Girls as young as 12 years of age are forced or tricked into marrying men who exploit them for sex and domestic work, which the UN has called a global form of human trafficking.
In the latest report “Interlinkages between Trafficking in Persons and Marriage”, the United Nations Office o0n Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) said that trafficking in persons was most often linked to cases of marriage that showed signs of force, abuse of exploitation.
Key author Silke Albert from UNODC’s Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section said the study was conducted in nine countries over a 12-month period. Canada, Germany, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Serbia, South Africa, Thailand and Viet Nam are the countries were the study was held. About 150 people who were in direct contact with potential victims of human trafficking, such as government officials, lawyers, police officers and members of non-governmental organization were interviewed fop rte purpose.
The UNODC said that women and girls, especially affected by gender discrimination and harmful practices, are more vulnerable to being victimized in forced, or exploitative or abusive marriages. Poverty, unemployment, conflicts, violence, circumstances that create situations where marriage is seen as a social obligation or a means for a better life are some of the factors that contribute to the vulnerability of women and girls. The report notes that several of the victims come from disadvantaged family backgrounds and from those who lack access to education. Moreover, harmful practices, covered by tradition like paying of a bride price and bride kidnapping, also create situations of forced, abusive and exploitative marriages.
It said that exploitation involved physical as well as sexual violence, in addition to exploitation taking place inside or outside the household. Women and girls are also abused and exploited sexually, in household work and in labour, and in some cases even in begging and criminal activities. The victims were also seen to have become dependent on their husbands in multiple ways. Apart from husbands, they also face violence and exploitation from in-laws and other relatives.
Most of the time, the women and girls find it difficult to seek help and even disclose their experiences to authorities because of fear, shame and stigmatization. The experts who were interviewed said that marriage and anything related to it is most often considered a private, family matter, which many think should not be discussed, even when domestic violence and abuse are involved. The Victims were also afraid of losing the custody of their children, their homes or residence permits.