Sex workers in Angeles City, north of Manila. (Photo by Vincent Go)
The rise of women in public office has given a new dimension to the global political scene.
In the United States, Hillary Clinton has been nominated to run for president. Theresa May in the United Kingdom has recently become prime minister. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, is the most powerful woman in the European Union.
Women leaders in Bangladesh, Brazil, and other countries have also the historical opportunity to combat the exploitation of the most vulnerable women and children.
The decisions and direction women in powerful positions bring to their national governments can determine the fate of millions of people.
But they are not without opposition, mostly male, who degrade and denounce women, like Donald Trump who holds no punches in insulting Clinton.
Despite the rise to positions of influence for some, millions of women still struggle in many countries for their identity, freedom, and dignity. They are routinely degraded and subjected to exploitation and domestic violence by their spouses or partners. Many endure physical and verbal abuse.
Poverty and illiteracy have become for women and children the bars of a prison cage. Many are driven from the home and take to living in the streets.
They have become the currency of human traffickers. They are sexually exploited and trapped in a cycle of poverty, homelessness, and drug dependency.
Many young girls "rescued" from sex bars and the streets where they were pressured to be sex workers experienced sexual abuse in their home from a parent or relative or a neighbor.
There are thousands of vulnerable children all over the world.
In Europe, thousands of migrants, unaccompanied children — boys and girls — are missing. Some are as young as 12 years old.
They need protection, therapy, and education. They need to be helped and respected and not to be stigmatized or made into objects of ridicule or fun.
The trend is to show compassion, understanding and to give women and children the social help they need to regain trust and dignity. Alternatives have to be provided by government and civil society, and therapy and counseling to boost their self-esteem and motivate them to a life of respect.
They have to be seen as vulnerable and abused, not ignored as if this is their normal role in society.
This crime of "lese humanity" hides behind a mask of seemingly acceptable customs. In reality, it claims victims through prostitution, forced labor, mutilation, and child labor, among other crimes.
Human trafficking is a crime against humanity, said Pope Francis. And women need to fight it.
Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse.