Bound by Silence: Psychological Effects of the Traditional Oath Ceremony Used in the Sex Trafficking of Nigerian Women and Girls
Jennifer Millett-Barrett, M.A. Human Rights Studies, Columbia University, USA. Millett Barrett is the founding president of Dream On International. Her nonprofit work has taken her to several African countries, with a particular dedication to West Africa, where she has facilitated projects for more than ten years. Dream On has established a number of community-based programs aimed at the prevention of human trafficking, sexual violence, and other human rights violations afflicting children and women. Dream On initiated and maintains various protection programs, including witness protection for children involved in legal cases, safe houses for girls who were victims of sexual violence, and a long-term residential home for children and teenagers. Millett Barrett has collaborated with officials in government institutions and agencies, tribal elders, and private NGOs to advance the wellbeing of women and children. She has been conferred with the title of Development Queen of Hohoe, Ghana by Paramount Chief Togbe Gabusu VI and a received a humanitarian award from the National Council of Ghanaian Associations and the Ghana Consulate of New York. She is currently serving as an expert on country conditions in Ghana for asylum cases that will soon go before the US Department of Homeland Security and US Citizen and Immigration Services.
Nigerian women and children have been trafficked to Italy over the last 30 years for commercial sexual exploitation with an alarming increase in the past three years. The Central Mediterranean Route that runs from West African countries to Italy is rife with organized crime gangs that have created a highly successful trafficking operation. As part of the recruitment process, the Nigerian mafia and its operatives exploit victims by subjecting them to a traditional religious juju oath ceremony, which is an extremely effective control mechanism to silence victims and trap them in debt bondage. This study explores the psychological effects of taking the oath, the linkages to the definition of torture as outlined by international law in the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the culpability of non-State actors who participate in, and profit from, the trafficking of women and girls. Original quantitative and qualitative research was conducted, which was comprised of 51 surveys and 28 interviews of Nigerian survivors of sex trafficking, as well as 15 interviews with key experts who are working on the ground in Italy. In addition, observational research of prostituted women who are currently exploited on the streets of Turin, Italy, was critical to understanding the world in which the women live and the immense psychological control of the oath. The study concludes that the traditional juju oath, as performed in the sex trafficking of Nigerian women to Europe, creates a mechanism for perpetual trauma, coercion, threat, and mental control, thus meets the criteria for torture as defined by the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Millett-Barrett, Jennifer (2019) "Bound by Silence: Psychological Effects of the Traditional Oath Ceremony Used in the Sex Trafficking of Nigerian Women and Girls," Dignity: A Journal of Analysis of Exploitation and Violence: Vol. 4: Iss. 3, Article 3. https://doi.org/10.23860/dignity.2019.04.03.03
African Studies Commons, Applied Behavior Analysis Commons, Clinical Psychology Commons, Cognition and Perception Commons, Community-Based Research Commons, Community Psychology Commons, Criminology Commons, Criminology and Criminal Justice Commons, Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence Commons, Family, Life Course, and Society Commons, Gender and Sexuality Commons, Health Psychology Commons, Human Factors Psychology Commons, Human Rights Law Commons, Inequality and Stratification Commons, Multicultural Psychology Commons, Place and Environment Commons, Politics and Social Change Commons, Race and Ethnicity Commons, Regional Sociology Commons, Social and Cultural Anthropology Commons, Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance Commons, Social Psychology Commons, Social Work Commons