VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI (search) on Friday condemned the human trafficking that fuels the sex industry and called for just treatment of women migrants.
His appeal came in a message to mark World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which local churches will celebrate Jan. 15.
Benedict said women more often are emigrating autonomously for financial reasons and not just crossing borders to join their husbands or family members, as was the case for many of them in the past.
When women do find work, it is often low-salaried domestic or service job, the pope said. He said they deserved fair treatment "out of respect for their femininity in recognition of their equal rights."
Benedict also spoke of the "scourge" of trafficking in human beings, and especially women's vulnerabilities.
"It becomes easy for the trafficker to offer his own 'services' to the victims, who often do not even vaguely suspect what awaits them," the pope said. "In some cases, there are women and girls who are destined to be exploited almost like slaves in their work, and not infrequently in the sex industry too."
He echoed the 1995 condemnation by Pope John Paul II (search) of the "hedonistic and commercial culture which encourages the systematic exploitation of sexuality."
Benedict's message commented on the role foreign students are playing in global migration patterns, praising the university experience that students from the developing world can obtain in the industrialized world.
But Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao (search), who heads the Vatican (search)'s office for migrants, told a news conference there is a danger of "brain drain," when students realize they have better work opportunities where they were educated than back home.