Prostitution Assailed as Insult to Women's Dignity

Appeal of Conference Called by the Holy See

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 20, 2005 ( Denouncing prostitution as «an insult to the dignity of woman,» a congress held in the Vatican sought ways to address the challenge posed by the world’s growing sex trade.

When opening the congress today, Cardinal Stephen Hamao, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, called on the faithful to «assume the defense of women’s rights.»

The pontifical council convoked the first International Meeting for the Pastoral Liberation of Women of the Street, being held through Tuesday in the Palace of St. Calixtus.

Every year, the trafficking in human beings affects the lives of 1 million people. In Thailand, for example, between 150,000 and 200,000 women, many of them minors, end up on the streets, the congress revealed.

It estimated that 500,000 women from Eastern Europe are enslaved and forced to prostitute themselves on the streets of Western Europe.

The «injustice and violence perpetrated against women» must be reported «wherever it takes place,» said Cardinal Hamao. He encouraged efforts to free the victims of this «degrading yoke,» Vatican Radio reported.

Targeting the demand

Sister Eugenia Bonetti of the International Union of Superiors General, an expert in the problem of human trafficking, proposed «working on the demand,» that is, targeting those individuals who frequent the services of the sex trade. «Unfortunately, there is never any talk of this,» she said.

«They cannot say: I pay and can therefore buy sex on the street. A person’s dignity cannot be paid for,» she said in a summary she presented on Vatican Radio.

«A great role awaits us: to form and inform,» she said. «I have known many women who unfortunately are no longer alive, as they have been killed, fallen ill, or died.»

«I don’t know how many know that traffickers use the poverty of women to make very great earnings,» Sister Bonetti added. «To be able to free herself from this situation and cancel her ‘debt’ [with the mafia], a Nigerian woman must now pay between 70,000-80,000 euros,» about $85,000 to $98,000.

She added: «Formation must intervene here, as no one has the right to destroy the dignity of another person.»

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