By Robin Gomes
“The Holy See condemns all forms of violence against women, including harmful stereotypes that justify violence and promote discrimination against them,” said Archbishop Bernadito Auza, addressing a meeting of the UN General Assembly on “Advancement of Women”.
He recalled Pope Francis condemning trafficking in persons as a “crime against humanity” that must be consistently denounced and fought by all. Archbishop lamented that today, when slavery is thought to be a tragic historical memory, there are in fact more persons enslaved than ever before.
The Holy See’s representative praised groups and movements fighting human trafficking, such as Talitha Kum by Catholic nuns, that invest in education and youth employment in order to address some of the deepest causes that make women and girls vulnerable to traffickers.
In this regard, Archbishop Auza recalled the observation of Pope Francis regarding an uncomfortable truth that “if there are so many young women victims of trafficking who end up on the streets of our cities, it is because many men here – young, middle-aged, elderly – demand these services.”
Hence, the Filipino archbishop said that we have a duty in justice to arrest and prosecute traffickers, but we must also remember, if we are to eliminate this evil, that converting hearts, stamping out the demand and drying up the market are indispensable.
Vulnerable women leaders
The Holy See’s diplomat said that while millions of women participate in public and political life, and more than 10,000 of them serve as parliamentarians to build up communities, more needs to be done to protect them from violence and intimidation.
“Violence against women cannot be treated as normal” according to Pope Francis. Nor can we look the other way while the dignity of women, especially young women, are being trampled upon.
Noting a disturbing prevalence of physical, verbal, and even “cyber” violence against women and girls, Archbishop Auza called for legal measures to protect women’s participation in the community, without fear of violence.
Family, throwaway culture
The Holy See official underscored the importance of the family in the fight against violence against women, saying, “when the family becomes a place of violence, the effects are catastrophic for all.”
Another phenomenon that fuels violence against women is what Pope Francis describes as the “throwaway culture,” that discards everything that is not useful, such as babies and the elderly. But Archbishop Auza said that society suffers when the elderly, including women, are marginalized. It is the grandmothers who pass on the culture, values and wisdom to younger generation, maintaining a healthy continuity between the past and future.