Recent statistics released by the United Nations reveals that approximately 2,5 million people are victims of human trafficking at any given point in time and that only about 1% of these people have any chance of ever being saved.
It is further estimated that 83% (2 million) of these people are trafficked for sex. In 2005 it was estimated that the human trafficking industry was apparently generating an annual profit of approximately $32 billion.
I have no doubt that a survey of the civilised world would almost certainly reveal an overwhelming abhorrence for human trafficking and a firm resolve that any forms of human trafficking should be eradicated and the perpetrators convicted and punished harshly.
Yet strangely, despite an obvious aversion to human trafficking, it seems that the modern world has difficulty in being consistent in its rejection of it. Take the recent example of the young woman whose virginity was auctioned by a director of a reality show.
An Australian filmmaker, Justin Sisely, convinced a 20-year-old Brazilian woman to sell her virginity to the highest bidder as part of his documentary entitled “Virgins Wanted”. As a consequence of the auction, Catarina Migliorini is now set to earn £490,000 for losing her virginity to the highest bidder.
Catarina Migliorini has argued that what she is doing is not prostitution. Why? Well, because she claims that she is only intending to sell herself for sex once and therefore she is not a prostitute. So, if she is right, it seems that the definition of a prostitute must now be amended. It must include the number of occasions one is paid to have sex before a person can legitimately be defined as a prostitute. This is clearly just bizarre.
Justin Sisely obviously argues equally vigorously that he is not a human trafficker. Yet consider the diagram below from the website of the United Nations. The diagram highlights that if one commits at least one of the actions in each of the three columns, one is considered to be engaged in human trafficking.
If we compare the actions of Justin Sisely to the above diagram, it is obvious that he clearly “Recruited” Catarina Migliorini for his reality TV show. He then arranged that she would receive “Payment” for selling her virginity on his reality TV show. It is also clear that the purpose was not only to “Prostitute” her, but also to enable him to produce, for his own financial benefit, a reality TV show. Yet bizarrely Justin Sisely would have us believe that he is somehow not a human trafficker.
This behaviour highlights what I believe is one of the biggest problems with modern society. While society may claim to be concerned with morality, ethical behaviour, human rights and the dignity of all people, society all too often makes its judgement of what is moral or immoral, ethical or unethical, and so on, subject to circumstances. Society is simply no longer prepared to accept that there are certain absolutes. Everything is relative today.
The effects of relativism are visible all around us on an almost daily basis: pre-marital sex, using a cell phone while driving, taking a day off work on the pretence of being sick, divorce, skipping Mass, telling a 'white' lie, paying our housekeeper an unjust wage. We may wish to justify our behaviour, but the truth is we really cannot. If we are honest with ourselves we must stop disguising the truth and face up to the fact that we have been tolerating or perpetuating what is quite clearly wrong, regardless of how serious or minor it may be. This is not always easy to do, but it is absolutely necessary for us to begin being brutally honest with ourselves, if we are to contribute to building a better society.
Maybe this should be a focus for each of us during this Year of Faith. We could use the examination of conscience in preparation for regular Confession to help us focus in this regard. Listen to these words from Proposition 33 of the recent Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation.
“The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is the privileged place to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness. It is a place for both personal and communal healing. In this sacrament, all the baptized have a new and personal encounter with Jesus Christ, as well as a new encounter with the Church, facilitating a full reconciliation through the forgiveness of sins. Here the penitent encounters Jesus, and at the same time he or she experiences a deeper appreciation of himself and herself. The Synod Fathers ask that this sacrament be put again at the centre of the pastoral activity of the Church.”