The Army's History in Fighting Sexual Trafficking
Mrs Josephine Butler was the wife of a scholarly Anglican clergyman and one of the noblest and most heroic English women of her time. In the 1880’s she risked wild and brutal opposition on a vigorous crusade to change laws which were grossly unfair to women and resulted in many young girls being trafficked for sex. When The Salvation Army began it’s battle on behalf of the younger section of the country’s womanhood, Mrs Josephine Butler saw the Army as her answer to prayer and wrote to Mrs Bramwell Booth saying
Nothing but a mighty spiritual power permeating a well considered, wisely organised scheme, will prevail against this passion in men to subdue armies of women for the service of lust; and in The Salvation Army is that wonderful spiritual power.
She saw the Army as an answer to prayer. However, it was not until some time later when one of these unfortunate girls was found early one morning curled on the steps of 101, desperately seeking help and refuge from the brothel in which she had been enslaved, that Bramwell Booth was stirred to take bold action. The story of 'Britain’s Maiden Tribute' and the important role the Army played is well known but it is worth noting that the strategy in dealing with the evil was to use friends and influential supporters of the Army including the press to gather evidence, publishing and shaming the monsters perpetrating the trade and being prepared to lobby, petition and ultimately suffer imprisonment to change the law. The effects and influence of this action has had far reaching impact upon the rights of women and children to this very day.
The Army’s work was not confined to what now would be called 'advocacy' but it was matched by its practical work with refuges for women and girls in the UK and other parts of the world. This pragmatism has marked the Army’s activities through the years.
The Salvation Army has taken a leadership position within the United States where they were among a coalition of faith-based and other organisations that worked to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a measure which became law in October 2000. Additionally The Salvation Army has assumed the leadership of the Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking, (IAST), a partnership of faith-based, human rights, child and women’s rights advocacy organisations, and is working very closely in advocacy with the U.S. Government and others attempting to tackle the problem. Moreover, there is active engagement to develop recovery services for survivors of sexual trafficking.
In such places as India, Tanzania, Switzerland, Australia, the Netherlands, the UK, Canada, Bangladesh, and Ghana, the Army is working with women caught up in commercial sex. In these programmes there is likely to be involvement with women and girls involved in trafficking but they are not specifically targeted (this may be a silent ministry due to the nature of the problem). In some countries the problem is not even recognised. It would also be true to say that where poverty alleviation, income generation and micro credit programmes are underway, the Army is offering an alternative to communities vulnerable to the lures of the traffickers. However, there is little evidence of any specific Salvation Army programme either practically tackling the problem in a country from which the women and children are being trafficked, countries of transit or in a receiving countries where they are being exploited and no trans-territorial (trans national) collaboration is found within reports received.
All in all it is the authors conclusion that The Salvation Army is historically, practically and ideally suited to combating this terrible human trade. The words of Josephine Butler have been frequently reiterated in correspondence and interviews from passionately concerned individuals and organisations that they see the Army as an "answer to prayer.”