throughout the country and the trainings will continue right up to the arrival of the Box from Belfast. Cards, posters and fold-up leaflets have been printed for distribution at the various venues. The Dublin venues are in College Green and DCU on Collins Avenue. Drogheda, Kilkenny, Cork, Tralee, Limerick, Galway, Athlone and Dundalk are also venues. The hope is that many people will visit the box and go away more informed about the crime of human trafficking. Pictures of the UN GIFT Box can be seen on www.aptireland.org.
In 2016, a booklet prepared by the girls of St Joseph’s Secondary School, Stanhope Street was printed. This booklet, written and illustrated by the girls, told the story of a schoolgirl who was duped by a clever man who used her for pornographic pictures for the web. The booklet was distributed to other schools where our Sisters have involvement with an invitation to produce similar material and to extend the exercise to include plays and videos.
The Sexual Offences Bill
In February 2017, the Sexual Offences Bill passed the two house of the Irish Parliament i.e. the Dáil and the Senate. Included in the Bill is the criminalisation of the buying of sex. Much hard work was done by ICI, the Immigrant Council of Ireland and their partners in the TORL (Turn Off the Red Light) group to bring this legislation to its final stages. Prayers, lobbying, writing to public representatives, many meetings and interviews yielded results and we were delighted to see that the Bill was passed on the feast of St Bakhita February 8. We await the day when what has been passed actually becomes law in Ireland.
Participation of the Communities
Our communities continue to pray for the ending of human trafficking, setting one evening every two weeks aside for remembrance during Evening Prayer. The UNANIMA Update, sent to us by Sr Pereka, is distributed each month. Sr Eilís reminds the Sisters that much of our work, while not overtly ant trafficking work is in fact preventing people from becoming victims of trafficking. Anything that improves the lives of women and girls, such as support groups, poverty alleviation, preparation for employment, skills training, education ensures that these women and girls can lead fuller lives and are not tempted into prostitution or drug use, thus saving them from the hands of unscrupulous traffickers and pimps.