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Human trafficking and forced marriages

Ammara Gul Mustafa

Amongst adduction cases where victims underwent a long captivity before being recovered, there was the famous case of an American girl, Amanda Berry, who was raped and consequently impregnated by her abductor. Kidnapped at the age of 16, it was not before ten years, a decade-long torturous struggle before she finally escaped along with three other women who were kept in captivity by her. Such examples leave a sense of hope for survivors; there are many cases to this day in which the kidnapped have not been discovered. From Thailand to Germany, and from Russia to Bangkok, for years, women have been forced into the highly lucrative business of modern day slavery known as sex trafficking. In countries like Germany where prostitution is legal, as most victims are under constant scrutiny and must keep their mouths sealed, it becomes thrice as difficult to differentiate between women who are victims of sex trafficking or have been forced into prostitution since a very young age. In Thailand, people operating highly secretive gangs that recruit young underage girls have meticulously formed chain groups and networks throughout the country. Some women end up in this job market as a result of abduction that involves being injected with drugs. It is the innocent and vulnerable girls that are most appealing as the best target; they are the ones that can be easily maneuvered. Pakistan is also one of those countries from where women are trafficked globally. In terms of modern day slavery, there are mostly two kinds. There is human trafficking, which includes forced labour of sexual orientation and physical labour, and child labour. As per statistics accumulated by the Walk Free Foundation, there are currently 45.8 million people who are enslaved worldwide. Other organisations have also joined the fight against human trafficking. Over half of the victims of slavery globally are women and girls, whereas 60 percent are subjected to forced labour. Many cases were reported in the last couple of years when girls in Pakistan were found working in brothels. It was later disclosed that they were abducted at a tender age, and were forced to work as prostitutes; a few of them were even murdered for refusing to act upon the commands of their captors. Poland is one of those European countries where human trafficking exists in an exceedingly high number. According to a report by the Bureau of Public Affairs of the US Department of State, “Men and women from Bangladesh, China and the Philippines are found in conditions of forced labour in Poland.” The government of Poland has collaborated with some Commonwealth organisations to eradicate human trafficking, and has criminalised all types of trafficking under Article 253, Article 204 Sections 3 and 4, and Article 203 of its criminal code. Sentences up to 15 years of imprisonment are outlined to combat the issue of different forms of human trafficking. There is another menace that is often overlooked as a lesser evil: the phenomenon of forced marriages. Keeping in view the typically used definition of human trafficking whose contours are along the line of “… illegal movement of people, typically for the purposes of forced labour or commercial sexual exploitation,” there is a very thin line between human trafficking and forced marriages; in some cases it is almost a nonexistent line. Hence, both can be regarded as a form of a criminal activity that is similar in nature, abuse being the key factor at its core. The issue of forced marriages is a universal dilemma that various countries are dealing with. Some victims are continuously raped through these marriages or are used for domestic labour where they are cruelly treated and beaten like chattel. Another aspect of overseas forced marriages is the visa prospect, thus making it contain elements that could be considered a human trafficking crime. Forced marriages are typically connected to the Mirpuri/Kashmiri community, which includes around 85 percent of the Pakistani diaspora inhabiting different parts of Britain. Many girls and young women from Yorkshire and Bradford are forced to marry their cousins or relatives back home in Pakistan. In the United Kingdom, the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) was established to tackle this problem. The FMU is a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office unit that was established in 2005 to work on UK government’s policy on forced marriages. It operates both inside and outside the UK to provide support for individuals in need. According to the statistics by the FMU for January to May 2012, 594 cases were reported to the FMU.
Bangladesh was at second number, and had a lower number of forced marriages compared to Pakistan. As per the FMU, the indictors showed that people of Pakistani origin had the highest rate of forced marriages. In 2015, the FMU provided support to about 1,220 of such cases. Moreover, last year, a man from Cardiff was convicted for rape and forced marriage, and was sentenced to a 16-year jail term.

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