The Unseen Culprits Behind Human Trafficking

By Rev. Dr. Joseph D’souza and Noel Yeatts for Christian Today

Earlier this year, a news agency published a photographic report about the tough choice a Somali family had to make.

Displaced from their home by what the U.N. has called ‘the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations’ – four simultaneous famines pushing more than 20 million people to the brink of starvation — the family faced a stark decision: sell their 14-year-old daughter, Zeinab, in marriage or starve to death.

A man had offered to pay Zeinab’s family $1,000 for her hand in marriage — a quantity that would literally mean the difference between life and death. Zeinab and her family had subsisted by hiring out their livestock, but the animals died due to the severe drought in Somalia, leaving the family destitute. Selling Zeinab for marriage was their only chance of survival.

Modern-day slavery – especially human trafficking for commercialized sex – usually conjures up images of a shadowy crime syndicate at work in the dark corners of society, abducting innocent women and children and forcing them into prostitution. We don’t think about the culprits being famines, natural disasters, migration trends and forced marriages – or even ancestral traditions, temple rituals or homelessness.

We consider modern-day slavery a ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’ problem that can be solved with more police raids and criminal prosecutions. Yet, when we look at the underlying issues, it’s rarely that straightforward. There are forms of cultural slavery, so ingrained in a society, they’re considered normal and acceptable.

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