Slavery and human trafficking in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa have received much attention this week due to the announcement made by the self-proclaimed leader of a terrorist group named Boko Haram (i.e. loosely translated as “Western education is a sin”). The announcement, which shocked many who thought slavery and human trafficking were mostly obsolete abuses of centuries past, claimed that the group’s leader had kidnapped 276 teenage girls with the express purpose of selling them into slavery or marriage.
According to CNN, the smiling leader is quoted to have said “there is a market for selling humans . . . Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women.” Well, do you think this guy is twisting the words and meaning of his holy book to justify his heinous acts? Hey, he definitely isn’t the first person to do so, nor is Islam the only religion to have its Holy Scripture interpreted in way that legitimizes the subjugation and abuse of other people. If one is inclined to observe history, evidence pointing to the truth of this statement is readily available.
In answering the question of what will happen to the girls if they are sold, Sutter (CNN) explains that “young women sold into slavery or marriage sometimes end up as domestic servants; some are sexually abused by the ‘husbands’ who purchase or obtain them; some work under threat of violence; and other women are sold internationally to work in the sex trade.” Certainly, this story serves as obvious proof that misogyny still exists today. The disrespect, abuse and hatred of women contained in the Boko Haram statement emphasizes the need for people around the globe to unite in combating modern-day slavery, human trafficking, and all abuse based on gender. As Sutter contends, “poverty, instability and a lack of education tend to make the practice of slavery more likely and help it persist ,” which makes increasing education, incomes and promoting a safe and secure society as the most effective ways to wipe out this evil.
The labor and sexual exploitation of women is absolutely disgusting, but it becomes all the more repugnant when the victims are innocent children. Although accurate estimates are difficult to make, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has suggested that “8.4 million children are in slavery, trafficking, debt bondage and other forms of forced labour, forced recruitment for armed conflict, prostitution, pornography and other illicit activities.”
According to Anti-Slavery International and the ILO, “20.9 million men, women and children around the world are in slavery,” and subject to being “sold like objects, forced to work for little or no pay and at the complete mercy of their ’employers’.” As astounding as this fact might be to our modern sensibilities, slavery and human trafficking happens every day and almost everywhere in the world. However, what are you and I going to do about it? As a global people, are we willing to ignore the suffering of enslaved and abused children and adults? Are we capable of empathizing and potentially caring about the enslaved and abused as if they were our own? If a nation allows or facilitates slavery and human trafficking markets, are we willing to unite in boycotting those nations? Are we determined enough to maintain pressure on our leaders who fail to act?