Slavery and human trafficking

Scottish Churches Anti-Human Trafficking Group

People are too precious to be bought and sold.

The 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act (1807 to 2007) concentrated attention on the history of slavery and the Atlantic trade. Today, however, over 20 million men, women and children around the world are still forced to lead lives as slaves. Women from Eastern Europe are bonded into prostitution, children are trafficked between West African countries and men are forced to work as slaves on Brazilian agricultural estates. Contemporary slavery takes various forms and affects people of all ages, sex and race, and it happens here in Scotland.

The Church of Scotland's work of human trafficking is mainly channelled through the Scottish Churches' Anti-Human Trafficking Group, which was established in June 2011 to enable the churches in Scotland to work together for the eradication of human trafficking. The Group meets regularly to exchange information concerning:

  • Each Church's activities against trafficking and the support of victims of trafficking
  • To work towards the formulation of common policies against trafficking and support of its victims
  • To commend those policies to the Churches and to encourage them to campaign and lobby for their adoption by Governments
  • To identify opportunities where joint action and shared resources would more effectively combat trafficking or support its victims
  • To produce detailed proposals for the implementation of such action
  • To recommend them for adoption by the Churches

Currently membership of the group comes from the Church of Scotland, Church of Scotland Guild, Minority Ethnic Christians Together in Scotland, Religious Society of Friends, Roman Catholic Church, Salvation Army, Scottish Episcopal Church, Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office, CARE, the International Justice Mission and we have contacts with the Evangelical Alliance, and a number of individuals working on local church initiatives on prostitution and trafficking.

The group is facilitated by Action of Churches Together in Scotland and is convened by Dr Hazel Watson, member of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland.

Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill

We are pleased that the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill has now been introduced to the Scottish Parliament. It will introduce measures that should increase the likelihood of successful prosecutions in relation to human trafficking and also ensure better support for survivors of trafficking.

The majority of people who are trafficked are women and children, many of whom who are forced into commercial sexual exploitation. Sex trafficking does not just exist because its victims are vulnerable - it exists because there is a demand for commercial sex that traffickers exploit for profit. Forced prostitution is a major driver of modern slavery and trafficking, so ending the demand for paid-for sexual services would make a real difference. Legislation to criminalise the person who purchases sex, rather than the prostitute, (the so-called 'Sex Buyer Law or Nordic Model) was introduced in Sweden in 1999 where it has had a positive impact in terms of reducing levels of human trafficking and the exploitation involved in prostitution.

Such legislation has been adopted by Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Canada, and very recently Northern Ireland. However, such provision is not included in the Bill for Scotland. Scottish Churches, through the ACTS Anti-Human Trafficking Group have supported efforts in the past to criminalise the purchase of sex. The Group believes that it is crucial that this omission is addressed.

Human Trafficking and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games

  • Human Trafficking and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games: read the report to the 2012 General Assembly

Political engagement

The Church has:

  • Encouraged the UK Government to sign up to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Supress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, the first global legally binding instrument
  • Discussed with the Scottish Parliament Cabinet Secretary for Justice and the Solicitor General:
    • The allocation of resources to pursue and prosecute the traffickers
    • Support and services for victims
  • Is a member of the Scottish Parliament's Cross-Party Group on Human Trafficking which meets regularly with MSPs, and one occasion with MEPs
  • Provided responses to the consultations on:
    • The proposed Human Trafficking (Scotland) Bill, the UK Modern Slavery Bill, and the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill in the Northern Ireland Assembly
    • Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex (Scotland) Bill
    • The Scottish Government consultation on the licensing of sexual entertainment venues
    • The Scottish Government consultation on the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill: Human Trafficking aggravation

The Church also:

  • Accepted an invitation to attend a multi-agency Summit conference on human trafficking from the Crown Office and the Procurator Fiscal Service on 17 October 2014
  • Has written to all MSPs supporting the recommendations in the Anti Trafficking Monitoring Group report 'All Change' launched on 4th May 2012 at the Unite – Amnesty International – Women's Support Project conference on human trafficking
  • Responded to the Scottish Parliament Inquiry to explore the impact and contribution of migrant populations within Scottish society and the extent and nature of trafficking, April 2010

Human Trafficking Resources

Other resources you might find useful

These sites provide more information about modern day slavery and human trafficking around the world, and resources, campaigns and practical suggestions about how you can work towards the eradication of trafficking:

Abolition Scotland is a group of churches working to raise awareness of sex trafficking issues in Scotland:

The World Council of Churches. The Council's project on migration and social justice aims to engage and challenge the churches in their work with migrants, including refugees, internally displaced people and victims of trafficking, and to develop advocacy strategies on migration and racism.

Campaigns that are working to end human trafficking: