July 30 is the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. FCJ sisters and Companions in Mission around the world minister in this area and we have asked them for their contributions to mark this day. The following article is by Sr Veronika fcJ, from Munich.
“Human dignity shall be inviolable.” This is the first sentence in Basic Law, the German Constitution, das Grundgesetz, thus affirming that Human Dignity is the most important of our basic rights.
Human dignity is violated when a person is made an object, when a person is treated without respect, when the value of a person is ignored or despised. A human person has value through his or her mere existence. All persons have equal value. A life without dignity is a life of fear and oppression. Nobody has the right to violate the dignity of a human person, regardless of religion, country of origin, gender and age. Even a person in prison, regardless of the crime committed, still has dignity and must be treated accordingly. When the dignity of a person is violated, the value of that person is taken away.
Slavery was officially abolished in 1815. Today we talk about Trafficking. Most probably slavery was worse than trafficking, but in both, human dignity is definitely not respected. (Valuable infos concerning Slavery in Atlas des esclavages, De l’Antiquité à nos jours, 2013, Editions Autrement, Paris, ISBN 978-2-7467-3497-5)
For the last thirteen years, here in Munich, I have been in contact with mostly foreign women, who have been trafficked and prostituted, either under force or freely. In recent years, more women have been coming to Germany without being linked to a trafficker. But trafficking and control over the women continues, and prostitution flourishes in Germany, in spite of that first sentence in the Grundgesetz!
At a public event to promote a change of law regarding prostitution, I met a man who explained to me that he finds that prostitutes render us a great service, because if they were not there, then his daughters would be at greater risk of being violated on the streets of Munich at night. When I cynically suggested that perhaps his daughters would offer themselves to be prostituted in order to protect more girls from being violated, he said I was mad! Of course, he was right. That would certainly not be a solution. What would help? A new law in Germany, forbidding prostitution as being contrary to the first sentence in the basic Law. It would help if German businesses recruited workers, especially women, and offered them professional training in Germany. It would help if we could talk more about sexuality and explain why prostitution destroys the human dignity of women. The Church, unfortunately, seems unable to contribute convincingly to a solution to this problem of our times. It would help if we all would question ourselves about the ways in which we do not treat people according to their true human dignity.
On our weekly visits to brothels in Munich, we do not solve the basic problem, but we hope to show the ladies that they are human beings, that they are valued, that they are loved, by God and us.
Now, during the pandemic, most women have gone home, though some stay in town with friends, and prostitution is forbidden for the time being, although we guess that it continues in hotels. Some ladies have remained in their brothel and are waiting for the business to open again. We visit them regularly, bring them food and also some money; we play games with them, we try to relieve their loneliness and show them that they are not forgotten. We value them as persons. The owners or supervisors of the houses do not treat them as the slave drivers did in olden times; they are respectful and they are glad to see us. We visit them as well as the ladies. We have long conversations with both the owners and the ladies, and we often pray with both.
Lawrence Kushner has written a book with the title: God Was in this Place & I, I did not Know (Gen 28:16) I feel like that when I visit these temples of false pleasure, and false hope. It is always a meeting place with God.