LONDON, Nov 18( Thomson Reuters Foundation) – An army of religion sisters who rescue victims of human trafficking by posing as prostitutes to infiltrate brothels and buying children being sold into bondage, is expanding to 140 countries, its chairman said on Wednesday.
John Studzinski, an investment banker and philanthropist who chairs Talitha Kum, said the network of 1,100 sisters currently operates in about 80 countries but the demand for efforts to combat trafficking and bondage was rising globally.
The group, put up in 2004, calculates one percent of the world’s population is trafficked in some kind, which translates into some 73 million people. Of those, 70 percent are women and half are aged 16 or younger.
“I’m not trying to be sensational but I’m trying to underscore the fact this is a world that has lost innocence … where dark forces are active, ” said Studzinski, a vice chairman of U.S. investment bank The Blackstone Group.
“These are problems caused by poverty and equality but it goes well beyond that, ” he told the Trust Women Conference on women’s rights and trafficking hosted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Detailing some cases involving trafficking and bondage, Studzinski said the treatment of some victims was horrific.
He told of one female enslaved as a prostitute who was locked up for a week without food, forced to eat own her faeces, when she failed to have sex with an objective of 12 clients a day.
In another extreme case, one female was forced to have sex with a group of 10 humen at the same time.
Studzinski said the religion sisters working to combat trafficking would go to all lengths to rescue women, often dressing up as prostitutes and going out on the street to integrate themselves into brothels.
“These sisters do not trust anyone. They do not trust governments, they do not trust corporations, and they don’t trust the local police. In some examples they cannot trust male clergy, ” he said, adding that the low-key group preferred to focus on their rescue work rather than promotion.
“They work in brothels. No one knows they are there.”
The sisters were also proactive on trying to save children being sold into bondage by their parents, setting up a network of homes in Africa as well as in the Philippines, Brazil and India to shelter such children.
He said the religion sisters of Talitha Kum created fund to purchase these children.
“This is a new network of homes for children around the world who would otherwise be sold into bondage. It is shocking but it is real, ” he said.
Studzinski said the network of religion sisters, that was in the process of expanding, also targeted bondage in the render chain with sisters shedding their habits and running alongside locals for as little as 2 U.S. pennies an hour to uncover abuses.
He said Talitha Kum, which translated from Aramaic means arise infant, was now being hired by companies to see what is going on with respect to the render chain and expanding globally would help address this issue.
“You can’t generalize about trafficking and bondage as no two countries are the same, ” Studzinski said.
( Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that encompasses humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corrupt practices and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)
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