The problem of human trafficking and slavery affects not just far-away countries but the United States as well. On Wednesday, April 11, the students, faculty and staff at Marymount College of Fordham University presented a symposium at Rita Hall, “Human Trafficking in the 21st Century,” designed to shine a light on the growing problem.
The event, organized by Marymount’s Office of Campus Ministry, featured three presentations on human trafficking from students and faculty. Senior Chatocwa McWhorter spoke on her senior thesis, which examines human trafficking issues in Japan and Russia. Sister Mary Heyser, R.H.S.M., discussed various attempts by the New York State legislature to create stronger laws against human trafficking. And Penelope Roach, Ph.D., a professor of sociology at the Marymount campus, addressed those in attendance on how globalization has caused an increase in human trafficking and slavery worldwide.
Sister Margaret Ellen Flannelly, R.S.H.M., academic class dean at Marymount College of Fordham University, moderated the panel discussion, which included a viewing of a portion of the documentary film Lives for Sale, which dealt with the trafficking of a young girl from Mexico to Los Angeles.
Sister Margaret Ellen said that the push for such an event at the Marymount campus came out of a desire to provide students, faculty and the public with a better understanding of the human rights issue. “It stems from really trying to raise people’s conscience about it, and how the root causes of it and the effects of it can be eliminated,” she said.
Sister Mary, who has helped to create a broad coalition of activists on the issue, hopes that a renewed focus on the problem of human trafficking at the University and elsewhere can push the state legislature to act. She said that the state senate has passed a measure on human trafficking that is tough on the offenders, but that the bill does little to rehabilitate the victims of the crime.
“We’re hoping to make elected officials realize that a lot of the people taken for labor, that are taken for sexual trafficking, are not prostitutes,” she said. “They are being forced into this.”
Carol Gibney, associate director for campus ministry at Marymount, said that the most important aspect of the event was its focus on alerting individuals to the problems that human trafficking poses for the United States and the entire world.
“We’re here to raise awareness,” Gibney said, “particularly to let the women all over this campus know the atrocities that are going on.”
Gibney said she hoped that the symposium would help create greater interest in the issue and lead Marymount students to become more active in the push to punish those engaged in human trafficking and helping the victims. “That’s what this is about, just trying to help those victims get assistance, to get the help that they need,” Gibney said. “We are trying to do what we can to make sure they are not victims twice, first at the hands of those human traffickers and they at the hands of the system.”
By John DeSio