Keith Turton with volunteer “slaves.”

Modern slavery drama raises awareness of human trafficking

The Salvation Army stages sale of human beings during Edinburgh Festival.

By Martin Donegan – 

The Salvation Army recently staged the first in a series of street dramas in Edinburgh, Scotland, to raise awareness of human trafficking.

The joint initiative, organized by The Salvation Army Scotland Office and the Scottish Churches Anti-Human Trafficking Group, took place during the Edinburgh Festival’s Just Festival. It featured a market stall set up to “sell” people as commodities, based on real life stories of human trafficking victims.

“Human trafficking is taking place all around us, in our local communities and perhaps around the corner from where we live,” said Lt. Colonel Jonathan Roberts, assistant to the secretary for Scotland. “We want people to know they can play a role in stamping it out.”

According to Roberts, The Salvation Army has provided support services to more than 2,000 adult victims of human trafficking In England and Wales over the past four years.

The street drama is the idea of Keith Turton, The Salvation Army’s drama coordinator. “We think of slavery as people being chained up and in ropes,” he said. “That may have been the case hundreds of years ago but nowadays it’s much less obvious to the casual observer.”

The market stall pretended to sell human beings alongside a rail of clothing that depicted the work that people do. “You can dress these people up to show how they are seen as just commodities,” Turton said. “It’s a dramatic way of highlighting the issue of trafficking and it’s a way of saying: ‘people shouldn’t be bought or sold.’”

Hazel Watson, convener of the Scottish Churches Anti-Human Trafficking Group, added: “All human beings have intrinsic value and have the right to live with dignity in freedom. This drama, shocking as it is itself, is a way of highlighting the reality of human trafficking that is far more shocking. We can all play our part in efforts to combat this horrendous crime.”

The Salvation Army, along with the Scottish Churches Anti-Human Trafficking Group, has contributed to the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill, which is currently going through the Scottish Parliament. The bill will create a specific offense of human trafficking for the first time as well as increase the maximum penalty for offenders to life imprisonment.

“The Salvation Army welcomes this new legislation being introduced by the Scottish government because it aims to keep victims central, both by tackling offenders and supporting victims,” Roberts said.

The Salvation Army and the Scottish Churches Anti-Human Trafficking Group also began using the UN Gift Box initiative to raise awareness of human trafficking. The initiative is created by Stop The Traffik and the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Trafficking. Two large, walk-in boxes, designed to symbolize trafficking, will be placed around Edinburgh to provide information and firsthand accounts and pictures from victims inside. Each box highlights a specific aspect of human trafficking—be it forced labor or sexual exploitation.


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