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Monthly Archives: January 2013

En-abling protection?

A significant day for the advancement of human rights in Singapore occurred on 30 November 2012: the signing of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).  For a country with a reputation for resisting engagement with international human rights instruments, this was a step forward.  Though the press release from the Ministry of Social and Family Development was positive, there was the usual reticence on the use of the language of rights. Perhaps indicative of Government’s attitude to the Convention’s implementation was the statement that: “Singapore agrees with the spirit of the Convention” (emphasis added), rather than any concrete plans to ratify the treaty or implement its obligations in legislation or policy terms.  Singapore’s lukewarm commitment to the treaty (and the rights of disabled people), combined with broader silence from a range of government agencies including the Inter-Agency Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons, highlights the lack of a  holistic and strategic approach to the rights of disabled people broadly and the rights of disabled victims of human trafficking specifically.

In this two-part post, we intend to delve into the intersection between human trafficking and disability.  Part One will focus on exploring the role of disability as a specific risk or vulnerability to trafficking, the challenges faced by this group from inequality and on the potential for protection provided by UNCRPD.  Part Two will examine the specific application of the Convention to victims of trafficking, the impact that unstable migration status may have on the ability of disabled victims to access the rights provided for by the CPRD and the action states need to take to improve the provision of rights to this group. (more…)

Spellbound: witchcraft and human trafficking

At the end of October 2012, Osezua Osolase was found guilty of five counts of trafficking, one count of rape and one count of sexual activity with a child.  What made this case significant was the use of ‘juju’ rituals or witchcraft as a method of controlling his victims, one of whom was only 14 years old.  Though it received sizeable media attention, the Osolase case was not the first of its kind in the UK.  For example, in July 2011 another man, Anthony Harrison, was also found guilty of trafficking young Nigerian girls into the UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation and similarly used witchcraft.

So what is ‘juju’? Why is it such an effective coercive tool in the facilitation of trafficking? Is the perverted use of this West African religious/cultural practice inherently any different from other methods of control used by traffickers? Is it Euro-centrically arrogant to focus on this method of coercion –reinforcing a salacious obsession with the ‘dark heart of Africa’?

The Collins Dictionary states that the word ‘juju’ probably originates from the Hausa word djudju – meaning evil spirit – and defines ‘juju’ as:

an object superstitiously revered by certain W African peoples and used as a charm or fetish; the power associated with a juju; a taboo effected by juju; any process in which a mystery is exploited to confuse people.

The use of ‘juju’ in trafficking takes a range of forms and is most common in the trafficking of victims from West Africa, particularly Nigeria, into Europe.  According to The Independent:

There are 100,000 trafficked Nigerians in Europe, and 80 per cent come from Edo – a southern state that is home to only three per cent of Nigeria’s population. It is the trafficking capital of Africa, and home of the traditional West African religion they call juju. (more…)

Conceiving sexual and reproductive health policy

The international policy and research framework to address the sexual and reproductive health needs of trafficked persons is built, unsurprisingly, on a restricted narrative focused on conditions arising as a result of sex trafficking, even though these needs are not limited to sex trafficked individuals. This bias has resulted in a number of neglected areas. First, the current narrative fails to differentiate between issues of sexual health caused by human trafficking and those compounded by it; the difference between, say, acquiring HIV through exploitation and the effect of trafficking on one’s ability to access to anti-retroviral treatment. This parallels a focus on sexual and reproductive health outcomes of trafficking – rather than looking to health needs throughout the trafficking process. Second, it prioritizes sexual exploitation within the sex trade; glossing over sexual abuse that may occur in the context of labor exploitation, for instance. Third, arguably, by perpetuating a policy bias towards sex trafficking, the framework is disengaged from the health impacts of policies that subject exploited migrant women outside sex work to deportation. Fourth, this narrative reinforces a normative framework of family, excluding, importantly, single mothers and simultaneously gendering sexual health by focusing almost exclusively on women. (more…)

Happy Birthday TTRP! A year in review

Officially launched in January 2012, The Trafficking Research Project is celebrating the successful completion of our first year.  In retrospect, we’ve been busy – diving head-first into what has ultimately proven to be a productive and interesting initiation into the world of human trafficking research.  Our first few months entailed extensive desk-based research on trafficking, alongside an effort to (re) establish connections to local and global expertise to inform our work. Luckily, Singaporean civil society organisations, researchers, and foreign representatives were receptive to meeting with us.  This work provided us with an insight into human trafficking (and efforts to combat it) in Singapore as well as allowing us to develop an understanding of the sector and where we could best add value.  It also resulted in a happy confluence of our previous experience and our organisational goals: to occupy the space between policy, research and practice. (more…)