Did you know that today, October 18th… marks the UK’s first Anti-Slavery Day?
I had the opportunity to put a few questions to Hannah Pearce from ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) to talk about why slavery is still an issue, what needs to be changed and how we go about making those changes.
How is slavery an issue in the UK today?
We were really pleased that the government decided, in part as a result of ECPAT UK’s lobbying, to introduce a national Anti-Slavery Day earlier this year. The UK’s first ever Anti-Slavery Day will be marked on 18th October 2010.
Whilst slavery was officially abolished almost 200 hundred years ago a modern version of slavery exists in the form of child trafficking. ECPAT UK is part of a global network of organisations campaigning against child trafficking. ECPAT UK has carried out research over recent years which has found that children are trafficked to the UK from a wide range of countries. These are children who have faced appalling experiences of exploitation; children who have been trafficked for sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, cannabis cultivation, forced criminal activities and benefit fraud.
It’s both sad and shocking to understand this, what would be the single most important thing the government could do to help?
Our campaign with the Body Shop is calling on the government to introduce a system of guardianship to be introduced for all trafficked children. Children who have been trafficked do not have anyone to look after them and make decisions on their behalf as a parent would do. Although many professionals can be involved in the care of a child who has been trafficked no one person has parental responsibility. We believe there are substantial gaps in the system of support for trafficked children who need guidance through the welfare, legal, asylum and immigration processes. A guardian would ensure that these children receive the support they need.
What is it about The Body Shop (other than their High Street positioning) that ECPAT feels makes them the company to help with this campaign?
Anita Roddick was a truly inspirational woman and her commitment to social justice lives on in the Body Shop. Before she died she had decided that the Body Shop would launch a campaign against child trafficking and she made contact with ECPAT to discuss how we might be able to work together.
From ECPAT’s point of view we are really delighted to be working with a company that is renowned for its social values, and the campaign has given us an amazing opportunity to bring the issue of child trafficking into high streets not only across the UK, but across the world.
The Body Shop have been running an online petition to stop the sex trafficking of young people, how many signatures do you currently have and what’s the next step with this?
Hundreds of thousands of people across the UK have already signed the petition either in Body Shop stores or on the website, which is absolutely fantastic. We will continue to collect signatures until next March. Then later in 2011 we will be presenting, what we hope will be one of the biggest petitions ever collected, to the Prime Minister. We will be asking the Prime Minister to acknowledged the massive groundswell of support for trafficked children by asking him to take action and introduce a system of guardianship.
Sounds great, how can we help?
It would be brilliant if you could sign the petition and even better if you could ask ten friends to sign the petition as well. You can sign the petition in Body Shop stores or by going to the campaign website www.thebodyshop.com/stop
As well as supporting our campaign by signing the petition you can buy the special campaign hand cream, Soft hands, Kind heart. The hand cream costs £3.50 and all the profits (£2.36 per bottle) are donated to ECPAT.
Special thanks to Hannah for taking the time to help us understand more about a subject that should be frontpage news today and every day until it’s an issue no longer plaguing our society.
Come on ladies, no matter where you are in the world… if you haven’t signed the petition – please do it now, to mark Anti-Slavery Day. It will only take a minute of your time.
Click the button below to select your country and SIGN!