VIENNA (IDN) – A new UN report has documented the interlinkages between trafficking in persons and marriage, and specified steps for governments and other authorities to strike back. Published by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the report points out that across the world, girls as young as 12 are being forced or tricked into marrying men who exploit them for sex and domestic work, in what the UNODC has called an “under-reported, global form of human trafficking”.
“This is the first publication that looks at the issue globally and through the lens of the international, legal obligations that States have to address trafficking in persons,” said Silke Albert from UNODC’s Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section, one of the report’s key authors.
The study involved research conducted in nine countries in different regions of the world, over a 12-month period, notes UN News. The countries covered were Canada, Germany, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Serbia, South Africa, Thailand and Viet Nam.
Experts interviewed some 150 people who come into contact with potential victims of human trafficking, such as lawyers, government officials, members of non-governmental organizations and police officers.
“We discovered that although trafficking for the purpose of marriage is a global phenomenon, the way the crime is perpetrated in different countries is very specific depending on cultural, religious and socioeconomic factors,” said Tejal Jesrani, a UNODC Research Officer.
Abused and afraid
Ms. Albert explained that there are many factors that make women vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, including their age, status, and lack of education and employment opportunities.
“Physical and sexual abuse is common and mainly perpetrated by the husband, but sometimes also by his relatives and friends and other third parties, including clients purchasing sexual services or abusive marriage brokers”, she said.
The report states that marriage can be linked to all phases of human trafficking, starting with recruitment and transportation of the victim. As with other forms of trafficking, only a small proportion of cases reach the attention of the police, and there are very few convictions.
Furthermore, women and girls usually find it difficult to seek help, for fear of stigmatization.
“Marriage is normally considered a private, family matter, which is not discussed even when domestic violence and abuse are involved,” said Ms. Albert. “The victims are also concerned about what would happen to their children, residence permits or to their homes if they report the crime.”
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