A few months ago I attended a talk around child trafficking from Africa to the UK (hosted by AFRUCA). I learnt how witchcraft abuse can extend further than increasing vulnerability to trafficking (as I talked about in my last post) and can be used as method of ensuring obedience.
Often, victims of trafficking do not try to escape from the exploitative situations in which they live because they feel a bond to their traffickers through witchcraft. I have heard stories of children who were sold by their families, and taken to witchdoctors where they were made to take oaths; mostly through painful and traumatic rituals. This usually means victims feel bound to their traffickers, so they do not dare escape or ask for help. Fear of Juju is so strong, that physical violence is rarely needed to ensure a victim does not run away. Police say rescued children who have suffered witchcraft abuse are not willing to name their traffickers due to the oaths they have taken.
Belief in witchcraft and fear of retribution is a huge issue especially when dealing with trafficking victims from Africa. It is often very hard to understand how witchcraft abuse can have such a powerful effect over individuals; this often leads to such cases not being explored fully.
Signs of physical abuse or a constantly protective adult presence are potential indicators of human trafficking; but with the fear of Juju neither of these are necessary to enslave a child. This makes it particularly hard to support victims of trafficking and to investigate and prosecute traffickers. It is vitally important to raise awareness in communities about witchcraft abuse and empower victims to overcome fears of Juju. Authorities need to also become more aware of this form of coercion and provide victims with the appropriate support.
Communities have a huge part to play in fighting human trafficking and only through knowing what is happening around us can we begin to combat it. Victims are often enslaved through means that aren’t immediately obvious so it’s vital that we keep learning and raising awareness. In this way we can eventually come to recognise even the more unfamiliar signs of human trafficking and make a real difference.
Find out more at www.stopthetraffik.org