A report by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has shown a direct link between forced and early marriages of young girls, and human trafficking and exploitation. The report is called "Under-Reported- Global Form of Human Trafficking'. The report also suggested ways for the local governments to stop such activities.
The report is first-of-its-kind which looks at the global issue of human trafficking this way. Components such as International corporation, the legal obligation of the States, etc were considered while forming the report, the information backed by Ms. Silke Albert from UNODC's Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section, one of the authors.
Conducted in 9 Countries
The study and research were conducted in 9 different countries around the world for 12 months. The countries covered were Vietnam, South Africa, Thailand, Germany, Canada, Kyrgyzstan, Jordan, Serbia, and Malawi. As one can notice, the countries were selected from different continents to ensure regional diversity in the data. More than 150 people were interviewed by the experts who potentially were in contact with victims of human trafficking. Professionals such as lawyers, police, government officials as well as non-government officials were interviewed. The interviewers noticed that the ways the crimes were committed in different countries were very specific depending upon the culture, religion, and socio-economic factors of the country. The fact was backed by Tejal Jesrani, a UNODC officer.
Forced Marriages for Financial Gains
The majority of the cases of human trafficking involved the marriage of a young one, who, in most cases, was a female victim. Most of these girls were from an economically weak household. The officials found that the marriages were arranged by families, wedding agencies, or brokers and involved a transaction of money. In a lot of cases, the brides were also kidnapped.
Forced and fraudulent methods were often used to obtain consent, which included abduction, abuse, gifts, and deception. The women and girls, who were forced into such marriages, later faced extreme violence and abuse. Their movement was also stopped in many cases and they were isolated from their parents and families.
Ms. Albert highlighted that several circumstances can make women vulnerable to such abuse and exploitation. Some of the factors are age, social status, lack or absence of education, and employment opportunity. The most usual form of abuse included physical and sexual abuse which was mainly committed by the husband. Many times the situation was compounded by the participation of the relatives and friends of the husband and third parties who were involved in acquiring physical services from the victim, and the husband and his family made a profit out of it.
The research showed that marriage could be linked to all different phases of human trafficking. The married victims were recruited and transported to various clients. A very small portion of such cases came under the notice of the police and only very few were convicted. Moreover, it was found that the women and girls had faced difficulty in seeking help, due to fear of stigmatization. This matter is extremely sensitive since marriage is considered a very private matter. Crimes such as domestic violence and abuse are still not taken seriously in many countries, hence, it is evident how severe and complex solving the problem of human trafficking is when it comes to girls who are married off at a very young age. The victims were not only afraid of being isolated from their community but also feared that harm will be caused to their children and they would lose their homes.
Policies for Tackling the Problem
The researchers and interviews drafted several policies and recommendations which can be used by the local authorities to stop this crisis. The aim was to prevent such trafficking cases that were linked to marriage and identify and protect the victims and prosecute who were responsible for the crimes.
Ms. Albert said that in the majority of the cases, the victims were not identified properly and did not receive any support. Falling into such circumstances and being subjected to such physical abuse and violence on an everyday basis is extreme enough, apart from the fact that not much was done by the local authorities. The fact that young girls with married off are closely related to local traditions and religions, which makes the investigation even more complex.
UNODC is doing everything that will help the local authorities curb the issue, which at this time needs a national response. These policies and facts are going to help the police, immigration authorities as well as social workers to identify and stop the crime. This report is also going to be used by the prosecutor and judges as it includes and underlines the associated International treaties and laws as well as the legal obligation of each state towards the victim. Ms. Albert also pointed out that human trafficking has been done with the aim of exploitation, and a key factor in dealing with such cases is to understand what circumstances and cases qualify as exploitation, form corresponding legislation, and bring the criminals to justice.
Author: Subhasri Banerjee
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