After the slavery of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, termed colonial slavery, was abolished in the early 17th century, slavery didn’t disappear; it evolved into a new form. This form is rampant throughout the world today in developed countries as well as the developed countries. Modern Slavery can take many forms including human trafficking, debt bondage, contract slavery, and chattel slavery (in which people are sold). There are many differences between the new form and the old form, but the basic formula remains the same. Violence, whether it involves physically harming, threatening, or verbally demeaning the victim, is used to gain fill control over the victims. Once the victims can be controlled, they can be used for many purposes, such as sex and labor. Since slavery is illegal, it is not regulated as colonial slavery was. One can’t tell an enslaved person from a free person by sight alone, there are no distinctive markers. During colonial slavery one race was enslaved, if a person was of African descent they were most likely a slave, but almost anyone, regardless of race or nationality, can become a victim of the modern slavery. However, cultural factors, major events (such as civil war), and personal circumstances can make a person more vulnerable to becoming a slave.
An example of these factors joining to make a person more vulnerable to the modern slave trade can be found in the Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria. Here a 6 week witch hunt resulted in many deaths, in one community 120 people were killed (Foxcroft, 2008). This aftermath of death left many children orphaned by one or both parents. The orphans who were without parents, had no place to live. Those that were only orphaned by one parent were said to be ‘witches’ or ‘wizards’ by their surviving parent’s new spouse, and many were then abandoned to live in the streets. These ‘child witches’ were blamed for every misfortune that happened to the family or the community, whether it be drunkenness, disease, divorce, or infertility. Pastors of local revivalist Pentecostal churches only added to the hysteria by offering to ‘deliver’ the child with or wizard through exorcisms in exchange for a fee. These exorcisms involved chaining up the child and making them drink poisonous liquids, as well as beating and torturing them (Foxcroft, 2008). Those who were not exorcised were killed by being bathed in acid, burned alive, buried alive, drowned, or poisoned. If they were not killed they were imprisoned and tortured to extract a confession.
These horrifying conditions make the children living in this area of Nigeria particularly vulnerable to human trafficking. Those that live on the streets or in abandoned buildings because they have no home or have been kicked out of their home can be more easily kidnapped by traffickers since there is no one taking care of them and therefore no one keeping track of them. However, children that are still living with their families, whether they are among those that are labeled ‘child witches’ or not, are still vulnerable to human trafficking. This is because they are recruited for trafficking by family members. In this area, many parents release their children to traffickers; girls in particular are recruited for ‘housekeeping’. In most cases, these girls are sexually abused and if those that do return to their community are often psychologically damaged and have unwanted pregnancies and HIV/ AIDS (Foxcroft, 2008).
Recruiting for trafficking can be found cross culturally and is most common in areas where conditions such as natural disaster, extreme poverty, or severe shortage of jobs, cause family or friends to take the risks of their children or friends being trafficked in the hopes that they will have a better life elsewhere. The alternative view of the recruiting of family and friends for trafficking is that the ‘recruiter’ has been bribed by the traffickers. By looking at the situation in the Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, I can see why parents would be willing to take these risks to get their child out of the community.
While Nigeria accounts for 60% of the UK’s source of child trafficking in Western Africa, the Akwa Ibom State is worse off than any other region of Nigeria in terms of vulnerability to trafficking (Foxcroft, 2008).The combination of the children who are kidnapped off of the streets and those who are given to traffickers by parents, have given the Akwa Ibom State the highest rate of child trafficking and child labor in Nigeria.
Foxcroft, G. (2008). Supporting Victims of Witchcraft Abuse and Street Children in Nigeria. Stepping Stones Nigeria .
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