Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

The Role of African Traditional Religion and 'Juju' in Human Trafficking: Implications for Anti-Trafficking

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

The Role of African Traditional Religion and 'Juju' in Human Trafficking: Implications for Anti-Trafficking

Article excerpt

"Traffickers ... take advantage of people's spiritual beliefs to force them into slavery"

Farrell Courtney

Introduction

Human trafficking has been explored from an array of perspectives, yet there are more discoveries to be made. As traffickers devise 'better' means to exploit more people, anti-trafficking crusaders, including activists and governments, must be a step ahead in ensuring that they (traffickers) are obstructed to prevent an increasing number of victims. The abuse of religious or cultural belief has been an ongoing tactic in today's slavery, utilised by traffickers mostly from Nigeria, to victimise vulnerable people, specifically from Africa. Traffickers abuse the African traditional religious beliefs of their victims as a control mechanism. Within the rubric of trafficking, this form of control is not particularly new, as has been pointed out not only in academic scholarships but by the media at large.

However, as this article intends to articulate, there has been a dearth of literature with a particular focus on this topic. The problem with the nature of this type of psychological control is that it hinders the protection, prosecution and prevention of trafficking due to the limited knowledge of law enforcement authorities and relevant anti-trafficking practitioners (2) in dealing with the peculiarities of cases within this particular context. The taxonomy of this method of control as 'Juju/voodoo' is an unjustified reference to the discourse of human trafficking, being that 'traditional oath-taking' is truly the main method utilised. However, for the purpose of popular nomenclature and clarity of argument, 'juju' will be used interchangeably throughout this paper, in an attempt to provide a critical understanding of this nature of trafficking. Having shed light on the current form and scope of human trafficking, both the concepts of 'juju' and traditional oathtaking will be conceptualised and deconstructed within the context of ATR much later in this text.

Human Trafficking Today: Forms and Scope

Over the last decade, there has been considerable growth in the literature on modern slavery, with substantial efforts made to capture the different experiences of victims of slavery around the world (Bales 2000). In addition, there has been ongoing continuous awareness of the various quandaries uncovered within the rubric of contemporary slavery (Quirk 2000: 257-258). Amongst the different forms of modern slavery, the subject of human trafficking has received renewed attention. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly established an intergovernmental, ad-hoc committee in December 1998 and charged it with developing a new international regime to fight transnational organised crime (U.N. Doc. A/RES/53/111, 1998). After eleven sessions involving over 120 participating states, the ad-hoc committee concluded its work in October 2000 by establishing a regime against human trafficking (UN Doc A/55/383, 2000). The latter led to a consensus as to what human trafficking constitutes. It was subsequently defined within the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, (hereafter, Trafficking Protocol) supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (hereafter, Organised Crime Convention). The Trafficking Protocol defined human trafficking as:

The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of per sons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation (Trafficking Protocol 2000: article 3).

Three major elements emerge from this definition. Firstly, the 'act', which stipulates what was done. …

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