Page 5, 14th November 2008

14th November 2008
Page 5
Page 5, 14th November 2008 — THE CATHOLIC Church in India and Ecuador is working to

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Locations: Washington, New Delhi, Quito


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THE CATHOLIC Church in India and Ecuador is working to

protect women, children and indigenous people, the most vulnerable victims of human trafficking, Church workers have said.

In northern Ecuador, women and children who fled the civil war in Colombia are increasingly susceptible to sex and child traffickers, said Yazmina Zambrano, the Quito-based global securities coordinator in Ecuador for Catholic Relief Services, the US bishops' international aid agency.

Colombian women arrive in Ecuador without documentation and money, Miss Zambrano said while in Washington for a CRS-sponsored human trafficking seminar. The women are offered jobs working in a bar, she said, but are forced into prostitution.

Miss Zambrano explained that in northern Ecuador the Church not only must fight a culture that accepts girls being sexually active at a young age, but police and other authorities are involved in human trafficking.

The Church's main response is awareness through education, she said. "When you talk about trafficking [with students in the schools] now they know what you mean," she said. "They understand now it is not culturally acceptable."

Children. especially indigenous Ecuadoreans , are also victims of human trafficking,

she said. Organised criminals "go to rural communities, hire children [from their hripover-, ished families] and take them to the city" to work as beggars, she said.

Miss Zambrano said that when she sees children begging she knows they are forced to beg by human traffickers.

Ecuador's Constitution, passed in late September, includes articles to protect migrants and refugees, she said, so Catholic leaders are working with a larger coalition to develop legislation to protect those vulnerable to human trafficking. She noted that legislation was passed providing access to education for refugee children.

In India, Church leaders are trying to work with the government to regulate domestic labour, an underground and sometimes dangerous profession. 'Women and children are very much in demand" for domestic work, said Mungreiphy Shimmy, the New Delhi-based programme officer and gender adviser for Caritas India.

Miss Shimmy said women who fall prey "are not in a position to comprehend the gravity of their vulnerability". The women, who are mostly poor and tribal, see "the opportunity of shelter, food and money to send home to their families".

But then "they are very much exploited", she said physically and sexually abused, without contact with the outside world.

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